American hazelnut (Corylus americana) is a medium-sized shrub that is easily grown in average, medium, or well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. This shrub is part of our Starter Kit, and Emily Steinwehe, Chief Planting Officer for Wisconsin Food Forests, lists the reasons why we like this shrub in our food forest:
They don’t produce an overwhelming harvest.
These native plants are easy to grow.
They can integrate into existing landscape.
They don’t get so big that they take over the space allocated to them.
They are easily pruned and easily reached.
You can cut them off at ground level.
They fit in limited space.
This shrub produces sweet- tasting brown nuts that are usually ready for picking around August. Native to much of North America, American Hazelnut (also known as American filbert) is a lovely landscape plant with serrated dark green foliage throughout the season.
Aside from its primary use as an edible, American hazelnut is suitable for landscape applications such as hedges, woodland gardens, and edible landscaping.
Planting and Growing
American hazelnut will grow to be about 8–16 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 8 feet. It tends to be a little leggy, with a typical clearance of 2 feet from the ground, and is suitable for planting under power lines. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 30 years.
C. americana does best in full sun to partial shade. It is very adaptable to both dry and moist locations, and should do just fine under average home landscape conditions. It is not particular about soil type or pH. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments.
Hazelnuts do not compete well with weeds, particularly when being established. We recommend sheet mulching with cardboard and cutting a hole in the cardboard when planting the shrub. Spread wood chips around each shrub to further suppress weeds.
This plant will require occasional maintenance and upkeep and can be pruned at anytime. These shrubs will send up root suckers, and removing the suckers will help maintain plant appearance and help prevent thickets from forming. Once established, hazelnuts are very hardy, withstanding harsh weather and heavy pruning. They can be pruned to a range of shapes, from very wide and bushy to tall and slim, sometimes looking like a small tree.
C. americana likes to grow in dry or moist thickets, woodlands and wood margins, valleys, uplands and prairies. The American hazelnut is happiest grown informally in naturalized areas, open woodland gardens, or prairies where it can be allowed to spread.
It is monoecious with separate male and female flowers on the same plant. In late winter, male flowers appear in showy, 2–3-inch long, yellowish-brown catkins and female flowers appear in small, reddish, inconspicuous catkins. Hazelnuts are wind pollinated by male catkins spreading their pollen onto female flowers.
Female flowers give way to small, egg-shaped, 1/2-inch long, edible nuts that are encased in leafy, husk-like, ragged-edged bracts. To ensure that you get a sufficient amount of nuts, it is best to plant more than one for adequate pollination.
Nuts are similar in flavor to the European filbert, and may be roasted and eaten or ground into flour, but are also commonly left for the squirrels and birds. Fall color is quite variable, ranging from attractive combinations of orange, rose, purplish red, yellow and green to undistinguished, dull yellowish green.
This shrub has no serious insect or disease problems.
Once established and at bearing age (3–5 years), you should get a sizable crop almost every year. Hardy down to zone 4, fairly certain down to 3.
They are tough and extremely resilient plants, with flexible limbs that bend easily for harvest, or can be weaved into a living fence/hedge. Every seedling is different, so they will bear slightly different characteristics (such as height, bearing age, nut flavor etc.)
American filbert is not picky about soil type, but prefers good drainage. Although it will grow in partial shade, production will be greatest in full sun. If you find a specimen producing well in shade, be sure to save the nuts to further cultivate that variety. Hazelnuts require sufficient nitrogen, so be sure to companion plant with nitrogen fixers. They are also subject to deer browse and squirrels who like to bury their nuts at the base of the plant, so be sure to design around that as well. We recommend fences around these shrubs, especially when they are establishing.
American filberts can provide an abundance of high-quality nuts for cooking, baking, making oils and nut butters, or just eating plain. The plant also provides cover for birds, and many species rely on the male catkins for food in winter when few other food sources are available. filberts, if pruned to be bushy, make a great addition to a windbreak or hedgerow, helping to regulate microclimate throughout the garden.
Clover, lupines, cowpea, fava bean, vetch, alfalfa, prairie indigo for nitrogen. Aromatic herbs such as anise hyssop, sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, lavender for deer protection. Garlic/onion for squirrel protection.
Hazelnut (Corylus Americana)
Common Name: American hazelnut or American filbert
Type: Deciduous shrub
Native Range: Eastern North America
Zone: 4 to 9
Height: 10.00 to 16.00 feet
Spread: 8.00 to 13.00 feet
Bloom Time: March to April
Bloom Description: Male – brown, female – red
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Suggested Use: Hedge
Leaf: Good Fall
Tolerate: Clay Soil, Black Walnut
Following are some links with more information for you.
I find a bit of conflicting info on deer browse of hazelnuts. Some sites are yes, definitely, while others go into higher browse by squirrels & rabbits and downplay deer browse. The sites are a mix of farm cropping purpose or deer habitat. I’m trying to make an argument regarding fencing for 3000 feet of hazelnuts in a region with many deer. To what would you point me? Are there specialists who work on , study or have particular knowledge on this issue? Thank you. j
Hi John, I think it does depend a lot on the site location. One farmer I know gave up on hazelnuts and focused on chestnuts instead. Could you plant a smaller amount of hazels as a test plot?
This is not our area of expertise though.