Hornbeam Hedge Maintenance

Also known as Carpinus Betulus, the European Hornbeam is a native hedge plant with very similar characteristics to beech hedges. Unlike some plant species that require more maintenance, Hornbeam hedges are relatively unfussy and very hardy, even thriving in a variety of soils such as clay, chalky and wetter environments.

Widely popular for their characteristic deeply veined leaves, Hornbeam hedges make a superb attractive addition to gardens and public spaces. As with any other form of hedging or pleached tree, Hornbeams will require regular maintenance to ensure that they continue to thrive over time. If you are considering planting a hornbeam hedge or pleached tree, you will want to know how to maintain the plant so that you can keep it growing beautifully all year long.

How to Plant a Hornbeam Hedge

Starting your Hornbeam hedges off the right way is very important – if they aren’t planted in the right way, their growth and overall health could be restricted by a number of different factors.

Best Conditions for Hornbeam Hedges

Hornbeam hedges grow best in sunny places, so ideally plant them somewhere bright with good air circulation. Hornbeam hedges thrive in most soil types, so you don’t need to be too concerned about whether the soil is chalky or clay, but it would be best to ensure your soil is fertile and drains well.

How Far Apart to Plant Hornbeam Hedges

Whether you’re using individual rootball hedge plants, bare root, or instant hedging, we recommend making a continuous trench, rather than individual holes. This way, you can place the plants in situ and move them slightly to create a balanced hedge that will knit together nicely.  Depending on the size of the plant – and therefore the size of the root system – you can plant them from 1-3 rootballs per metre in a single row, up to 7 or 9 per metre in a staggered double row with bare root plants. If you are unsure, be guided by our planting guide  with suggested plants per metre depending on the size of the plant, or contact our helpful team for advice.

 How to Plant Hornbeam Hedges

Prepare the trench, making it a little deeper and notably wider than you need to allow for backfilling, and loosen the soil on the walls of the trench, making it easier for the roots to grow into whilst they are getting established. If the plants arrive with the rootballs wrapped in a hessian net, this should be left untouched as it will eventually rot away and is in place to protect the root system. Black plastic or fabric, however, must be removed.

You can find a detailed guide to hedge planting, with detailed guidance for all our plant sizes, on our ‘How to plant a hedge

How Fast Does Hornbeam Grow?

After it has matured, Hornbeam hedging grows an average of 20-40cm a year. Younger, less developed Hornbeam hedge plants may take a while to reach this stage. 

Hornbeam hedges can be easily maintained from under 1 metre to over 5 metres, with a single trim during the year for shaping the growth and ensuring plenty of healthy new growth the following year. This means it’s easy to attain a thick, lush Hornbeam hedge if you prune carefully.

When To  Cut/Prune Your Hornbeam Hedge

You should only need to prune Hornbeam hedges once a year, in late summer to early Autumn (after the plant has its last growth spurt, but before its leaves start changing colour).

We recommend using secateurs to prune Hornbeam hedges, as tools like hedge trimmers can damage the large leaves, leaving cut edges that will be more susceptible to winter frosts. With secateurs, you can cut cleanly and decisively, guaranteeing a more precise trim resulting in a far denser hedge.

With your secateurs, target dead, old and damaged wood, trying to leave the new growth alone as much as possible while keeping the Hornbeam hedging tidy. You may wish to cut away more from the top of the plant – allowing the base to be a little wider is great for sunlight distribution, and accounts for the fact that the top will generally see more sunlight and grow faster. 

Either way, focus on the top first and then move on to the sides – this top-down approach will make it easier to see how much you’ve pruned away. Remember to taper the sides, and remove the hornbeam prunings periodically to prevent any confusion with the attached and loose leaves.

How To Maintain A Pleached Hornbeam

Maintaining a pleached hornbeam is quite similar to maintaining a hedge, however you may be expected to trim the tree twice a year for growth and shape retention. When planting your tree, you should aim to offer it correct support, otherwise it may grow out of shape and slanted.

This support can be achieved by either making or purchasing a frame for your hornbeam, which can be staked at uniform intervals to encourage the tree to grow symmetrically. After your plants have grown past the frame, you can begin trimming in early spring and late autumn with the same technique as for hedging.

If you would like to purchase a hornbeam hedge or hornbeam pleached tree, why not take a look at our range? Hopes Grove Nurseries are hedging specialists, with hundreds of species available online, including thuja hedging, alder hedges, cherry hedges and more. To hear more about hornbeam maintenance, you can contact us or take a look at our knowledge base.