Ask An Arborist: March 18, 2010

Tree Profile: Red Buckeye
Aesculus pavia

Species Native Range: Southeastern U.S.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 5-9
Mature Size: 10-20 feet tall & 10 feet wide
Exposure: Morning sun; partial shade
Soil: Rich and well-drained
Drought Tolerance: Excellent
Ease of Culture: Very Easy

This is without a doubt my favorite native tree. I absolutely love the 12-inch stalks of bright red tubular flowers that usually appear (for me) in the first or second week of April. Accompanying the flowers is a flurry of activity as hummingbirds are strongly attracted to this tree. After flowering, the large palmate (hand) shaped compound leaves have a great tropical look.

The red buckeye usually grows as an understory tree in mixed hardwood forests with rick soil often near creeks or streams. I have experimented with this tree for several years and have found its growth rate and blooming to be much greater when planted in morning sun with shade in the afternoon such as at the edge of a woodland garden. Once established, they are surprisingly drought tolerant. Deer do not bother most buckeyes.

In the fall, the tree produces "pods" that contain 1-3 seeds that resemble chestnuts in size and color. These seeds readily germinate when planted immediately, if you can get to them before the squirrels. Prune only as needed immediately after flowering and fertilize each spring as the new leaves emerge with an organic slow-release fertilizer.

Good companion plants include: azaleas, rhododendrons, hydrangeas and other partial shade-loving plants. Several cultivars of this tree can be found in the nursery trade, including one with yellow flowers.

Please note that all parts of this plant are highly toxic.

If you are concerned about the trees in your landscape, you can contact a Certified Arborist or a professional tree company in your area through the web site of the Georgia Arborist Association.

If you have comments or questions about this article or want to submit a question for a future article, please email me.

Unless noted otherwise, Images & Drawings Copyrighted © 2010 by Theresa Schrum - All rights reserved