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Discovering Black Walnut trees on a property tends to leave property owners overjoyed — at least initially. These prized hardwoods mature to 150 feet tall with a shade span of 75 feet wide. Coupled with the prized nuts that run upwards of 2.5 inches, that Black Walnut tree seems like a gem.
But after a variety of perennial plants, shrubs, and vegetable gardens fail on the land, homeowners suspect something in the environment is damaging other vegetation. Even a cursory online search points to the Black Walnut as the culprit. It seems the tree succeeds by effectively poisoning others in the surrounding area. That’s bad news for gardening enthusiasts and homeowners who desire a robust landscape. If you have Black Walnut trees on your property, the following landscape management information could prove invaluable.
Why Are Black Walnut Trees Toxic To Other Plant Life?
Black Walnuts earned a notorious reputation for exuding a chemical called “Juglone.” Found in its roots, nut hulls, leaves, stems, and seasonal buds, juglone leaks into the soil under and around the tree’s canopy. Falling leaves and root spread can expand its toxic radius. Adding insult to injury, should a property owner decide to remove the problematic tree, its decaying roots can impact the soil for years.
The wide range of perennials, vegetables, shrubs, and other trees that suffer juglone toxicity generally experience symptoms within a 60-foot radius of the tree’s trunk. Many will present with yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and wilt before dying. While some landscape assets and vegetables can survive a Black Walnut tree’s kill radius, particularly sensitive varieties falter with a few months.
It’s not uncommon for home and commercial property owners to initially blame disease or environmental factors. And although other tree varieties such as Pecan, Butternut, English Walnut, and the Shagbark Hickory also produce juglone, their lower concentrations of the plant-killing agent often prove less problematic.
Managing Plants That Struggle Near A Black Walnut Tree
Property owners who want to create a landscape that reflects their personal taste may have some hard choices to make when Black Walnut trees are present. High levels of juglone can eliminate vegetable gardens and especially prized tomatoes. But there are ways to minimize the impact by identifying the following sensitive plants and taking proactive measures.
It’s possible to limit the contact of juglone by creating gardens outside the Black Walnut canopy. Consider using raised beds after removing roots below the surface. By remaining vigilant about keeping falling leaves and nut husks out of your gardens, it’s possible for these plants to mature. However, it may not be feasible to protect sensitive ornamental shrubs such as Red Chokeberry, Privet, Rhododendrons, and Lilacs, among others.
Which Perennial Plants & Shrubs Can Survive Black Walnut Trees?
It’s completely understandable for a property owner to hesitate about removing a mature Black Walnut tree. These strong hardwoods withstand severe winds and provide admirable shade relief during hot summer days. The deliciously sweet nuts are also a wonderful added value. That being said, selecting from a lengthy list of juglone-resistant perennials and flowering shrubs could provide a viable landscaping solution. These rank among the juglone-tolerant landscaping assets worth considering.
- Black-Eyed Susan
- Honeysuckle Vine
- Purple Coneflower
- Virginia Bluebell
- Virginia Creeper
- Wild Ginger
A wide range of valued trees also tolerate juglone reasonably well. These include the fruit-bearing Pawpaw, as well as Maples, American Beech, Tulip trees, Box Elder, Flowering Dogwood, Willow, and Oak varieties, among others.
Gardening enthusiasts should keep in mind that these and other varieties are considered “tolerant” to juglone. This does not necessarily ensure they will flourish when the chemical makes contact or infiltrates shared soil. Some will likely thrive while others seem to just tough-out the conditions. Those are reasons why many property owners have Black Walnut trees and their roots removed, sell off the valuable timber, and start fresh.
Top Tree Options To Replace Black Walnuts
When selecting the best tree to take the place of a mature Black Walnut, property owners may want to consider specific variables. The hardwood likely offered significant shade with its wide canopy and leaf density. Replacing that aspect of the landscape lends itself to choosing a fast-growing shade tree. It’s also wise to choose one that tolerates remnants of juglone in the soil. The following meet those criteria.
These trees can grow up to 2 feet or more annually and provide sweeping canopies worthy of replacing a Black Walnut. Property owners who view tree removal as an opportunity to go in a different landscape direction may want to consider ornamental trees. Some of the more popular landscaping assets include the following.
Depending on the location of the exiting Black Walnut, large flowering shrubs can also fill the void and infuse colorful seasonal blooms. Rose of Sharon and Witch Hazel rank among the popular shrubberies.
We hope this overview about plant, shrub, and tree management helps everyday people make informed decisions about their landscapes. We provide a complete inventory of perennial plants, shrubs, and trees that tolerate Black Walnut juglone as well as replacements. If you would like to place an order or have any related questions, contact our TN Nursery today.