Hornbeam Varieties For Landscapes: Hornbeam Care And Growing Info

Leaves of the ironwood
Image by lazmi

By Jackie Carroll

A lovely shade tree suitable for most settings, American hornbeams are compact trees that fit the scale of the average home landscape perfectly. The hornbeam tree info in this article will help you decide whether the tree is right for you, and tell you how to care for it.

Hornbeam Tree Info

American hornbeams (Carpinus caroliniana) are small trees that serve many purposes in the home landscape. In the shade of other trees, they have an attractive, open shape, but in sunlight they have a tight, dense growth pattern.


They provide top quality shade for both humans and wildlife. Birds and small mammals find shelter and nesting sites among the branches, and eat the fruit and nutlets that appear later in the year. The tree is an excellent choice for attracting wildlife, including some highly desirable songbirds and swallowtail butterflies.

Additionally, children love hornbeams, which have strong, low-growing branches that are perfect for climbing.

Hornbeam Varieties

Hornbeams get their name from their strong wood, which rarely cracks or splits. Its other common names are ironwood and musclewood. American hornbeams are by far the most popular of the hornbeams grown in the U.S.

The smallest hornbeam variety is the Japanese hornbeam (Carpinus japonica). Its small size allows it to fit into tiny yards and under power lines. The leaves are light and easily cleaned up. You can prune Japanese hornbeams as bonsai specimens.

The European hornbeam tree (Carpinus betulus) is seldom grown in the U.S. More than twice the height of an American hornbeam, it is still a manageable size, but it grows incredibly slowly. Landscapers generally prefer trees that show faster results.

Hornbeam Care

Hornbeam growing conditions are found in all but the southernmost tips of the U.S., from U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9. They grow in sun or shade and prefer organically rich soil.

Young hornbeams need regular irrigation in the absence of rain, but they tolerate longer periods between waterings as they age. Organic soil that holds moisture well can help cut down on the amount of supplemental watering. There is no need to fertilize hornbeam trees growing in good soil unless the foliage is pale or the tree is growing poorly.

Hornbeam pruning depends on your needs. The tree requires very little pruning for good health. The branches are very strong and seldom require repair. You can trim the branches up the trunk to make room for landscape maintenance if you’d like. The lower branches are best left intact if you have children who will enjoy climbing the tree.

Print This Article
This article was last updated on
Did you find this helpful?
Share it with your friends!

Additional Help & Information

Didn't find the answer to your question? Ask one of our friendly gardening experts.

Do you know anything about gardening? Help answer someone's gardening question.

Read more articles about Hornbeam.

Search for more information

Use the search box below to find more gardening information on Gardening Know How: