How to plant a horse chestnut tree from seed


Starting Chestnut Trees from Seeds

The process of starting new chestnut trees can be broken down to these 3 to 4 steps depending if the tree is to be grafted or not.

1. Getting the chestnut to start germinating - extending the tap root out of the nut

2. Placing the germinating chestnut seed in a container of soil where the seed will complete the germinating and put up top growth of the new tree

3. When the seedling is big enough, the seedling will be transplanted into the field

4. If the seedling is to be grafted, then the following summer the seedling will be grafted with scion wood from a compatible cultivar

For a simple 3 step process, it's a wonder why more nurseries are not propagating chestnut trees. In 2009 Fowler Nurseries sold its last chestnut trees. A short discussion with one of the managers brought out these issues with propagating chestnut trees commercially:

1. Low percentage of seeds germinate
2. There is a high percentage of graft failures
3. The price the chestnut tree will bring is low compared to the inputs
4. Chestnut trees do not grow consistently from year to year

This list does not even include insects, drought, late frosts, wet soils, gophers, deer, rabbits, and many more creatures that munch on chestnut trees. Knowing all this and still proceeding with propagating chestnut trees is likely going to be a money loosing endeavor, go right ahead! Let's go at it and propagate us some chestnut trees.

The first order of business is to give up some money to buy chestnuts for seed and some moss (the type of moss put into hanging baskets). The moss can be purchased from a garden or nursery store. Be careful, buying chestnuts from grocery stores, many times the chestnuts will have had a hot water bath. The hot water bath kills chestnut seeds. The best way to purchase chestnuts for seed is directly from a chestnut grower. The nuts will not be any cheaper but they will be fresh and unprocessed and hopefully from a known chestnut cultivar. Be sure to purchase twice the amount of chestnuts you think you will need. This is to compensate for the low germination rates of chestnuts.

You now have the chestnuts for seed in your hands. Now you need to get the rest of the materials needed to start the germination process. Zip lock storage bags work well for storing chestnuts during the stratification period. Don't put more than 25 chestnuts in a 1 gallon zip lock bag. The zip lock storage bags have to have holes punched into them to allow the chestnuts to breath during the stratification period.

Next take the moss, when purchased from a store it is usually dry and must be moistened. Place the moss in a bucket if water for about 5 minutes. Then drain out all the water. As you remove the moss from the bucket for placing into the zip lock bag, squeeze the moss to remove excess water. The chestnuts must be loosely packed in the moss. The moss has to be damp to help the keep the chestnuts moist. If the chestnuts dry out during the stratification period, the chestnuts will never germinate. This is the only time in the life of a chestnut that drought is a killer. When packing the chestnuts in the zip lock bags, pad the chestnuts with the moistened moss so the chestnuts do not touch each other.

The stratification process takes months. The storage temperature during the stratification period is very important. Most people put the zip lock bags filled with the chestnuts in a refrigerator. The chestnuts should never get colder than 28 degrees F. The chestnuts should not be stored at room temperature for more than a few hours at a time. The best temperature is between 32 and 38 degrees F. The chestnuts will remain stored in this cool place until February.

Planting Seeds in Growing Pots Indoors/Greenhouse
Fill the 1 gal growing pots with the sterilized potting soil leaving about 1 inch from the top of the pot. Only use chestnuts showing signs of germinating in this process from step 15 above. Place one germinating chestnut in the center of the pot on top of the soil. Now leaving about 1 inch spacing from the center chestnut place 5 germinating chestnuts evenly spaced around the pot in a circle. Place about 1 inch of sterilized potting soil on top of the chestnuts. Slightly compress the soil with your hand. This helps prevent moisture loss. Place the entire pot inside a small size clear trash bag. Tie the bag shut with a wire tie. This keeps the soil from loosing moisture. Between the time you seal the bag to the time the chestnut tree emerges from the soil the bag will remain sealed.

