Bottlebrush Buckeye Care and Growing Tips

Updated: Jul. 10, 2024

There's many reasons to add bottlebrush buckeye to your yard. This full, stunning shrub is suited to shady sites and hummingbirds love it!

How to Grow a Bottlebrush Buckeye Bush

shrubs for shade, Bottlebrush buckeye flowersnickkurzenko/Getty Images
Bottlebrush buckeye in bloom
  • Common name: Bottlebrush buckeye
  • Scientific name: Aesculus parviflora
  • Hardiness zones: 4 to 8
  • Light needs: part shade
  • Watering needs: moderate
  • Preferred soil: loamy, moist, slightly acidic to neutral, well-draining
  • Size: 6 to 12 feet tall, up to 15 feet wide
  • Attracts: hummingbirds, butterflies, native bees

Bottlebrush buckeye bushes are particularly eye-catching in June and July, when white, elongated flowers, contrasted by red or pink anthers, shoot above the foliage like a giant candelabra.

“The grandiose size makes it a great choice for an accent plant or border planting,” says Amy Medley, lead horticulturist at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. “The dark green leaves also shift to a bright autumnal yellow in the fall, and this buckeye retains its leaves longer than other buckeyes.”

As a native plant, bottlebrush buckeye also makes excellent habitat for wildlife, attracting hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. Plus, it’s a great low-maintenance solution for rounding out shady sites with its thick-yet-delicate, mounding foliage.

Where to Plant Bottlebrush Buckeye

Bottlebrush BuckeyeNahhan/Getty Images
This large shrub is a good choice for shady spots.

Bottlebrush buckeye is an adaptable bush. It can tolerate full sun, but “it loves shady, moist areas such as understories, rain gardens, woodland edges and creek sides,” says Mary Phillips, head of native plant habitat strategy/certifications at the National Wildlife Federation.

It prefers evenly moist, well-draining, loamy, soil that’s slightly acidic to neutral, but it can also survive in wet sites and alkaline clay soils, so long as they’re not too soggy or clay heavy. While it tolerates morning sun, in warmer regions too much afternoon sun can scorch the leaves.

It does especially well in its native region: the southeastern U.S., including Alabama, central Georgia and South Carolina.

How and When to Plant Bottlebrush Buckeye

Plant bottlebrush buckeye in the spring or fall. It is generally a relatively slow-growing shrub, but under ideal conditions it can grow several feet per season. Its suckers can also grow and spread pretty quickly.

Be mindful of planting it too close to structures. “This large shrub overtime can grow twice as broad as it is high, making it quite the specimen,” says Amy.

Wildlife Benefits

Bottlebrush buckeye’s prolific blooms and nectar are a favorite among hummingbirds (especially ruby-throated). It also supports numerous species of butterflies and moths as a larval host plant, plus its dense foliage offers substantial cover and habitat to other wildlife. It’s especially helpful to ecosystems and their inhabitants in its native southeastern U.S.

Pruning Bottlebrush Buckeye

If left to its own devices, bottlebrush buckeye tends to form thickets. If that’s desirable for your yard, then pruning is not generally needed, except to remove dead and diseased branches, to keep the size in check and to manage its spread by removing suckers.

But, if you do want to prune for aesthetic reasons, “It’s multi-stemmed habit allows for flexibility in terms of pruning and shaping as desired by the gardener,” says Sharon Yiesla, a plant knowledge specialist at The Morton Arboretum. Suckers can be removed at any time, but since the plant flowers on old wood, be sure to prune right after flowering ends.

Pitfalls, Pests and Problems

Bottlebrush buckeye is generally a low-maintenance plant, free of serious disease and insect concerns. While it is considered pest-resistant, Mary says to remember, “this is a host plant for many species, so the leaves are meant to be eaten by larvae.”

Many parts of the plant are toxic to humans and pets if ingested, including the nuts/seeds and leaves. That means deer and rabbits also tend to leave it alone, but children can be vulnerable, so advise them to keep their distance.

If your bottlebrush buckeye isn’t thriving, Mary says the most common reasons could be that the soil is too dry, especially with initial growth; or it’s getting too much sun, especially afternoon sun scorching the leaves.

Otherwise, “This species is a good choice all the way around,” says Sharon. “This is such an easy plant to grow that it’s hard to get it wrong.”

About the Experts

Amy Medley is lead horticulturist at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, located at University of Texas at Austin. The Center promotes and educates the public about the benefits of native plants in sustainable landscapes.

Sharon Yiesla is an arboretum plant knowledge specialist at The Plant Clinic at The Morton Arboretum, with 40 years of experience in the field of horticulture.

Mary Phillips is head of native plant habitat strategy/certifications at the National Wildlife Federation. As an ambassador for nature, she keeps habitat gardening programs flourishing with sustainable practices and ever-evolving scientific knowledge.