8 Tough Nut Trees for USDA Zone 5 to Plant Today

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Written By Shannon Campbell

Off-Grid Gardener & Food Forager

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Home » USDA Zone 5 » 8 Tough Nut Trees for USDA Zone 5 to Plant Today

When it comes to establishing an edible garden, fruit trees are an obvious choice. But many people don’t consider nut trees, which are equally useful in an edible landscape.

Nuts provide delicious snacks and pantry ingredients, and their trees add some ornamental flair to your property. For nut lovers in zone 5, there is a good range of cold hardy nut trees to choose from that will survive and thrive on your property.

Gourmet nut trees are not exclusive to warm climates – keep reading for the best cold hardy nut trees for zone 5 gardeners.

8 Nut Trees That Grow Well in Zone 5

1. Black Walnut Tree (Juglans nigra)

Black Walnut Tree
Image by Willamette Biology via Flickr

Native to the central and eastern United States, the black walnut is a tree that is deeply tied to the history of the country.

At one point they were an exceedingly common wildlife tree, but after becoming a popular source of timber for furniture making, cabinetry, and gunstock, their numbers were significantly reduced.

These trees are highly useful and attractive, with light, feathery foliage, and unique spring catkins. They can be grown for their edible nuts, as a focal point in the landscape, and as a shade tree due to their wide canopy.

If you are growing black walnuts for nut production, keep in mind that it can take up to 20 years for trees to bear substantial crops.

Black walnut trees should be planted in moist, rich, well-draining soil with full sun exposure. These trees produce juglone, which can inhibit growth for surrounding plant species, so make sure you are planting them in an area with plants that are not sensitive to the chemical.

Other Common Names: Native Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut

Growing Zones: 4-9

Average Size at Maturity: 50-70 feet with a similar spread

Fruiting Season: Early-Mid Autumn

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

2. Chinese Chestnut Tree (Castanea mollissima)

Chinese Chestnut
Image by F.D. Richards via Flickr

The chinese chestnut is increasingly becoming one of the more popular nut trees in the US, edging out the disease-sensitive American variety due to its blight resistance and overall hardiness. What’s more, the chinese chestnut produces chestnut crops after just four years, approximately 2 decades earlier than the American.

They are also more compact trees, growing to just over 40 feet tall, and fit well into most landscapes compared to the American variety which reaches up to 100 feet.

Chinese chestnuts have white spring flowers and dense, glossy foliage that turns an attractive yellow-gold in fall. And of course, they produce large, sweet, and delicious chestnuts that have a wide range of culinary uses.

Chinese chestnuts grow in a variety of soil types, including poor-quality soil and loamy, sandy, and clay soils. But ideally, they should be planted in a moist, well-draining spot with a slightly acidic pH with full sun for optimal nut production.

Make sure to plant more than one to ensure cross-pollination.

Growing Zones: 4-8

Average Size at Maturity: 40-60 feet tall, with a similar spread

Fruiting Season: Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

3. Ginkgo Tree (Ginkgo biloba)

Ginkgo tree
Image by Guilhem Vellut via Flickr

Next, we have a fascinating nut tree that bears fruit with a divisive reputation in the culinary world. The ginkgo is often referred to as a “living fossil” – the last of the ginkgoales whose existence stretches back millions of years. They have no living relatives, making them a truly unique addition to the zone 5 landscape.

Female ginkgos also produce fleshy fruits that contain the ginkgo nut, which has a long history of medicinal usage in Asia. It is considered an edible delicacy that resembles a pistachio and has a savory flavor.

However, gardeners interested in producing these nuts will have to get past their unpleasant odor first. According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison extension, they should be eaten sparingly (no more than a few at a time) due to the toxins they contain.

Otherwise, the ginkgo is a beautiful upright tree with a graceful growing habit and fan-shaped leaves that look lovely on breezy days, and turn a bright and brilliant yellow color in fall.

Other Common Names: Maidenhair Tree

Growing Zones: 3-9

Average Size at Maturity: 50-80 feet tall, with a 30-40 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

4. Carpathian English Walnut Tree (Juglans regia ‘Carpathian’)

Carpathian English Walnut
Image via Nature Hills

Another walnut species that fits perfectly in any zone 5 edible landscape is the Carpathian English walnut. It is one of the hardiest varieties of English walnut, native to the Carpathian ranges and cold hardy to zone 5.

Not only is the edible nut of the Carpathian walnut delicious, with a sweet and buttery flavor, but the tree itself also provides a striking ornamental element to the landscape. Its wide crown and bold branching habit will stand out on your property, especially in fall when it is lit up with yellow foliage. It also makes an excellent shade tree.

Plant these walnut trees in full sunlight in slightly acidic to slightly alkaline, well-draining soil. Carpathian walnuts have dense root systems so be sure to give them plenty of space. While they are mostly self-pollinating, planting at least two trees is recommended for abundant fruit production.

Other Common Names: Carpathian Walnut

Growing Zones: 5-9

Average Size at Maturity: 40-60 feet tall, with a similar spread

Fruiting Season: Mid-Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

5. Hardy Pecan Tree (Carya illinoinensis)

One of the best edible nut-bearing trees that grow natively in North America is the hardy pecan. These trees have been cultivated and harvested since the 1500s by Native Americans and even made their way to Europe via trade in the same century!

