Chestnut trees are deciduous trees, meaning they lose their leaves each fall and remain leafless during the winter. Some chestnut tree types produce sweet, edible nuts that are encased in a hard, spiny shell while others are known for their striking flowers. Grown in a wide range of shapes and sizes, chestnut trees make ideal specimen trees.
American chestnut (Castanea dentata) is a deciduous chestnut tree variety that has a medium texture. It grows 50 to 75 feet tall and wide and has a moderate growth rate. American chestnut trees have a broad, massive crown with wide, spreading branches. The oval shaped, 6- to 10-inch-long, toothed leaves on the American chestnut cast a yellow tinge in fall. The aromatic, densely clustered flowers on American chestnut trees are creamy white to yellow and grow 4 to 8 inches long. American chestnut trees have small, sweet 2- to 3-inch-wide nuts that are enclosed in spiny burrs. They grow best in full sun and well-drained, loamy soil. Plant American chestnut trees in USDA zones 5 to 8.
Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima) is a variety of chestnut tree that grows best in USDA zones 4 to 8. It grows 40 to 60 feet tall and wide, creating a commanding landscape presence. Chinese chestnut trees are medium in size and have a rounded, open crown. Grown for their edible nuts, Chinese chestnut trees have oblong to lance-shaped, dark green leaves that are toothed around the perimeter of each leaf and grow 5 to 8 inches long. In fall, the leaves turn different varying shades of yellow for a striking presence to the landscape. The aromatic, late-spring-blooming flowers on Chinese chestnut trees are yellow to white followed by the 2- to 3-inch-wide, encased nuts. They grow best in full sun and well-drained soils.
Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum 'Baumannii' ) is a deciduous tree that grows best in USDA zones 3 to 8. It grows 50 to 80 feet tall and has a spread of 35 to 60 feet wide. Horse chestnut trees have an upright, oval to rounded crown. The light green, palmate leaves each have 7 spreading 4- to 10-inch-long leaflets that are oval to oblong in shape and turn dark green in summer. The white flowers on horse chestnut trees emerge in mid-spring on upright panicles and are tinged with red or yellow markings. Horse chestnut trees grow best in full sun to part shade and well-drained, moist soil that is nutrient-rich.