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How to grow a horse chestnut in water

I don’t know about you, but my pockets are always full of seeds and nuts when I go on a walk. I can’t help it.

Also known as conkers, the horse chestnuts make a pretty houseplant to grow. To determine which ones will grow best, first place them in a container of water, and get rid of the ones that float, as they have dried out.

In this article, we’ll show you how to grow a horse chestnut in water.

A growing chestnut seed propagated on a Botanopia propagation plate
A growing chestnut seed propagated on a Botanopia propagation plate
A growing chestnut seed in water by Daniel Oberg

Did you know there’s a seed hiding inside the prickly fruit of a chestnut? Here’s a quick tutorial ton how to grow a horse chestnut in water.

Watch the 1-minute video to learn the super easy method to germinate them, using supplies you already have in your kitchen.

Are all chestnuts edible?

As you go on a hunt for chestnuts and propagate them, you may want to roast the seeds and try them. Both toxic and edible chestnuts have brown nuts.

Horse-chestnuts, which contain a poison called esculin and can cause death if eaten raw, have a bumpy husk with a wart-covered appearance. They are rounded and smooth with no points.

Sweet chestnuts, however, are edible and covered with a spiny husk and pointed tips. When roasted, they are sweet, buttery, and soft.

A sweet chestnut by Ricardo Gomez
Sweet chestnuts are the edible type. The spikes on the shell are thinner and sharper than horse chestnuts. Perfect when roasted on an open fire.
A chestnut tree by Yoksel Zok
How to grow acorn with Botanopia porcelain propagation germination plates. Process photo
Horse chestnuts by Red Dot

Here’s some extra info to help you succeed:

Fake it till you make it

Like many seeds growing in cooler climates, chestnuts need a period of hibernation in the cold to germinate. To speed up this process, you can replicate nature by using the fridge. Wrap your chestnut seed in a moist (not wet) towel and put it in the fridge for 2-3 months between 0-2 °C.

Warm it up

Temperature is an important factor. Keep your baggie at around 25°C for the fastest results. Look for a spot in your house that’s consistently cozy & warm. Next to your furnace or hot water boiler is a good choice.

Keep mold at bay

Keep checking inside the baggie from time to time, to check if the paper towel is still moist. If not, add a little water to keep things steamy in there.

Check for mold as well. If you spot some, wash the nuts in a bleach solution. To achieve this, mix one part bleach with nine parts water. Rinse the seeds with boiled water which has cooled down and return them in the baggie.

Once the root is about 2-3 cm, take it out of the baggie, and let your seed grow further. You want the roots to always be in the water, but the seed to stay dry. The perfect tool for the job: a porcelain germination plate. It also helps to prevent the water from evaporating too fast.

Did you successfully germinate your chestnut seed?

What’s your next challenge going to be? Here’s lots of ideas for other plants and seeds to try next.

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