Fagus (Beech) covers various species of deciduous trees and belongs to the family Fagaceae. The tree is primarily native to temperate Europe, North America and also Asia. These trees are known to be massive and some species can even reach heights above 100 feet (30.48 meters). That being said, it is naturally low-branched and has dense and glossy green leaves.
Fagus trees have a very unique silvery-gray bark that is quite ornamental and often compared to the skin of an elephant. Beneath this bark, one of the most prominent characteristics of Fagus is its valuable and water-resistant timber. Overall, most species of Fagus yield tough timber that is excellent for construction purposes. This wood is also quite hardy and shock-resistant making it great for use as firewood or charcoal.
These trees are also monoecious, which means that they can bear both male and female flowers on an individual plant. The female flowers are borne in pairs while their male counterparts take the form of wind-pollinating catkins. These flowers are usually produced after new leaves appear which is usually in spring. The Fagus(Beech) fruits, also known as beechnuts are small and vaguely triangular nuts. They are also edible and carry a bitter taste when they drop in Autumn.
When it comes to growing Fagus trees into bonsai, they are gaining more and more popularity every day. Many bonsai cultivators are gradually cultivating these trees thanks to their beautiful and broad branches.
This guide is made to help bonsai lovers learn more about the care of Fagus Bonsai Tree.
How long does it take to grow Fagus Bonsai?
Fagus bonsai are quite slow growers and a minimum estimate for full growth is approximately 10 years. This estimate tells you how long you’ll have to wait until the seed is mature enough for you to cut it off. That being said, the exact amount of time it will take to grow depends on which specific species of Fagus tree you are growing as a bonsai tree.
That being said, let’s cover some specifics in terms of how you can plant, care for, and grow your Fagus bonsai. Here are some basics that can help you out in caring for your tree.
Position and lighting
Fagus bonsai should be kept in semi-shade or full sun conditions for optimum growth. That being said, they shouldn’t be exposed to the strong daytime sun in the summer or heavy winds as this can lead to leaf damage and drying. Thus, it is suggested to keep them sheltered and provide them with more water in case of heavy sunlight. On the opposite end, Fagus bonsai are able to withstand cold temperate until about -5 °C, under which frost protection is necessary.
Fagus (beech) bonsai should be protected from colder winter climates during their early years for optimal health. They are quite hardy when they are between hardiness zones 3 and 8. This is more so for American Fagus which are the hardiest but not as true for this tree’s Japanese variants which are much more affected by temperature.
You should use soil that is slightly acidic, (preferably clay, sand, or loam) maintaining a PH level that is between 5-7. Also, loose types of soil are better suited for use with Fagus bonsai
Ideally, you should water Fagus bonsai often, especially during hotter months. This is to prevent the leaves from drying up and damaging their edges. Fagus bonsai are also very appreciative of misting which can help keep them from drying up. However, make sure you reduce watering frequency during winter.
In terms of feeding, avoid feeding your Fagus bonsai within one month after the bud burst. Post this, you should feed it every two weeks until the end of summer. Also, in the case of F. Sylvatica, make sure to increase feeding during Late June to encourage its second growth spurt.
Fagus bonsai are slow growers and usually produce large and spread-out trunks. Due to this, most upright styles in medium to large sizes work for these trees. Group planting also works well as relatively thin-branched trees can be incorporated effectively.
How to Plant and Grow Fagus Bonsai?
You want to know how to plant and grow your own Fagus bonsai. Awesome! First, however, you must understand the Fagus species commonly available and those usually recommended for growing as bonsai.
- Fagus chienii – this is distinguishable by its longer and recurved cupule bracts.
- Fagus creneta – this is endemic to Japan and is characterized by a smooth grey bark with a rounded crown.
- Fagus engleriana “Chinese Beech” – this has dark brown and hairless shoots.
- Fagus sylvatica – this species has toothed leaves and is also the most cultivated.
- Fagus japonica “Japanese Beech” – this species is multi-trunked and can reach heights of up to 25 meters.
- Fagus lucida – this has edible leaves and seeds
- Fagus orientalis – this is native to Eurasia and has a heavy and strong wood yield.
That being said, each species has its unique characteristics and neither one can be said to be better than any other. Now, let’s get into some details of how you can plant and grow your own Fagus bonsai.
Grafting and seeds are the most common methods of propagation for Fagus bonsai species. Seeds should be planted in the fall or after the winter for the greatest results.
Pruning and wiring
Pruning is very important for Fagus bonsai to make sure leaves remain small. The best time for this is during late spring and you should repeat this process once every second year. During leaf pruning, it is safer to avoid fully defoliating the beech, especially in years when the tree has been repotted.
When it comes to wiring, Fagus bonsai can be wired but this often reduces the vigour and strength of the tree. So, if you do wire your tree, make sure that the wires are removed before three months.
Fagus bonsai are quite hardy but, they should be initially acclimated to avoid over-stressing the tree. This can be done by gradually shifting the tree to smaller pots every time it is replanted. Replanting itself should occur once every 2-3 years during spring before the bud burst. Preferably, this should be done as the buds are extending.
That being said, for the F. Sylvatica species, repotting can be done in autumn to take advantage of its second spurt of growth. Also, older trees that have been shifted multiple times can be worked with more leniently and repotting can take place as and when required.
When it comes to soil, a basic bonsai soil mix works well with these trees. You must ensure that the inorganic soil mix also contains a small volume of organic material. This is because the Fagus bonsai prefer slightly acidic and loose soil.
How to Care for Your Fagus Bonsai
During their early years, it is best to keep Fagus bonsai protected from colder weather for optimal health. That being said, they are great between hardiness zones 3 and 8. Also, slightly acidic soil(preferably clay, sand, or loam) with a PH level between 5-7 works best.
Fagus bonsai should be kept in semi-shade or full sun conditions for the best growth. Keeping them away from direct daytime sunlight and heavy winds is also suggested to keep the leaves in pristine condition. They should be watered regularly during winters and also misted occasionally if possible. As for reporting, Fagus bonsai can be repotted every 2-3 years while gradually shifting to smaller pots for acclimation.
Pests are often an issue with bonsai and while it isn’t a severe problem with Fagus bonsai, you will still need to watch out for some critters. Some of the most common pests that can affect Fagus bonsai are –
- Leaf miners
- Bark beetles
The most prominent are probably aphids which build colonies near the lower branches of these bonsai. However, these can be easily dealt with by spraying the base with water. However, to prevent other pests, try to keep your tree healthy and maintain regular fertilization of the soil. Also, thoroughly inspect the tree every few weeks in hard to see areas so you can detect and catch any pests before they cause any serious harm
As long as they are treated well, Fagus bonsai are quite resistant when it comes to fighting off diseases. That being said, they aren’t invincible and some diseases you should look out for are –
- Fungi – Fungi infections and related diseases cause leaf spots in Fagus leaves. However, Fungi tend to be manageable in most cases.
- Powdery Mildew – Powdery mildew is quite common later in the season and causes a white coating on leaves.
- Crown – Crown causes leaves to grow smaller and in a lighter green color than normal.
- Bleeding Canker – In this disease, cankers will start to form which will leak a brownish liquid.