Pruning beech hedge and tree – [How and when to prune]


Beech or in its scientific name Fagus sylvatica, is a deciduous tree belonging to the Fagaceae family. If an isolated specimen is planted it can reach a spectacular size of up to 40 m in height. Although it is very common that it is grown in gardens forming ornamental hedges. It is quite easy to find public spaces in the UK with arches and mazes formed from these trees. Given its great popularity, an article on beech pruning could not be missing in this blog, both in its cultivation as a tree or as a hedge.


We will analyze all the keys so that you are able to carry out the pruning, we will see how and when to carry out the pruning, what tools to use, and how to carry out a hard pruning in a overgrown beech hedge. Therefore try to have your pruning shears handy, because once you finish reading the post nothing will stop you from pruning your beech tree and beech hedge.

Pruning beech hedge and beech tree
Fun Facts: Did you know that this tree can live up to 400 years? Incredible true? During its long life it brings many benefits. Its fruits (beech) are used as food for livestock, the bark is used as a flavoring for beer, its leaves are used to make gin or to consume in salads, the wood is widely used in carpentry, etc. It is certainly a tree without waste.

1. Caring your beech tree


Although this website is dedicated to plant pruning, we always like to start the articles by listing the necessary care. And it is that we not only want to make sure that you prune your beech tree well, but that it is also capable of giving you everything so that it grows healthy and strong.

The beech is a tree that is not too demanding with respect to the conditions of its environment, however there are certain points that you must take into account. Next we will see each of them in a summarized way.

  • Location: he likes places with a certain altitude and good atmospheric humidity. Also, it can thrive in both sunny and semi-shady locations.
  • Temperature: They are ideal for temperate, cold and humid climates. They do not adapt very well to climates with very hot summers.
  • Soil: the ideal soils for a good development of beech are those that are well drained, light and without too much organic matter.
  • Irrigation: the frequency with which it must be watered is always that the first 4 or 5 cm of soil bark are completely dry.
  • Pests and diseases: these are trees that do not usually have major problems with pests and diseases. A fungal problem can appear in case of being in poorly drained soil.
  • Multiplication: it can be done in two ways, by seed or by suckers that are produced at the base of the tree.
  • Pruning: in the sections that follow we will see the importance of pruning in the life and cultivation of a beech tree.

Having read these tips, although they are well summarized, I can make sure that at least you do not make big mistakes when growing a beech tree.

2. Tools needed for pruning beech tree and hedge


There are a host of tools that you may need when pruning a beech tree. You will have to choose between one or the other based on several factors, such as age, type of pruning, height of the silver or hedge, etc.

Let’s see below some of the most common tools that can help you in this task.

  • Hedge Trimmers: Manual and electric shears are available for trimming hedges. If you have to cut the amount of bushes, it is recommended that you get a power tool, and if you buy a cordless hedge trimmer, much better, since you will forget about the cables and you will be able to work with more freedom.
  • Hand Pruning Shears: Stems up to half inch in diameter can be pruned with hand shears.
  • Lopping Shears: It is suitable to use on stems between half inch and 2 inches in diameter.
  • Saws: A number of pruning saws are available. These saws come with either curved or straight blades and of variable lengths and points. Curved blades that cut on the draw stroke are easy to use.
  • Chainsaw: for the thickest branches the most recommended is the use of these saws with motor.
  • Ladder, crane, scaffolding: since once adults these trees become very tall, you will need some strength that allows you to rise to perform pruning in height.
  • Elements of personal safety: any pruning task entails risks, and if it is also carried out at height the risks increase. Keep all the protection elements available (helmet, harness, gloves, glasses, etc.).

Regardless of whether it is a tree, a hedge, young or old, you should always disinfect your pruning tools. This will allow you to prevent the spread of pests and / or diseases from one plant to another. Do this with a mixture of alcohol and water before you start pruning, and whenever you change from one plant to another.

2.1 Needed care of pruning tools

If you want to extend the useful life of your pruning tools there are some basic care.

  • Use the right tool for a job and avoid twisting or straining it.
  • Clean and oil tools regularly by wiping an oily cloth on blades and other surfaces.
  • Keep cutting edges sharp by regularly using an oilstone.
  • Wooden handles should be varnished or regularly treated with linseed oil to keep them from cracking or splintering.

Carry out the previous care on a regular basis and you will be saving good money on tools. 🙂

3. Pruning beech tree


As we said before, beech trees are plants that can grow both as trees and also cultivate as hedges. As you can imagine there are big differences between pruning if it is a tree or a hedge, in addition, pruning is a key point in the latter.

Beech leaves

To develop this post more clearly, we have divided it into two parts. One for trees and one for hedges. Let’s start by seeing how and when to prune beech trees.

