CAES: Growing Chestnut Trees

Growing Chestnut Trees

PP064 (11/02R)

By Sandra L. Anagnostakis
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
Department of Plant Pathology and Ecology
123 Huntington Street
P. O. Box 1106
New Haven, CT 06504-1106

Telephone: (203) 974-8498 Fax: (203) 974-8502


Greg Miller
Empire Chestnut Company
3276 Empire Road SW
Carrollton, OH 44615

Telephone: (330) 627-3181

Why grow chestnuts? A few acres of land can yield nuts for your own enjoyment, or for sale at the side of the road or to your local market. Chestnuts are a good food, as shown in this table:


Fiber %

Protein %

Fat %

Carbohydrates %

Calories per ounce

























This is a guide for choosing the right chestnut species, choosing the right planting site, and anticipating the care that is needed. For a few trees for your own use, you would do well to get two or three cultivars and plant them near each other (within 100 feet) for optimal cross-pollination. If you are starting an orchard for commercial production, you would be better off with a lot of trees of a few cultivars and a couple of seedling trees to provide pollen. The advantage of a uniform orchard is that the nuts all ripen at the same time, and will be fairly uniform in size and appearance (something consumers seem to think is important). The other point to remember for selling the nuts is that "bigger is worth more" even though smaller nuts frequently taste better!

All species of chestnuts can pollinate each other, but hybrids often produce no pollen (are "male sterile") and this must be determined when planning your orchard. Chestnut blight disease must be considered in the eastern U.S., Ink Disease (caused by Phytophthora) may be a problem in the south or in areas with poor drainage, Chestnut Gall Wasp is slowly moving north from Georgia, Alabama, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee, and drought tolerance will make a big difference in the west.

The initial investment will include purchase of trees, tree shelters to protect them, and installation of an irrigation system.

"Named cultivars" are clones of trees whose characteristics are known. Since they are identical, and chestnuts will not self-pollinate, two or more cultivars (or some seedlings, which are all different) must be planted to provide pollen for each other. Cultivars are grafted onto compatible rootstocks, and they usually cost about $15 each (see "sources" list appended). The choice of cultivar must be made for your own environmental conditions and taste, and some guidelines can be found in our list of cultivars (e-mail for a copy). information on nut size has not been systematically collected in all of the U.S. growing regions for cultivars, so the following is only to provide a general range of the sizes available:


Number of nuts per pound*











'Bouche de Betizac'








'Sleeping Giant'


* From J. M. Nave, 1998, Large Fruited Chestnuts Grown in North America, 89th Annual Report of the Northern Nut Growers Association, pages 42-82.

Tree shelters can be made of wire or plastic, or can be as simple as piled brush to protect the trees from deer. The plastic tubes cost about $3.00 each and are easy to install, but must be lifted each fall to allow the trees to harden off properly. They frequently harbor wasps, and provide a nice environment for rodents who then eat the tree bark. A better shelter may be a stiff plastic net now being tested by some companies.

An irrigation system is essential for a commercial orchard, even if you live in a region where rainfall is fairly dependable.

Plant your trees in well-drained sandy loam, better drained than apples require. Sites with clay may be tolerated if there is good surface drainage (slope). Chestnuts need a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.5 and absolutely won’t tolerate limestone soils. If your soil pH is much higher than this, consider another crop.

Space the trees at 40 feet apart, or start at 25 feet apart and remove trees, as they mature, to 35 feet apart.

Fertilize (SPRING ONLY) with one pound of 5-10-5 or 10-10-10 per year of tree age, or one pound per inch of tree trunk diameter.

Pruning should be done only when it is hot and dry, in early summer. This reduces the chance of infection.

The area around the trees should be kept mowed, and a circle about three feet wider than the diameter of the trees should be kept weed-free. Mulch can be applied to help with water retention, but should not be deeper than two inches, and should not be up against the trunks (allowing easy access by rodents in the winter).

The value of the nuts is directly related to the size, but is usually at least $1.50 per pound wholesale and up to $5.00 per pound retail. Yield will start to be significant after the trees are 10 years old, and yields have been reported of from 14 pounds per tree to 138 pounds per tree.

