Aesculus parviflora (bottlebrush buckeye) is a deciduous shrub native to the southeastern U.S. that blooms in early summer. The freely produced panicles of white flowers are elegant and long-lasting in the garden, making the bottlebrush buckeye one of the most beautiful of our native shrubs.
Being a buckeye, Aesculus parviflora does produce nuts, although not (in my experience at least) as easily and freely as red buckeye (Aesculus pavia).
Foliage is large, palmate, and a deep dark green that sets off the 12″-18″ panicles of white flowers exceptionally well. The leaves have excellent fall color (yellow), but drop early. I reckon most every gardener has a nervous moment the first time they experience a buckeye dropping leaves in August or September, but this is characteristic of the genus.
Bottlebrush buckeye is easy to grow in the garden.
Aesculus parviflora is undemanding. The primary recommendation is to avoid hot afternoon sun. There are those who grow Aesculus parviflora successfully in full sun, but plenty of moisture is required. I would not recommend planting bottlebrush buckeye in full sun in zones 7 or 8. The Deep South sun will make you pay.
I know of two places where it is growing in full sun in Georgia. Soil is consistently moist in both locations.
It is widely tolerant of soil types. Bottlebrush buckeye is intolerant of drought conditions when young. Keep well-watered the first couple of years if the weather turns dry. It prefers rich, moist, well-drained soil. Bottlebrush buckeye flowers amazingly well even in dense shade.
The largest and most beautiful colony I have seen belongs to Rick Berry of Goodness Grows. It is at least 50 feet wide.
Scientific name: Aesculus parviflora (Latin: parvi=’small’, flora=’flora’)
Height: to 12′ feet tall and wide. Puts out suckers and can (slowly) grow into huge colonies over time.
Native status: Native
Winter hardiness: 4/5-8 – hardier than its native distribution, but borderline into zone 4.
Of note: Spectacular deciduous native shrub that thrives in gardens with afternoon shade. Blooms well even in fairly heavy shade. Leaves drop early in fall…do not be alarmed. Deer tolerant (although they may come after it in winter). Attracts butterflies. Keep well-watered until established, which may take a season or two. Attractive to hummingbirds.
Other buckeyes: red buckeye (Aesculus pavia), yellow buckeye (Aesculus octandra).