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How to Plant Shagbark Hickory Nuts

The shagbark hickory tree is highly valued as a timber tree. Its wood is often used in furniture, cabinets, veneer and as wood handles for tools. The tree produces nuts when it reaches maturity. The trees prefer to grow in deep bottom-land soils near rivers and creeks. The nuts of the shagbark hickory tree are sweet and edible. The tree is slow growing and virtually impossible to transplant due to its abundant root system and long taproots. The tree can easily grow to 100 feet with a spread of 25 feet. Most shagbark hickory trees live to be over 300 years old.

Leave shagbark hickory nuts outside over the winter. The seeds require 90 to 120 days of cold stratification before they can successfully germinate.

Expect only 50 to 75 percent of shagbark hickory seeds to germinate under ideal conditions. Seeds stored longer than two years have an even lower germination success ratio.

Choose a location that offers deep rich soil. Mix 50 percent peat moss with 50 percent garden soil for the ideal soil preparation for seed germination.

Plant shagbark hickory seeds the last week in March. Germination usually beings in April. Plant seeds at a depth of 2 inches into the soil. Keep the soil moist. The taproot of the shagbark hickory seed will begin to develop before top growth is seen. The taproots can easily measure 10 inches before the seed produces top growth.

Apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch around the young shagbark hickory seedlings. Use peat moss, bark chips, sawdust or recycled plastic mulch to help the soil retain water and protect the seedlings.

Fertilize the seedlings once during the first year using a 10-10-10 basic fertilizer. Apply in late spring or early summer according to the instructions on the fertilizer label. Water the fertilizer in thoroughly.


Shagbark hickory seedlings have no real enemies or pests to threaten their early life. Keep weeds away from the seedlings so there is no competition for light or soil nutrients.

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