What to Plant Under Black Walnut Trees

Black Walnut (Juglans nigra), © Jami Dwyer

Black Walnut (Juglans nigra), © Jami Dwyer

Summary: Native Black Walnut trees (Juglans nigra), while prized for their wood, cause many plants growing under them to wither and die. Included here are suggestions for native plants that will thrive under your Black Walnut Trees

I received this question from one of my readers, and it’s a topic that will provide information to a large number of you, here are my thoughts:

We have an area that has a lot of walnut trees and can not get anything to grow around them or under them. What would be good plants or grass that would survive around these trees. We do not want to cut down our walnut trees, but would like to have something growing under them.

The Problem With Black Walnut Trees

Black Walnut trees (Juglans nigra) are in high demand for their beautiful wood and provide a plethora of nuts for squirrels, birds, and other wildlife (and also are edible for humans, too)

Black Walnut trees produce a chemical called juglone that inhibits many other plants from growing under them. These plants may wilt, turn yellow, and eventually die. Juglone is exuded from all parts of the tree, including the leaves, wood, fruits, and roots.

R K Young sums up the problem:

People who are gifted with a black walnut tree have both an asset and a curse. The asset is a protein source that both you and your squirrels (and other animals) can enjoy. The curse is two-fold: like any nut or fruit tree, they can be messy. But their messiness is far outweighed by their ability to inhibit or kill other plants around them. Isn’t that weird that plants can do that to each other? Walnuts are not alone in this skill set, they are just better at it than anybody else in the plant kingdom.

According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension:

Wet, poorly aerated soil, very common in many urban areas, discourages microbial growth. Plants sensitive to the walnut tree’s toxic effect may be at a higher risk when planted in heavy urban soils that lack organic matter. Toxins adhere to organic matter rather than being absorbed by plants, and organic matter also encourages a healthy soil microbial population.

So one of the very best things you could do to eliminate some of the problems facing plants growing under Black Walnut trees would be to add lots of organic matter to your soil. Working to create healthy soil will be a gift to your overall gardening efforts as well as providing habitat for wildlife and increasing the health of all of your plants.

Native Plants to Plant Under Black Walnut Trees

Here’s some native plants to try out under your Black Walnut Trees:

  • New Jersey Tea
  • American Redbud
  • Sassafras
  • Elderberry
  • Witch Hazel
  • Serviceberry
  • Native asters
  • Native ferns
  • Joe Pye
  • Bee Balm

Heather Holm suggests these native plants that work in her MN wildlife garden:

I have a large black walnut in my yard and the following grow well under it: Nannyberry Viburnum, Red Osier Dogwood, Pennsylvania Sedge, Wild Ginger, Wild Geranium, Red Elderberry, Amercian Hazelnut, Hackberry, Chokecherry, False Solomon’s Seal, Solomon’s Seal, Downy Yellow Violet, Virginia Waterleaf

My friend Ursula Vernon recommends these native plants that work in her NC wildlife garden:

Appalachian sedge–Carex appalachia–works, I think, along with most hardy ferns–if they’ve got sun under them, then serviceberry, New Jersey Tea, shrubby St. John’s wort, black-eyed susan, and probably-but-you-might-want-to-try-a-test-patch River Oats.

Actually, I’d suggest a test patch of anything before investing in a huge planting–much like “deer resistant” there’s occasionally some difference in the literature, and the sedges at least can be slow/expensive to gamble with.

Mr. Smarty Plants, of the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center has this great suggestion:

The best advice we can give you is to look around your neighborhood, see what is growing under walnut trees and talk to other gardeners who have black walnut trees in their yards.

Planting lists for native plants that tolerate growing under Black Walnuts:

What are your favorite native plants that grow well under your Black Walnut Trees? Please share by leaving a comment below.

Do you have a question you’d like me to answer? Stop by the Ask Carole page and I’ll give it my best shot.

Don’t miss Ecosystem Gardening for Wildlife, A 4-part online workshop series teaching you to garden sustainably, conserve natural resources, and create welcoming habitats for wildlife so that you will attract more birds, butterflies, native pollinators, and other wildlife to your garden.

© 2013, Carole Sevilla Brown. All rights reserved. This article is the property of EcosystemGardening.com If you are reading this at another site, please report that to us

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Join the Wren Song Community

Wren Winter Singing crop

Free Exclusive Content and Member's Forum

Sign up for a free membership in the Wren Song Community and you'll have access to a lot more valuable information published exclusively for our members.

Meet other passionate wildlife gardeners from around the country. Share your successes. Learn from your failures. Discover the best resources to help you create welcoming habitat for wildlife in your gardens with native plants so that you will attract more birds, butterflies, native pollinators, and other wildlife to your garden.

Learn more about the Wren Song Community

Comments

  1. Barbara Neuman says

    Hi there. I live in Western North Carolina and couldn’t help but read all of the comments about the black walnut. I have a friend who loves to eat them and is trying to find some. Does anyone living close to Rutherfordton which is located between Ashville and Charlotte have any they would like to give away or sell? I would love to surprise my friend with some.

    Best Regards,
    Barbara Neuman
    Master Garden Volunteer for Rutherford County

  2. says

    The native wildflower Bloodroot grows under black walnut. This plant creates a stunning and magnificent flower in early Spring and creates a great groundcover leaf all season long. (Sanguinaria canadensis)

  3. Allison says

    Mertensia virginica or Virginia bluebells, spreads happily under my walnut. When they fade I cut them down and mulch, using pots for flowers during the summer. I would love to send my walnuts to anyone however the squirrels beat me to them, and make an awful mess while they are at it.

  4. MAGGIE says

    WE HAD SOME WALNUT TREES TAKEN OUT…
    I PUT DOWN 3-4 INCHES OF SOIL..
    PLANTED GRASS!
    THE GRASS GROWS THEN STARTS TO DYE..CAN YOU TELL ME IF I CAN DO ANYTHING
    TO GROW GRASS WHERE OUR TREES WERE???
    THANK-YOU ..EVEN IF YOU CAN NOT HELP ME!!!
    MAGGIE
    E-MAIL GBETWEENTHELINES@AOL.COM

  5. Aaron says

    We have a full on grove of black walnut trees in a wide fence row with a healthy wild proliferation of Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) thriving around and under them here in Pennsylvania. Daffodil’s (Narcissus pseudonarcissus), an invasive species, also seem to thrive around and under Black Wanut trees.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Current day month ye@r *

CommentLuv badge