Horse chestnut tree, are you up to a game of conkers?

Horse chestnut tree in a field

The horse chestnut tree is a favorite of schoolyard autumn games: it produces the famed “conkers” which are an infinite source of childish enjoyment!

Horse Chestnut tree facts

Name – Aesculus hippocastanum
Family – Spindaceae
Type – tree

Height – 50 to 150 feet (15 to 45 meters)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – rich and cool

Foliage – deciduous
Flowering – May

Planting a horse chestnut tree

Single flower of a horse chestnut plant against a backdrop of leavesThe planting usually is performed in October when the first horse chestnuts naturally start germinating.

They grow very fast and their root development will have had a running start before winter.

  • You can also set horse chestnuts up to germinate in a pot over the winter and transplant them to the ground in spring. Germination is virtually guaranteed, it’s an excellent garden activity for children!

Pruning Horse chestnut tree

It doesn’t need any pruning.

Learn more about the horse chestnut tree

It is known to all since children often play with the fruits come fall. In Britain they call them conkers.

Three horse chestnuts in an open handThis tree has the advantage of growing very quickly, of bearing beautiful flowers in spring and of offering horse chestnuts in fall, except the double-flowered varieties that can’t produce any fruits.

Horse chestnut trees, even though they’re not particularly remarkable, are often found in parks and in gardens!

  • An interesting cousin of this gigantic tree is bottlebrush: the flowers have a similar structure but are much more showy and unique: a perfect shrub to plant underneath!

Horse chestnuts, though they’re not edible, nonetheless are very useful to treat certain ailments related to venous deficiency and more.

Smart tip about the horse chestnut tree

Great activity for your children: germinate a horse chestnut in a small container filled with soil mix. Water just a bit and see it grow!

It’ll be ready for planting in the garden in spring.

Squirrel nibbling on a horse chestnut that's still in its hull.


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
As a standalone by Daniel Jolivet under © CC BY 2.0
Flower in the tree by Ada Knieć under Pixabay license
Conkers in hand by jaaannnaaa under Pixabay license
Squirrel feasting on a conker by Heather Smithers under © CC BY-SA 2.0