Twice a week check the pots for emerging chestnut trees. When the chestnut trees start emerging, remove tie on the plastic bag. Keep the bag around the pot. When you water the seedling trees the plastic bag helps keep the water from running all over the floor. The seedlings need sunlight to grow. Place the seedlings in the pots near a window that gets full sunlight. The seedlings will remain in these pots until there is no further chance of frost (usually mid May). In May the seedlings will be removed from the pots and transplanted into the field/yard.

Directly Planting of Chestnut Seeds
Farmers use the term "direct planting" to mean the seeds are placed directly in the ground outside. Direct planting of chestnut seeds has its hazards. The two greatest hazards are rodents and freezing. If chestnut seeds freeze they will not germinate (this is a fact and not just a possibility). If you live in an area where the ground freezes then do not plant the chestnut seeds until the ground has warmed enough to prevent freezing. Rodents love chestnuts. There are only two methods known to work well to keep rodents out of chestnut seed beds. The first is to use a ground sounder used to keep moles at bay. These sounders are placed in the soil near or in the chestnut seed bed. The sounders emit a 300 hertz signal about every 30 seconds. The other method uses wire mesh in the ground around the seed bed and on top of the seed bed. The wire mesh has to be buried at least 12 inches to keep the rodents out. This takes more labor but does the best keeping the hungry ones out.

When direct seeding chestnuts, remove about 1 to 2 inches of soil where you want to plant the seeds. Place seeds no closer than 4 inches apart in the rows and the rows have to be 18 inches apart. In addition, the seeds can be covered with peat moss to keep the chestnuts moist. Once the seed have been placed, put the removed soil back on top of the chestnut seeds. Do not let the soil dry out. If the seeds are in dry soil the seeds will also dry out killing them. Keep the seed bed weed free at all times. It will take 3 to 6 weeks for the seeds to complete the germinating process and start emerging. Soil temperatures must be above 55 degrees F for the chestnuts seeds to continue the germinating process. Temperatures below this will cause the chestnut seed to take longer to emerge from the soil. Direct seeded seedlings will be transplanted the following spring between mid March and mid April depending on soil conditions.

Transplanting Chestnut Seedlings
Finding the right location for planting chestnuts consists of finding sunlight and well drained soil. Do not plant chestnut trees it clay or heavy soil, they will die. Chestnut trees will grow in partial shade but they grow slow and will not produce lots of chestnuts. Chestnut trees should be placed no closer than 25 feet apart with 30 to 40 feet being best.

Chestnut seedlings started pots with potting soil can be transplanted any time after the last frost. If a chestnut seedling gets frostbit, it has a 50/50 chance of surviving. It will get set back for weeks if it does survive, so it is better not to chance placing the seedlings out too early. When transplanting dig the hole about twice the size of the container the seedling is being removed from. This gives space around the seedling with soft soil to extend its roots into. When separating the seedling from other seedlings in the pot be careful of damaging the roots and keep as much soil as you can with the seedling. Place the seedling with the potting soil around the roots into the hole you dug. Fill the hole around the seedling. Do not compress the soil other than with your hands. The newly transplanted seedling has to be watered right away. This causes the soil to settle around the roots. This is a very important step and can not be left even if it is raining. If the soil is already water saturated then the seedling will die in a few days. A better choice would be to plant the chestnut seedling in well drained moist soil. Use water soluble fertilizer such as "Miracle Grow" when watering chestnut seedlings. Never over water chestnut trees/seedlings as this could kill them. If the soil contains too much water for chestnut trees to grow, it makes a squishing sound under foot steps.

Return to Chestnut Guide Index

Horse Chestnut Tree: Care and Growing Guide

By

Jennifer Lesser

Jennifer Lesser

Jennifer Lesser is a New Jersey-based freelance writer covering health/fitness, family/parenting, business, and lifestyle. She has over 16 years of experience writing for various outlets including Time Out NY and Parenting

Learn more about The Spruce's Editorial Process

Updated on 09/08/21

Fact checked by

Nikki Elmwood

Fact checked by Nikki Elmwood

Nikki Elmwood is a fact-checker, editor, and proofreader with over six years of fact-checking experience. Her areas of interest include botany, ornithology, and home improvement. She received a Bachelor of Science from Portland State University.