Their delicious, buttery pecan nuts are beloved by millions of Americans, particularly in the south – after all, who doesn’t love pecan pie?

The hardy pecan also has aesthetic appeal and utility in its own right, with a large, striking stature and dense, glossy foliage that lends itself to use as an effective shade tree and as a commercial planting in parks, golf courses, etc.

If you choose to plant a hardy pecan tree, make sure you have enough space to accommodate it – these trees are not suitable for small gardens or backyards. They should be planted in moist, well-draining soil with plenty of sunlight, though they can typically survive in varying soil qualities, types, and pH levels.

Other Common Names: Pecan Tree, Illinois Nut Tree, Carya Pecan, Hicoria Pecan

Growing Zones: 5-9

Average Size at Maturity: 70-90 feet tall, with a 40-75 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Summer

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

6. American Hazelnut Tree (Corylus americana)

American Hazelnut tree
Image via Nature Hills

Small, sweet, delicious hazelnuts are a choice edible nut that can be grown in zone 5. Gardeners should consider the American hazelnut variety for their landscape, with its low-maintenance nature, patterned bark and serrated leaves, and lovely fall foliage which comes in a mix of yellows, reds, oranges, and gold.

Its compact size also allows it to fit seamlessly into small spaces, and it grows well as a privacy screen or property line.

While both the European and American varieties produce edible hazelnuts, the American is resistant to the pernicious eastern filbert blight, making it a hardier and more resilient choice for US gardeners. American hazelnut is also particularly cold hardy, making it the perfect choice for zone 5 landscapes.

American hazelnut is not picky when it comes to soil – as long as it is well-draining with full or partial sunlight, it should work fine. Plant several trees to ensure successful cross-pollination.

Other Common Names: Hazelnut Tree, American Filbert Tree

Growing Zones: 4-9

Average Size at Maturity: 8-15 feet tall, with a similar spread

Fruiting Season: Early to Mid-Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

7. Shagbark Hickory Tree (Carya ovata)

Carya ovata (Shagbark Hickory)
Image by Plant Image Library via Flickr

A relative of the aforementioned pecan, the shagbark hickory is a tall, nut-bearing tree named for its distinctive “shaggy” bark, that naturally peels away from the tree trunk in long strips. These large native trees bear useful edible nuts but are most often planted as shade trees or focal points in the landscape.

While gathering and eating hickory nuts is an age-old tradition in many parts, planting these trees for the purpose of producing nuts should only be undertaken by very patient gardeners. Shagbark hickory is slow-growing and takes a whopping 40 years to finally

produce their first crop, and even then they only produce every 3 to 5 years!

Plant your shagbark hickory in rich, moist, well-draining soil far from your home, garage, driveways, and any other infrastructure that could be disrupted by its root system. Choose a site with exposure to full sun.

Other Common Names: Common Shagbark Hickory

Growing Zones: 4-8

Average Size at Maturity: 70-80 feet tall, with a 40-50 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Fall

Available at: Nature Hills

8. Korean Pine Tree (Pinus koraiensis)

Korean Pine
Image by F.D. Richards via Flickr

Pine nuts may be a niche nut crop to cultivate in the North American landscape, but it is a worthwhile one. They are expensive to buy but very useful as both a sweet and savory ingredient.

Zone 5 gardeners who want to add pine nuts to their edible garden should consider the Korean pine, a rare white pine variety native to east and central Asia.

These trees are medium-sized elegant conifers with a narrow, pyramidal growth habit and deep blue-green needles.

While there are several pine species that produce excellent edible pine nuts, Korean pine is perhaps the best suited for zone 5 as it is one of the few that will produce substantial nuts in colder regions.

According to the NC State University Extension, Korean pines have a history of usage in construction and furniture building. These pines are drought-tolerant and can be planted in a wide variety of soil types, but prefer well-draining soil in a location with plenty of sunlight.

Growing Zones: 4-7

Average Size at Maturity: 30-50 feet tall, with a 15-20 foot spread in cultivation, up to 100 feet tall in the wild

Fruiting Season: Fall-Winter

Available at: Nature Hills

Perfect For Your Zone 5 Edible Landscape

From native hazelnuts to introduced walnuts from the Carpathian mountains, there is a good selection of nut trees that will fit the long winters and temperate summers of zone 5. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you’ll have abundant and delicious nut crops in no time.

For additional trees to add to your edible landscape, consider some of the best fruit trees that will thrive in zone 5.

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Photo of author

Shannon Campbell

Off-Grid Gardener & Food Forager

Shannon has always loved looking after trees and plants since as long as she can remember. She grew up gardening with her family in their off-grid home and looking after her neighbor's plant nursery. As a child she also participated in native tree replanting, and as an adult has volunteered in reforestation programs in northern Vietnam. Today, she puts her horticultural efforts into tending her vegetable and herb gardens, and learning about homesteading and permaculture. When she’s not reading, writing, and gardening, she’ll be out fishing and foraging for edible flora and fungi in the countryside around her home.

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