native red buckeye blooms are beautiful and timed
perfectly for the return of the hummingbirds.
southern roadside and forest are alive with the
spectacular blooms of the red buckeye, Aesculus pavia.
You have to admit it is pretty amazing how nature times
blooming in sequence with the return of the
hummingbirds. Last year I wrote about the coral
honeysuckle that is also blooming now, and both are
providing nectar to the first hummingbirds of the year.
red buckeye is hardy in zones 4-8 and is native from
Texas to Illinois to Ohio and down the eastern seaboard
to Florida. It excels as an early bloomer in the
backyard wildlife habitat, where it feeds hummingbirds
me the plants are showiest when grown in a morning sun,
afternoon shade situation. They also thrive as
understory plants much like a dogwood or eastern redbud.
There is a yellow form called flavescens that stands out
even more in the shady environment.
is typical of native plants it will take a little
searching on your part to locate your source. As
mentioned, morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal.
Beds that are fertile, moist but well-drained are
preferred. Prepare a bed for the red buckeye and
companion shrubs by incorporating 3 to 4 inches of
organic matter and 2 pounds of a 5-10-5 fertilizer per
100 square feet of planting area, tilling deeply.
skimp on the hole! Dig the planting hole two to three
times as wide as the rootball but no deeper. Place the
buckeye in the hole, and backfill with soil to
two-thirds the depth. Tamp the soil and water to settle,
add the remaining backfill, repeat the process and apply
mulch. This will allow for the quickest root-expansion
and acclimation to your garden.
sure to keep a good 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch,
particularly in the summer. While it is considered a
medium water user, know that droughty conditions usually
mean a less than ideal specimen. Treat it like an azalea
from the standpoint of mulch and moisture. While it is
recommended throughout its native range by wildflower
and native plant societies, it does come with a warning
label to teach children that the seeds are poisonous.
that I have seen over the years are 10 to 15 feet tall
and as wide and are perfect for the edge of woodland
gardens. They are deciduous, but donít let this be a
detraction. If you are simply growing them for the
beauty of the 6- to 10-inch panicles of flowers and
large deep green palmate leaves, then consider
partnering with white azaleas and viburnums, forsythia
and late-blooming daffodils and yellow tulips.
the backyard wildlife habitat, consider growing in
partnership with the yellow form of coral honeysuckle
called John Clayton. This would give you an incredible
plant combination along with the best of early
hummingbirds feeding. Those of you living in zones 6-8
might consider the yellow native azalea Rhododendron
austrinum. Most donít consider azaleas for the
backyard wildlife habitat, but the The Xerces Society
recognizes it as valuable to bumblebees.
like red buckeye, scarlet buckeye and firecracker flower
indeed give reference to the beauty of this native shrub
or small tree. The fact that it feeds hummingbirds and
bees, too, makes it extra special and worthy of a place
in your landscape.