Beech Hedge is a favorite for many reasons. They provide privacy when planted for screening purposes. It’s hardy and provides beautiful color throughout the year.
In the spring, you’ll see bright green leaves. In the fall, they turn to a stunning copper color.
Technically, the Beech hedge is a deciduous species. However, if you prune the hedge in the late summer, the new growth will remain throughout the winter.
Despite being relatively easy to grow, they can run into problems. Once you learn the causes of Beech hedge dying and what to do about it, you can rescue your beloved plant.
Young Beech Hedge
If you’ve recently planted a new Beech hedge and it seems to be dying, there are a few potential causes.
Young Beech hedges are more sensitive than mature plants. They are more susceptible to weather conditions and extreme temperatures.
Beech Hedges grow well in climates with frost. You may be surprised to see your new Beech hedge seemingly dying when the first frost comes.
The good news is this is only temporary. The frost can cause the new growth to become brown and shrivelled. Don’t worry, your hedge isn’t on the brink of death.
What to Do About Frost Damage
Give it a few weeks, and the hedge will bounce back. Once this occurs, it shouldn’t continue to be affected by frost, but there may be areas to trim – this is similar to other plants such as Weigela.
A young Beech Hedge doesn’t have a well-established root system. This makes it more susceptible to heat and drought. Be sure to give your hedge plenty of water, and it will pull through the dry season.
Watering Your Beech Hedge
To see your hedge through the summer, you’ll need to water them adequately. Do not overwater. This can lead to root rot. You’ll need to water them thoroughly a few times a week. This is better than watering a bit every day.
The best time to water your Beech Hedge is in the early morning before the temperatures rise.
Beech Leaves Turning Brown
Brown leaves are a sign that your Beech hedge is experiencing distress. There are a few reasons why your Beech leaves may be turning brown. These include frost damage, herbicide damage, and leaf scorch.
Frost damage is more likely to affect young plants, but it can affect mature hedges as well. They are more tolerant to cold, but if their leaves turn brown during a cold snap, it may be the culprit.
Leaf scorch is also more common in young Beech hedges, but mature plants are not immune. If your plants are in an area with full sun, they may experience leaf scorch.
Windy conditions can also contribute to leaf scorch.
Typically, leaf scorch will turn the margins of the leaves brown. Severe leaf scorch can cause the entire leaf to turn brown or black.
Treating and Preventing Leaf Scorch
The first step to treating and preventing leaf scorch is proper watering. Be sure to water your Beech hedge deeply, preferably early in the morning.
Adding mulch can help keep the hedge hydrated. It helps maintain moisture, reducing the amount of evaporation during the summer months.
Add 3-4 inches of organic mulch. Tree bark, wood chips, and leaf material are good choices.
Prune any damaged or decaying branches. This will reduce the number of resources needed for the hedge to thrive and can reduce the workload of the roots.
Be sure to apply fertilizer in the spring and fall, if at all. Water in well when applying. Never fertilize in the hot dry months of summer, as this increases the risk of leaf scorch.
Herbicide or Chemical Damage
Of course, you won’t intentionally expose your hedge to any substance that is harmful to your plant. However, there are a number of ways harmful chemicals can find their way to your Beech hedge.
The signs that your hedge has chemical damage include leaf curling, brown spots on the leaves, and stunted growth.
Herbicides are a potential culprit, particularly if the leaves on one side of the hedge are brown. If you apply herbicide to areas near your hedge, the wind can carry them onto the hedge. The herbicide can then cause damage.
Chemicals, including fertilizers and de-icers, can also damage your hedge. If you’ve used any chemical near your Beech hedge, this may be the reason it’s unwell.
Remember many chemicals can travel through the water in the soil. This means that you may use the chemical a good distance away, particularly if the hedge is downhill from the application site.
Treating Chemical Damage
Unfortunately, some chemical damage is irreversible. To stop the damage, leech the soil with a trickle of water for 24 hours. This should flush most of the chemicals from the soil.
Yellow Leaves on Beech Hedge
If your Beech hedge leaves are turning yellow, it’s probably the result of poor nutrition or beech leaf disease.
Beech Leaf Disease
Beech leaf disease is caused by a nematode, known as Litylenchus crenatae subsp. mccannii. Unfortunately, beech leaf disease will kill the hedge.
So far, no cure for the disease has been found. Unlike most nematodes that affect the roots, this disease affects the leaves of the tree, which is where it gets its name.
As the disease begins, you’ll see signs on the new growth. On the underside of the leaves, you’ll see dark green tissue between the veins of the leaf. These bands show the nematodes are laying eggs and feeding on the leaves.
On the top of the leaves, you’ll see sections of yellow leaf tissue. These areas may fall out, giving these leaves a tattered look. During the first stage of infestation, you may only see a few infected leaves.
As Beech leaf disease spreads, you may see:
- Leaves curling and wrinkling
- New leaf buds will become stunted or die
- New leaf growth will be yellowed and smaller than normal
- Leaf drop will increase
- Tree is more susceptible to other diseases and pests due to poor health
Eventually, a Beech hedge with Beech leaf disease will die. It can take one to two years for a young hedge to die. Mature hedges may last for several years, but will eventually succumb to the disease.
Treating Beech Leaf Disease
Nematicides are currently being studied for treating Beech leaf disease. These are designed for root nematodes, so their effectiveness on leaf disease isn’t yet known.
However, if you have a hedge with the disease, you have nothing to lose by trying this treatment.
Poor nutrition can also cause yellow leaves. During the growing season, the Beech hedge grows quickly. This means it requires a lot of nutrients to sustain its growth.
It’s generally recommended to fertilize your Beech hedge during the spring only. This is at the beginning of its growth period when it most needs nutrients.
A general 10-10-10 fertilizer works well. You can also choose poultry manure because it has a high nitrogen content.
Beech Hedge Pests
The most common pest that affects Beech hedge is aphids, specifically Wooly Beech apid. The most common sign of these aphids is white fluff on the underside of the leaves.
This is where the Wooly Beech aphid gets its name. It won’t cause significant harm to established hedges. However, it can stunt or kill newly established hedges.
Treating Wooly Aphids
Treating aphids on a mature plant is a losing and unnecessary battle. There’s no way to reach all of the aphids due to the way the plant grows.
However, young hedges must be treated. The stress placed on the Beech hedge by aphids can harm new hedges.
Spray the hedges with an insecticide to stop the infestation.