Planting a blue beech

Asked March 29, 2017, 11:41 AM EDT

Our silver maple is slowing dying and we would like to plant two blue beeches. I would like to plant one this spring about 15-20 feet from the maple in a spot that gets good early morning sun and then mottled light to shade the remainder of the day. I've read that they can grow in undergrowth and it will have plenty of space to spread in diameter. The other blue beech will be planted when the maple is finally removed, maybe in a year or two, unless you think I could safely plant it within 10 feet of the maple's trunk.Do think these ideas will work? I love the look of the blue beeches I saw at the MN arboretum.

Ramsey County Minnesota

1 Response

Thank you for the question. The blue beech, or, American hornbeam, is a wonderful, small, slow growing native tree that can grow well in your part shade location particularly if the soil is well drained. It is recommended that you plant a new tree at least 8-10 feet away from an existing tree or one recently removed. Keep in mind that depending on how big your maple is, there could be large roots that get in the way of planting in a particular spot.
Besides location, another very important predictor of a tree's success is how it is planted and cared for in the first few years. Make sure that there is a water source nearby so that you can easily provide supplemental watering each week in which we don't get an inch of rain. Maintaining a doughnut shaped ring of mulch around the tree will be very helpful in protecting the trunk and will help keep the roots moist. Avoid volcano shaped mulch applications that are piled against the trunk. If your location is good, and the trees are well cared for, they stand to grow successfully whether you plant the 2nd tree after the maple is removed or not. If you do plant the 2nd tree before removal, make very sure that it's not damaged when the maple is finally taken out. Here are a variety of sources for you to read more about the blue beech, how to plant and water your tree, and about spacing:

Thank you for contacting Extension.