The Q&A Archives: Planting Under Walnut Trees

Question: What kind of perennial plants will grow under a black walnut? I recently moved to New York and am anxious to get rid of the mudpit under my black walnuts. I understand that I am in a zone 5 & 6 area (right on the border!).

Answer: Walnut trees exude a chemical called juglone that inhibits the growth of most other plants. The list of juglone plants is small, but these should perform well in your gardening region: astilbe, begonia, campanula, Virginia bluebell, chrysanthemum, hollyhock, hosta, iris, lamb's ear, morning glory, pansy, peony, phlox, primrose, spiderwort, stonecrop, sweet woodruff, violet and zinnia. Prior to planting, you'll want to dig the soil and amend it with organic material to help improve the drainage. You can plant under the canopy of the tree, but don't plant too close to the trunk of the tree. To further insure success, remove all husks and leaves from the beds as soon as they fall in the autumn. If left in place, juglone will leach out into the bed during winter rains.

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