Learn more about The Spruce's Editorial Process

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

In This Article

  • How to Grow

  • Light

  • Soil

  • Water

  • Temperature and Humidity

  • Fertilizer

  • Propagating

  • Some Varieties of Horse Chestnut Trees

  • Pruning

A large tree known for its cone-like, showy flowers that bloom between April and June, the horse chestnut tree is native to mixed forests in Southeastern Europe and is widely cultivated along streets and in parks and other outdoor spaces. The tree's large, upright clusters of pink or white flowers bloom in late spring and can be five to 12 inches tall. They are followed up by spiny green seedpods in the fall. Along with their beautiful flowers and seedpods, the horse chestnut tree also exhibits interesting bark and twisted limbs.

The non-native tree can be a bit messy and offers little in the way of vibrant fall foliage, but it makes an excellent choice to line streets or provide some shade from the sun. Considered both a shade and an ornamental tree, the horse chestnut features a lush, spreading canopy that's more than capable of blocking sunlight while adding both visual interest and beauty to landscaping.

Botanical Name Aesculus hippocastanum
Common Name Horse chestnut tree
Plant Type Deciduous tree
Mature Size 50-75 feet high, 40-70 feet wide
Sun Exposure Full sun, part sun
Soil Type Moist, well-drained light, medium, and heavy soils
Soil pH 4. 5-6.5
Bloom Time April to June
Flower Color White or pink
Hardiness Zones 4-7
Native Area Greece, Albania, Bulgaria

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Nichola Sarah / Getty Images

How to Grow the Horse Chestnut Tree

A deciduous tree, the horse chestnut is a fairly easy tree to grow, though some species can be prone to leaf diseases, Japanese beetles, and scale insects. Its foliage also tends to scorch and deteriorate in dry soil.

The horse chestnut tree will lose its leaves seasonally. The fruit of the tree is a highly poisonous seed (the horse chestnut) that can be found inside a prickly husk. The seed is a spiny fruit that's about two inches in diameter and contains one or two blackish, nut-like seeds.

The oblong flower clusters feature a blotch of color at the base which starts out yellow and ends up more of a reddish color. The tree itself grows at a medium rate, and planters can expect height increases of approximately 12 to 35 inches per year depending upon the soil quality, age of the tree, location, and climate—although growth may be much slower in older trees or poor-quality soil. As it matures, the tree develops an exfoliating bark, with its outer bark peeling away to reveal orange bark underneath.

Light

This tree will thrive in both full sun and partial shade. It prefers a minimum of two to six hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight every day.

Soil

Tolerant of an array of soils, the horse chestnut will grow in acidic, loamy, sandy, alkaline, and silty loam soils. However, the soil should always be kept moist and well-drained.

Water

These trees do not tolerate excessively dry conditions and will grow best if the soil is kept moist. You'll want to water thoroughly after planting, and then be sure to give the new plant a thorough soaking once a week during summer (unless rainfall is plentiful).

Temperature and Humidity

The horse chestnut tree will bloom between April and June. Young trees can be protected in winter with a commercial-grade tree wrap, which is recommended for at least the first two or three years of growth.

Fertilizer

Newly planted horse chestnut trees respond quite well to fertilizer. Granular, liquid, or stake-type fertilizers can be used. Organic fertilizers, such as manure, can also produce desirable results.

Propagating

Like many trees, propagating horse chestnut trees will require time and patience. It can be accomplished either by seed or through cuttings. To collect the seeds, it's best to wait until they have naturally fallen from the tree to ensure that the seeds are fully mature and viable. You'll also want to choose seeds that are free from cracks and holes, or any other signs of insect damage. When handling horse chestnut seeds, be sure to wear gloves and limit exposure as much as possible, as the seed contains toxins that can be dangerous if ingested.

Some Varieties of Horse Chestnut Trees

  • Baumann's Horse Chestnut: Produces double white blooms, no nuts
  • Red Horse Chestnut: Possibly native to Germany, shorter than the common horse chestnut

Pruning

The trees should be pruned either in the early spring before the sap starts to flow or in the fall after the leaves have dropped. Low branches should be removed, as well as crowded or crossing branches. As the tree matures, pruning every three to five years will help keep it in optimal shape.

