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How to Plant a Buckeye Seed

The buckeye--the official tree of the State of Ohio, and known botanically as aesculus--is a genus of trees in the horse chestnut family. They are prized for their shade canopy, spring flowers and large leaves that provide shade in the summer and then bright fall and winter color. Buckeye trees can readily be started by seed and have roughly a 50 percent germination rate with proper planting and cultivation.

Gather mature buckeye seeds that drop from the trees in late September through early October. Gather at least double the number of seeds as you want in mature trees to accommodate seed failure rates. Seeds are ripe when they drop so refrain from plucking seeds from the tree canopy.

Peel off the nubby or slightly spiky outer husk of the buckeye just before you are ready to plant it. Do not pre-peel the seed or it will likely dry out and fail to germinate or produce a weak seedling.

Nestle the seed 3 inches down in well tilled, rich and loose soil that has been amended with compost and or well-aged manure.

Water the seed in well maintaining evenly moist but not soaking wet soil until a green shoot pops up. Thereafter provide an inch of water each week.

Feed your buckeye once a month from January through August with a water soluble all purpose fertilizer formula.

Mulch over your buckeye seeds or seedlings in the late fall with a 3-inch blanket of straw or rotten sawdust to protect it from cold and drying conditions.

Grow A Buckeye Tree From A Seed

Loosen the soil in the buckeye planting area by digging into it with a shovel or garden fork to a depth of 10 inches. Level the planting area with a rake. Cover it with soil and then a square of screen mesh to protect it from gophers and squirrels. Rake the straw back when the soil thaws in the spring, being careful not to disturb the seed. Once it sprouts, supply the seedling with 1 inch of water a week. Follow the application instructions and dilution rate on the fertilizer’s label. Use shade cloth or commercial tree shelters to prevent leaf scorching and heat stress.


Protecting young seedlings and saplings from the harsh summer sun is advisable. Create a canopy or semi permeable shade structure over the young tree to prevent burn and desiccation.

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