WHAT’S THAT BIG SHRUBBY PEAR YOU GROW?” people ask when walking through the garden in August onward. That “big, shrubby pear” is no pear at all, but perhaps my favorite shrub, the bottlebrush buckeye, or Aesculus parviflora. And those are its balloon-like seedpods, despite the resemblance to small pears.
If you have a spot for a big shrub (my oldest of four or five here is more than 15 feet across and maybe 12 feet high) perhaps you want to adopt one? In the North, bottlebrush buckeye will do in either sun or shade, but they really sucker up nicely in semi-shade or shade, making a July splash with creamy wand-like flowers. The handsome foliage goes gold in fall.
The full story on how I almost lost my beloved first-born bottlebrush buckeye is here (and probably in the photo links below, too). Miraculously, in just two years it has already regained half of its lost bits, and growing strong–even if it doesn’t yield any pears.
so, where would one find one that blooms red?
Ann–there is a related plant, Aesculus pavia, with red flowers, but it is not shrubby in habit, more like a small tree. And you might not be able to grow it, as it is native to the southeast US (not knowing where you live..). But I do remember red-flowered buckeye trees on the campus of University of Michigan, and those were hybrids, but I cannot seem to remember the cultivar name. Again, not shrubby.
But maybe there is a hybrid out there between A pavia and A parviflora?
hmm, that wasn’t really helping, huh? I do love the buckeye family, though.
I am totally unfamiliar with this plant. and want to know more.
Not to confuse the issue, but Ann might also be thinking of the red horse chestnut, Aseculus x carnea ‘Briotti’, another small tree which is a cross between the red buckeye and the common horse chestnut.
I was excited when my bottlebrush buckeye blossomed this year and I am still excited that it now has nuts. I bought the plan probably four or five years ago at a plant sale at my church. It more than made up for the fact that my angelica had lived its life.
There is a Red Buckeye that has red blooms in early spring – a favorite of migrating hummingbirds. I have a couple of small ones in my yard here in East Tennessee and the following is from an ad on Sunlight Gardens’ site (a native plant nursery sunlightgardens.com).
Dwarf Red Buckeye Zones: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
The Dwarf Red Buckeye is a clump forming, deciduous shrub or small tree growing in a rounded form 10 to 20 feet tall and wide. It is easily spotted in moist forests and low open areas in April and May when its brilliant scarlet 6 inch by 9 inch flower clusters shine like beacons. The foliage which has five parted leaflets is a rich green in the summer. Leaves fall early in the fall with no notable color. Although this species normally occurs in light shade, it can be a stunning specimen plant in a sunny location with good soil moisture.
Welcome, Ginger. I love Aesculus pavia, too, and grow it up on my hillside. You can see its photo in this older post. Thanks for the reminder, and do stop in again soon.
just discovered this shrub while traveling to North Georgia and picked 3 of the fig like pods. Can these be dried and used to plant a tree? And when dried do they have the same shiny dark brown appearance as the buckeye you carry in your pocket for good luck?
Hi, Martha. You don’t want to dry them very long; there are seeds inside and they need to get planted (as they would pretty quick by squirrels around here!). Scroll down when you get this article for aesculus propagation tips.