18 Perennial Flowers That Bloom All Summer

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.

  1. Thomas, Peter A., et al. Biological Flora of the British Isles: Aesculus Hippocastanum. Journal of Ecology, vol. 107, no. 2, 2019. British Ecological Society, doi:10.1111/1365-2745.13116

  2. Gilman, Edward F., and Dennis G. Watson. Aesculus Hippocastanum: Horsechestnut. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension.

  3. Aesculus Hippocastanum. North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension.

  4. Horse Chestnut. Iowa State University Extension.

Horse chestnut: cultivation, planting, care

Horse chestnut is an ornamental deciduous tree that adorns gardens, squares and parks in many Russian cities. Horse chestnut (unlike edible chestnut) belongs to the horse chestnut family, it is quite frost-resistant, unpretentious and perfectly adapted to cultivation in central Russia.

Beautiful candles of its fluffy inflorescences against the background of carved leaves serve as a worthy decoration for country plots of a large area. Why big? - because the horse chestnut is able to grow up to 30 m in height and takes up a lot of space. Its powerful root system grows horizontally up to 6 m in diameter. Just imagine: is such a giant able to survive on a modest plot of standard 6 acres? Where else do you want to plant flowers and shrubs, cabbage, carrots, radishes and other country “needs”. But for planting chestnuts in small areas, it is quite possible to use its decorative varieties, which are shrubs with a height of 1.5 to 5 m (ask in nurseries).

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Horse chestnut: cultivation, planting, care

I mentioned the methods of planting and caring for chestnuts in a previous article: “Edible chestnut, growing, planting, care”, so (in order not to repeat myself) I will briefly go over the main points.

Horse chestnut seeds, like edible chestnut nuts, must be stratified before planting in the garden, i.e. in autumn, select the largest nuts, place them in a wooden box with wet sand and put in a cold place until spring. It can be on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator or in the cellar. Before stratification, you should hold the nuts for 5-6 days in warm water (the water must be changed periodically), and in early spring, after the end of frost, the seeds can be planted in open ground, deepening them by 10-12 cm.

If you want to improve the decorative qualities of the horse chestnut tree, shorten the main tap root by 1/3 in 2-year-old seedlings. In this simple way, you will kill two birds with one stone: provide the tree with full-fledged conditions for water supply (since in the case of pruning, the chestnut roots will grow horizontally) and get a more spreading crown than a chestnut tree with a root that was not cut "in childhood".

In addition, in the spring you can simply collect under the tree the largest nuts that have overwintered under the snow and a layer of fallen leaves, i.e. naturally stratified, and put them in the place you have chosen. As a rule, most of the nut seeds planted after natural wintering give healthy, strong seedlings. Take care of the horse chestnut in the same way as for its "brother" - the edible chestnut.


Medicinal properties of horse chestnut

After the flowering period (usually in May-June), pretty green cocoons covered with long thorns appear on the fan-shaped branches of horse chestnut. They contain fruits-nuts, which, alas, are inedible for people, but they have excellent medicinal qualities. It should be noted here: everything is curative in horse chestnut: roots, leaves, flowers, bark, nuts and even nutshells. It serves as an excellent raw material for the pharmaceutical industry and is widely used in traditional medicine.

  • With varicose veins, mastopathy, prostate adenoma, etc., the following tincture helps well: 20 g of dried flowers or chopped nuts are poured into ½ liter of vodka, put in a cold place for 2 weeks, and then taken 20-25 drops three times in a day.
  • For diseases of the gallbladder and genitourinary system, drink a decoction of chestnut bark: 1 tablespoon of the bark should be poured with 2 cups of boiling water and steamed in a water bath for 15 minutes. Then tightly close the broth and let it brew for 8 hours. Drink half a glass 3 times a day on an empty stomach. The course of treatment is a month. Relief comes quickly: within 2-3 days after taking.
  • An aqueous infusion of horse chestnut inflorescences is able to remove from the human body even radionuclides that enter the bloodstream during radiation exposure. It is prepared simply: 2 tbsp. spoons of dried flowers pour 1 cup of boiling water and soar in a water bath for 15 minutes, then insist 5-6 hours, and then drink in small sips. For a complete treatment, you should drink at least a liter of such an infusion per day.


