Hornbeam is perhaps best known for its use as hedging but it will grow to a large and spreading tree if given the chance in a woodland setting. As a hedge or as a tree it can be a useful and attractive plant in the garden.

Growing hormbeam:

This deciduous tree is often overlooked for hedging in favour of beech but some gardeners have argued that it can be superior to beech for this use. From vibrant greens in the spring and hop-like fruiting catkins, to tawny autumnal colour, hornbeam can add year round interest. Like beech, though deciduous hornbeam will hold on to its leaves throughout the year, so can be good for creating a barrier for the edge of your garden when used as a hedge.

As a hedging plant, hornbeam is very tolerant. Though it grows at its most luxuriant best in full sun, it will also tolerate partial and even deep shade. It can also be grown in most different types of soil. It will be a good solution if you have a heavy clay soil that other hedges will not tolerate so easily.

Hornbeam likes to be keep moist, and yet a well-draining soil will allow you to see it at its best. Dig in plenty of organic material to the planting site to ensure that the site does not become too waterlogged, however, or these trees can drown.

This is a bushy tree when left in its natural state but if you have the patience then you can train hornbeams in a variety of ways. Pleached hedges, raised hedges, are popular in formal gardens and although they take a lot of time to perfect, can look delightful.

Hornbeam can also be a great choice for wilder gardens. It can cope with exposed sites as well as sheltered ones and so could be used to great effect for a tall windbreak. As a fast growing tree, hornbeam hedges can be established in short order to create a high boundary, for privacy or protection from the elements.

Hornbeam can be bought in various stages of growth from garden centres and plant nurseries or can be propagated by means of softwood cuttings, grafting or from seed.

Why grow hornbeam in the garden?

Aside from its use as a useful hedging plant, hornbeam can also help add biodiversity to your garden as it is the home to several different moth caterpillars and provides food and year round shelter for birds and small mammals.

Historically, hornbeam has also been coppiced. Its name describes the hardness of the wood. The timber is great for burning and makes great charcoal so it may be of interest to those who are interested in living more sustainably and are seeking options for fast growing firewood.

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Carpinus betulus