5 Best Places To Plant A Walnut Tree (And How To Do It)

Walnuts branch with fruits. Walnuts keep up on a tree.

Walnut trees are well-known for their tasty fruit – the walnut! These trees are excellent ornamental trees that provide plenty of shade and will attract wildlife. If you’re thinking about planting one, you may be wondering where the best place to plant a walnut trees is?

The most common walnut trees include the black walnut and the English walnut. Black walnuts can grow in hardiness zones 4 through 9, while English walnuts prefer zones 3 through 7. The most popular states to grow walnut trees includes California, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, and Missouri.

California is the United State’s largest producer of walnuts, but that doesn’t mean walnut trees can’t grow in other places, too! Below, we’ll check out the best places to plant a walnut tree and how to plant them.

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Where Should I Plant A Walnut Tree?

Walnut splitting open on tree

English walnuts are the more popular walnut tree if you are looking to harvest the nuts. The shells are far easier to open than black walnut. But if you’re not concerned with the walnut fruit and just want a nice-looking shade tree, either walnut will do just fine!

Both walnuts prefer full sun and moist, well-drained soils where they can establish a deep taproot. Black and English walnuts prefer clay, sand, or loam soils with a neutral PH. 

Walnut trees are renowned for their production of a natural herbicide called juglone. When planting a walnut, don’t expect much else to grow around it. You can view a list of plants that you should specifically not plant around a walnut tree here.

English walnuts are a little more tolerant of the cold than black walnuts, but not by much. Both trees are susceptible to late spring frosts, which can put a serious damper on fruit production and growth.

When deciding where to plant a walnut tree in your yard, make sure you have plenty of room. According to North Carolina State University, English walnuts can grow up to 60 feet and black walnuts can reach heights of 75-100 feet. 

You’ll also want to be careful about juglone exposure – Don’t plant a walnut tree near your garden!

Can I Plant A Walnut Tree Anywhere?

Walnut trees can be planted almost anywhere in the United States. The few exceptions would be areas that are either too cold or too hot for walnuts to survive.

Walnuts don’t survive well in the cold areas of Alaska that dip below -40℉ in the winter. On the other end of that extreme would be areas like southern Florida, Texas, Arizona, and southwest California that are just too hot to grow walnut trees. Most of the Hawaiian Islands are also too hot to grow walnut trees.

Walnut trees cannot be planted in shade and they will not do well in wet soil. Otherwise, walnuts are pretty content to be planted anywhere. You can always check the USDA Hardiness Zone Map to make sure your area will support walnut trees.

5 Best Places To Plant An English Walnut Tree

English walnut trees, also called Persian walnuts, are more popular for planting than black walnuts. As mentioned before, English walnuts thrive in hardiness zones 3 through 7.

For optimal growth, you’ll want an area that has a combination of the right temperature, plenty of sunlight, and the right soil type.

So, let’s take a closer look at the states within these zones and discuss the best places to plant an English walnut tree.

If you’re still confused between the two primary walnut tree species, you can learn more about black and english walnut tree differences here.

Where To Plant English Walnuts In The West

Green walnuts from the side on a branch of a walnut tree. Copy space

The West is known for being drier and hotter than other regions in the U.S. There are some pockets of decent growing conditions for English Walnuts, but much of the west coast is too warm or sandy for English walnut trees.

Walnut trees can grow in any state in the west:

  • Washington
  • Oregon
  • California
  • Nevada
  • Idaho
  • Montana
  • Wyoming
  • Colorado
  • Utah

However, some areas are better than others for growing English walnut trees, and a few regions of these states cannot grow walnuts because it is simply too hot or the soil conditions are not favorable.

The West includes a range of hardiness zones from 3 to 11. Hardiness zones define what the minimum temperature in that region can reach and are helpful when determining if your chosen tree can survive the winter or not.

In the West, optimal growing areas will be along with eastern Washington and Oregon, central and eastern California, northwestern Utah, western Colorado, and north- and southwest Idaho.

Even within these regions, there will still be some areas that aren’t optimal for English Walnuts due to soil conditions or drought. 

Where To Plant English Walnuts In The Southwest

The southwest is a large area of the United States but it only encompasses four states:

  • Arizona
  • New Mexico
  • Texas
  • Oklahoma

Many areas of this region include hot climates with dry, desert conditions. These are not optimal growing conditions for an English Walnut tree. 

