Caring for a Buckeye Tree
The buckeye tree is a common sight in many parts of central and eastern America. It is often found in public spaces like parks. This slow-growing deciduous tree is so-named because the fruit resembles a deer's eye. Its wood is used to make veneer, crates and toys. The leaves, fruit and bark contain a poisonous sap which if ingested can cause vomiting, diarrhea and paralysis. The tree grows best in loose, well-drained soils. Below are some care guidelines to help you grow a healthy buckeye.
Give your buckeye seedling plenty of water in the early growth phase. This will encourage roots to establish themselves deeply and extensively. Give the tree water once a week so that soils can be consistently moist at all times. However, be careful to avoid creating wet soils as this will cause the roots to suffocate. Proper root establishment will be prevented by wet soils. Once the roots are well-established you can cut back considerably on watering. Buckeyes are fairly hardy and do not require much water once mature. However, be sure to water your tree during drought periods or very hot weather bouts to sustain its good health.
Apply fertilizer regularly during the first few years. The trees are heavy feeders during the early growth phase. Give the tree a liquid fertilizer when you transplant or when the seeds sprout. Maintain a monthly feeding schedule for the first 2 years. Once the roots are well established you can give fertilizer once every 6 months. Beyond 4 or 5 years, no fertilizer is needed.
Mulch your buckeye tree in the summer and winter. It is best to use organic material such as dried grass or sawdust. This will add to the nutritive content of the soil as it decomposes. Mulch will help maintain the soil temperature within an ideal range. It will also prevent frost heave during the winter. Place 3 inches onto the soil but leave adequate space around the tree stems. This will enable proper breathing without hindrances. Remove the mulch once the ground has thawed in the spring.
Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight will scorch your buckeye leaves. Provide some shade or screen from the afternoon light, especially during the summer.
Buckeyes are generally slow-growing trees. If you trim them while young, you are unlikely to trim again soon because of the slow growth rate. It is best to trim in late spring. Trim the trees while still young to encourage a better shape. Use loppers to cut off thinner branches while thicker branches will require a pruning saw. Branches that are extremely large will require a chain saw. Cut off branches that cross into others or those that appear awkward. Do not clip off the branch tips but cut where the branch sprouts from the trunk. Be careful not to cut into the trunk or tear at the bark. Should you spot branches or plant parts that are diseased, broken or damaged, cut them off too. This will help check spread of disease. It will also pave the way for newer, healthier growth to appear.