Planting a Copper Beech Tree

(Question)
  1. I planted a Copper Beech purchased at a local nursery two weeks ago. I have planted hundreds of trees, so I have some experience digging holes , adding triple mix to the soil, and planting. This tree seemed fine until a few days ago when about half of its leaves began to curl up dry, turning a dingy orange colour. It has been very hot so I have been watering the tree daily – but not over-watering as Beech trees don’t seem to like “wet feet.” I did use a root stimulator, dluted as directed, after planting. I am not sure if it’s simply transplant shock or whether it’s just so hot that the tree is struggling. Any suggestions? Its’ such a nice specimen (about six feet tall), I’d hate to lose it.
(Answer)

Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners.

The copper beech,  Fagus sylvatica, is a stunning tree.

There are several issues that maybe playing a a role in the symptoms you are seeing. Unfortunately,the middle of the summer is a very difficult time for a tree to establish itself. With the heat and low rain fall any stresses on the tree can be amplified. It is often easier to plant in the early fall or early spring.

  • Take a look at the trunk of the tree. Every tree has a flare near the bottom where the trunk widens right before the roots begin. It is very important that the entire  flare of the trunk is above the level of the soil. If it is below the level of the soil it will break down the bark and eventually kill the tree. if the tree is too deep you will need to dig around the tree and raise it up.
  • Look around the base of the root flare and make sure there are no roots growing around the trunk if so the root can grow around the trunk squeezing it. It is best to remove any girdling roots.
  • have you mulched around the tree. A ring or doughnut of mulch to around 7 inches deep will help maintain moisture levels in the soil. Make sure none of the mulch it touching the trunk, leave a small empty ring right next to the trunk so air can get to the flare.
  • When you water, have the water run slowly for for a long period of time. If you run the water for at least an hour the water will be able to soak down into the roots. Let the soil dry out before you re-water. You may find you are watering less often but the tree will do better. Small amounts of water do not make it down to the roots. With evaporation, run off and grass etc. competing for the water very little if any will make it to the roots.
  • An issue you may come up against moving forward is the addition of triple mix with the planting. It is recommended that one uses the soil that was removed from the hole to back fill. The reason for this is with high nutrient soil around the root ball the tree is less likely to send out it roots looking for nutrients and water. It can lead to a smaller, less stable root structure. Hopefully the surrounding soil has enough nutrients to encourage outward growth.

It has been a very hot dry summer so this tree will need your support to get to the fall. Once the weather cools and we receive more rain it should do better.

Good luck!

You may also be interested in our  Gardening Guide: Planting a Tree