Garden Photo of the Day

Gardening Under Black Walnuts

Gardening success in a difficult site

My name is Diane, and I live in York, Pennsylvania, in Zone 6b (I think). I have been gardening for about 30 years, but this garden I have been working on for just six seasons. It’s my third garden and my second one with a giant black walnut tree (Juglans nigra, Zones 4–9). These trees pose a particularly thorny problem, as they have a tendency to kill quite a few plant varieties. There are some that can survive the juglone toxicity, though, so there’s enough to work with to create a nice display under the canopy.

As Diane mentioned, gardening under a black walnut tree can be tricky, because it releases a chemical called juglone from its roots that can be harmful to other plants. Just how harmful depends on a lot of factors, so finding what will thrive under your black walnut tree can involve a bit of trial-and-error. But clearly Diane has got it figured out! A lot of plants are thriving in this garden.

Tall perennials and vines extend this narrow bed right up the side of the brick wall.

Annuals, perennials, shrubs, and tropicals mix freely in this garden. The color scheme is firmly focused on reds and pinks, which helps pull the whole space together.

sweet potato vineAn assortment of coleus and a trailing yellow sweet potato vine (Ipomea batatas, annual) offer lots of long-lasting color from foliage. Growing in containers is also a great way to deal with black walnuts or other trees that are difficult to garden under. Containers act as safe havens from the toxic or just thirsty roots of the trees.


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  1. User avater
    treasuresmom 02/21/2020

    Gardeners always seem to find a way, don't they? All so very pretty.

  2. User avater
    simplesue 02/21/2020

    Such a nice design with the winding grassy lawn to draw you through all the flower beds.
    And I think I see a gazebo in the back, like a focal point and destination drawing you towards the rear of the garden!
    I'd be so pleased to if my garden looked so perfect as yours.
    And I admire you for appreciating an old Walnut tree and working with it for the garden asset it is.
    In my neighborhood I'v been sad to see others cut down perfectly healthy 100 year old trees for their gardens....sigh....
    Again I have really enjoyed seeing your garden and want to see what is that pretty ornamental iron work to the right of the pretty brick path?
    And Oh I want to see the gazebo!

  3. user-5117752 02/21/2020

    Aaaahhh! Lovely, lovely garden in spite of that difficult tree! Love your colors and variety of plants. I, too, love cleome and tall phlox and have both in great numbers coming back year after year. Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. wittyone 02/21/2020

    What a nice layout you have composed here. The winding grassy path and the mossy brick path make a very nice duo. Your varied plant choices combining perennials and annuals give an opportunity to change the display to some extent from year to year. That wonderful tall brick wall which otherwise might seem confining makes a great backdrop for your lush plantings.

    You've accomplished a great deal in just three years but we want more pictures to see what the rest of your garden looks like!

  5. btucker9675 02/21/2020

    Gardening builds character! Your garden is lovely and I'm glad you've persevered in spite of the black walnut. Love that bed along and up the brick wall.

  6. arboretum 02/21/2020

    Great job! This is such a great opportunity to teach us how we could garden under black walnut trees BUT WE NEED THE I.D.S
    of all those successful plants!! thx. again

    1. Luvfall 02/21/2020

      I’m helping with a garden that has two black walnut trees. The Morton Arboreatum has a good list of juglone tolerant trees, shrubs and perennials. I have had good luck with hemlocks, hosta, heuchera, hydrangea and hellebores. Toad lilies, brunnera, ferns and day lilies also do well.

  7. Cenepk10 02/21/2020

    Excellent!!! I don’t have black walnuts - but I do have vicious 4 Pin Oaks that are enormous & their roots will find their way to beds many many feet away. One tree I read can consume 350 gallons of water a ( day ??? Can’t remember). Your solution with containers is a great one. Pondering why I haven’t figured this out ... Looking great up there in York, Pa !!! Thanks for sharing.

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