Horse chestnut

Horse-chestnut tree in full flower.

Botanical name:

Aesculus hippocastanum

Family (English):

Soapberry (formerly Horse-chestnut)

All Common Names:

horse-chestnut, horse chestnut, common horse-chestnut

Family (Botanic):

Sapindaceae (formerly Hippocastanaceae)

Planting Considerations:

  • Messy fruit/plant parts

Ornamental Interest:

  • Spring blossoms,
  • Showy flowers

Season of Interest:

  • Late spring

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Oval,
  • Round,
  • Upright

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Transplants Well:

  • No

Alkaline Soils:

  • Tolerant


  • Browsers,
  • Migrant birds,
  • Small mammals

Salt Spray:

  • Tolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Moderately Tolerant

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

Avoid very dry situations as they contribute to leaf scorch.

Disease, pests, and problems

Prone to leaf scorch and a fungal leaf blotch (Guignardia).

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to the Balkans in Europe.

Bark color and texture 

Bark is gray and with age, becomes platy with small sections falling away.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Palmately compound leaves in pairs (opposite); 5 to 7 leaflets per leaf.  Each leaflet has a doubly toother margin.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

White flowers held in a large, upright cluster in late spring

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

The fruit is a seed (the horse chestnut) in a prickly husk.  The seed is poisonous.

Cultivars and their differences

Baumann's horse-chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum 'Baumannii'):  A double-flowered cultivar that produces no nuts.



Drought Conditions:

  • Intolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Horse chestnut is a large tree known for showy flowers in May. The clusters of white flowers may be 6 inches tall or more. This non-native can be messy when its fruit drops and offers little in the way of fall color. 

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • City parkway,
  • Wide median,
  • Restricted sites

Landscape Uses:

  • Parkway/street,
  • Shade tree,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)

Mature Height:

50-75 feet

Mature Width:

40-65 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 3,
  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7

Location of Aesculus hippocastanum (Horse chestnut) at the Arboretum