Growing a nut tree can be highly rewarding. Nuts are delicious and nutritious. In addition, a mature nut tree can provide enough nuts for your family, friends, and neighbors each harvest.
Wisconsin growers and landscapers in zone 5 don’t need to worry much. Common nut trees such as pecan, hazelnut, and walnut thrive there. But in zone 4, the options are a bit less and drastically less in zone 3. Finding nut trees hardy enough to withstand zone 3 winters is not easy.
The following list of nut trees is notable. Half of the trees are cold and hardy to zone 3. This means any Wisconsin grower with enough space can enjoy these nut trees.
Any zone 3 landscaper looking to plant nut trees should consider planting these two.
6 Remarkably Hardy Nut Trees for Wisconsin
1. American Hazelnut (Corylus americana)
Let’s start with how this nut tastes. American hazelnut is very sweet yet mild at the same time. The small nuts are edible raw but tastier when baked or roasted. American hazelnuts are used for cooking, baking, making, oils, nut butter, and plain eating. You can expect a harvest from September to October.
Native to Wisconsin, American hazelnut is a large multi-stemmed shrub or small tree. It has a rounded shape and an open growth habit.
Due to its compact size, this nut tree is an excellent idea for landscapers without much space. It is hardy up to USDA zone 4, meaning most Wisconsin landscapers can comfortably plant it.
You can also put American hazelnut to work in the landscape. They make excellent hedges, windbreaks, and visual screens.
In addition, you will have to compete with various birds and small mammals for the available nuts each season. For this reason, and to encourage pollination, it is best to plant multiple trees together.
Trees begin producing nuts about 2 to 3 years after planting. But it takes much longer when planted by seed – 8 years.
American hazelnut will have little trouble adjusting to your Wisconsin yard. It is tolerant of a range of soil types. Also, it does best with at least four hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.
Other Common Names: American hazel, American filbert
Growing Zones: 4 – 9
Average Size at Maturity: 15 – 18 feet tall and 10 – 12 feet wide
Harvest Season: October
2. Butternut (Julgans cinerea)
Though native to North America, including Wisconsin, butternut is not a well-known nut tree. Though it should be! The oblong nuts are rich with a sweet and buttery flavor. They are great in baked goods or eaten fresh. In addition, butternut is one of the hardiest nut trees to cold in the world.
While butternuts are self-fertile, you will get a better crop when you plant more than one tree. Doing so increases fertilization. But not only that, these trees are alternate bearers meaning they produce a lot one year and less the next.
Planting butternut trees are better for those with large yards. Though slow-growing, less than a foot each year, it needs plenty of room to spread.
Butternut grows well in most soil types. If you live in an area with wet soil, you can still plant butternut; it won’t mind. What is more critical to this tree is its sun exposure. It needs at least six hours of direct and unfiltered sunlight each day.
Sadly, this tree is susceptible to a fungal disease, Sirococcus claviginenti-juglandacearum, which causes oozing wounds from the trunk. The condition is fatal. If you want a nut with a similar taste but without the disease risk, it is worthwhile to consider planting buartnut.
Other Common Names: White Walnut
Growing Zones: 3 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 40 – 60 feet with a spread of 35 – 50 feet
Harvest Season: Late October
3. Buartnut (Julgans cinerea x Julgans sieboldiana cordiformis)
Buartnut, like butternut, is another uncommon but extremely cold hardy tree. It is a cross between the butternut and heartnut or Japanese walnut. The name of buartnut also suggests this cross. “Buart” comes from “butter” and “heart.”
On taste, the taste is the same as the butternut. You will still get that sweet and buttery taste. But buartnut comes with less risk of fungal disease.
Buarnut is faster growing than butternut; it can shoot up to six feet in one year. The trees produce nuts within six years and can yield over 25 bushels each year.
For best results, plant your buartnut tree in well-drained and loamy soil. A pH of 6 or 7 is ideal. The tree needs regular watering in the first few years, so irrigation is a good idea.
Finally, buartnut is best for a large yard. It will become a massive tree one day and needs plenty of room to spread its thick and heavy limbs.
Buartnut will survive a zone 3 winter but requires protection. Also, it is more likely to produce in zone 4. A great variety for zone 3b is the ‘Ives’ cultivar.
