Caring For American Beech

Beeches need watering most when they're first planted, during droughts and in late fall before the ground freezes. During these times, run drip irrigation or hose for to 30 minutes every week or 10 days whenever the soil seems dry. Older, well-established trees may need watering only during severe drought. Beware of over watering. American beeches do not tolerate waterlogged soil around their roots well.
Feed beeches once a year with an all-purpose granular fertilizer. Sprinkle it on the soil under the tree out to 1 1/2 times beyond the distance from the trunk to the tips of the branches. As an example,if the distance from the trunk to the tips of the branches is 20 feet, spread the fertilizer out to 30 feet. Consult the directions on the package carefully to determine the correct amount to apply.
For more information see file on Choosing Fertilizer.
Mature American beeches shade an enormous area of ground around their trunk. Covered with the maze of shallow, fibrous feeding roots that typically protrude above the ground, the soil under these trees cannot support plants, even lawn grass or other ground covers. A 2 to 3 inch layer of organic mulch over this area looks attractive. At the same time it helps to maintain soil moisture, discourages weeds and protects the roots and trunk from injury. Spread chopped leaves, wood chips, shredded bark or similar material, either alone or over landscape fabric laid on the soil first. Spread it from about 6 inches from the trunk all around the tree out to the tips of the branches (drip line).
For more information see file on Using Mulch.
While beech trees do not require routine pruning, other than removal of the occasional broken or diseased branch, they tolerate considerable cutting back and can be trained to a variety of shapes. Prune when they are dormant in the fall. Multiple leaders are a common cause of limb splitting in older trees, so select one main branch when trees are young and prune back secondary leaders. As they become older, remove the lowest branches to reveal the handsome trunk, or leave them if you prefer the imposing effect of having them sweep to the ground. American beeches tend to develop suckers from the base of the trunk and the suckers need to be pruned off periodically.

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