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When Does Copper Beech Turn Green?

Copper Beech (Fagus sylvatica) is a cultivated form of common beech with a striking hue that is to die for! Often referred to as purple beech, copper beeches are deciduous trees usually used for hedging. They can live for up to 200 years, and the striking foliage is the star of the show, creating a bold statement in the garden.

What Does Copper Beech Look Like?

Copper beech boasts distinctive deep purple leaves in spring and summer, turning a dramatic shade of coppery-red in autumn. They are moderately fast-growing, taking on 1-2ft per year and, if left unpruned, reaching a maximum height of well over 12m in 50 years.

The smooth, ovate leaves are fringed along the edges and feature silky brown hairs all over when young. Very mature beech trees may bloom in spring, producing small purple flowers, catkins, and beech nuts.

Find more copper hedging here.

Value to Wildlife

Although purple beech is a cultivar, beech is native to the UK and has significant value to local wildlife. As well as offering shelter from the elements, the nuts are a food source for birds and small mammals, such as squirrels. Meanwhile, caterpillars love to munch on the foliage.

Does Copper Beech Lose Its Leaves in Winter?

Yes and no. One of the most interesting things about copper beech is that, while the foliage dies in autumn, it does not lose all its leaves in winter. Year-round coverage makes copper beech ideal for hedging, providing privacy and noise reduction in all seasons. New shoots emerge in spring, replacing their dry, brown predecessors.

Uses of Copper Beech

Copper beech is a versatile garden plant. It can be grown as a statement tree with the purple foliage color shimmering towards the top of the trunk. While the leaves fare best in full sunshine, the trunk and branches are a bit more sensitive to direct sun, so don't prune these trees too hard. Allow the leaves to provide a natural canopy to protect the bark from direct light.

Alternatively, it can be pruned into a hedge shape. Grow beech trees side by side and watch as they knit together, creating a natural screen. Copper beech hedging is equally attractive when pruned into a neat shape or left with a more natural aesthetic. The purple tones of a copper beech hedge contrast beautifully with the surrounding greenery and can be used to distinguish between different parts of outdoor space.

Why Are Copper Beech Leaves Purple?

All plant leaves contain pigments, which give the foliage a particular colour. In most plants, the dominant pigment is chlorophyll, making the leaves green. However, anthocyanin is the dominant pigment in copper beech leaves. Anthocyanin gives plants purple and red hues and is the same pigment responsible for blueberries, red apples and red grapes.

Chlorophyll is still present in copper beech leaves but is masked by anthocyanin. Hence the purple and red hues that copper beech is famous for.

Copper Beech Leaves Turning Green

Copper beech foliage turning green is not good news. It generally means that your tree or hedge isn't receiving enough light. The leaves produce more chlorophyll in low light levels, tinging them with green. A copper beech grown in the shade will have a dark green tint absent in hedges grown in full sunlight.

Another reason a copper beech might produce green leaves is that the seeds have combined with those of a common beech planted nearby. This can result in green leaves appearing sporadically throughout the hedge. Common beech DNA present in a copper beech isn't necessarily a problem. Rather, itadds an extra dimension to the hedging, showing off its true natural beauty.

If you prefer a garden full of greenery to one filled with purple and red tones, it's best to choose a common beech, also known as green beech.

Copper Beech Care

Plant copper beech trees in fertile, well-drained, or moist but well-drained soil. They prefer a sunny spot but will tolerate partial shade. Note that the color of a copper beech tree planted in the partial shade won't be as vibrant as those kept in full sun.


Water the tree or hedge well during its first couple of years, particularly during dry spells. As the plant matures, it should thrive just on rainwater (after all, we see quite a lot of that in the UK!) Give it a helping hand in summer when extended spells of dry weather can mean a lack of moisture in the ground.


Generally, beeches don't demand much feeding. However, an application of all-purpose garden fertilizer will help speed up growth. Another application after pruning will help the branches recover from the cuttings.


Young copper beech plants enjoy fast growth, which slows down as the tree matures. This makes it an excellent choice for hedging. It will quickly grow to the desired size, and when it reaches the optimum height, annual pruning is all that is required to keep it neat and tidy.

Copper beech is primarily chosen for its bold hues. When the foliage of a purple beech turns green, it's usually a sign that the plant needs more sun. While copper beech hedges will still grow in light shade, the striking coloring will be much less noticeable 

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