Purple beech, scientifically known as Fagus sylvatica 'Purpurea', is a variety of European beech tree with striking purple or burgundy foliage.
Appearance: Purple beech is characterized by its deep purple or burgundy leaves, which stand out in contrast to the typical green foliage of most trees. The leaves emerge a reddish-purple colour in spring and gradually darken to a deep purple shade during the summer. In autumn, the leaves may turn coppery or bronze before falling off.
Growth habit and size: Purple beech is a large deciduous tree that can grow up to 50 to 60 feet (15 to 18 meters) in height, with a spread of around 35 to 45 feet (10 to 14 meters). It has a rounded or oval crown with a dense canopy. It grows relatively slowly compared to some other trees, with an average growth rate of about 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 centimetres) per year.
Growing conditions: Purple beech thrives in well-drained, moist soils that are rich in organic matter. It prefers full sun to partial shade but can tolerate some shade. It is relatively adaptable to different soil types but performs best in slightly acidic to neutral soils.
Landscape uses: Purple beech is commonly used as an ornamental tree in landscaping due to its eye-catching purple foliage. It adds a dramatic and striking element to gardens, parks, and large landscapes. It can be planted as a specimen tree, in groupings, or as a focal point in the landscape design.
Maintenance: Purple beech is generally low-maintenance once established. Regular watering, especially during dry periods, is beneficial for its growth and foliage health. Mulching around the base of the tree helps conserve soil moisture and suppress weed growth. Pruning may be required to maintain a desired shape and remove any dead or damaged branches. It is best to prune in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. It's important to note that purple beech may experience some sunburn or leaf scorch in hot and dry climates. Regular watering and providing some shade during the hottest part of the day can help mitigate this issue.
Fall colour and winter interest: While purple beech is known for its purple foliage, it also offers interest in autumn when the leaves may display warm copper or bronze tones before dropping. Additionally, the purple colour may vary depending on environmental conditions, with foliage often being more intense in cooler climates. During winter, the tree's smooth, silver-grey bark provides an attractive contrast against the landscape.
Considerations: Purple beech is a popular choice for those seeking a tree with unique and vibrant foliage. Its striking purple leaves make it a standout feature in any landscape, providing year-round interest and adding a touch of elegance and drama to the surroundings.