Hazelnuts, also called Filberts, are popular amongst self-sufficiency and backyard gardeners because of their fast growth and relatively easy care. They are also decorative and can be arranged as hedge rows or stand-alone accents. These trees grow to be about 10 feet tall and roughly that wide (if untrimmed) and are very bush-like in appearance.
Where to Grow Hazelnuts
Hazelnuts are native to the southern Midwest and south central United States. There are versions of these popular trees for nearly every climate of the lower 48 states.
Site Selection to Grow Hazelnuts
Relatively loose, well-drained soil that is high in nutrient content and at least three feet deep is best for these large bushes. They can be located in any area of the yard that receives full sun, but remember that they spread outward as well as upward. Arranged as a hedge, they should be about eight to ten feet apart. Otherwise, any spacing beyond that is up to you if growing individually. They are self-pollinating, so one tree alone is sufficient; however, you’ll have more success with your harvest if you have a few trees.
Hazelnuts can come from two sources: either propagated from the wild or another established plant and from the nursery. In the wild or from an established plant, either the nuts can be germinated or propagate by digging starts from runners off of an established tree. This second method is more likely to succeed. Most hazelnut owners are happy to give away starts, since they must dig them up to keep their trees from spreading.
Planting is as with any bush or small tree. Select the right area (above) and then dig a hole large enough to take the start or germinated tree and bury its roots completely. Tamp the soil down gently and water regularly. The trees will grow fairly quickly and begin bearing fruit after the third or fourth year and certainly by the fifth.
Management and Pruning Hazelnut Trees
Once established (usually after the first year), hazelnut bushes should not need any more care unless you plan to prune them for aesthetics or there is a heavy drought. Fertilization should be light and should take place in the spring after leaves have bushed out and filled in the trees – and well after pollination.
Hazelnuts grow long, reed-like stems from branches that are easily seen once leaves shed in the fall. These are the male blooms and they will remain dormant for the winter. Female blooms are hard to spot, but are little bud-like blooms on the branches, usually one or two branches away from the male stems. In the early spring, before leaves appear, the tree will bloom and wind action will pollinate it.
The nuts are in little clusters called burrs. These are the female bulbs that grow and look a lot like leaf buds until they begin to cluster as nuts. Each cluster can have one to a dozen or more nuts in it. They’ll grow throughout the year and finally turn brown as the leaves turn.
When they’re fully brown, they’re ready for harvest. The burrs are picked whole and should be nearly falling off the tree when ready. The burrs are removed later to reveal the nuts inside. A mature tree can produce three gallons of nuts.
Hazelnut Pest Concerns
For the most part, hazelnuts are relatively pest free if they are the correct type of tree for your area and are generally well cared for. The link below on resources for growing hazelnuts offers more information on hazelnut pests if you should encounter any problems.
Want to learn more about growing hazelnuts?
Publications and resources on growing hazelnuts (filberts) from Oregon State University Extension Service
Hazelnuts in the Home Orchard from Utah State University Extension