Other Common Names: Buart
Growing Zones: 3 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 40 feet tall with a similar spread
Harvest Season: Late Summer
4. Chinese Chestnut (Castanea mollissima)
Chinese chestnuts are meaty, crisp, large, and sweet. They are great roasted during the holidays or in turkey stuffing.
Chinese chestnuts ripen from late September through October. Though sweet, some argue that the American chestnuts are sweeter. The tree starts to produce nuts 4 to 5 years after being planted from seed.
This large tree is also great for shade. Its round, dense canopy is spreading and good-looking. A couple of Chinese chestnut trees are an attractive addition to any large landscape. In that vein, multiple trees increase pollination, resulting in a bigger harvest.
These beautiful trees require full sun exposure daily to thrive. They will do well in most soil conditions except those which are alkaline. Chinese chestnuts grow roughly a foot to two feet each year.
Growing Zones: 4 – 8
Average Size at Maturity: 40 – 60 feet tall with a similar spread
Harvest Season: Late September through October
5. Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)
When planted from seed, it takes up to 15 years for the self-fertile tree to bear nuts. In some years, the harvest is not light. So, if you have plenty of space and are fond of this nut, it is a good idea to plant more than one tree.
As the name suggests, the Wisconsin native has a shaggy bark. The trunk looks like it has thick brown sheets of paper hanging off it. Tree-lovers are divided on whether this is an attractive feature of the tree. Regardless of one’s opinion, it provides a unique texture to the landscape.
Shagbark hickory is a slow-growing tree. It grows less than one foot each year. On a positive note, it tolerates a wide variety of soil conditions. It should always be planted in a spot with at least six hours of sunlight each day.
Growing Zones: 4 – 8
Average Size at Maturity: 70 – 90 feet tall and 50 – 70 feet wide
Harvest Season: September through October
6. Swiss stone pine (Pinus cembra)
Swiss stone pine is a versatile pine, both an ornamental tree and nut tree. It has dense dark green foliage. Its narrow and pyramidal shape makes it an attractive addition to the landscape. This compact and narrow evergreen tree is excellent for small spaces.
Aesthetics aside, most people don’t know that they have tasted pine nuts. It is an essential ingredient in pesto. Pine nuts have a soft and nutty flavor with just a bit of sweetness. As they are incredibly oily, they are great for cooking.
Swiss pine trees being bearing pine cones 8 to 10 years after planting. It takes three years for the cones to mature. Luckily, the tree produces new cones each year.
Swiss pine nuts, native to the mountains of central Europe, can withstand extreme weather conditions. It is one of the hardiest nut trees on this list.
According to the Penn State Extension, Swiss stone and Italian stone pine are the primary sources of pine nuts consumed in Europe.
Swiss stone pine is a slow grower. It prefers moist and well-drained soil. Also, provide it with as much sun as possible. However, it will do fine in partial shade (4-6 hours daily).
Other Common Names: Swiss pine, Arolla pine, Austrian stone pine, Stone pine
Growing Zones: 3 – 7
Average Size at Maturity: 30 – 40 feet tall and 15 – 25 feet wide
Harvest Season: Fall
Growing Nut Trees in Wisconsin
Growing nut trees is not difficult. You need to pick the right ones for your hardiness zone in Wisconsin. Growers in zones 4 and 5 can plant various nut trees, both on and off this list.
But also, size matters in your choice. Swiss stone pine and American hazelnut both work well in miniature landscapes. However, the massive trees such as butternut and shagbark hickory are better for more significant landscapes and fields.
The above list also includes several nut trees native to Wisconsin – American hazelnut, butternut, and Shagbark hickory. The benefit of planting native trees is that they acclimate easier to the local soil and climate.
- 5 Best Types of Pine Trees in Wisconsin (To Grow or Admire)
- 25 Most Popular Ornamental Trees in Wisconsin (Incl Dwarf)
- 15 Fast Growing Trees to Plant in Your Wisconsin Landscape
- 17 Flowering Trees in Wisconsin (Includes White & Purple)
- 15 Wisconsin Native Trees To Admire (Or Plant In Your Yard)
Kenique grew up in Florida and currently lives in southern China. Before China, he spent many years in Portugal and the Caribbean. He studied economics and is a teacher, entrepreneur, and writer. Since he was knee-high, he has been gardening and was an active member of FFA (Future Farmers of America). He is his best self in a densely wooded forest or park. Depending on the day, you can find him reading, hiking, traveling, exercising, sipping lots of tea, or eating everything in sight.