En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
1 rating

Monday - July 04, 2011

From: Niagara Falls, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Shrubs
Title: Red buckeye not blooming in NY
Answered by: Anne Bossart


I planted my red buckeye in September 2007 and it was about 18 inches tall. It is now a few inches short of 5ft. tall. I have had it in the ground for nearly 4 yrs and it has never bloomed. I have friends who also purchased one and their trees started to bloom between 2 and 3 ft. tall. I was really counting on this tree for spring blooms for my hummingbird garden. Any help or suggestions?


According to our Native Plant Database the most northern state that Aesculus pavia (Scarlet buckeye) is native to is Virginia.  Michael Dirr, in his Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses states that it is native from Virginia to Florida and hardy in Zones 6 to 9.

So the real question is, why are your friends' plants blooming?  In Niagara Falls you are in Zone 6 which means that the plant will survive your winter, but you are definitely out of the native range of the plant.  There is something about the conditions in which the other plants are planted that are more favorable than yours and you will have to figure out what that difference is.

Ideal growing conditions for the plant are part shade and moist, loamy, somewhat acidic soil.

Look carefully at where your friends' plants are sited and try to figure out what sort of microclimate they have and see if you can mimic it.  It seems like what you are experiencing is something all northern gardeners do at some point ... when you take a plant out of it's "comfort zone" it may survive, but not thrive.  Because the plant flowers somewhat early in the season, the flower buds are set during the previous growing season.  The buds on your plant are not surviving the winter for some reason.  You can see a photo of a bud at this blogspot. Watch your freinds' plants closely through this growing season and let us know if you figure out what is going wrong. 

Some other hummingbird favorites for your area are:

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea)

Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower)

Lonicera sempervirens (Coral honeysuckle)

Monarda didyma (Scarlet beebalm)

Penstemon digitalis (Mississippi penstemon)


From the Image Gallery

Scarlet buckeye
Aesculus pavia

Eastern red columbine
Aquilegia canadensis

New jersey tea
Ceanothus americanus

Cardinal flower
Lobelia cardinalis

Coral honeysuckle
Lonicera sempervirens

Scarlet beebalm
Monarda didyma

Mississippi penstemon
Penstemon digitalis

More Shrubs Questions

Pruning drought-stressed butterfly plants from Kerrville TX
August 22, 2011 - Due to the drought, our butterfly bushes have dead branches. Ordinarily we prune the dormant plants in winter, but can we cut back dead branches now?
view the full question and answer

Need suggestions for cold resistant, hardy hedge plant in Jonathan, NC.
June 28, 2011 - I'm looking for a Full sun, cold resistant, hardy, non-invasive plant to be used for a property line hedge for North Carolina. Preferably NOT slow growing. What can you suggest?
view the full question and answer

Beauty Berry Without Berries.
October 08, 2014 - I have a beautyberry that has no berries. I have some 3 year old bushes that are not producing berries. They are in semi-shade and I fertilize them. The bushes are green and growing but no berries....
view the full question and answer

Evergreen hedge for NY
February 26, 2012 - I am looking for a native evergreen shrub that could be used as a hedge or privacy screen on the Rockaway peninsula in Queens county. It is a beach community with sand soil ( except where it has been...
view the full question and answer

Squirrels eating seed pods of Rock Rose in Austin
June 24, 2011 - Squirrel(s) have been ripping the branches off my rock rose bushes in order to eat the seed pods. Previously we had problems with squirrel(s) gnawing on our garden ornaments. I sprayed the ornaments ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center