Black walnut trees can be grown from seeds as well as saplings

Regular readers of this column will know that I also host a weekly e-mailed newsletter. Today I thought you would like to see some recent questions that were sent to that newsletter, as well as some of the answers that I gave in response.
QUESTION: "It is weird that I am writing you. I came home last night with a bag full of black walnut seeds from my uncle's farm. My wife handed me your article on proper care for black walnut trees today. My intention is to plant some in my yard, and use the rest for dyeing. Anyway, your article seemed to be concerned with sapling trees, but what about growing them from the seed? Should I just dig a hole and plant, or should pot it for the time being? I live in Columbus, OH, on former farmland, so the soil basically sucks. Lots of stone, and I imagine a lot of clay. Any tips for seedling growing?
"On another note, I have a red oak sapling that is bent from the top being too heavy. The small trunk is sort of an "s" shape. I have it staked with a shepherd's crook, but I'm afraid that removing it will just destroy it. Again, any thoughts? Thanks for your time." - Charlie Higley
ANSWER: Your walnuts can be planted in the soil right now. Leave them in the hull and plant to cover about one-inch deep. If you cannot plant them immediately, just be sure they don't dry out, otherwise you could adversely affect their ability to geminate.
There is a very helpful online guide titled "How to Grow Black Walnuts," produced by the Kansas State Agricultural College. You can find it at and you can click on a direct link when you find this column under The Plant Man heading at my Web site, > From your description, the red oak does sound top heavy. My suggestion is to try pruning some of the branches and out growth to take away some of the weight.
QUESTION: "I had a large hibiscus purchased from a florist that sat in a west facing window. The non-stop blossoms were show-stoppers and I managed to harvest 3 seeds from the plant. When I moved to the US from Canada I could not bring my plants but was thrilled when one of the hibiscus seeds germinated and grew. Now, 10 years later this plant has never bloomed despite my best efforts. I feed, prune and place it outdoors for the summer. What can I do to make this plant bloom?" -- Lynda Birmingham AL
ANSWER: "There are 'blooming things' that you can purchase from most garden centers and you might want to try one of them. However, there is a trick I use with wisteria around November when they go dormant. I take one tablespoon of Epsom salts and dissolve it into a gallon of water and saturate the soil at the base of the plant. In the spring, I repeat the process just before they start to leaf out.
One other thing comes to mind in that, since you only have the seed from the plant, you might have just a seedling and not the cultivar of the exact plant. If that is the case the bloom will not be the same as the original one with the non-stop blossoms.
QUESTION: "I have a question about an American Elm. I am wondering what would be the spread of this magnificent tree with a height of 100 feet. We live in the city so a tree of that size might be a bit overwhelming. My neighbor's elm is about 50 feet in height with a spread of about 40 feet." - Wende
ANSWER: As you've noticed, 'shorter' elms can have a spread that is about the same width as the height of the tree... up to a point! If the elm continues to grow - and some can reach 100 to 110 feet tall - it will end up with a spread of one half to two thirds of its height. That's quite a spread!
The Plant Man is here to help. Send questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to For resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free weekly e-mailed newsletter, go to

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