Advanced Search Filters

Plant Type
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
Sunset Zone
Function
Sun Exposure
Soil Moisture
Water Requirement

AESCULUS californica

Image of Aesculus californica

JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University

Family

Hippocastanaceae

Botanical Name

AESCULUS californica

Plant Common Name

California Buckeye

General Description

Beautiful and fragrant white flowers, decorative nuts, and glossy leaves make the California buckeye one of the more interesting and pretty buckeyes for the garden. Native to the canyon hills and ranges of central California, this dry-season deciduous large shrub also boasts smooth silver-gray bark that arguably makes the plant look more stunning when no leaves are present.

The warmth of spring finds the new, light green foliage emerging, with hand-like (palmate) leaves with five to seven leaflets that curl to create a U-shaped fold. By late spring, the branch tips are filled with upright spike-shaped clusters of fragrant, white blossoms dotted with pink. A mature specimen will be filled with flowers, looking like a robust floral candelabra. Following pollination by bees, large pear-shaped tan fruits develop, splitting open to reveal one to two light orange-brown seeds that are not edible to humans, but foraged by small critters. As the heat and lack of rain progresses in summer (or the coolness of fall in moist climates), the leaves will drop to reveal the exquisite silver-gray smooth bark.

Plant the California buckeye in a well-drained soil, seasonally dry or moist, that is acidic or neutral in pH. If grown naturally, the leaves often drop by midsummer, but even in dry summers the foliage will hang on for a few months with irrigation. Outside of dry-summer subtropical climates, this shrub will naturally leaf out in spring and remain in leaf until early fall. This breathtaking large shrub (or small tree if lowest limbs removed) is wonderful as a specimen in a lawn or mixed border or scattered upon unirrigated hillsides. It will be most striking when leafless if the bark can be contrasted against tall background shrubs. The open, dried fruits are used in floral arrangements.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    8 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    7 - 9

  • Sunset Zone

    3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Shrub

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    15'-20' / 4.6m - 6.1m

  • Width

    15'-20' / 4.6m - 6.1m

  • Bloom Time

    Late Spring, Early Summer

  • Native To

    California

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought, Salt

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White, Pink

  • Flower Color Modifier

    Bicolor

  • Fruit Color

    Orange, Brown, Sandy Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Bark Color

    Gray, Silver

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Dried Flower/Everlasting, Feature Plant, Hedges, Mixed Border, Screening / Wind Break

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes