Hazelnut Growing: How To Grow Filbert And Hazelnut Trees

Hazelnut Growing: How To Grow Filbert And Hazelnut Trees

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By: Jackie Carroll

Hazelnut trees (Corylus avellana) grow only 10 to 20 feet (3-6 m.) tall with a spread of 15 feet (4.5 m.), making them suitable for all but the tiniest home gardens. You can let them grow naturally as a shrub or prune them into the shape of a small tree. Either way, they are an attractive addition to the home landscape. Let’s learn more about hazelnut growing.

How to Grow Filbert Trees

Hazelnut trees, also called filbert trees, are hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 through 8. When growing hazelnuts in the coldest part of this range, choose American hazelnuts, which are more cold tolerant than the European types. Temperatures below 15 degrees F. (-9 C.) after the flowers bloom can cause crop loss.

Hazelnuts need 15 to 20 feet (4.5-6 m.) of space to spread. They adapt to almost any soil as long as it is well-drained, but perform best in a soil with plenty of organic matter.

Dig the planting hole twice as wide as the root ball and just deep enough that the soil line of the tree will be even with the surrounding soil. Set the tree in the hole and backfill with the soil you removed. Press down with your foot as you go to remove air pockets. Water the soil around the tree slowly and deeply after planting.

You’ll need to plant two different varieties for good pollination.

Hazelnut Care

Never allow the soil around a hazelnut tree or shrub to dry out completely. Water weekly during dry spells, allowing as much water as possible to sink deep into the soil.

Hazelnuts don’t need regular fertilization if they are grown in good soil. If you notice slow growth and pale leaves, the plant will probably benefit from a small amount of nitrogen fertilizer in spring.

Hazelnuts need little or no pruning when grown as a shrub, other than the removal of suckers that arise from the roots. To shape a tree, choose six strong upper branches to form the main scaffolding and remove the lower branches as well as those that hang down.

Hazelnuts drop from the tree as they ripen in fall. Rake the nuts into a pile for easy harvest and gather them every few days. The first nuts may be empty.

If you’re looking for a small tree or shrub that is practical as well as attractive, consider the hazelnut. Growing this hardy plant is easy and you’ll enjoy the first nuts from your tree in as little as four years.

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How to Identify, Control, and Treat Eastern Filbert Blight

Species and Varieties

Species and variety information is in the following tables. Table 1 features American hazelnut and other relatively cold-tolerant species and are hardy to USDA zones 3 or 4 (equivalent to a mean minimum temperature of -30 to -40В° F) depending on the variety and can be grown in most areas of Utah. These hardy species and hybrids still may experience damage to flowers due to extreme temperature fluctuations when they blossom.

Table 1. Common hazelnut species used for nut production, except European hazelnut

Species Possible Pollinizers USDA Cold Hardiness Zone Other Comments
American hazelnut (Corylus americana) Other seed grown Amrican hazelnut plants. Purchase 2- 3 plants for sufficient pollination. 3 Among the most commonly grown species in northern Utah. Produces well flavored, sweet nuts approximately ВЅ inch in diameter and length. Sometimes used to create habitat for wildlife and as a hedgerow. Expect plant size to be 15 feet high and 10 feet wide when shrubs reach maturity.
‘Arbor Day’ hybrid hazelnut (C. x ‘Arbor Day’) Hybrid plants are seed grown and readily pollinize each other. Purchase 2-3 plants for sufficient pollination. 3 Cold-hardiness is the main feature of Arbor Day Foundation hybrids, which will grow in USDA hardiness zone 3. Expect plant size to be 15 feet high and 10 feet wide when shrubs reach maturity. They produce nuts ½ to ¾ inch in diameter and length. Other, higher yielding hybrid hazelnuts exist that produce thinner shelled nuts. They are less common in commerce. Contact vendors listed at the end of this publication for further information.
Beaked Hazelnut (C. cornuta) Other seed grown beaked hazelnut plants. Purchase 2- 3 plants for sufficient pollination. 3 Less common in the nursery trade but sometimes available. Used in breeding programs and wildlife conservation due to its disease resistance and cold hardiness. Produces nuts ВЅ to Вѕ inch in diameter and length. Expect plant size to be 15 feet high and 10 feet wide when shrubs reach maturity.
Large filbert (C. maxima)В Other seed grown large filbert plants. Purchase 2-3 plants for sufficient pollination.В В 3В Very similar to European hazelnut with nut being intermediate in size between American and European hazelnuts. In the United States ‘Purpurea’, a red leafed variety, is the most common form available to home owners.В
Turkish filbert (C. colurna)В Another seed grown plant of the same species. Purchase 2-3 plants for sufficient pollination.В В 4 Primarily grown as an ornamental tree nuts are similar in size to American hazelnut, but are harder shelled.В

Table 2 gives specific information for European hazelnut. Keep in mind that even though the species is cold-hardy in much of the state, actual nut production may be limited by late frosts due to how early this species blooms. Varieties are listed for general information but most have not been systematically tried in the Intermountain West, so plant with caution.В

Table 2. Common cultivars of European hazelnut (C. avellana)

Cultivar Possible Pollinizers Other Comments
‘Barcelona’ ‘Casina’ Popular variety that is a heavy producer. It is being used less due to its susceptibility to eastern filbert blight (EFB).
‘Butler’ ‘Ennis’ Slow growing but produces very large, rounded nuts.
 Casina’ ‘Barcelona’ or ‘White Aveline’ Newer variety that has thin shelled nuts and is a heavy producer.
‘Ennis’  ‘Butler’ Produces large nuts and large overall crops. Along with ‘Barcelona’, one of the most popular varieties. It is very susceptible to EFB.В
 ‘Eta’ Any other variety Bred by Oregon State University primarily as a pollinizer for other varieties. Later flowering and produces medium sized nut. EFB immune. Due to later blooming, it may be slightly more likely to consistently produce. В
 ‘Gamma’ Any other varietyВ Bred as a pollinizer for other varieties. Very productive with medium to small nuts. EFB resistant.В
 ‘Hall’s Giant’ (‘Bowlyer’) Any other varietyВ В Produces large nuts and is a good pollinizer for other varieties. Less cold tolerant than other cultivars and produces light crops.В
 ‘Jefferson’  ‘Eta or Theta’ This is a new variety that is resistant to EFB. The tree is smaller than ‘Barcelona’ but is more productive with high quality nuts.В
 ‘Purpurea’  ‘White Aveline’  This is an ornamental variety with dark red spring leaves. It still produces edible nuts.В
 ‘Red Dragon’ Any other varietyВ Bred as an ornamental that features contorted branches similar to the ornamental variety ‘Contorta’, but with dark red leaves. Nuts are produced smaller in size than types bred for nut production. Resistant to EFB.В
 ‘Santiam’ ‘Gamma or Yamhill’ В В Medium to large nut, very productive, and resistant to EFB.В
 ‘Theta’ ‘Jefferson’ В В Late blooming variety that may be slightly more likely to produce nuts. EFB immune.В
‘Yamhill’  ‘Santiam, or Gamma’ Early ripening, very tasty nut, resistant to EFB. A small tree. В

Pruning Hazelnut Trees — A Basic Guide

Training is done from planting up to 4–5 years old. It encourages a strong tree structure that can support heavy crops and withstand ice and snow loads.

In hazelnuts, pruning is a way to remove diseased or dead wood to extend the life of an orchard.

Pruning is done to manage tree growth beyond its establishment phase and to give vigor to older trees. In hazelnuts, it is also a way to remove diseased or dead wood to extend the life of an orchard.

Defining terms

  • Branch collar — The raised tissue at the base of every branch. It contains cells that seal off pruning wounds from wood rot fungi.
  • Crotch angle — The angle formed between the trunk and a limb. The strongest crotch angle is 45–60 degrees.
  • Crown — The part of the tree where the trunk meets the soil.
  • Heading (or head cut) — A pruning cut that removes only part of a branch (Figure 1).
  • Lateral branch — A side shoot off of another branch, usually at a more horizontal angle.
  • Leader — The highest portion of a scaffold limb. In a central-leader trained tree, only one leader is left in the center of the tree. Multiple-leader trained trees usually have three to five leaders per tree.
  • Scaffold limbs — Large limbs that form a tree’s framework.
  • Shoot — The length of branch growth in one season. The bud scale scars (ring of small ridges) on a branch mark the start of a season’s growth.
  • Stub — A short portion of a branch left after a pruning cut. Avoid leaving stubs.
  • Sucker sprout — A 1-year-old shoot that grows from the root.
  • Terminal — The apical (highest) end or shoot tip.
  • Terminal bud — The bud at the end of a shoot marking the end of the current season’s growth.
  • Thinning cut — A pruning cut that removes an entire branch from its point of origin (Figure 1).
  • Training — Pruning in the early years after planting, to develop a structurally strong branch framework.
  • Vertical branch — A branch that grows upright.
  • Water sprout — A 1-year-old shoot that grows within the tree



  • Removes dead or diseased wood
  • Increases light within the canopy, which can increase the number of flower buds and nut set
  • Manages growth and keeps tree structure and framework balanced
  • Reduces the tendency for biennial bearing in some cultivars if you make it a regular task
  • Removes poorly placed limbs
  • Gives new vigor for growth
  • Allows for better spray coverage
  • To be most productive, hazelnut trees should put on a minimum of 6–8 inches of new terminal shoot growth every year on shoots at shoulder height. Pruning helps maintain this growth.

General rules for pruning

  • Prune at planting with a heading cut.
  • Remove unwanted suckers every year when they’re small and before they’ve hardened off.
  • Follow the pruning program without fail and as often as necessary so that you’re doing the training early. Remove unwanted branches when they’re small because smaller wounds heal over more quickly than larger wounds.
  • Prune young trees lightly.
  • Prune old trees more heavily, especially if they’ve shown little growth.
  • Don’t try to overcome several years of neglect in one year. Don’t remove more than 25–30% of the living canopy at any one time.
  • Hazelnuts can be pruned in the winter, spring, or summer. Pruning during winter (the dormant season) will cause the most vigorous growth the following spring. Spring or summer pruning produces much less return growth, and is useful in removing suckers and low-hanging limbs.

How to make the cut

  • Prune branches so that you don’t leave stubs.
  • Do NOT use wound dressing or paint.
  • Hazelnut wood is very vulnerable to wood-rotting fungi, so it’s important to make thinning cuts at the branch collar where the branch attaches to a larger limb or the trunk.

The hazelnuts are ready to be harvested when the fruit detaches from the branch and falls to the ground.

The leaves are remarkable with their deep purple color. Not many other plants boast such a deep vibrant hue.

Set this tree up as a standalone, in a shrub bed, or add it to your hedge.

Hazelnuts are harvested in fall.

Even if the ornamental value of this tree is what stands out, its fruits still are edible.

It’s one of the most remarkable red-leaved shrubs.

Difference Between Filberts and Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts are amazing, they taste amazing, they are incredibly healthy for you and they are even fun to learn more about. People wonder what is the difference between a hazelnut and a filbert, but the truth is that there isn’t one. A hazelnut is no more than a filbert and vice-versa.

Nutritional Value and Differences

Hazelnuts/filbers ate very small, around the size of a marble, and are encased in a protective shell that needs to be removed before the hazelnuts are eaten. Although healthy, hazelnuts are not exactly fat free food, since they do have over 600 kcal for only 100g of food. Even though they have such a high caloric value, they do have vitamins as well and that same amount of 100g contains enough vitamin E to fulfill your daily needs, not to mention the amount of manganese it contains, which is almost three times higher than what you should eat on a daily basis. They are, nevertheless, delicious.

The truth behind this is that some years ago the name got stuck because the hazelnut matures around St. Philibert’s day, the day of a French monk, St. Phillibert of Jumieges, a day that is commemorated on August 20th. Hence, the name filbert. But there are also other theories. Another popular theory is that the word filbert comes from the German word volbart, which means full beard. This would be a reference to the appearance of the shell of a hazelnut.

Other people claim that these are two different types of nuts. But once the shell is removed, their claims disappear because they are almost impossible to tell apart, if possible at all. At the end of the day, no one is really able to tell the difference, is there is any, between a hazelnut and filberts. Furthermore, no one is able to tell with precision what is the origin of the term “filbert”, since no one is really sure where it came from.

Nut Varieties

A variety of hazelnuts in Britain is also called “cobnuts”, and the origin of this name is really known it came from a game kids used to play with the nuts, and in that game, whenever one was winning he was called the cob. Cobnuts are a little different from hazelnuts and filberts, since they are not dried and are usually sold fresh. Being sold fresh, they are a seasonal product that isn’t very easy to find, and it is certainly not a cheap one. They do have unique uses however, since fresh hazelnuts aren’t easy to find as well.

Finally, what keeps this naming scheme up is that people have preferences according to their geographical location. Some regions prefer cobnuts, others prefer filberts and other prefer hazelnuts. But, at the end of the day, they all want the same.

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