In the Southwest, English walnut trees can grow well in central Texas and the Texas panhandle, and all of Oklahoma except the extreme southeast corner.

Where To Plant English Walnuts In The Midwest

The midwest is known for the corn belt and is America’s heartland. The weather and soil profiles vary greatly in the midwest region, and not all areas are good for growing English Walnuts.

The midwest includes:

  • North & South Dakota
  • Nebraska
  • Kansas
  • Minnesota
  • Indiana
  • Missouri
  • Wisconsin
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Ohio
  • Michigan

Although English Walnuts can grow in all of these states, optimal growing areas are going to be from southern South Dakota across to southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. 

Kansas, Missouri, and Indiana have decent growing conditions across the state as long as the soil conditions are right. Much of Ohio and Michigan are suitable for English Walnuts as well. 

The northern regions of Minnesota and North Dakota can support English Walnuts, but the cold winters and late frosts can stunt growth and cause trees to produce less fruit.

Where To Plant English Walnuts In The Southeast

Green unripe walnuts hang on a branch. Green leaves and unripe walnut. After the rain

The southeastern United States is typically humid and can range from lowland swamps to the Appalachian Mountains.

The southeast includes:

  • Arkansas
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • North & South Carolina
  • Tennesse
  • Kentucky
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Maryland
  • Deleware
  • Washington D.C.

Many of these states are too warm to support healthy English Walnut growth. For example, Louisiana, most of Mississippi, and all of Florida are out of the English Walnut’s preferred hardiness zone.

Only the extreme northern regions of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina can support English walnuts.

Optimal growth is more likely to occur in Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia. Central and northern Maryland can also support good English Walnut tree growth.

Where To Plant English Walnuts In The Northeast

The northeast is known for displaying some of the most stunning fall foliage in the country. Both English walnut and Black walnut are deciduous trees that change color in the fall and drop their leaves in preparation for winter.

The English walnut boasts golden yellow leaves in the fall and feels right at home in many of the northeastern states.

Because of their proximity to the great lakes, some parts of the northeast tend to be gray most of the year, which can limit fruit production and growth for English walnuts who prefer lots of sun.

The northeast includes:

  • Pennsylvania
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Connecticut
  • Rhode Island
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
  • Maine

In the northeast, optimal growing areas for English walnuts includes all of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, southern, central, and western New York, central New Jersey, northern Connecticut and Rhode Island, and central and southern Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Like the midwest, the northeast is susceptible to late frost in the Spring and early frost in the Fall which can stunt growth and lower nut production.

Vermont, New York, and Connecticut are the cloudiest states in the northeast and may not be the most optimal place to grow an English walnut. Nonetheless, these stately trees will still grow there and provide shade for those rare sunny days.

In most environments, walnut trees can produce up to 80 pounds of unshelled walnuts each year!

5 Best Places To Plant Black Walnut Trees

Juglans nigra (eastern black walnut) at park in istanbul

Black walnut trees are a little less popular than English walnut trees, but they are still beautiful trees that provide plenty of shade on those warm summer days.

Compared to English walnuts, black walnut trees typically thrive in warmer conditions. Their hardiness zone boundaries are between zones 4 and 9. 

Let’s check out the regions mentioned above and find out the best places to plant black walnut trees.

Where To Plant Black Walnut Trees In The West

Because black walnut trees overlap with much of the English walnut tree’s habitat, we’ll discuss the major differences between the two in this section.

Black walnut trees can thrive in almost all areas along the west coast except for a few hot spots near San Francisco and Los Angeles. All of Washington and Oregon are suitable for black walnuts as long as the soil conditions are favorable. 

Western Idaho, northern Nevada, and most of Utah will support black walnut trees, as will eastern and western Colorado. 

Much of Montana and Wyoming are too cold to support black walnut trees.

Where To Plant Black Walnut Trees In The Southwest

Walnut juglans blooming on spring

The southwest is a difficult place for many plants to grow due to the hot, dry conditions as well as the high elevation areas.

Black walnut trees can survive further south into Texas but do not reach the actual southern tip of Texas. Northeastern Arizona and nearly all of New Mexico and Oklahoma will support black walnut growth.

Northern New Mexico, Oklahoma, and the Texas Panhandle are probably the most optimal areas to grow black walnut trees in the southwest.

Where To Plant Black Walnut Trees In The Midwest

Much of the northern midwest gets too cold in the winter for black walnuts to grow to their full potential. For example, Northern North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are simply too cold.

