Gardening: Want to grow your own Ohio buckeye tree? Here are 7 things you need to know (2024)

Gardening: Want to grow your own Ohio buckeye tree? Here are 7 things you need to know (1)

It’s officially football season now that the Buckeyes have played their first games of the season.It’s also the season when Buckeye fans can plant their own source of buckeyes — a buckeye tree.Even if you don’t root for the Scarlet and Gray on the football field, you may want to add some Ohio lore to your landscape, as the buckeye has been the state tree of Ohio since 1953, when it was so-named to commemorate the 150th anniversary of statehood.

The buckeye tree’s virtues extend beyond state pride and gridiron greatness with its greenish-yellow spring flowers, pumpkin-orange leaves in autumn, and eventually buckets of those shiny brown Buckeye nuts.The nuts are toxic and can’t be eaten but Scarlet and Gray fans find many uses for them, particularly during football season.

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The Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra)is native to Ohio and is well-suited to our soils and climate. It is the best-known of 13 species of buckeyes. Other popular members of the genus include horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), yellow buckeye (Aesculus flava), and the large shrub-like red buckeye (Aesculus pavia).

Gardening: Want to grow your own Ohio buckeye tree? Here are 7 things you need to know (2)

If you are interested in planting an Ohio buckeye tree in your home landscape, here are seven things to know:

1. Soil moisture is critical

The Ohio buckeye tends to grow near streams and rivers in its native habitat.In order to flourish, buckeyes need deep, well-drained soil. Buckeyes should never be planted in soils that tend to stay wet after a rainfall. It is also important to not let the soil around newly planted buckeyes dry out during periods of low precipitation.

Gardening: Want to grow your own Ohio buckeye tree? Here are 7 things you need to know (3)

2. Avoid full-sun locations

In its native habitat, buckeyes are like understory trees, which means that they grow naturally in "edge of the woods" locations where there is some shade during the day. When choosing a location for a buckeye in your landscape, avoid full-sun locations.The perfect location is one which gets morning sun and then some shade or dappled sunlight in the afternoon, similar to locations where we would plant understory trees such as dogwood and pawpaw.

3. Plan to mulch

To help conserve soil moisture, keep a 2- to-3-inch-layer of mulch around buckeyes at all times.As buckeyes grow and mature, they will have a dense canopy, which will shade the area under the canopy, so avoid growing grass directly under the canopy of the trees. Mulching under the tree will also make harvesting fallen nuts easier.

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4. Dig a proper hole for trees

When planting a buckeye tree, be sure to dig the planting hole two times the diameter of the root ball or container. Dig the hole 2 to 3 inches shallower than the depth of the root ball or container, so that the tree is planted 2 to 3 inches higher than it was growing in the nursery. Backfill the planting hole with a mixture of two parts soil dug from the planting hole and one part compost or peat moss.

5. Gathering seeds

If you already have a buckeye tree and wish to collect nuts and plant them to grow additional buckeye trees, collect the nuts once they fall from the tree naturally in September and October. Remove the nuts from the leathery husks and store them in the refrigerator for 120 days. Place the nuts in a container or plastic bag filled with moist peat moss for storage in the refrigerator.

Gardening: Want to grow your own Ohio buckeye tree? Here are 7 things you need to know (4)

This cold storage process is called stratification, which is a process designed to stimulate natural conditions that seeds would experience in the soil over winter.

After 120 days, the nuts can be removed from the refrigerator and planted 1 to 2 inches deep in a seed-starting mix and placed in a warm, sunny windowsill location to germinate.Seedlings should be ready to plant outside by mid-May after the last frost. While Buckeye nuts can be planted directly in the soil outdoors in autumn, starting them indoors will prevent squirrels from digging up the nuts before they germinate next spring.

6. Totally toxic

Not just the nuts, but all parts of the Ohio Buckeye tree are toxic, including the leaves and bark. Its leaves also smell bad when crushed, which explains why Buckeye trees are sometimes referred to as "fetid buckeye" or "stinking buckeye."

7. Foliar imperfection

Most buckeye trees get a disease called leaf blotch nearly every year, late in the growing season.This disease is cosmetic, and does not kill the tree, but in late summer causes leaves to brown, which sometimes progresses until the entire tree has a scorched appearance.

Gardening: Want to grow your own Ohio buckeye tree? Here are 7 things you need to know (5)

There is no practical treatment to prevent or treat leaf blotch. Buckeye trees typically shed their leaves before other deciduous trees in Greater Columbus.

The Ohio buckeye is a beautiful native tree that can be incorporated into most home landscapes in Greater Columbus. O-H!

Mike Hogan is an associate professor at Ohio State University and an educator at the OSU Extension.

Gardening: Want to grow your own Ohio buckeye tree? Here are 7 things you need to know (2024)


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