Pecan trees get very large – more than 80 feet tall, with a spread of 50 feet wide or more. They are not suitable for the small backyard. But, if you have the room, a pecan tree is well worth having, and a welcome legacy for those who come behind you. Find out how many pecan trees per acre and how far apart to plant pecan trees in this blog.
Planting a Pecan Orchard
Pecan trees are slow growers, so plan ahead for their eventual size and consider whether the planting site might one day be needed for another project. It would be a crying shame to have to remove a 30-year-old pecan tree because it’s in the way of your new pool or grandma’s new cottage.
Don’t plant permanent trees under power lines, either. Pecan trees have a bad habit of dropping limbs in wind storms or when loaded with nuts, so they need to be located away from buildings and other structures that could be damaged. Transplanted trees will not perform as well after the trees are removed from the original planting site.
Pecan tree spacing in orchards, once mature, should be around 60 to 80 feet apart so they don’t crowd each other. They also need to be at least 60 to 80 feet away from any permanent structure when planting an orchard.
A pecan tree needs to be cross-pollinated by another pecan tree. Pecan pollen grains are tiny and each tree fully produces billions and billions of them. Pecan pollen is spread by the wind and can travel great distances. In most cases, there probably already are other pecan trees in your neighborhood available for cross pollination. A single tree within a quarter mile or so is close enough to pollinate your backyard tree. A grove of pecans is close enough if it’s within a mile. If there are no pecans in your neighborhood, you will need to plant more than one to produce pecan nuts.
For optimum production, pecan tree limbs should not overlap or cross. Commercial growers have a rule of thumb: They want to see sunlight at midday in the summer covering 25% of the ground under the trees. Pruning pecan trees is essential to keeping your trees healthy and production high. Start pruning as young trees. Pecan trees grow best across the southeastern United States in Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6-10. Read more on How to Harvest Pecans!
In commercial pecan groves, new trees usually are planted close together. This is done with the knowledge that they will be thinned out as they get bigger.
New groves are usually thinned twice, after 15 years, and again after 30 years. The “temporary trees” add to production from the elements during the early years. Commercial growers design their groves so that when the trees are thinned they will still retain uniform spacing. Protect against weed growth on orchard floors with plants that won’t compete against the pecan tree’s roots.
Growers also plan ahead so that the mix of varieties required for cross-pollination will still be there after thinning. When starting a pecan orchard design, you can create a pecan pollination chart to help you organize this. Take in mind when pecan production will start for each variety before planting trees. There are some early bearing precocious varieties that will begin bearing fruit before others.
Some large scale pecan growers, especially out West, maintain higher densities by using giant mechanical tree trimmers to hedge and shear the trees so their limbs don’t overlap. They will also use drip irrigation systems to establish an orchard quicker.
A common formula for commercial groves in the southeastern United States is to plant pecan trees in a square grid with the trees each 30-40 feet apart. As the trees grow bigger, the grove will be thinned, and mature groves will end up with trees on 80 foot grids, which translates to seven pecan trees per acre.
Pecan Trees for the Home or Backyard Orchard
The backyard orchardist also can plant pecan trees 30-40 feet apart to maximize early production, and then thin them to 60-80 feet apart as they get bigger.
Don’t be afraid to start your own pecan tree or orchard! Just have a plan. Use these guidelines as tips when you need to know how many pecan trees can you plant per acre. See the Perfect Plants Pecan Grow Guide and other blogs about pecan trees for more information on growing pecan trees. Once you do, get ready for fresh pecan nuts and pecan pie!