Fall Coupon Spotlight: Mexican Buckeye

Understory trees like Mexican buckeye provide a multitude of benefits such as color, layering and buffering from neighbors.

Understory trees add color, vertical structure and wildlife benefits. No home landscape should be without them.

Also referred to as ornamental trees, understory trees remain petite beneath large shade trees and provide layers within the urban forests that assist with rain storage and sunlight dispersion. Often they provide colorful flowers mostly in the spring, but occasionally in the summer. Wildlife — from the two- to eight-legged variety — use understory trees as food and shelter. And most bird nests are found in these trees.

Several understory trees are featured in our  WaterSaver Landscape Coupon. One versatile and tough selection is the Mexican buckeye. It is adaptable to all soils in this area but prefers partially shaded areas.

Mexican buckeye


Not a true buckeye, Mexican buckeye produces a three-lobed shell that contains three dark brown seeds with a small white “eye” resembling a deer’s eye. Mexican buckeye has light pink flowers, which are some of the first of the year arriving in late February and early March. The leaves are compound with five to seven leaflets. Average height about 12 feet.

Where to plant

It may be planted in full sun, but prefers partial shade. Slope or flat ground doesn’t matter.

When to plant

As with all woody trees and shrubs, Nov. 1 to April 1 is planting time.


After an initial establishment period, Mexican buckeye requires water 4-6 times a year a most. It is a native, after all.


None needed except for annual compost and mulch.


Humans with weed-eaters and mowers seem to be the greatest pest. Deer don’t like the taste of its leaves.

Understory trees like Mexican buckeye provide a multitude of benefits such as color, layering, food, shelter and buffering from pesky neighbors. No home landscape should be without them.

Picture of Mark Peterson
Mark Peterson
Mark A. Peterson was a conservation project coordinator for San Antonio Water System before retiring. With over 30 years of experience as an urban forester and arborist, Mark is probably the only person you know who actually prunes trees for fun. When not expounding on the benefits of trees and limited lawns, you're likely to find him hiking San Antonio's wilderness parks or expounding on the virtues of geography and history to his friends.
Dig Deeper

Find expert advice on garden basics, landscape design, watering and year-round maintenance.