How to Grow and Care for Tricolor Beech

Tricolor beech tree with copper colored leaves in middle of red and yellow tulip garden

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Tricolor beech is a unique type of European beech, a striking deciduous tree with a rose-colored appearance, low branches, smooth gray bark, and oval-shaped variegated leaves that may include many shades of green, pink, and white. Tricolor beech grows best in cool climates from USDA zones 4 through 7 and requires shady conditions, well-drained and acidic soil, and temperatures that don't exceed 75 degrees on average. The tree is toxic to people and pets, so it's best planted in an area where children and pets do not play.

Common Name Tricolor beech, tri-colored European beech, Roseomarginata European beech
Botanical Name Fagus sylvatica 'Roseo-Marginata'/'Purpurea Tricolor'
Family Fagaceae
Plant Type Tree
Mature Size 24-40 ft. tall, 30 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Partial, Shade
Soil Type Moist but Well-Drained
Soil pH Acidic, Neutral
Bloom Time Spring
Leaf Color Green, Pink, White
Hardiness Zones 4-7 (USDA)
Native Area Cultivar, no native range
Toxicity Toxic to people, toxic to pets

Tricolor Beech Care

Here are the key care requirements for tricolor beech trees:

  • Plant in an area with plenty of space to grow
  • Choose a shady location
  • Use moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil
  • Water regularly for two years after planting
  • Fertilize in spring
  • Only plant in areas with cooler climates
  • Take extra care when transplanting in the fall
Tricolor beech tree stem with copper red and brown leaves closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Tricolor beech tree stem with copper brown and yellow leaves

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Tricolor beech tree with gray bark on trunk and extending stems with yellow-green leaves

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova


Most beech trees grow in forests and require partial to total shade, especially in warmer climates. The leaves are prone to scorching or stunted growth if they are not sheltered from the hot sun or dry winds. Tricolor beech is best suited as an understory tree in shady conditions.


Tricolor beech prefers well-drained, moist, and slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5.0 and 6.5, though it is quite tolerant of neutral soil. It does not do well in waterlogged soils. Although considered less fussy than other beeches, tricolor often reacts poorly to urban conditions or salty soils.


Water regularly for the first two years until the tree establishes its root system. Keep in mind that tricolor beech is intolerant of salt in its soil or water. Do not plant it near sidewalks, streets, or driveways where de-icing salts are used. This tree reacts poorly to wide fluctuations in soil moisture, so make sure to water it during dry spells.

It's best to mulch around the base of the tree to keep it moist, but do not mulch directly up to the base. Use the space around the base of the tree that is free from mulch to plant ground covers or other plantings since the prominent surface roots make it hard to mow surrounding grass.

Temperature and Humidity

Beech trees can tolerate cold climates during the winter, but they are sensitive to spring frost. Tricolor beech prefers cooler climates with an average high temperature that doesn't exceed 75 degrees Fahrenheit.


Feed your tricolor beech once a year before the appearance of new growth in spring, typically around March. Spread a general granular fertilizer (such as Tree-Tone) over the area under the canopy, then water it well.

Types of European Beech

There are several other popular varieties of European beech to consider:

  • Fagus sylvatica 'Purpurea': One of the oldest and most popular is the copper or purple beech, which has purple leaves that turn a dark shade of green in late spring and early summer.
  • Fagus sylvatica 'Tortuosa': This dwarf beech tree is easily recognizable by its twisting trunk and gnarled branches.
  • Fagus sylvatica 'Pendula': A weeping beech, it looks similar to the weeping willow.
  • Fagus sylvatica 'Zlatia': This golden beech has leaves that turn gold in late spring.


Routine pruning includes removing any suckers that sprout up and removing broken or dead branches as they appear. Where branches rub together, remove one of them to prevent bark injury where fungal diseases can take root. It's best to prune during the late winter dormant season.

Tricolor beech can be planted close and pruned to become a hedge, as it tolerates pruning well. However, do not prune until it has become established, which can take at least a couple of years.

Propagating Tricolor Beech

It's best to plant tricolor beech as a sapling or young tree that you purchase from a nursery. Propagation from cuttings can be tricky and has a hit-or-miss success rate, therefore it is not recommended. Because tricolor beech is a cultivar, growing the tree from seed will not produce a tree true to type.


European beech trees are hardy and can withstand winter temperatures up to USDA zone 4.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Beech scale is a common insect problem. It is best treated by systemic pesticides or insecticidal soap sprays. Caterpillars may feed on the leaves, but rarely to such a degree that it harms the tree.

The most common disease problem with beech trees is canker disease, a fungal disease that can cause bleeding wounds on the tree. These are most likely to appear on trees that are stressed through extremes in soil moisture. They can be prevented by taking good care of the tree and treated with a propizol trunk injection.

How to Get Tricolor Beech to Bloom

Bloom Months

Tricolor beech trees flower through April and May in most regions.

How Long Does Tricolor Beech Bloom?

Tricolor beech blooms for about two months during the spring growing season.

What Do Tricolor Beech Flowers Look and Smell Like?

This tree is prized for its colorful foliage rather than its flowers. Non-showy, yellowish-green male and female flowers appear on the same tree during its spring flowering season. The flowers do not have an apparent fragrance.

How to Encourage More Blooms

To encourage a healthy flowering season, fertilize the ground surrounding the tree canopy in March before flower buds appear. Deadheading blooms can also promote extra growth, but overall, tricolor beech trees are slow growers.

Caring for Tricolor Beech After It Blooms

Because pruning is best done in late winter, tricolor beech trees do not require much extra care after blooming. Simply continue with the plant's regular watering schedule for healthy growth.

Common Problems With Tricolor Beech

Beech leaf disease is a relatively new but mysterious problem for tricolor beech trees in some states and in Canada. The leaves begin to take on a dark stain, then shrivel and die, but the cause is still unknown.

Tricolor beech trees can be affected by powdery mildew, which rarely affects the health of the tree, and it can be treated with fungicides.

  • How fast does the tricolor beech grow?

    The tree grows very slowly when first planted, but as it matures, it may add as much as one foot per year in height, reaching a mature size of 40 feet tall and 30 feet wide, although it's often much smaller. This variety is a more manageable tree than the standard European beech, which often grows to 60 feet.

  • How long do tricolor beech trees live?

    Beech trees are known for their long lifespans, growing slow but often living for more than 300 years.

  • Is Fagus sylvatica 'Roseo-Marginata' the same as Fagus sylvatica 'Purpurea Tricolor'

    These are two different names for same cultivar with variegated foliage.

  • Is 'Purpurea Tricolor' the same cultivar as 'Tricolor"?

    Although it is often referred to as tricolor beech, the actual cultivar 'Tricolor' is different. It does not have the same variegation and it is extremely rare.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Beech Trees Toxicity to Pets. Pet Poison Helpline.

  3. Fagus sylvatica European Beech. University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

  4. Fagus sylvatica 'Tricolor'. Missouri Botanical Garden.

  5. Kenaley, Shawn C., Rose, Clifford, Sullivan, Patrick J., Hudler, George W. Bleeding Canker of European Beech in Southeastern New York State: Phytophthora Species, Spatial Analysis of Disease, and Periodic Growth of Affected Trees. Journal of Environmental Horticulture, 32,3,113-125, 2014, doi:10.24266/0738-2898.32.3.113

  6. Michigan Invasive Species Beech Leaf Disease. State of Michigan.

  7. Fagus sylvatica 'Tricolor'. Oregon State University College of Agricultural Sciences.