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Hackberry Tree | How to Grow and Care Guide

The Hackberry Tree is a well-known, shade tree and it’s a fantastic landscaping choice for novice and experienced gardeners alike.

Whether as a shade tree or as a windbreak, this deciduous tree can work in a range of environments, from strong winds to heavy rain. Looking for a larger tree for your yard? 

Follow our grow and care guide to make sure you have everything you need to know to grow Hackberry Tree. 


Hackberry Tree How to Grow and Care Guide

What is Hackberry Tree? 

What is Hackberry Tree

The Hackberry, or Celtis occidentalis, forms part of the cannabaceae family and includes a range of different varieties. This towering tree, native to parts of Southern Canada to Florida, is an extremely hardy tree and can withstand a range of conditions. 

The Hackberry tree produces a crown of arching branches with deep, green spearhead-shaped leaves. It’s also known to produce small dark red drupes, which turn a deep purple during the winter, and are a valuable food source for birds. 

Many winter birds rely on the fruits of the Hackberry tree during the winter. This means you can expect an array of fabulous wildlife in the winter, including the Mockingbird, Robin, Cardinals and Flickers. 

Throughout history, the hackberry tree has added a lot of value to communities. Not only was the cork-like wood used for barrels, wood flooring and furniture in the past, but the fruits are edible for humans and high in proteins, carbohydrates and fats. 

More so, Hackberries have been used as a treatment for certain ailments like jaundice, sore throat and venereal disease. 

The most common varieties to grow include:

  • Green Cascade
  • Magnifica
  • Prairie Pride
  • Prairie Sentinel

How to Grow Hackberry Tree

How to Grow Hackberry Tree

The Hackberry tree is absolutely resilient and will likely grow successfully almost anywhere; however, it is best accustomed to USDA hardiness zones between 3 to 9. 

These trees are fast growers, reaching almost 13” to 24” of growth per year. Over their lifetime, they can grow to as much as 40 to 60 feet. 

When planting, take care to grow these trees at least 20 feet away from any buildings to allow enough space for the foliage and roots to grow. Take the time to weed the area thoroughly before planting.

When choosing a spot, keep in mind that these deciduous trees prefer full sun conditions. While they will adapt to partial shade, ideally, you’ll want a spot that receives at least 6 hours of unfiltered sunlight. 

In terms of soil, this type of tree can generally acclimate to most types of soil. However, it prefers loamy, moist and rich soil types. Clay soils are also suitable. Acidic or alkaline soils will both work. 

Propagating Hackberry

Hackberry, or Celtis occidentalis, forms part of the cannabaceae family and includes a range of different varieties

You can easily propagate new hackberry trees via the readily available seeds from the fruits. It’s vital to harvest the seeds during Autumn to ensure viability. 

Once removed from the fruit, you can simply sow the seeds directly into a flower bed or a container with a rich seeding mix. Keep your seedlings in a warm and damp spot to root. 

The young sapling of the hackberry tree can be kept in a container and grown in a sunny spot indoors. You can also use a plant guard to add protection to your sapling. However, once it really gets going, it will need to be transplanted outdoors.

How to Care for Hackberry

The only time your hackberries will really need a lot of attention will be during the first growing season. In the first year or so, take the time to water your Hackberry every week.

Once established, you’ll be able to cut back completely. Usually, hackberry trees won’t need any supplementary watering unless it has been very hot and dry for an extended period of time. 

Hackberry Tree Care


If you’re growing your Hackberry in low-quality soils, you may want to consider support your tree with some annual fertilization. A Multi-purpose fertilizer will do just fine; just be sure to do so during the spring, so the roots can really absorb all of the additional nutrients. 


As these trees tend to grow like crazy, occasional pruning will be important to keep the shape in the first few years of growth. As this tree goes into dormancy during the winter, this will be the best time to start pruning.

You can start with dead, diseased or damaged branches or any branches which seem too overcrowded. You will need a large pair of tree pruners or a gardening saw.

Pests, Problems & Diseases

The most common issue with this type of tree is foliage feeders, like lace bugs. These pesky pests accumulate on the underside of the leaves, and you will notice an infestation if you have a sudden leaf browning.

You can wash away these tedious pests by means of a strong stream of water or insecticidal soap. Another issue is Hackberry Nipple Gall, which causes leaf discoloration and little bumps on the top side of the leaf. 

Certain species are also susceptible to Witches Broom, which causes the growth of contorted and deformed branches.

Wrapping Up Our Hackberry Tree Guide

Growing this tree is definitely something to behold, and there is a sense of the spectacular watching this tiny tree quickly turn into a tremendous tower. While this tree will adapt to most growing conditions, do your best to give it the right amount of sunlight and a little bit of extra support through annual fertilizers. 

If you’re looking for some other incredible companion trees, you could consider growing: 

Follow our growing and care guide for the Hackberry Tree to ensure you’ll have a tremendous, shade-casting tree in your backyard in no time!

About the Author Ann Katelyn

I'm Ann Katelyn, Creator and Chief Author of Sumo Gardener. Since I was a child I've always been fascinated with plants and gardens, and as an adult this has developed into my most loved hobby. I have dedicated most of my life to gardening and started Sumo Gardener as a way to express my knowledge about gardening with the hope of helping other people's gardens thrive.

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