Content Detail

Horse chestnut is a large tree known for showy flowers in May. The clusters of white flowers may be 6 inches tall or more. This non-native can be messy when its fruit drops and offers little in the way of fall color.

  • Family (English) Soapberry (formerly Horse-chestnut)
  • Family (botanic) Sapindaceae (formerly Hippocastanaceae)
  • Planting site City parkway, Residential and parks, Restricted sites, Wide median
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 50-75 feet
  • Mature width 40-65 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Road salt
  • Season of interest late spring
  • Flower color and fragrance White
  • Shape or form Oval, Round, Upright
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well No
  • Planting considerations Messy fruit/plant parts
  • Wildlife Browsers, Migrant birds, Small mammals
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat: 

Horse chestnut is native to the Balkans in Europe.

Bark color and texture: 

The bark is gray, and as it ages, becomes platy with small sections falling away.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture: 

The palmately compound leaves are in pairs (opposite) with 5 to 7 leaflets per leaf. Each leaflet has a doubly-toothed margin.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size: 

White flowers are held in a large, upright cluster in late spring.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions: 

The fruit is a seed (the horse chestnut) in a prickly husk. The seed is poisonous.

Tree & Plant Care: 

Avoid very dry situations for this tree, as they contribute to leaf scorch.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

Horse chestnut is prone to leaf scorch and a fungal leaf blotch (Guignardia).

Baumann’s horse-chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum ‘Baumannii’): 

A double-flowered cultivar that produces no nuts.


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