If you’re interested in growing nut trees in Tennessee, you’ll be delighted to know that you have several excellent options.
All of the six trees listed below can thrive across the various growing climates of TN (5b to 8a), from the warmer lowlands of Western TN to the cooler mountains of Eastern TN.
Without further ado, let’s get into this list of the six best nut trees to grow in TN!
6 Productive & Reliable Nut Trees for TN
Black walnut trees thrive across TN’s varied climates, and produce fine hardwood for carpentry, while the nuts can be used for food, dye, and ink.
Walnut trees require moist, well-draining soil rich in organic material. Native to TN, black walnuts are an integral part of the ecosystem and provide shelter and food for a variety of forest critters.
Provided they are growing in the correct conditions, black walnut trees are generous producers each fall. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, these trees typically bear fruit at about 12-15 years old. The edible seeds of the black walnut are nutritious, contain anti-inflammatory properties, and are calorie-dense, containing roughly 175 calories per ounce.
An important note: Black walnut tree roots produce a toxin, called juglone, which suppresses the growth of susceptible plants near its root system. Some of these susceptible plants include tomatoes, peppers, peas, chestnuts, pines, blueberries, and cherries. Plant with caution.
You can find a more comprehensive list of juglone-sensitive plants provided by the Iowa State University Extension here.
Growing Zones: 4-9
Average Size at Maturity: 50-75 feet tall with a similar spread
Nut Bearing Season: Late Summer through October
Pecan trees are native to Western TN, but you can find them thriving across the major regions of TN. Historically, pecans have been an important source of food and medicine for indigenous peoples of the Mississippi Valley and West Tennessee.
They provide a good source of calories and are high in antioxidants. They’re also an important source of lumber for flooring and furniture.
According to the University of Tennessee agricultural extension, pecans are wind-pollinated, and as such, it’s important to have two varieties planted within 100 feet of each other to ensure healthy cross-pollination and nut production. Expect pecan production to start in most varieties at around 12 years old.
Many varieties of pecan trees produce substantial bounties of nuts every other year, with a smaller bounty in between. Providing organically-rich soil with a thriving microbial soil community may help boost the production of pecans in the “off” years.
Growing Zones: 5-9
Average Size at Maturity: 70-100 feet tall with a spread of 40-75 feet
Nut Bearing Season: Late September through November
American hazelnut trees are hardy growers throughout TN and produce a highly valued, edible nut. The nuts are especially sought after for use in chocolate and coffee. The lumber can make fine tool handles, fishing rods, and walking sticks.
They prefer to grow in fertile, well-drained lowland soils. They do not tolerate wet roots well, so make sure the planting sight is especially well-draining. As is common with nut trees, hazelnuts require cross-pollination via wind with another variety. The two varieties need to bloom at the same time for successful cross-pollination.
According to the University of Tennessee agricultural extension, it’s important to protect the trunks of young hazelnut trees from injury in climates with colder winters. You can use tree trunk paint or wrap to protect the trunk.
Other Common Names: Filberts, Cobb, Cob nut, Pontic nut, Lombardy nut, and Spanish nut
Growing Zones: 4-9
Average Size at Maturity: 10-15 feet tall with a spread of 8-12 feet
Nut Bearing Season: August through October
Because the native American chestnut has been tragically nearly decimated by chestnut blight since the 1950s, chestnut growers in the Eastern US typically plant Chinese chestnut trees to replace nut and lumber production.
Hardy across TN, the Chinese chestnut is edible and the lumber is valued for its straight grain structure, durability, and rot resistance.
The Chinese chestnut needs to be cross-pollinated via wind with another suitable, genetically distinct variety planted within 200ft of each other.
According to the University of Tennessee agricultural extension, these trees prefer to grow in well-drained, slightly acidic, and loamy soil. These trees, while highly resistant to chestnut blight, are susceptible to phytophthora root rot if planted in heavy-clay or poorly-draining soil.
Growing Zones: 4-8
Average Size at Maturity: 40-60 feet tall with a similar spread
Nut Bearing Season: September through October
The Korean pine tree thrives across TN and will produce edible nuts highly valued for use in pestos, pasta, and spreads. Described by the North Carolina extension gardener as cold-hardy, adaptable, and moderately drought tolerant, these trees can grow in a variety of soil types including shallow-rocky, clay-heavy, and sandy.
These pine trees take about 10-12 years to mature, and another 1-2 years to produce nuts. The Korean pine tree is self-fertile, but the quality and amount of production can improve with cross-pollination with another Korean pine variety.
Growing Zones: 3-8
Average Size at Maturity: 30-50 feet tall with a 25-35 feet wide
Nut Bearing Season: Early September through Fall
Available at: Nature Hills
The white oak is highly suitable for growing in Tennessee with its wide native range throughout the Eastern United States. Its lumber is highly valued in construction, furniture building, and flooring. While the nuts (acorns) are not suitable for eating raw due to their high concentration of tannins, they can be enjoyed after roasting or boiling.
According to the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment, white oak prefers to grow in well-drained, moist, slightly acidic soil. They do not thrive in high-pH soil and are susceptible to root damage and death from soil compaction, root disturbance, poor drainage, and reduction of leaf litter to the soil.
It’s important to plant your white oak in an area that won’t be disturbed by vehicle/heavy machinery traffic.
Other Common Names: Eastern White Oak, American White Oak, Forked-Lead White Oak, Northern White Oak
Growing Zones: 3-9
Average Size at Maturity: 50-70 feet tall with a similar spread
Nut Bearing Season: Mid-Fall
Enjoy Reliable, Hardy Nut Trees in TN
Wherever you live in TN, you can enjoy growing any of these six wonderful nut-producing trees as long as you provide the required soil and moisture conditions.
We recommend that you consider your yard’s soil type, and think about what you’re looking for in the edibility and use of the nuts, and the size, production, and growing habit of the tree when making your choice.
If you’re planting from a small tree or seedling, remember to think about the height and spread of the tree 20 years from now, and how it may affect the growth of plants in its surrounding area.
Thanks for reading and happy planting!
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Cam is a forest dweller writing about animals, plants, and ecological-centered living from the hollers of Southeast Appalachia where she lives off-grid in her self-built cabin.
She shares 20 forested acres with her wonderful partners and pals, an ever-growing pack of rescue dogs, and all the plants and critters who call these woods home.
When she’s not writing, she’s probably either on a mushroom hike, working on the infinite list of to-do projects around the land, playing her viola, or bringing home yet another foster pup.