Decorative properties of horse chestnut

Horse chestnut deservedly enjoys the attention of landscape designers. After all, its bell-shaped flowers, collected in erect pyramidal inflorescences framed by large five-seven-fingered leaves, look very decorative. And even after the chestnut blossoms, it does not lose its expressiveness. In the landscape, all its forms are used: with a columnar, pyramidal or conical crown; with palmate deeply cut or purple leaves, etc. It is popular in both single and group plantings. And now I present to you the most decorative varieties of horse chestnut.

Pink horse chestnut Aesculus x carnea

Aesculus x carnea is a beautiful tree with a spreading conical crown up to 10 m high. Its pink flowers, collected in erect inflorescences, are favorably set off by dark green five-fingered leaves. Resistant to air pollution and cultivated to improve parks and squares in industrial urban areas.

Pink horse chestnut subsp. Aesculus carnea Briotii

Aesculus carnea Briotii has a spherical crown that can grow up to 8 m wide. An adult tree, under favorable conditions, grows up to 15 m. Small bell-shaped flowers of bright red color are collected in large inflorescences up to 20 cm high. Chestnut Aesculus carnea Briotii is very unpretentious and is one of the most decorative types of chestnut.

Common horse chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum

Aesculus hippocastanum is a powerful tree, up to 25 m high with the widest dense crown, which spreads 15-20 m wide. huts." The flowers are white, collected in large erect inflorescences up to 35 cm tall. It is an excellent honey plant and is cultivated in single plantings.

Small-flowered horse chestnut Aesculus parviflora Walt

Aesculus parviflora Walt is a strongly branched shrub up to 5 m high. usually consisting of 5-7 finely toothed oval leaflets. It begins to bloom in the second half of summer. Heat-loving and rather capricious, prefers well-moistened nutrient soils. In landscape design, it is used both for tamping high-growing trees, and for separate decorative plantings.

Many gardeners have noticed that after planting a horse chestnut tree, not only the surrounding landscape changes, but also the nature of the garden itself. An elusive sophistication, subtle charm and even a certain respectability appear in it. It is not for nothing that legends were made about horse chestnut, and in our Ukraine, where this magnificent tree grows massively, praises are sung to this day for its magnificent medicinal and decorative qualities.

Chestnut. Features, planting and care of chestnut

First, let's define what kind of chestnut we are talking about. If you think that chestnut and horse chestnut are “the same”, then they are not. The fruits of chestnut and horse chestnut of different botanical families are very similar, for which they received a common name. Only in the latter they also contain a certain bitter substance, because of which they are not suitable for humans, although they can be used as feed for livestock. Usually, in our climate, we are talking about growing horse chestnut.

But don't despair, horse chestnut is a great tree for landscaping cities , it reacts weakly even to soil salinization, and does not die on roads that are constantly sprinkled with salt in winter. And its fruits, although inedible, are widely used, including in cooking, as a coffee substitute. So there are plenty of reasons to grow this tree. Before planting a horse chestnut in your area, you need to clearly understand what will grow as a result.

Features of chestnut

Horse chestnut is a deciduous tree with a dense broad crown. In favorable conditions, its height reaches 18–25 meters. Fan-shaped leaves consist of five or seven oblong leaves, about 20–25 cm wide, and flowers, up to 3 cm in size, are collected in inflorescence candles, 10–15 cm long. The chestnut blooms for a little more than two weeks. A in September its fruits ripen - green tricuspid prickly boxes, 6 cm in diameter, with one large seed.

