Do you want to make a unique addition to your garden this year? Planting a hazelnut tree is a rewarding experience when it starts to yield its sweet nuts. Hazels grow natively through many Northern Hemisphere regions, and they are common in cooler areas with deciduous forests.
The hazelnut tree has a history as a symbol of inspiration and wisdom, and they have a mythical status with references in the Bible and Ancient Greek and Roman writings. The Greek God Hermes carries a hazelwood staff to guide him in his travels.
Today, Hazelnut trees grow in commercial orchards across the world. The nuts are a sought-after commodity, and the wood also has many uses in industry and commerce.
The hazel is officially a member of the birch family. However, some botanists place them in a sub-category known as “Corylaceae.” Some common varieties grown for nuts and wood include the European or common hazelnut, also known as the Giant Filbert, and the American Filbert.
Hazelnut trees cab grow up to 20-feet tall, spreading out to 15-feet. Typically, they do well in USDA Zones four through nine. The trees are easy to prune, and they can fit into smaller gardens with ease.
This guide gives you everything you need to know about growing hazelnut trees.
Planting Your Hazelnut Tree
The hazelnut tree enjoys growing in full sunlight or partial shade in hot and dry climates. Typically, hazelnut trees need around four hours of direct sunlight each day to produce nuts. Make sure you plant in an appropriate part of the yard where the tree will get as much sunlight as possible, especially in northern states.
The hazelnut is a monoecious tree, producing female and male flowers that generally bloom at different times throughout the growing season. The American Filbert variety is self-pollinating, but the European type is not. It’s also important for gardeners t note that not all American types will cross-pollinate.
When choosing your cultivars, plant more than one variety if you have space in your yard. Even if you’re growing a self-pollinating variety, we recommend planting a secondary cultivar to improve your nut yield.
When planting rooted saplings from the nursery, soak the roots for a few hours before planting. Dig a hole that’s deep enough to accommodate the root ball, but don’t dig too deep, or you’ll cause rot on the trunk of the sapling. Make sure the hole is twice the width of the root ball.
Place the tree in the hole and fill it with the excavated soil if you want to spur growth in the first year and a few handfuls o organic compost and perlite to the earth to improve nutrition, water retention, and airflow in the soil.
After filling the hole with the excavated soil, tamp down around the roots to remove large air pockets. Get the soil line of the hole in line or slightly raised to the surrounding soil line. As you water, the ground will compact, returning to a flush surface.
After you finish planting your hazelnut tree, water deeply. Let the roots dry out for a few days and continue watering heavily in the first year. When your hazelnut establishes itself in the garden, it starts taking off. When hazelnuts start growing, they can average 13 to 24-inches every year.
Soil and Climate Needs
The hazelnut tree can grow in many soil types. However, the soil needs to drain well, and saturated soils may cause the development of root rot in the plant.
The hazelnut prefers soil with a pH of 5.5 to 7.5. You can fertilize the tree in the first year or two. However, feeding the tree in the third or fourth year might slow the nut production at the expense of foliage and stem growth.
Most hazelnuts prefer cooler climates. However, gardeners should note that temperatures dipping below 15°F in the springtime can lead to a loss of your nut crop.
The mature hazelnut tree is drought-resistant, but younger trees need moist soils for at least the first three to four years of life. Never let young saplings dry out completely, or you’ll stunt the growth of the tree. Water the hazelnut once a week during the growing season until the roots establish.
Water deeply during dry weather, and aim for around an inch of water for the tree every 10-days for the first two seasons.
Pruning and Maintaining Your Hazelnut Tree
The hazelnut tree is a low-maintenance responsibility for the gardener. However, they have the gardener’s advantage to prune them into shapes to suit the space they have in the yard.
You can shape the hazelnut shrub into a tree or bush, depending on your preferences. If you’re growing the plant as a shrub, then you don’t need to prune the tree as much.
If you’re growing a tree, then remove the suckers that appear at the end of the growing season, and you’ll focus the growth on the plant’s main stem. When shaping the tree, the gardener must remove hanging and low branches, keeping five limbs on the top of the trunk. Select a few of the strongest-looking branches during the winter, and prune away the rest.
Growing Tips for Your Hazelnut Tree
- Select two different varieties for cross-pollination of the trees in your yard.
- Select a location in your yard that gets full sun during the day.
- If you live in a hot and dry climate, plant in the partial shade.
- Prune the plant to remove suckers at the end of the growing season.
Propagating Your Hazelnut Tree
There are several methods for propagating hazelnut trees. Here are our top choices for propagation.
Starting hazelnut trees from seed is challenging, and it’s frustrating for the beginner gardener. Therefore, we recommend only seasoned gardeners take on the challenge of growing their hazelnut trees from seed.
The germination process for sprouting a hazelnut requires plenty of patience on the gardener’s behalf. Before sprouting your hazelnut seeds, we recommend testing the viability of the seed by submerging it in a glass of water.
Remove any seeds that float to the top of the glass and throw them out. After selecting your seeds, score them to assist with the germination process. Plant the seeds into the ground in the early fall, placing them 15-feet apart and two inches deep into the soil.
Place the pointed end of the seed facing downwards when planting. If you live in a cold climate, protect the seed and seedling during the winter using a cold frame or thick layers of mulch. Gardeners also have the option of starting their hazelnut seeds in pots in the fall.
Germination can take several months, so gardeners need to have time on their hands and plenty of patience. Keep your pots outside on the porch, and make sure the soil drains well.
When the weather starts to warm in the early springtime, you’ll need to water regularly to maintain moisture in the soil. If the soil dries out, it may halt or slow the germination process. The first signs of seedlings should appear in the first few weeks of the summer.
After your hazel seeds sprout, plant them in an 8-inch pot with rich potting soil. Keep the plants in pots until they reach eight to ten inches in height, and then plant them out into the garden.
Seedlings or Transplants
You can purchase hazelnut tree saplings from the nursery or start them from seeds. We recommend starting with a transplant or seedling for a faster growth rate and quicker time to your first harvest.
If you’re a new gardener, starting with transplants is ideal, allowing you to avoid the hassle and frustration of germinating seeds yourself. Plant your transplants or seedlings in the garden in the late fall or winter during the tree’s dormancy period.
This strategy helps to minimizer the need for watering, avoiding the heat from the summer that might stress the sapling. Space your transplants around 25-feet apart from each other.
Gardeners can also propagate their hazelnut trees from runners. The runners are the suckers appearing on the base of shrubs. Dig up a sucker with its roots in the late fall and replant the runner around 15-feet away from the tree, around a foot below the surface of the soil.
Pests and Diseases Affecting Your Hazelnut Tree
Some of the pests and diseases affecting hazelnut trees include the following.
- Deer, rabbits, and squirrels.
- Filbert Worm aka Acorn Moth (Cydia latiferreana)
- Nut Weevils (Curculio nucum)
- Eastern Filbert Blight
- Armillaria Root Rot
- Bacterial Blight
- Bacterial Canker
Harvesting Your Hazelnuts
Most hazelnut trees take around four years to start producing nuts. When your tree has its first harvest, the nuts fall from the branches after ripening in the autumn.
To collect the nuts, lay a tarp around the tree base when you notice the first nuts falling. Collect the nuts on the tarp each morning until the tree finished producing. You can store the nuts in a dry, cool, dark space for up to a year.