The traditional method of harvest is to allow the nuts to fall to the ground, and employ people to pick them up. For a few nuts for your own table this is not a bad system, but commercial orchards need more efficient methods. Nets can be suspended under the bottom branches of the trees to collect the nuts (they should be removed from the nets every day), or some of the marketed ground-collection systems can be used (see advertisements in the Northern Nut Growers Newsletter).

The most serious problem for all U.S. chestnut growers is the presence of chestnut weevils which lay their eggs in the ripening nuts. When the nuts fall to the ground the eggs hatch, and the larvae eat their way out of the nuts and burrow into the ground. They stay there until the following year (Large Chestnut Weevil) or the second year (Small Chestnut Weevil) when they emerge to mate and lay more eggs. Only the adult weevils are controllable with insecticides (Sevin is registered for this use), and care must be taken to spray the burs weekly for the last month before nuts are released. An "organic" control that has proved reasonably effective is the deployment of chickens or Guinea fowl under the trees to eat the larvae and pupae of the weevils. After several years of this control, few weevils will remain. As soon as nuts are collected they can be treated in hot water (120*F = 49*C) for 20 minutes to kill weevil eggs and larvae but not the nuts. Then the nuts should be refrigerated. Keep them moist, in plastic bags, in the refrigerator (over the winter) if you are planning to plant them, or a little dryer for eating. Nuts can also be par-boiled as soon as they are harvested and stored (frozen) in plastic bags until needed. This kills the eggs (or very small larvae) before they can damage the nuts but also kills the nuts.

Marketing chestnuts is easy if you already have a farm stand for selling produce, but if you have to sell them to local food stores, you will have to work a little harder. Nuts should never be allowed to dry out, and markets must be convinced to display and store them in plastic bags in refrigerated cases.

The future of the chestnut industry in this country will depend on the development of better weevil control methods, better harvesting techniques, and development of "ready for use products." Peeled, dried nuts, or chips that can be added directly to foods being prepared will allow cooks to experiment, and may interest large, prepared-food manufacturers to include chestnuts in their products.


Arborvillage 816-264-3911
P.O. Box 227, Holt, MO 64048
American seedlings (blight free, not "resistant" as stated in catalog) $15.00,grafted ‘Colossal’ $20.00, Chinese seedlings $15.00 & $20.00, Japanese seedlings (Korean) $15.00, Allegheny chinquapin seedlings $9.50

Bassi Vivai (39) 339.3646462, fax. (39) 0171.634351
Via M. Tonello 17, 12100 Cuneo, ITALY
‘Marrone di Chiusa Pesio’, ‘Marrone di Marradi’, ‘Marrone di Castle del Rio’, ‘Marrone di San Mauro Saline’, ‘Marrone di Susa’, ‘Marrone di Viterbo’, ’Marrone Belle Epine’, ‘Marron Comballe’, ‘Castagna della Madonna’, ‘Bracalla’, ‘Primato’, ‘Precoce Migoule’, ‘Bouche de Betizac’, ‘Marsol’, ‘Vignols’, ‘Colossal’, ‘Marigoule’, ‘Tanzawa’, ‘Ginyose’ import permit required (three year post-entry quarantine)

Bluebell Nursery FAX 01530-417-600
Anwell Lane, Smisby, Ashby de la Zouch, LE65 2TA, U.K.
C. sativa
‘Albomarginata’, ‘Anny’s Summer Red’, ‘Asplenifolia’, ‘Marron de Lyon’, £17.90 - £30.00, import permit required (three year post-entry quarantine)

Burnt Ridge Nursery 360-985-2873

432 Burnt Ridge Rd., Onalaska, WA 98570
‘Colossal’, ‘Nevada’, ‘Marron du Var’, ‘Layeroka’, ‘Skioka’, ‘Skookum’, ‘Marissard’, ‘Marigoule’, ‘Maraval’, ‘Belle Epine, grafted cultivars $16.00: Chinese chestnuts, American chestnuts, European chestnuts, seedlings $2.50 to $7.50 by size

Campberry Farm 905-262-4927
RR1. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada LOS 1JO

Cascade Forestry Nursery 563-852-3042, fax. 563-852-5004 
21995 Fillmore Rd., Cascade, IA 52033
American seedlings $6.00 to $12.00, by size 

