Buckeye Tree Propagation Methods

The buckeye tree is a colorful ornamental addition to yards and landscapes. Propagation of popular buckeye tree varieties is easy, and many germination characteristics are widely shared. While some buckeye varieties grow as bushes or shrubs, the most popular grown as shade trees are the Ohio, the Red, and the California buckeyes.

The Ohio Buckeye

The Ohio buckeye, Aesculus glabra, grows well in moist areas. It is commonly grown from seeds that ripen between September and October. Buckeye seeds have high moisture content. It is important that they are not allowed to dry out or germination will not occur. The seeds require cold stratification, a period of moist cool storage during which the embryo develops. To meet this requirement, the seed can be planted outdoors immediately upon harvesting, allowing the process to occur naturally. Alternatively, the seed can be stored in moistened vermiculite at 41 degrees Fahrenheit for 120 days. Early planting offers convenience at the risk of predation by squirrels or even deer. Stratification under controlled conditions involves a bit more effort, but insures the seeds remain intact. The soil at the planting site should be loosened to a depth of 10 inches, and the seed itself planted about an inch deep. The early growth of buckeyes is largely focused on the development of a long taproot. Little growth may be visible above the surface of the soil for some time.

The Red Buckeye

The Red buckeye, Aesculus pavia, is another easy to grow garden favorite. It is most often grown from seed. These buckeyes germinate easily, but benefit from having a nominal stratification of 30 days. The seed can be immediately planted in the fall at a depth of 1 to 1½ inches. Mulch to a depth of 3 inches, and water the seed lightly. If stratifying under controlled conditions, ensure the seed remains moist but not wet. As with the Ohio buckeye, planting in loosened soil will aid the growth of the initial root. The Red buckeye can also be grown from root cuttings. These are taken in the winter just prior to the onset of spring growth. Stem cuttings are another alternative propagation method. These require a very humid environment for success. As with seed propagation, the plants started by these methods will devote their energy in the first couple of growing seasons to the development of a strong root system. Little will be visible in the form of stems or leaves.

The California Buckeye

Like its eastern counterparts, the California Buckeye, Aesculus californica, is commonly grown from seed. Fresh seed is collected from September to December. It is easier to sow the seed outdoors immediately, but it can also be stratified indoors. Soak the seed in water for 24 hours. Next, place it in a 5 percent bleach solution for 1 minute, then carefully rinse. The seed should be refrigerated in perlite or vermiculite for 6 to 8 weeks. Check the seed periodically after 6 weeks. When the radicle appears, the seed can be sown. Plant the seeds in loosened soil at a depth equal to the height of the seed. Buckeyes require little care. Water regularly until it is well established. Fertilizer is seldom needed. If called for, however, a balanced 10-10-10 will do.