Pecan Grow Guide: Go nuts!
Grow Guide for Pecans
You CAN grow your own pecan trees. All you need is some land and commitment. (Passion is recommended.)
Pecan trees take 20 to 25 years to reach full maturity and get 60-100 feet tall, with a spread of 30-50 feet across. But don’t get discouraged yet: Pecan trees started from container grown stock (such as the ones Perfect Plants offers) will begin to produce nuts in as little as 4-8 years.
Select at least two different varieties since fruit set is improved by cross-pollination. Perfect Plants offers no fewer than fourteen different pecan varieties. We recommend choosing at least one each of Type 1 and Type 2 varieties. Type 1 pecan trees shed pollen first and their flowers are receptive of pollen later in the season. Conversely, type 2 pecan trees are receptive to pollen first and their catkins shed pollen later in the season.
Choose a planting spot with full sun and plenty of room. Pecan trees get very large and their roots run deep and wide, at least twice as wide as the canopy. Space pecan trees 65-80 feet apart, and be careful to stay away from buildings and other trees that could be damaged by falling limbs.
The soil at the planting site should be a well-drained rich sandy loam and at least 3-5 feet deep with a porous subsoil. pH should be 6.0-7.0. Pecan trees grown in such soils likely will not need any nutrient fertilizers except nitrogen and zinc. If in doubt, have the soil tested to determine what other nutrients you may need to add. If your soil is very dry or very sandy, you will have to irrigate more often.
- Amling: A type 1 pollinator that is extremely easy to grow with low maintenance. A hybrid variety that provides great shade. Highest recommended pecan tree by UGA.edu
- Caddo: Has one of the highest yield potentials of all pecan trees. Type 1 pollinator and thrives in both heat and cold hardy environments. A very versatile tree that is excellent for home yards.
- Cape Fear: Starts producing it’s high-quality nuts relatively early in it’s life cycle. Exhibits rigorous and upright growth and is extremely disease resistant. A type 1 pollinator.
- Creek: Incredibly productive and the most disease resistant variety. To ensure high nut quality, pruning during the early years in necessary. A type 1 pollinator.
- Desirable: A perfect contender for southern states due to its heat resistance and self sufficient tendencies. This type 1 pollinator does has a flaw though- most scab susceptible cultivar (fungicides are necessary). As the tree matures it exhibits higher yield.
- Elliot: This type 2 pollinator exhibits delicious tasting nuts and is an easy at home grower. Incredibly scab and disease resistant characteristics make this a low maintenance tree.
- Kanza: Incredibly disease resistant, heat/cold tolerant, and shade-providing pecan cultivar! This type 2 pollinator has high yields with delicious tasting nuts and golden kernels.
- Kiowa: This precocious variety is also low maintenance and displays large, hearty nuts and kernels. A type 2 pollinator that has good resistance to disease and starts producing heavily at a young age.
- Lakota: A new nut variety that is renowned for high nut quality, high yield potential, early nut maturity, and excellent tree strength. It is also very disease resistant making it a great addition to your pecan family. A type 2 pollinator.
- Mandan: This type 1 pollinator offers high nut quality, exceptional yield potential, scab and disease resistance, early nut maturity and enormous tree strength—what more could you ask for from a pecan tree?
- McMillan: High, sustained levels of production and excellent pest resistance. This type 2 pollinator produces well early in life and proves to be an excellent homeowner variety.
- Oconee: Excellent yield potential compared to other varieties. Fairly low maintenance, moderately scab and disease resistant. Type 1 pollinator.
- Pawnee: Type 1 pollinator is extremely heat tolerant making it great for the Southern states.It matures early and is pest/disease resistant making it one of the most popular and loved pecan trees in the US.
- Stuart: An old, time favorite grown for its low-maintenance qualities such as less pruning and training compared to other varieties. This type 2 pollinator will take a little more time to start producing nuts.
- Sumner: Strong tree provides high yields in large sizes. This pecan cultivar is scab and disease resistant and is an ideal choice for backyard planting. Type 2 pollinator.
- Zinner: This type 2 pollinator needs plenty of room to grow and can reach heights of 70 feet high and 50 feet wide. Scab resistant and has good yields even in the early ages.
Plant pecan trees when they are dormant, in late winter or early spring. Thoroughly water the little pecan tree in its container before starting. Remove the tree from the container and straighten out the taproot if necessary. Spread out the other roots, trimming if needed. Dig a hole as deep as the taproot and wide enough to accommodate the other roots spread out. Do not add fertilizer or soil amendments.
Place the tree in the hole without damaging the fragile taproot, and spread out the side roots. Next, fill the hole 3/4 deep with water. Backfill soil as the water is running until the hole is full. (The water helps to prevent air pockets around the roots.) Be sure to keep the tree at the same depth it was in the container. Don’t pack the soil too hard.
Spread a layer of organic mulch over the root zone to help hold moisture in and keep the weeds away. Cut off about 1/3 of the top of the tree to encourage the tree to spend more of its energy growing roots, instead of keeping the top alive.
The little tree will need protection from sun scald and nibbling rodents. Paint the trunk with a white latex paint or use a sleeve-like growing tube for the first three years.
Did we say growing pecan trees requires commitment?
Pecan trees should be treated with an NZn or zinc sulfate foliar spray every 2-4 weeks starting at bud break in March until June. (This can get difficult as the tree gets taller.) If the newly planted tree is growing well by midsummer, apply a half pound of nitrogen fertilizer about a foot from the trunk. If it hasn’t grown at least a foot taller, don’t fertilize until the second year.
Beginning in the second year and continuing for 15 years, apply a nitrogen fertilizer each month from March through June. See notes below for rates of various fertilizers. After 15 years, fertilize only in March and again in May. Broadcast the fertilizer evenly out to the drip line and a little beyond, but do not place it within 10 inches of the trunk.
Alternatively, use one of the commercial pecan fertilizers that combine zinc and nitrogen, according to label directions.
Your young pecan tree will need about an inch of rain or 15-25 gallons of water, per week. Mature pecan trees need 1-2 inches of rain per week, especially during the heat of summer. If rainfall is insufficient, you will have to irrigate, preferably with a drip system. See sidebar for rates of supplemental watering.
Pecan trees should be trained to a central leader with surrounding branches (the scaffold branches) spiraling outward and upward. Pruning should be done in late winter or early spring while the trees are dormant. Retain side branches that come off the central leader at an angle of around 45 degrees, and remove those that come off more horizontally outward or more sharply upward. The scaffold branches should be tip-pruned to encourage branching. Eventually, the lowest scaffold branches should be 6-8 feet above ground, and evenly spaced around the tree. This may take 5-10 years of annual pruning.
Pecan trees are most commonly planted as bare-root transplants. This means that they are dug from the ground while they are dormant and have had the soil shaken off to expose the root. Bare-root trees should be transplanted between December and March while dormant which helps with transplant shock and less transpiration (water loss) immediately after planting.
Bare-root pecan trees have long taproots and require a deep planting hole. In most situations, the hole should be at least three feet deep and 12 to 24 inches wide so that all side roots can be properly positioned as the hole is refilled. It is best to plant them as soon as possible.
Allow your tree’s roots to soak in water for 1-2 hours before planting. Spread out the roots to encourage outward growth. Refill the hole with native soil (what was removed at the time of digging). Gently release any air pockets. The last step is to thoroughly water
Good luck with your new pecan trees! And remember, the County Extension Agent is your friend!