Southern Nebraska, Iowa, and Michigan have optimal temperature needs for black walnut trees. Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio also have good growing conditions as long as the soils are deep and well-drained.

Where To Plant Black Walnut Trees In The Southeast

For English walnut trees, much of the southeast was simply too warm for the tree to thrive. Because black walnut can withstand warmer temperatures, they can dip a little further into the southeast than the English walnut.

But just because it can survive doesn’t mean it will thrive in these conditions. 

In the southeast, black walnuts grow optimally in Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and Deleware. They’ll also grow in northern Louisiana, central and northern Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.

In Florida, black walnuts can grow as far south as the Placid Lakes, but this is not their optimal growing zone as the temperatures are on the brink of being too warm for black walnuts.

Where To Plant Black Walnut Trees In The Northeast

The northeastern United States gets some of the strangest weather due to the Great Lakes. With so much varying weather conditions and patches of extremely cold temperatures, much of the northern northeast is off-limits to black walnuts.

Optimal growing areas in the northeast include all of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Southern New York and Maine, and southeastern New Hampshire can also support optimal black walnut growing conditions.

How Do I Plant A Walnut Tree?

European walnut (juglans regia)

If you have the time and patience, planting a walnut tree from seed is better than transplanting it from a nursery. 

The reason is that walnut trees have deep taproots that grow straight down into the soil. This makes them more difficult to successfully transplant than a tree with more horizontally-growing roots.

Using local seeds dropped by local walnuts is the BEST way to plant a walnut tree. These seeds will already be accustomed to the area’s soil conditions and climate, meaning they will have the best chance of surviving.

Purchasing online seeds or plants is not recommended as these can be from vastly different regions. The tree will grow, sure, but it won’t grow as fast or produce as much fruit as a local seed will.

Even if you find and use seeds from local walnut trees, using fertilizers can be helpful as nut trees need as much nitrogen as they can get. Using something like J R Peters Jacks Classic All Purpose Fertilizer can help your walnut tree thrive as it grows.

Make sure your seeds are viable by dropping them in water. The ones that float can be discarded. The best time to plant your seeds is in the fall. Push them 1-2 inches into the soil. By Summer you should notice some growth out of the soil.

It’s recommended to protect your vulnerable saplings from wildlife by using a tree protector. Andwarmth’s Tree Protectors come with six tree protectors that can be added together to create wider or taller protection so you can continue to guard your walnut tree as it grows.

This is helpful especially once your tree begins producing fruit. The nuts will attract wildlife and can encourage deer to rub against the trunk or nibble on twigs in the winter.

That’s All For Now!

Walnut trees are more than just nice ornamental landscaping trees. They provide tons of shade on hot summer days and encourage wildlife like deer and squirrels to stop by.

Walnut trees require plenty of sun, deep, well-drained soil, and plenty of space to grow. Black walnuts and English walnuts are the two most popular walnut trees. They can survive in a variety of conditions, but each has its preferences.

This article was mainly focused on temperature requirements, but the soil is also an important factor in choosing the right location to plant a walnut tree. Walnuts prefer deep, well-drained soil that can range from loamy, sandy or even silty clay.

Black walnut and English walnut can technically grow in every state of the United States, but within each state are certain areas where walnut trees will grow optimally.

Overall, the five regions of the U.S. where black walnut and English walnut can grow include:

  • West
  • Southeast
  • Midwest
  • Southwest
  • Northeast

In general, English walnuts can survive in colder conditions than black walnuts, while black walnuts can survive in warmer climates than English walnuts. Happy walnut planting!

References

Cambria, D., & Pierangeli, D. (2012, March). Application of a life cycle assessment to walnut tree (Juglans regia L.) high-quality wood production: a case study in southern Italy. Journal of Cleaner Production23(1), 37-46.

Fulton, A., & Buchner, R. (2006, February 23). The Effect of Water Stress on Walnut Tree Growth, Productivity, And Economics. UC Farm Advisors, 1-15.

Tang, H., Ren, Z., & Krczal, G. (2000). Improvement of English walnut somatic embryo germination and conversion by desiccation treatments and plantlet development by lower medium salts. In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology – Plant36, 47-50.

Von Kiparski, G. R., Lee, L. S., & Gillespie, A. R. (2007, May 01). Occurrence and Fate of the Phytotoxin Juglone in Alley Soils under Black Walnut Trees. Journal of Environmental Quality36(3), 709-717.

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