Beech Tree Propagation Methods
Beech tree propagation methods offer challenges for the grower. Easily grown from seed, the beech is a stately, long-lived addition to your landscape. Commercial growers remain frustrated by the frequent inability of cuttings to survive winters, despite the development of roots and buds. Layering has also failed to provide winter-hardy plants. Grafting and growing from seed remain the only viable commercial propagation methods currently available.
Beech trees are most often grown from seed. You can gather seeds in the fall either after the fruit falls to the ground or after you pick the fruit from the tree. Beech trees are often so tall that it is difficult to reach the ripening fruit. Raking up fallen fruit is easier, although you do encounter an increased risk of insects infesting the seeds. Even under the best of conditions, you will find many empty husks. Take care to gather at least twice the number of seeds required.
The seeds require a period of cold, moist stratification that lasts approximately 90 days. You can achieve this stratification either by fall planting or by keeping the seeds in a damp environment at temperatures no greater than 41 degrees Fahrenheit for the time required.
Early planting affords you a measure of convenience. But the drawbacks to this method are the increased predation of seeds by wildlife and your inability to monitor seed development.
Many growers prefer to stratify beech tree seeds in the refrigerator. Here you can monitor and maintain adequate moisture levels--a crucial factor in successful germination.
Carefully cover the beech tree seeds with moistened vermiculite, sand or peat moss inside a perforated sealable plastic bag. Place the bag in the refrigerator vegetable drawer or on the back of a shelf. Check the bag once a month. Ensure that the covering is moist but not wet. Also check the nuts for signs of mold. Discard seeds that have begun to rot.
After the cold stratification, you may plant the beech tree seeds at a depth of 2 inches in moist, well-drained and acidic soil. Beeches prefer full sun but can survive in shady areas.
Select a site that can accommodate a beech tree 70 to 120 feet in height with a spread of 40 to 50 feet. Once planted, the seedling may need some protection from the sun and wind until its root system is well established. Water it regularly and keep a vigilant watch for signs of stress due to insects.
Beech trees require little pruning. They sometimes have a tendency to fork close to the ground. Watch for apparent suckers at the base. Remove these to avoid low forking and preserve a straight, true trunk.
You may thin dense branches, as the beech tree matures, to improve air circulation and allow light to reach inner branches. Remember that while the beech tree is slow in growing, it can live for over 340 years. Truly it will offer a lasting legacy.