Answer: According to Michael Dirr's "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants", there are several types of shrub and tree in the buckeye family. Aesculus parviflora (Bottlebrush Buckeye) can have a mature size of only 8 to 12 feet. This tree prefers a moist yet well drained, acid soil and either a sunny or partially shaded spot. If this is the type you have, it may not grow much bigger. The Red Buckeye, or Aesculus pavia, tends to mature in the 10 to 20 foot range. This one does best in a moist yet well drained soil and a sunny location and grows slowly to its mature size. Another type, the Aesculus glabra (Ohio Buckeye or Fetid Buckeye) grows to between 20 and 40 feet but at a slow rate of approximately a foot or slightly more a year. This tree prefers a moist, deep, well drained acid soil in full sun or partial shade. It grows in rich riverbottom areas in the wild and resents drought. The largest buckeye we are likely to see in yards is the European or Common Horsechestnut. This ultimately very large (50 to 75 feet) tree might grow to about 12 feet in 6 or 8 years, so it is not a fast grower, either.
When a tree is growing slowly there may be a fertility problem or there may be less moisture than it would ideally like to have. In both these cases the tree will adapt by slowing down its growth. Assuming the soil is of average fertility, it is likely that the dry seasons we have had recently have contributed to the slow growth rate. These trees are not very fast growers under the best of conditions, so it may be that what you are seeing is normal. If you are unsure of your soil, you might want to have it tested and see if you need to amend it or fertilize the tree. Your county extension (843-1170) should be able to help you with the tests and interpreting the results.
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