How not to plant a Beech Hedge…

My friend Rachel is a passionate if impatient gardener.  Vegetables are really her thing (probably because so many of them are sown and germinate before you get bored).

The same, unfortunately cannot be said of her prowess when it came to a beech hedge she planted five years ago.  Her mistakes were as follows:

1.  She planted our poor unsuspecting beech hedging plants in a beautiful trench filled with good compost but dug in pure, blue and yellow, potters clay. Every time it rains the trench fills with water and takes an age to drain.

2.  She carefully relaid the turf she had lifted off the strip of lawn where the beech hedge went around the beech plants, thereby ensuring that in dry weather the grass would get any available moisture before the beech did.

3.  Being in a hurry, she refused to trim the tops off her young beech hedge plants, which meant that the ones that (amazingly) survived, grew tall, and straight, with only a few small side branches.

Last year, we took her beech hedge in hand, cut all the plants back harder than one normally would, and removed the grass.  It was clipped twice during the summer and one year later, the hedge is not perfect, but it is much better.  There are quite a few branches, leaves are still being held at the beginning of March and it, sort of, looks like a hedge.

If she had planted it correctly at the outset, she would have had a decent hedge at least two and possibly three years ago.  If you are patient, plant younger beech plants as ultimately you will always get a better hedge that way. However, if you are impatient, like Rach, cheat and plant well branched 80/100cm or 100/125 cm beech hedge plants.

Sit back, relax and watch your garden grow!

By Ashridge Support

Ashridge Nurseries has been in the business of delivering plants since 1949.


  1. John Roberts says:

    Hardly the wrong way to plant a beech hedge – it survived after all. I have a photo (which i will post if i can find it) of a beech hedge planted by our neighbour and all the plants were upside down… now THAT is the wrong way to plant a beech hedge.

    Like the blog btw


  2. Anonymous says:

    When should I cut back a beech hedge that has grown too wide (1.4m)


  3. Hi
    Thanks for your query about cutting back beech hedging.

    I would emphasise that you can be very harsh – one of the joys of beech hedge plants is that they regrow from old wood.

    Oh yes – and don’t forget us if you need to buy Beech Hedge plants again…..

    Good luck


  4. ann says:

    I planted some beech hedging 18 months ago did everything by the book I live on a very busy road and traffic polution is a problem The hedge looks DEAD I dont know what to do I was assured when I purchased them that beech hedge plants would be ok by a busy road can you advise me


    1. julian says:

      Dear Ann
      Thank you for your question. Beech hedging is usually pretty happy next to traffic. You can see beech hedges as roadside boundaries in just about every town and city in the UK – so I would very much doubt that traffic pollution is the problem.

      My check list would be as follows:

      1. Wait until the end of April at least before doing anything drastic. Beech hedging comes into leaf quite late. At this time of year it is still holding on to the dead leaves from last year (which is what makes beech such a good hedging plant), so it can look brown as everything else begins to turn green.

      2. If you have seen no green leaf by the beginning of May, then the hedge is probably dead but a last check would be to scrape a bit of bark off a branch with a fingernail. If it is green underneath, then it is alive, sulking and should be left alone for a couple more months.

      3. If it is brown under the bark, then the plant is dead. Most likely that will either be because of bad drainage. Did you have to dig a trench in clay soil for example? If so, it will just have filled with water through last summer and this winter and the roots will have rotted. If they are black and smelly when you dig them up that will likely be the case. Otherwise, if there is water run off from the road, my guess would be that the salt the council spreads will have dissolved and run into the roots of the hedge. If that happens enough it will kill most things.

      Please let us know how you get on.

  5. Mrs Katie L Anakin says:


    Planted 75 beech hedge whips last year… 73 took and have done very well this year, 2 have done nothing. I’m worried about mulching and feeding? Do I need to mulch them at all and if so with what? I was planning on using gravel round the border as I’m hoping to minimise weeds potentially with a weed proof layer underneath (we have a lot as the garden was very overgrown). However my mum has said using gravel can change the pH off the soil…

    1. root says:

      Thanks for your post. I hate to argue with mothers – I always lost with mine – but plain old shingle is unlikely to make any difference to the ph of your soil. Sandstone chippings may make it a little more alkaline, but beech loves alkaline soil, so that should be OK.

      I have looked you up in our database and I see you did not buy your plants from us – so you might want to talk with your supplier about replacing the failures as we do.

      Weedproof fabric – is great for suppressing weeds, but it can be a bit fiddly to lay after planting. It is more normal to plant through the fabric. So I would be inclined to weed carefully in the spring and then mulch with grass clippings straight from your lawn which will smother any weed seedlings and make subsequent weeding much easier as well as keeping the soil damp. A couple of years down the line an the hedge will be thick enough to keep weeds off by itself.

      Good luck

  6. William says:

    Hi, I wonder if you can help out. I planted 60 beech trees in a double row, about two years ago. Half the hedge is growing slowly about 3 ft high. The rest hasnt grown at all, staying at about 12in. I have noticed that some of the leaves in the crown are turning brown working back from the tip of the leaves. They are also not producing any new growth. The surrounding soil has some clay in it but only at deeper level below about 21/2 feet. I thought I had dug the trench over well enough. I water with a hose twice a week and dont know if I am watering too little or too much.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Ashridge Support says:

      Thank you for your email. I have checked our records and cannot find your details so I presume these were bought elsewhere. May I ask why you are not asking the original supplier who presumably advised you at the time?

  7. Sheila Murray-Belisle says:

    I don’t have a beech hedge but I love them. I was curious about the wrong way to do it strictly as a learning exercise. I thought your webpage was very thoughtful. There was one thing that when I read about beech bark disease, many university sites said that it affected native beech over 8 years old. I remember thinking how sad that was but I have only planted the European beech on our property because I understood that they kept their leaves better in winter. Your site seems to say that they are both susceptible to the same diseases. You obviously work with trees full time so I am interested in learning from you. Sincerely, Sheila

  8. Janice Deas says:

    Could anyone help? I had a company plant 80 bare root beech as hedging in February this year. May 20 still no sign of green buds. Are they dead? Have watered with hose during this time.

    1. Ashridge Nurseries says:

      Hi Janice,

      Plants can come into leaf very late in the year they are transplanted – we recommend waiting till July to be sure.

      If you rub a dormant looking leaf bud on the stem, does it feel firmly attached, or does it rub off and come apart easily in your fingers?

      Only water when the soil feels dry a few inches down – Beech especially doesn’t like wet soil and it is possible to overwater.

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