Despite its southern origin, the chestnut tree is quite winter-hardy, fast-growing and undemanding to soils. Horse chestnut durable . Under favorable conditions, it can live up to 300 years. Not "interesting" chestnut for pests and diseases. Mature trees tolerate transplanting well. Chestnut prefers loose, deep, moderately moist soils. But what he treats badly is hot winds - dry winds, the leaves from which turn yellow, dry up and fall off.

Chestnut is a plant so expressive that it often dictates its own conditions to us: with its appearance, the nature and image of the garden changes. It looks most impressive in a single landing. The chestnut can just grow on the lawn, or it can become part of the composition of the patio. It is also widely practiced to use chestnut trees to create alleys.

Reproduction and cultivation of chestnut

You can try to grow a chestnut seedling yourself. Propagating chestnuts is not at all difficult, but keep in mind that chestnut seeds need long-term (up to 5 months) exposure in a cold and humid environment. To do this, in the fall, collect the fruits and sow them superficially in the garden. It has been empirically proven that it is better to simply press the fruits into the ground, and cover the bed with foliage from the forest, or wood shavings.

It is highly likely that in spring they will sprout . Although, to be sure, sow chestnut seeds with a margin. Keep in mind that chestnut seedlings grow too slowly, and therefore you should not expect a beautiful and strong tree in a few years, a more or less strong tree will form only after 10-12 years.

In principle, no special conditions are needed for growing chestnuts, only quality care and a good attitude. Within a few years after planting, a strong and majestic tree will grow on the site, under which it will be possible to install a bench, organize a sandbox for children, place a birdhouse and a bird feeder on the trunk to make your summer cottage even closer to nature.

Planting a chestnut seedling

The easiest way to grow a chestnut tree is to buy a ready-made seedling from the garden center and plant it in the garden. But be sure to remember that this should be a well-lit place, besides, the tree will need a lot of space over time. Therefore, the distance to other trees must be at least 4 meters. At the same distance chestnuts are planted from each other in case of creating an alley. Only then will the tree have a beautiful crown.

For planting, it is necessary to dig a hole in the form of a cube with a side of about 60 cm. Horse chestnut is usually planted in a soil mixture containing sod, humus and sand. Hydrated lime (100-200 g) is added to the planting pit to neutralize the acidity of the soil, and a drainage layer of crushed stone (10-20 cm) is necessarily made to drain excess water.

Do not deepen the basal neck. It is better to plant the seedling so that the root collar is slightly raised (5 cm) above ground level. Over time, the soil under the seedling will compact, and it will sink to the desired level. Immediately after planting, a small seedling should be watered with plenty of water and strengthened with props until the tree takes root.

Chestnut Care

Regular and abundant watering is essential at planting and for the next 4 days. The tree tolerates drought well, but during dry periods, young plants require increased watering. Loosening is necessary to remove weeds and saturate the soil with oxygen. In the first year of growth, in the summer, when the side shoots grow 25-30 cm in length, they need to be cut in half.

Upper lateral shoots that have grown at the end of summer can not be removed. In spring period shortened branches must be cut. The procedure must be repeated every year until the tree reaches the desired height. After that, 4-5 side branches can be left to form first-order branches. If you want to grow a chestnut tree with a low trunk, the selection of the main branches should be done earlier. After the trunk is formed, it is not necessary to prune, and in case of thickening of the crown, only thin branches can be cut.

Drying and damaged branches are periodically pruned, the trunk is cleaned from shoots. Mulching near the trunk circle with peat, peat compost and wood chips of seedlings is mandatory. Young plants are damaged during severe frosts, so up to three years they require shelter for the winter.

As a rule, the chestnut is not susceptible to disease. If spots appear on the leaves , they should be treated with Bordeaux mixture. Plants are fertilized in early spring. As a fertilizer, a composition of mullein, urea and ammonium nitrate, diluted in water, is suitable.

Pests and diseases of chestnut

Ticks are considered the most dangerous pests of chestnut. For prophylaxis , a tree should be treated with karbofos or fitover every 2 weeks. Also, special decoctions of hogweed and black henbane help to fight the pests of this tree. In order to get rid of stains on the tree, it is recommended to treat with Bordeaux liquid or foundation.


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