Red Buckeye Tree Profile

Blooming red buckeye

Gabrielle Grassl / Getty Images 

The Red Buckeye is known for its spectacular springtime show of deep red flowers--in fact, it's been considered one of the most beautiful of all ornamental trees. A stunning deciduous tree, the red buckeye can add visual interest to any home or park landscape.

The tree gets its name from the whitish scar found on each brown seed--it's said to give the seed the appearance of a deer's eye. The flowering red buckeye displays its showy red flowers in three to six-inch clusters at the branch tips, along with lustrous dark green leaves. Its relatively smooth bark is a dark brown color that will flake off with age.

Botanical Name Aesculus pavia
Common Name Red buckeye tree
Plant Type Ornamental tree
Mature Size 15-20 feet high, 15-30 feet wide
Sun Exposure Full sun, partial shade
Soil Type Acidic, moist well-drained soil
Soil pH 5.5-7.5
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Red
Hardiness Zones 6-9
Native Area Illinois, North America

How to Grow the Red Buckeye Tree

A valued native tree for wild and wildlife gardens, the red buckeye makes for an ideal tree to plant beneath existing forest cover as well as large shade trees for added protection from the sun. It also makes a lovely addition to residential landscapes, however homeowners should be aware that the fruit is toxic to pets. Some of the other issues associated with these trees are powdery mildew and leaf blotch.

Buckeye trees have become particularly popular with landscape gardeners due to their small, square size as well as their very early flowering. When planting your red buckeye with later-flowering trees, you can guarantee color in your garden all year long.

A smaller tree, it can be safely planted underneath power lines and is a popular choice for both residential properties as well as parks and other open spaces. Some popular American natives that can be paired with the red buckeye are the Gateway Joe Pye Weed, Autumn Brilliance Apple Serviceberry, Kobold Blazing Star, and Cutleaf American Elder.

Light

This tree will thrive in full sun, with at least four to six hours of daily direct, unfiltered sunlight. It can also tolerate partial sun/shade.

Soil

Tolerant to an array of soils, the red buckeye will grow in acidic soils. It can also tolerate alkaline and clay soils. The soil should always be kept moist and well-drained to promote optimal growth.

Water

The red buckeye should be watered regularly to maintain wet or evenly moist soil. Be sure to water at least weekly. It can, however, tolerate occasional drought as well as occasional flooding.

Temperature and Humidity

The red buckeye will bloom in in late spring. As a deciduous tree, it will lose its leaves seasonally.

Fertilizer

Buckeye trees respond well to a liquid fertilizer when its planted, or later when its seeds sprout. Be sure to maintain a monthly feeding schedule for the first two years, and then once the roots are well established you can use fertilizer once every six months. No fertilizer is needed once to tree is four or five years old.

Propagating

Most often grown from seed, the red buckeye germinates easily but will benefit from having a nominal stratification of 30 days. The seeds can be immediately planted in the fall at a depth of about one to one-and-a-half inches. Stem cuttings are an alternative propagation method, but will require a very humid environment for success. Both methods will produce trees that develop a strong root system in their first years of growth.

Related Varieties of Buckeye Trees

  • Ohio buckeye: Red flowers with spiky fruit shells that open in September
  • Horse Chestnut: White flowers, with fruit that grows in a green capsule with spikes
  • Dwarf Red Buckeye: Pink or red flowers, only grows to 20 feet
  • Yellow Buckeye: Yellow or yellow-green flowers, reaches heights of 35 feet

Pruning

Pruning is essential to keeping your buckeye tree in good shape. Buckeyes are one of the first trees to produce flowers and new growth after the winter, and though they are among the first to lose their leaves during the fall months, they do not go into hibernation until later in the year. While the best time to prune most buckeye trees is during the summer, the red buckeye's vigorous growth means it's generally best to prune closer to the winter.