3.1 How to prune

The ideal when talking about beech pruning is to start doing it when the tree is small. Then, by maintaining regular pruning, you will be making sure that in the future you will not have to carry out harder and more difficult pruning.

Keep in mind that pruning is a process where you are damaging the plant. So be very careful and always try to avoid very severe pruning. That is why we recommend that small prunings be carried out regularly.

Always cut a branch a couple of inches from the trunk. Also do it at an upward angle. This will prevent water from pooling in the cut, something that could cause serious problems. Be an entry point for fungi and diseases.

The branches that you can consider cutting during pruning are:

  • Those that develop crooked.
  • Set of branches that grow too close together.
  • All those branches of your beech that are sick.
  • Cut those branches that are dry.
  • If you notice that a branch begins to bend under the weight, reduce its size. This will allow you not to fall under your own weight.

Ideally, once you’re done pruning your beech tree, you should apply healing paste over the wounds. Do this on all thick branches (more than 5 cm in diameter). In this way you will be protecting it from a possible entry of pests and diseases.

3.2 When to prune

The right time to trim will largely depend on whether you want to control the size of your beech tree or if, on the contrary, you are not interested in controlling its development.

For the first case, in which we want it not to develop too much, it is better to prune during the month of March. On the contrary, if we want to let everything it has to grow to grow, it is better to prune it during the winter. As this is the dormant stage of the plant, once spring arrives it will be ready to respond with vigorous new shoots.

4. Pruning beech hedge


Let’s start talking about pruning beech hedges. We will see that it is not unusual for the pruning of any hedge. Which really is not complicated, it is only necessary to be constant so as not to have to resort to severe pruning.

Pruning beech hedge
Beech hedge – Image source

4.1 How to prune

First of all, whenever you are going to prune a hedge, you must be clear about what shape you are going to give it. Then the ideal is to place some guides (they can be made with threads) so that the cuts follow an even line.

It is better to start cutting the upper branches. To later make the cuts on the sides of the hedge. Don’t forget to put the guides in, or you may not be very happy with the way you’ve turned them once you’re done.

In the case of an already formed hedge, successive pruning is easier. It is enough to find the cuts from the previous pruning and cut the new branches at the same level as the old cuts. This way you don’t need a guide to remodel your beech hedge.

Always try to cut close to a sprout. After finishing the pruning, do a good cleaning, at least if you want your garden to look sparkling. 😉

4.2 When to trim beech hedge

When the hedge should be pruned depends largely on its age. In newly planted beech trees, pruning should begin at the time of transplantation, cutting off the terminal bud. With this, what is sought is to promote growth and generate a denser foliage. Therefore, in new plants it is advisable to repeat this procedure during the first two winters.

When what you have is an already formed hedge, a couple of years old, mid-summer is the best time to prune. This will encourage the plant to generate new shoots in late summer.

Finally, if it is hedges that you have neglected for a few years, and what you need is a strong pruning, the best time to do it is winter. So that the pruning is not so severe it is best to program it in at least two stages. Cut off the top and one side in one winter, leaving the other side for the next winter.

4.3 Cutting beech hedge back hard (overgrown)

As always, what we are looking for with strong pruning is to renew, rejuvenate and/or remodel a neglected or overgrown hedge. It will always involve cutting a fairly large percentage of the hedge. That is, it will be significantly lower than in its current state.

It is a drastic method and it is not a pruning that should be done regularly in a beech hedge. It should only be left for special cases when the hedge has been neglected or we need to rejuvenate it for some reason.

Ideally, do this hard pruning during the dormant season in late winter or early spring. This period ensures that the bush has enough time to recover and produce new growth before the onset of summer. Heavy pruning during this period minimizes stress on the hedge and gives it a better chance to regenerate vigorously.

When beginning to trim, you must first assess the current height of the hedge and determine how much you want to remove. Try not to reduce more than a third of the total foliage, if you need to cut more you can do it in a next pruning. Take care not to excessively cut old, woody stems, as they may have a difficult time regenerating.

When trimming your beech hedge, start by trimming from the sides, moving from bottom to top, making sure the sides are straight and even. In case the bush has had a previous shape, always try to respect its shape. To finish cutting the crown to the desired height, do not forget to finish pruning, leaving the best possible aspect of the hedge.

5. How and when to prune beech Hedge (video)


To finish the post, and as we always do on the blog, we have selected a video. In this case we have taken it from the jason Gardener channel. In it you will see how to cut a beech hedge. I have no doubt that it will help you see part of the views in this article in a much more graphic way.

You may also be interested in knowing about pruning:

And with this we come to the end, I hope it has been helpful for you to take a few minutes to read this post. And of course, have no doubts when it comes to picking up a pair of scissors to trim your beech hedges. 😉

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