The horse chestnut tree is a large flowering tree in the buckeye family. In spring, it blooms clusters of tiny white flowers with yellow and red bases. From midsummer to fall, the chestnuts grow in spiny green pods. Horse chestnut trees also have a peculiar bark pattern, twisted limbs and deciduous leaves composed of five to seven leaflets.
The horse chestnut tree is a native to southern Europe and has been grown since at least 1576. It is now widely planted throughout the United States.
The horse chestnut tree grows to a height of between 25 and 75 feet. It has a bushy, medium-wide spreading crown.
The horse chestnut tree prefers full sun to partial shade and tolerates many soil types, although it grows best in moist, well-drained soil. It is hardy in zones 3 through 8 (see Resources). The tree is resistant to most pests.
Although attractive and unusual, the horse chestnut tree is not for everyone as it litters the lawn annually with its chestnuts. The chestnuts are large and can be thrown forcefully from lawnmowers, so they should be raked up before mowing.
Horse chestnuts are not edible.
Prune broken, damaged or diseased branches on the chestnut trees at any time. Remove cut branches from the area under the tree to prevent any problems spreading.
Cut away any suckers or growth on the base of the tree trunk. Never cut more than 1/3 of the chestnut tree annually.
Prune only branches of at least 1 inch in diameter. Leave the base of the branch, known as the branch collar, when making cuts.
Cut the lower branches on the tree to clear the first 8 feet of the trunk. Do this over several seasons until completed. Prune the chestnut only when required after this time.
Almost every area in the United States can support the growth of chestnut trees, with zones 4 through 8 the most promising. Certain areas of California, Texas, Arizona, Louisiana, Florida and Minnesota may be too hot or cold for the tree to survive.
The chestnut tree may grow to 60 or 70 feet in height.
The spread of a chestnut tree may get as large as 60 to 70 feet across.
Chestnut trees do best in full sunlight.
Chestnut trees grow well in various soil types. Acidic, moist, sandy and rich soils are all great for chestnut trees.
The leaves of a chestnut tree are green-yellow and change to orange-yellow and brown-yellow in the autumn. The leaves may be 4 to 6 inches in length.
Fill large plant pots with a mixture of loam topsoil and clay, which is the optimal mixture for water chestnuts. Choose the deepest pots available, with a minimum depth of 12 inches and no drainage holes in the bottom. Fill the pots three-fourths full of the growing medium.
Apply a 2-inch layer of compost or manure to the mixture and work it into the soil well, using a hand spade. Allow the pots to sit for two to three weeks to allow the manure or compost to break down. Immediate planting can cause the water chestnuts to rot.
Dig a hole in the center of the pot that is a least 3 to 8 inches deep, depending the depth of the pot. Insert the water chestnut root into the hole with the pointed end facing up. Fill in the hole with soil.
Water the soil in the pot until it is soggy and at least 4 inches of water pools on top of it.
The chestnut tree is a member of the Fagaceae family, the same family as the oak and the beech tree. The chestnut belongs to the genus Castanea, and is divided into four main types: European, Chinese, Japanese and American.
Castanea sativa, or "sweet chestnut," is the only European species of chestnut. The European chestnut is tall and has a massive trunk, and the foliage changes to yellow in the autumn.
There are many different Chinese species of chestnut, including Castanea mollisima, davidii, henryl and seguinii. The Chinese varieties of chestnut tend to be wide and not as tall as European and American versions.
Castanea crenata is the Japanese chestnut tree. The Japanese chestnut is also wider and more spreading than the taller and more massive American and European versions.
American chestnuts are divided according to eastern and southern states. In the east, chestnut varieties include Castanea dentata and pumila; in the south, the varieties are alnifolia, ashei, floridana and paupispina. The American chestnut can be huge, with a large single trunk distinguished by the growth of long, ropy strands on the gray bark.
Chestnut trees grow very quickly, usually 30 percent faster than oaks, according to the agricultural research corporation Badgersett. An average growth in diameter is about 1 inch in three years, according to the Chattooga Conservancy.