Story and Photos by Andrea Dee

For the garden that has everything, and a little space to spare, this spring show stopper is a fun specialty selection. Red horse-chestnut tree is a cross between red buckeye (A. pavia) and horse-chestnut (A. hippocastanum). Flowering with pink to rose red conical clusters and exhibiting coarse, dark green foliage, red horse-chestnut stands out among other shade trees. Medium in size, fitting into average sized residential landscapes and park settings alike.

Young red horse-chestnut tree exhibiting round canopy shape and late-spring flower show.

Red horse-chestnut offers many very unique attributes but comes with some attitude being a higher maintenance specimen. Red horse-chestnut thrives in acidic, consistently moist, fertile soils. Droughty conditions or too much exposure to direct sunlight can lead to leaf scorch. In an appropriate site, red horse-chestnut will grow into a sought after showy medium-sized flowering shade tree.

Close-up of spring blooms.

Quick Facts and Keys to Success
Common Name: Red horse-chestnut
Botanical Name: Aesculus x carnea
Varieties/Cultivars to Look for: ‘Fort McNair’, ‘Briotti’
Zone(s): 5-8
Color: Dark green foliage; pinkish-red cone shaped flowers in May
Type: Spring-flowering, medium-sized shade tree 
Mature Size: 30-40 feet tall and wide
Exposure: Full sun to light shade
When to Plant: Spring or fall
How to Plant: Dig planting hole at least twice as wide as root ball. Plant so that the trunk flare (found where the trunk meets the roots) is visible above mulch level. Difficult to move once established due to its taproot.
Soil: Prefers acidic, moist, well-drained soils.
Watering: Intolerant of drought; soil should be kept moist but not overly saturated.
When to Prune: During dormancy
When to Fertilize: Fertilize annually with slow-release fertilizer in the fall.
In Your Landscape: Medium-sized shade tree that flowers abundantly in the spring.

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