Purple Beech Trees


I leave in the Beaches area of Toronto. This question is about an east facing front yard area with morning and mid-day direct light.
We are having some landscaping done this fall – start date is Sept 24. As part of the plan, I was hoping to plant a short row of purple beech to act as a screen between the 12 – 14 foot patio area of our house and the place next door. The area they would be planted in is between an 18 inch high retaining wall (with grass on the neighbour’s yard at the foot of the retaining wall) and the patio with a concrete base on our side of the retaining wall. The area beyond the patio will be grass/garden, if their root system extends that far.

My questions:

How much soft scape should these trees have at their bases? (ie: how wide a garden area between the retaining wall and the patio should I allow? That garden area It is currently about 2 1/2 feet wide)

How far apart should these trees be planted?

Is late Sept too late in the fall to plant them?

Any other thoughts/advise regarding trees to use for screens if you don’t think the purple beech will work for this application?

Thank you for any insight you might provide.


Although spring is generally considered the best time to plant trees, the fall is the next best, so your timing should be just right.

I assume you might be thinking of one of the smaller cultivars of purple beech, Fagus sylvatica Purpurea nana, for example, (when you see “nana” you will know it is a dwarf variety) which at a mature height of about 10 feet will be the right size for the space you are describing, or one of the smaller weeping varieties, such as Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea Pendula’ (purple beech), which has a mature height of about 3 metres.   The roots of a tree will spread at least as far as the spread of its branches, with most of the mass of its roots in the top couple of feet of the soil.

The most important consideration for your small and narrow space will be the mature height and spread of the tree.  Your landscaper or nursery should be able to provide you with examples of trees that will fit into your space.  Landscape trees can thrive in narrow spaces as long as the soil is amended regularly with organic material and the tree is properly irrigated.  You should allow a minimum of 10 feet between trees – this will allow them to reach their mature width.

Another option you might want to consider is Carpinus fastigiata, the European Hornbeam, which is another tree that is suitable for the limited space you describe because it can be pruned to the height and width you want.   Here is a previous Toronto Master Gardeners post describing the pros and cons of beech versus hornbeam for hedging:https://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/askagardener/beech-hedge-vs-hornbeam-hedge/

This Toronto Master Gardener guide to tree planting may also be helpful as you embark on this project: