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Horse chestnut

Horse-chestnut tree in full flower.

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.


Botanical name:

Aesculus hippocastanum

All common names:

horse-chestnut, horse chestnut, common horse-chestnut

Family (English):

Soapberry (formerly Horse-chestnut)

Family (Botanic):

Sapindaceae (formerly Hippocastanaceae)

Planting Site:

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

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

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

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Alkaline soil,
  • Clay soil,
  • Road salt

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Tolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Intolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • Messy fruit/plant parts

Ornamental Interest:

  • Spring blossoms,
  • Showy flowers

Seasons of Interest:

  • late spring

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Oval,
  • Round,
  • Upright

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

Transplants Well:

  • No


  • Browsers,
  • Migrant birds,
  • Small mammals

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.



Location of Aesculus hippocastanum (Horse chestnut) at the Arboretum