The horse chestnut tree, also called the conker or Ohio buckeye, grows to about 40 feet tall. Valued as a shade tree, it features highly veined, serrated leaves, white flowers and large, smooth seeds. These seeds are called horse chestnuts because they can grow to about the size of a ping-pong ball and have a light patch on the bottom that makes them look like a horse's eye. You can plant horse chestnuts to enhance your landscape. You should never eat horse chestnuts, however. They are highly poisonous.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Fresh horse chestnut
- Mature compost
Gather a very fresh horse chestnut from an established tree. These trees drop their spiky seed pods in early fall; find an open one with a shiny, firm seed inside. Shake the seed; if it makes no noise, it's fresh enough to plant. A dry seed, one that rattles, will not germinate.
Dig a hole about 2 inches deep and 4 inches wide in an area with plenty of moisture but no soggy ground. Horse chestnuts like well-drained, moist soil and full sun. Place the chestnut in the soil and cover it. Pack the soil lightly to eliminate air pockets.
Mulch the buried seed with about an inch of mature compost. Water the seed with about 1 pint of water every three days until the ground freezes. Mulch the seed again in late fall before the ground freezes. This helps keep the seed warm.
Watch for your horse chestnut tree to sprout in the spring. Water it with a pint of water every three days after the ground thaws. When the tree reaches 6 inches high, mulch around the base with mature compost.
Water your young tree in the summer only during dry spells. Use about a pint of water for every 6 inches the tree grows. Mulch it as before in the fall. The tree should be able to survive on its own by the next spring.
Tips and warnings
- Never eat horse chestnuts; they're highly poisonous. In cases of accidental ingestion, call your poison control centre immediately.
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