Horse Chestnut

The horse chestnut is a non-native broadleaf deciduous tree. It was introduced to the UK in the 16th Century and has been entertaining kids ever since with its luscious brown conkers, which have been used for centuries for games. While not a native species, the horse chestnut can be a pleasing addition to a large garden.

Growing horse chestnut trees:

When choosing a tree for your garden you should always bear in mind the height and width it can reach at maturity and how long it will live for. Choose carefully when placing your beautiful horse chestnut tree as these trees will reach an eventual height of up to 40m and can live for 300 years.

A horse chestnut can be a great stand alone specimen tree or on larger areas of land will sit well with other trees. They will thrive best in a sunny spot in soil that is humus rich and fertile, moist and yet free-draining. They will not do very well if their roots become waterlogged or if the soil fertility is poor. Neither will horse chestnuts survive very dry conditions.

While most people choosing a new tree for their garden will go for the easier option of buying a small tree to plant out, it is also possible to grow horse chestnut trees from conkers. These seeds will dry out quickly so should be planted right away, ideally in a cold frame outdoors. Unlike some tree species, germination rates for these seeds tend to be rather good.

One the roots begin to sprout from the conker, you can pot it up in a container filled with a mix of soil-based compost. They will be ready to plant into their final growing position in around a year, when they are a foot or so tall.

When planting into your prepared planting position, dig a hole around three times the width of the root ball and at a depth which allows the top of the root ball to remain flush with the soil. Carefully fill in the area around the root ball with soil and organic material and water in well. Tamp down lightly and then add a surface mulch around the young tree to keep in moisture and suppress weeds.

Consider the plants you wish to use as companions to aid your horse chestnut tree. Dynamic accumulators, it is said, can be used to great effect to aid the growth of a specimen tree in your garden and increase its general biodiversity.

Why grow horse chestnut trees in the garden?

Horse chestnuts do not only give conkers for children to play with, they also cast some pleasant, dappled shade, have interesting and beautiful form and foliage and provide visual interest of different sorts throughout the year.

What is more, horse chestnuts also attract bees with their flowers in the spring and are home to a number of caterpillars and moths. Deer and other UK mammals eat the conkers.

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Aesculus hippocastanum