How to Germinate a Horse Chestnut

Written by duane craig
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Horse Chestnut trees (Aesculus hippocastanum) are large deciduous trees that can grow up to 75 feet. In the spring they have beautiful clusters of white flowers. According to, these trees have a medium growth rate and like full sun or partial shade. They grow well in moist, well-drained soils. The seed of the Horse Chestnut tree is called a conker. The best way to germinate them is if they are sown in a cold frame outdoors.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Horse Chestnut conker (seed)
  • Cold frame
  • Pot
  • Composted soil
  • Garden hose or watering can

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  1. 1

    Gather the fallen conkers (seeds) in the fall. Look for seeds that do not have holes in them.

  2. 2

    Plant the conkers in a cold frame. A cold frame is a small, enclosed structure that makes use of the existing soil on the ground as the base and is typically covered with Plexiglas that still allows sunlight into the cold frame. Loosen the soil a few inches deep in the cold frame. Mix the loosened soil with some composted soil that can be purchased at home centres or nurseries.

  3. 3

    Place seed approximately 1 inch deep in the loosened soil. Cover with soil and tamp down lightly.

  4. 4

    Water the spot where the conker was planted. Keep it moist. It is important to not allow the conker to dry out during the germination stage.

  5. 5

    Re-pot the seedling that develops from the conker. Use a small shovel to dig down into the soil all around the seedling approximately 4 inches out from the trunk. Pry the seedling up with the shovel, being careful to keep a ball of soil at its base. Fill a 1 gallon pot with soil to about 3 inches below the top. Open a space in the soil at the centre of the pot and set the seedling soil ball into the hole. Press down on the soil ball and move soil from the sides of the pot to blend the seedling soil and pot soil. Do not allow soil to rise higher on the seedling trunk than its original height.

  6. 6

    Move the seedling to a permanent location the following spring, or when the plant is approximately 1 foot tall.

Tips and warnings

  • Consider planting several conkers which should ensure some possible germination.
  • Horse Chestnuts prefer rich soil so make sure to start the conker with some composted soil.

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