Planting shellbark hickory and butternuts from seed

Seeking advice: I have gathered shellbark hickory nuts that still have the outer civering on most of them. Would I get better results if I remove the covering before planting or leave it on to hold moisture and perhaps protect from critters? I imagine I will need to cage in the top to protect them for the forst few years. I doubt they will produce in my lifetime, but i think they are beautiful trees and are not common around here anymore.

I also found some butternuts and hope to grow them as well. Any suggestions?

1 Like

I planted some hickory nuts last fall…about 10 of them in the dirt without any protection. 3 came up without any special treatment. They did not have the outer covering on them. I did the same with black walnuts; we don’t have butternuts around here, but I imagine they behave about the same. Planted about the same number and have 3 or 4 seedlings up at this moment. You can try that; I would think some kind of cage around the planting site would increase the number of survivors.

I also did some english walnuts. I stratified them in my garage in damp mulch over the winter, then started them indoors once they germinated. All 8 germinated using this method, but some of the seedlings had their leaves turn black and die. Some of them have/may still recover from this, but at this moment more than half are alive or show signs of life. I assume this method would work for most nuts, but if I was going to do it again I would have probably planted the germinated nuts outdoors right away instead of starting them indoors, just for the better taproot development.


i planted out a doz. hazelnut nuts in my nursery bed in fall 2 years ago. the following spring, 5 came up. the next spring 5 more came up. maybe your nuts just need another spring for the rest to grow like mine did. surprised me.


Planting nuts will usually produce trees, especially members of Juglans (walnut, hickory, wingnut, etc). Rarely do seed produced trees produce as well as the parent tree. Lucky Pittman could provide you with some shellbark and shagbark nuts that are larger and easier to crack than most seedlings. I would suggest starting with higher quality nuts if possible. Pure butternut is highly susceptible to butternut canker and will likely die within a few years. I would plant buartnuts (heartnut butternut hybrid) instead.