Red horse-chestnut

The spring flower cluster of red horse-chestnut.

The red horse-chestnut, a cross between horse-chestnut and red buckeye, is an excellent shade tree for large areas. Its distinctive, rose-red, cone-shaped flower clusters bloom in May among the lustrous dark green leaves.

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

Botanical name:

Aesculus carnea

All Common Names:

red horse-chestnut, red horsechestnut

Family (English):

Soapberry (formerly Horse-chestnut)

Family (Botanic):

Sapindaceae (formerly Hippocastanaceae)

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Planting Site:

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

Landscape Uses:

  • Parkway/street,
  • Shade tree,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Medium tree (25-40 feet)

Mature Height:

30-40 feet

Mature Width:

30-40 feet

Light Exposure:

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

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil

Acid Soils:

  • Prefers

Alkaline Soils:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Tolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Intolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Intolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Intolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • Messy fruit/plant parts

Ornamental Interest:

  • Spring blossoms,
  • Showy flowers

Season of Interest:

  • Late spring

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Pink,
  • Red

Shape or Form:

  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

Transplants Well:

  • No


  • Hummingbirds,
  • Insect pollinators,
  • Small mammals

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

More tolerant of dryness than horse-chestnut, but still grows best in a moist soil.
Red horse-chestnut has a taproot which may make planting difficult.

Disease, pests and problems

Large spiny fruits can be messy.
Leaf blotch and mildew are possible problems, but less so on this species than on related species.

Disease, pest and problem resistance

This hybrid is less susceptible to leaf blotch and mildew than European horse-chestnut.

Native geographic location and habitat

This is a hybrid cross between red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) and Common horse-chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum).

Bark color and texture 

Bark is gray-brown, becoming platy as the tree ages.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Palmately compound leaves arranged in pairs (opposite).
Dark green with 5 or sometimes 7 leaflets.
Fall color is yellow-brown.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

6 to 8 inch long, cone-shaped terminal cluster.
Flower color varies from pink to red.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Shiny brown nuts in a 1 ½” prickly husk.
Horse-chestnuts are not true chestnuts and should not be eaten.

Cultivars and their differences 

Fort McNair red horse-chestnut (Aesculus x carnea 'Fort McNair'):  30 feet high and wide with a rounded form.  Some resistance to leaf blotch.  Pink flowers with yellow throats.

Ruby Red Horse-chestnut (Aesculus x carnea ‘Briotii’):  25 to 35 feet high and 25 to 35 feet wide with a compact, rounded shape.  Deep red flowers with yellow throats.

Location of Aesculus carnea (Red horse-chestnut ) at the Arboretum