Growing Hazelnuts: Your Complete Guide to Planting, Growing and Harvesting Hazelnuts
For some of us, winter wouldn’t be complete without hazelnuts. Baked with herbs, roasted on an open fire, or crushed over a chocolate cake, the buttery crunch is hard to beat. They aren’t just good during the holidays, though. Nuts are a good source of protein to have around, and they store nicely for a long time.
Beyond eating, hazelnuts are also a good source of material for wattle fencing and basket weaving. Your livestock will appreciate the leaves and twigs, as well. The nuts and leaves even have some medicinal uses.
Unlike some other nuts we could mention, growing hazelnuts is a cinch. On top of that, they produce quickly, so you don’t have to wait a decade for your first harvest. So if you’ve been looking for a good source of healthy food to grow in your garden that won’t take up a ton of room and that you can start enjoying in just a few years, the hazelnut is the perfect option.
We’ll tell you how to get started and how to make your hazelnut plants thrive.
In general, hazelnuts grow about 12-feet high and 18-feet wide, though you can control this somewhat. That means they are small enough for easy management. Because of their small size and because the nuts readily fall off the tree, no ladders or special equipment is necessary to collect your harvest.
The plants produce sweet nuts in the late summer and into fall. They start bearing after 3-5 years, which is much sooner than other nuts. Walnuts take 7-10 years to begin to be productive, and pecans take ten or more years. Following are a few of our favorite varieties.
Barcelona is the primary variety grown in the Pacific Northwest, making up 60% of commercial acreage. It’s also popular with home growers because of its heavy yield of large, flavorful nuts. However, it prefers a little shade in hot, sunny areas. It grows about 18-feet tall and ripens in August.
The Daviana is a good companion for the Barcelona variety because they cross-pollinate freely. It grows 15-feet tall and ripens in August.
3. American Hazelnut
The American hazelnut is native to the eastern and midwestern parts of the United States. Modern cultivars are resistant to Eastern Filbert Blight and produce small, thick-shelled nuts in the fall. Grows to be about 18-feet tall.
4. Beaked Hazel
The beaked hazel is native to Northern US and southern Canada, and along areas of the Pacific Northwest and New England. For the past few decades, it has been quarantined in some areas of the US because it has been decimated by Eastern Filbert Blight. Now, you can find disease-resistant varieties in nurseries. This smaller tree grows to about 12-feet tall and can even be grown in a container. Ripens in August.
This compact shrub produces proportionally small nuts. It also has a beautiful fall color. The bush hazel is a petite variety, growing up to 10-feet tall, but you can maintain it as small as 6-feet. It can also be grown in a container.
This plant is relatively new to the scene. It was produced by Oregon State University to be immune to blight and to resist mold. Produces medium-sized nuts just 2 to 3 years after planting, with a high nut-to-shell ratio. Grows up to 12-feet and ripens in September.
Another cultivar from Oregon State University, it’s also resistant to Eastern Filbert Blight. Grows 12-feet high and ripens in September.
8. Hall’s Giant
As the name suggests, this plant produces huge fruits, though the tree itself only gets about 10-feet tall. It can resist poor weather conditions, but it does prefer a little shade in hot, sunny areas. Ripens in August. This is one of the few hazelnuts that you can grow without a second tree for pollination, though your yields may be smaller than they would be otherwise.
If you want to grow hazelnuts for desserts, the Wepster is your cultivar. It was developed by the baking industry to produce a high yield of ideally shaped, medium-sized, flavorful nuts. It’s also resistant to Eastern Filbert Blight. Grows about 8 to 12-feet tall. Ripens in September.
10. Tonda di Giffoni
This European cultivar is prized for its delicious round nuts. It flowers early in the season and fruits ripen from August to September. Grows about 12-feet tall.
The hazelbert is a close relative of the hazelnut developed by plant breeder Fred Ashworth. He crossed the American hazelnut with the larger European filberts to create a hardier and more prolific producer. They are a compact tree that grows 8-12 feet tall. The bushy trees produce gallons of tasty nuts per plant each year. Must be planted with another hazelbert to pollinate.
Hazelnuts grow readily in zones 4–9, and some can even handle zone 3 depending on the variety. They can withstand temperatures to 15 F, but anything below that during the blooming season may cause crop loss.
Hazelnuts can handle anything from loamy to clay soil, but don’t do well in peaty or wet areas. Avoid overly rich soil because it will cause the tree to leaf at the expense of fruit.
Mature plants are drought tolerant and appreciate a well-drained soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.5.
When growing hazelnuts, they can handle a little shade, especially in hot and dry areas. They need at least 4 hours of direct sunlight a day to produce well. The shadier the spot, the fewer fruits the tree will produce.
When to Plant
Hazelnut transplants are best planted in early to late winter when the plants are dormant, and heat won’t shock the tree.
If growing hazelnuts from seed, plant them outdoors or indoors in the fall.
Hazelnuts grow fairly quickly with a gain of 13–24 inches per year according to the Arbor Day Foundation.
Growing From Seeds
If you have the time, you can grow hazelnuts from seeds. Plant the nuts in a 6-inch pot filled with potting soil or outside in the garden at least 15-feet apart. Seeds need to be scored, which means to use a file and scribe a small “slash” in the outer coat of the seed. This will help with germination.
Plant seeds in the fall and keep them in a protected during the winter with a thick layer of mulch or a cold frame. You can also plant them in a pot and keep them protected in a greenhouse or indoors. They take several months to germinate so be patient. Wait for the seedling to reach 8-10 inches tall before transplanting.
Hazelnuts planted from seeds will take 7-8 years to become productive.
Growing From Suckers or Runners
Another method for growing hazelnuts is to find a thicket of wild hazelnuts or have a friend who is willing to share. Hazelnuts can be propagated from underground runners or the suckers that pop up around the bush. After the tree has gone dormant in late fall, dig up a sucker and its roots, or dig into the root ball and pull out a runner with roots attached.
Plant in a prepared bed with about 20 feet between the future plants. To make the bed, mix your existing soil with peat or sphagnum moss, vermiculite, and potting soil until you have an airy mixture. I generally use two parts of moss to one part vermiculite and add that to five parts of existing soil and five parts potting soil.
Plant the roots about 12-inches below the topsoil line and heap soil around any stems that extend above the ground. Water thoroughly.