Chestnut Hill Nursery 800-669-2067
15105 NW 94th Ave.,, Alachua, Florida 32615
`Revival' `Carolina' `Willamette' `Heritage' `Carpenter' `Alachua' grafted cultivars $25.95, Dunstan and Chinese seedlings $12.50 each $200 minimum

Connecticut State Nursery 860-376-2513
Pachaug State Forest Tree Nursery
Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection
23A Sheldon Rd., RFD #1 Box 23A, Voluntown, CT 06384
seedling Chinese from an orchard of PI #58602, $0.50 each

Empire Chestnut Company 330-627-3181 
3276 Empire Rd SW, Carrollton, OH 44615-9515
'Amy', 'Gideon', ‘Eaton’, 'Peach', ‘Sleeping Giant’, ‘Paragon’, 'Qing' and archived ‘AU-Homestead’, ‘Carr’, 'Chandler', ‘Crane’, 'Kohr', 'Lockwood', 'Norris', ‘Nanking’, ‘Orrin’, 'Smith' and others grafted $18.00 to $22.00, Chinese seedlings $5.75 to $15.00, Chinquapin seedlings $5.75 to $14.00, grafted cultivars $18.00 to $22.00. 

England’s Orchard & Nursery 606-965-2228 (Mon-Sat 10a.m.-5p.m. EST) 
'Qing', 'Yoder's Chinese', 'Sleeping Giant', 'Carolina', 'Alachua', 'Willamette', 'Mossbarger', 'Crane' grafted trees $18.00 to $23.00, seedling Castanea henryi, price varies.

Fowler Nurseries 800-675-6075  
525 Fowler Rd., Newcastle, CA 95658
‘Colossal’, ‘Nevada’, ‘Fowler’, 'Okei' $9.01 to $11.70

 F. W. Schumacher, Tree and Shrub Seeds 508-888-0659 fax: 508-833-0322
36 Spring Hill Road Sandwich, MA 02563-1023 
seed of Castanea mollissima, $2.75 for ¼ lb. and $5.05 per pound

Grimo Nut Nursery 905-934-6887
979 Lakeshore Rd., R.R. 3, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario LOS 1JO, Canada 
numbered types and seedlings, $10.00 to $24.00

Gurney's Seed and Nursery Co. 605-665-1930
110 Capital, Yankton, South Dakota 57079
"Sweetheart" seedlings $16.79, Chinese seedlings $5.85 to $10.98

Lawyer Nursery 406-826-3881, fax. 406-826-5700
950 Highway 200 West, Plains, Montana 59859
seed only of Chinese and American chestnut, $5 and $12 per pound

Masui Farm (81) 0829-39-6000, fax (81) 0829-39-1800
P.O. Box 18 Hatsukaichi, 309-3 Myyauchi Hatsukaichi-shi, Hiroshima-Ken, 738 JAPAN
‘Shiho’, ‘Tsukuba’, ‘Ganne’, ‘Kunimi’, ‘Ishizuchi’ (three year post-entry quarantine)

Nash Nursery 517-651-5278
4975 Grand River Rd., Owosso, MI 48867
seedling Chinese, $5 to $20

Nolin River Nut Tree Nursery 270-369-8551 
797 Port Wooden Rd., Upton, Kentucky 42784
`Armstrong' `Crane' `Eaton River' `Ford's Sweet' ‘Ford’s Tall’ `Meiling' ‘Mendes’ `Mossbarger' `Orrin' 'Qing' `Sleeping Giant' $18.00 to $32.00

Northwoods Wholesale Nursery 503-651-3737
28696 S. Cramer, Molalla, Oregon 97038
seedling Chinese and Japanese X European chestnuts, $2.10 to $8.00

Nursery Street Greenhouses 616-624-1806 or 616-624-6054 
61591 30th Street, Lawton, Michigan 49065
rooted cuttings of 'Colossal' 'Nevada' 'Skookum' several Grimo clones, several Higgins clones, and several Adkins clones, $12.00 each

Nutwood Nurseries (44) 1782-750913, fax. (44) 1782-750913
School Farm, Onneley Nr. Crewe, Cheshire, CW3 9QJ ENGLAND
‘Belle Epine’, ‘Bouche de Bétizac’, ‘Bournette’, ‘Comballe’, ‘Laguépie’, ‘Marigoule’, ‘Marron de Lyon’, ‘Marsol’, ‘Précose Migoule’, ‘Verdale’’ 6 to 7.5£ plus shipping and import forms (three year post-entry quarantine)

