How to Grow a Horse Chestnut Seed

Written by megan shoop
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How to Grow a Horse Chestnut Seed
Plant horse chestnuts fresh from the pod. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

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

Things you need

  • Fresh horse chestnut
  • Trowel
  • Mature compost

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  1. 1

    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.

  2. 2

    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.

  3. 3

    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.

  4. 4

    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.

  5. 5

    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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