In the past, I have recommended two purple leaf beech trees for residential gardens. I have already covered the purple fountain beech. Now, I will cover the Tri-color beech, but with a caveat at the end of this post that may be changing my recommendation.
Tri Color Beech = Big Color Splash
The Tri-color beech grows shaped more like a regular beech than the Purple Fountain beech, only smaller. It has a rounded outline and if not pruned will grow branches from the ground up. These look a lot more like a normal shaped tree than the Purple Fountain beech.
Tri color beech screams specimen
It is not its shape that draws attention, but instead its unique leaf color. It has a purple leaf with variegation that has pale rose color. Hence its name as ’Roseomarginata’. The overall effect of the two color leaf is what appears to be a purplish pink tree. The tree looks terrific when back lit by the rising or setting sun.
It works great as a tree next to a patio. In fact, the first one I ever saw that really wowed me was one at Rich’s Fox Willow Pines in Woodstock that was sitting next to a patio. It was probably about 20 feet tall and was a fabulous tree to sit next to and just stare at it. I believe Rich donated it to a botanic garden or sold it, so it is no longer there.
The size of the Tricolor beech will get to perhaps 30 feet high and 20 feet wide in most locations. It might take two or three decades to get that size. Depending of course upon how big it is when you plant it. The edges of this tree’s leaves will burn in August unless it gets some afternoon shade.
Tri-color beech has wonderful fresh late spring early summer purple pink leaf color. The color fades in the sun of the summer and if not shaded the leaf edges will get a little shall we say “crispy”. This does not hurt the tree, but it just looks better if it gets some afternoon shade.
It gets a light bronze fall color that is nice. Mine does not tend to hold many leaves in the winter but perhaps a bit less summer sun may improve this. The smooth gray bark gets provides winter interest once the tree gets larger.
Hardiness Zones: Zone 4
Exposure: Light shade. Afternoon shade best.
Features: Striking purple foliage with irregular pinkish-white and rose borders, Ornamental Bark, Slow Growing.
Growth Habit: Upright oval to rounded form.
Fall Color: Light tan/Bronze
Beech Tree Care and Growing Tips:
Water deeply as needed, particularly in hot, dry weather
Mulch them with a good bark mulch to retain moisture, but don’t mound it against the trunk.
Beeches are best pruned in late winter once the worst of winter has passed.
Deer don’t particularly care for beeches and will usually leave it alone.
Beech Trees are now at Greater Risk:
Beech used to have few pest problems unless you in the eastern US near an areas where native beech forests have been decimated by beech bark scale.
However, that may be changing. There is another mystery tree disease that is rapidly spreading across the native range of the beech and may prove a problem for beech trees across the country. It also seems to impact all species of beech trees.
Scientists say the disease, known as Beech Leaf Disease, has been found in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and Ontario, Canada.
The first symptoms are a dark staining pattern on the leaves, then the leaves become shriveled and leathery textured. Then the tree dies. Studies have shown no signs of insects or the presence of other disease vectors, adding to the mystery of how it is spreading.
The cause of the tree killer is unknown. Until it is figured out what is causing this disease there is no way to know if its spread can be halted.
If you are in an area where there are beech trees naturally or heavily planted as ornamentals even, I would recommend not investing too much money into planting any beech tree. If you already have one, appreciate it, stay informed and hope for the best. If you are not in Ohio or nearby states I would still recommend them but I would plant a smaller less expensive tree as Tri-color beech can be a rather pricy and it may not have a long life. For more information on Beech Leaf Disease see this article.
I previously posted this article in 2013 but have rewritten it to include information on Beech Leaf Disease.