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Bottlebrush Buckeye Offers Awesome Flowers, Foliage
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
If there was a poster child for underused plants, the bottlebrush buckeye would be the spectacular winner.
The word bottlebrush should make you want to grow it, but when you consider the flowers are 4-inches wide and 12-inches long and produced in huge quantities, it really is time to go shopping.
I guess from a distance it would look like a large oakleaf hydrangea but with more flowers which the branches hold erect. The huge, white blossoms in contrast with the dark green leaves followed by attractive yellow fall foliage make this a plant for all shrub beds. It is good combined with evergreens or planted under pines.
Despite being such a dynamite plant, they are still rare in the marketplace. There are a few nurseries in Mississippi that have bottlebrush buckeye, but it is obvious horticulturists need to do a better job promoting this plant and its cultural requirements.
Choose a site in partial to little shade, especially if you are near the Coast. Prepare a bed for the bottlebrush 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.
Don't skimp on the hole! Dig the planting hole three to five 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.
About a month after transplanting, feed with a light application of a slow-release, balanced fertilizer (8-8-8) at a rate equaling 1 pound per 100 square feet. Feed established plantings in late winter with the same fertilizer.
Keep suckers pruned as they develop to keep the bottlebrush buckeye confined. Light pruning can be done after blooming, and they will return faithfully after being cut to the ground in winter for a rejuvenation-type pruning. Be sure to keep a good 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch, particularly in the summer. Treat it like an azalea from the standpoint of mulch and moisture.
We already grow a buckeye around here. The red buckeye (Aesculus parvia) is a native that looks very pretty during the spring and gets anywhere from 8 to 20 feet high.
The bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) gets about 8 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide. It is native to much of the Southeast, including South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Alabama.
I subscribe to some periodicals that tell who has what for sale in the wholesale nursery industry. The bottlebrush buckeye is available to Mississippi garden centers. But before we jump on anyone for not offering such enticing plants, ask yourself if we as consumers are somewhat to blame because of the attitude that deciduous works for trees, but not shrubs.
Deciduous works for spiraea, quince, forsythia, and the bottlebrush buckeye. Try it, you'll like it.