Oikos Tree Crops 616-624-6233, fax. 616-624-4019
P.O. Box 19425, Kalamazoo, Michigan 49019-0425
seedlings: Chinese hybrids (Douglas) $9.00 to $12.00, American $6.00 each, seedlings of other hybrids $3.00 to $12.00

Owl Creek Ranch 209-848-4816, fax. 209-847-1083  
14637 Claribel Rd., Waterford, CA 95386-9745
grafted European cultivars

Pépinières Coulié (33) 5-55-85-34-21, fax. (33) 5-55-85-42-28
Le Sorpt, 19600 Chasteaux, FRANCE
‘Bouche de Bétizac’, Précoce Migoule’, ‘Marron Goujounac’, ‘Marron de Lyon’, ‘Bournette’, ‘Bouche Rouge’, ‘Belle Epine’, ‘Marron d’Orlagues’, ‘Marigoule’, ‘Marsol’, ‘Maraval’, ‘Marlhac’ 29F to 89F plus shipping and import forms (three year post-entry quarantine)

Pépinières du Pondaillan (33) 5-65-37-83-17, fax. (33) 5-65-32-6—23
Rue du Pondaillan, 46200 Souillac, FRANCE
‘Bournette’, ‘Bouche de Bétizac’, ‘Goujounac’, ‘Précoce Migoule’, ‘Belle’ Epine’, ‘Lara’, ‘Fernor’, ‘Fernor’, ‘Fernette’, ‘Marigoule’, ‘Marsol’, ‘Marlhac’, ‘Maraval’, Ferosacre’, 36F to 90F plus shipping and import forms (three year post-entry quarantine)

Pépinières Lavitte (33) 5-59-29-62-54, fax. (33) 5-59-29-10-89
64240 Mendionde, FRANCE
‘Belle Epine’, ‘Bouche Rouge’, ‘Camberoune’, ‘Combale’, Dorée de lyon’, ‘Herria’, ‘Laguépie’, ‘Marron d’Olargues’, ‘Marron de Redon’, ‘Rousse de Nay’, ‘Marron de Goujounac’, ‘Montagne’, ‘Précoce des Vans’, ‘Merle’, ‘Sardonne’, ‘Ederra’, ‘Ipharra’, ‘Marki’, ‘Bouche de Bétizac’, ‘Bournette’, ‘Maridonne’, ‘Marigoule’, ‘Marsol’, ‘Précoce de Migoule’, ‘Vignoles’, $12 plus shipping and import forms (three year post-entry quarantine)

Red Fern Farm 319-729-5905 
13882 "I" Ave., Wapello, IA 52653-9449
Chinese chestnut seedlings

Rhora’s Nut Farm and Nursery 905-899-3508
32983 Wills Rd., RR #1
Wainfleet, Ontario, Canada
seedling chestnuts

Sticks and Stones Nursery 931-668-2409 
526 Center Hill Rd., McMinnville, TN 37110
"Sweet Hart" seedlings 6 for $30.00, Allegheny chinquapins 6 for $27.00

Superior Trees, Inc., Lee Nursery 904-971-5159
P.O. Box 9325, U.S. 90 East, Lee, Florida 32059
Allegheny chinquapin seedlings, price varies by number ordered

Treessentials Company, 800-248-8239, fax. 612-228-0554 
Riverview Station, P.O. Box 7097, St. Paul, MN 55107
tree shelters, solid and mesh

Wexford Soil and Water Conservation District 231-775-7422
7192 East 34 Rd., Cadillac, Michigan 49601
American chestnut seedlings $2.00 to $3.25

Woodlanders, Inc. 803-648-7522 
1128 Colleton Ave., Aiken, SC 29801
seedling Chinese chestnuts $12.50, seedling chinquapins, of several species (including type "Herschel"), $25.00 minimum order.


This is a guide for choosing the right chestnut species, choosing the right planting site, and anticipating the care that is needed.


Content Last Modified on 6/28/2012 10:51:45 AM