How to Grow a Chestnut Tree in a Container

What You'll Need
Two chestnut seeds
Two 10-inch containers
Compost-enriched potting soil
Two tree shelters
High-nitrogen fertilizer and/or organic fertilizer like bone meal or fish emulsion

The chestnut tree is a valuable source of timber and food. Roasted chestnuts make a delicious holiday snack, but you can also enjoy them anytime.

Chestnut trees will grow between 30 and 180 feet, depending on the variety and conditions. For container growing, choose the smaller varieties of chestnut trees. (American chestnut trees are one of the largest varieties.) Follow these steps for growing a chestnut tree in a container. 

General Tips for Container Growing

  • Choose a container that is about the same width and height.
  • Make sure the bottom of your container shows plenty of drainage holes.
  • If the drainage holes are large, line the bottom of the container with newspaper so the soil won't seep out the holes.
  • Place a couple inches of gravel or pebbles on top of the newspaper to encourage better water drainage.

Step 1 -  Plant in a 10-inch Container

Prepare your containers, following the above tips. It is important to plant two trees and keep them about 10 feet apart since two trees are needed for pollination. Without each other, neither tree will produce chestnuts.

Fill the container to 3 inches from the top with a compost-enriched potting soil. If creating your own potting soil, mix sand and peat moss with natural soil. Chestnut trees grow best in soil with a pH level between 5.5 and 6.0.

If you are planting from seed, plant in the spring. Place the seed with the flat side down. Cover the seed with 1 inch of soil. If you have collected your seeds in the autumn, store them in a perforated plastic zipping bag in moistened peat moss or vermiculite at 35 degrees F. 

Step 2 - Transplant the Seedlings

Once your seedlings have reached about 8 inches high, plant them outdoors or in larger containers. Chestnut trees grow quickly, so you will need to repot them at least every other year for quite some time.  

To determine what size of container to use at maturity, measure the diameter of the tree's trunk. For each inch of the trunk's diameter, you should have a foot in both the height and width of your container. For example, if the diameter of your tree is 5 inches, you should use a container that is 5 feet high and wide. Be prepared to transplant into larger containers, like wooden barrels, as your chestnut tree reaches maturity.

Step 3 - Care for Container-Grown Chestnut Trees

Your chestnut tree will still be vulnerable its first year, so be sure to bring your container inside during the first winter. When possible, place your container where it can receive 8 hours of sunlight a day.

Until your chestnut tree reaches maturity, water it regularly, up to 10 gallons a week if it does not receive much rainfall. Feed your chestnut tree with a slow-release, high-nitrogen fertilizer each spring.

After about 4 years of growth, your tree should produce chestnuts in abundance.