How to Transplant a Buckeye Tree

The buckeye tree is a popular native tree, particularly in Ohio where it is the state tree. It is often grown as an ornamental tree, in landscapes or public parks, where children gather during the fall to collect the green seedcases and extract the brown seeds inside. Buckeye trees are not very fond of being transplanted, so this can make things difficult for the amateur gardener, but with good care and attention, even a transplanted buckeye tree can grow very high, and produce lots of sweet buckeye nuts which squirrels and chipmunks will love to eat.

Transplanting a Buckeye tree

Planting a buckeye seed in its final destination is the best way to ensure that the buckeye tree grows to its full potential, but this is not always possible. If you have to replant a buckeye tree, it is best done once the tree has got a little older – younger trees can be put under too much stress, and they will die. Waiting two years to transplant a buckeye tree can mean all the difference between keeping the tree and losing it.

If you have bought the buckeye from a garden centre, then it is best to "harden" the tree by leaving it outside for a day or two before planting. This also gives you plenty of time to dig a nice deep hole, which will ensure that there is enough room for the taproot to lay.

Loosen the soil in an area about a foot wide, and as deep as the root ball of the tree. Lay the tree on its side, and remove any burlap sheeting and wire ties with a suitable clipper. Water the soil well, and then place the buckeye tree in it, making sure that it remains upright and in a straight position.

Half-fill in hole with removed soil, and add some compost. Water the tree thoroughly, and let the roots and soil soak up the water overnight.

The next day, add the rest of the soil, and then put a mulch on top to about 3 inches high. Water again, until a pool of liquid forms around the base of the tree. Return frequently during the next few weeks to continue watering and mulching the tree.

After transplanting

Buckeye trees can sometimes die back due to transplant shock after re-planting, so it is important to water and care for the trees as much as possible in the first two years after transplantation. During this period, leaves will turn brown and fall, and any seeds being grown will also fall away. This kind of early dormancy should be treated with careful mulching. It is also wise to inspect the tree for rust or other diseases which might cause these symptoms.

Prune the buckeye tree regularly after the first few years, to remove suckers and shoots from the lower portions of the trunk and the roots. Pruning is an ideal time to check the buckeye tree for signs of disease or infestation, and careful pruning also encourages the tree to produce stronger shoots and more seeds in following years.