How to Grow Pecan Nut Trees

Overview

Pecan trees (Carya illinoinesis) are large-sized, nut-producing trees that can grow 70 to 100 feet tall with a 40- to 75-foot spread. Although pecan trees can be utilized in landscapes as shade or ornamental trees, they are primarily grown for their sweet nuts. Pecan trees grow best in warmer, mild-winter climates, but they can be planted down to USDA hardiness zone 6, where winter temperatures can dip down to minus-5 degrees Fahrenheit. Though pecan trees produce both male and female flowers on the same tree, they tend to bloom at different times and in different spots on the tree, so planting several different varieties together is necessary to ensure proper cross-pollination and nut production.

Pecan Tree Planting Instructions

Step 1

Choose a planting site that's large enough for the pecan tree to grow up to its mature size. Select a location with no overhead utility lines and a clear space of 60 to 80 feet for the pecan tree. Ensure that the planting spot is in full sunlight and has rich, deep soil.

Step 2

Dig planting holes for your pecan trees that are at least 2 feet wide and 2½ to 3 feet deep. Space the planting holes about 60 feet apart.

Step 3

Remove the pecan tree from the nursery container or burlap. Cut away all damaged or broken roots around the pecan tree's root ball. Set the pecan tree's root ball into the planting hole with the tree standing straight upright.

Step 4

Plant the pecan tree at the same depth as it was planted in the container or in the ground at the nursery. Backfill the planting hole about one-third of the way and water to saturate the soil in the hole.

Step 5

Backfill another one-third of the planting hole with the displaced soil and water thoroughly again, providing at least 1 gallon of water each time. Backfill the rest of the planting hole until it's nearly full and water deeply.

Step 6

Create a ridge of soil in a ring around the newly-planted pecan tree that's 6 to 12 inches high and 2 to 3 feet in diameter. Fill the basin with water and allow it to drain into the soil.

Step 7

Spread a 2- to 3-inch-thick layer of organic mulch on the ground around the pecan tree to cover the entire canopy area. Then cut back about half of the total height of the newly planted pecan tree.

Pecan Tree Maintenance

Step 1

Water your pecan tree once each week during the first year after planting it to provide 10 to 15 gallons of water. Fill the basin with water to do this. For established pecan trees, water them deeply and thoroughly to soak the soil around the roots once each week while the trees are actively growing and when rainfall is less than 1 inch.

Step 2

Feed your pecan tree 1 pound of 10-10-10 NPK formula fertilizer immediately after planting the tree and again in June or July, spreading the fertilizer in a 25-square-foot area around the tree. Feed the pecan tree again in February, applying 4 pounds of fertilizer for each 1 inch of trunk diameter.

Step 3

Feed 2- and 3-year-old pecan trees with 1 pound of ammonium nitrate per 1 inch of trunk diameter in June or July each year that the tree doesn't grow 2 to 4 feet. Apply 1 pound of zinc sulfate to the pecan tree during the first three years, spreading it in a ring around the outer edge of the planting hole.

Step 4

Fertilize established pecan trees 4 pound of 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer per 1 inch of trunk diameter in mid- to late February.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't spread the fertilizer on the ground within 1 foot of the pecan tree's trunk, because the granules could injure the tree. Beware of a zinc deficiency in your pecan trees. If you see the leaves on the pecan tree begin to turn bronze or become mottled, defoliate, or turn yellow and stunted, the pecan tree likely has a zinc deficiency. You can have a leaf tissue analysis performed by your agricultural extension office. Or you can apply 1 pound of zinc sulfate for a young pecan tree or 3 to 5 pounds of zinc sulfate for a larger, mature tree.

Things You'll Need

  • Pecan trees
  • Shovel
  • Pruning shears
  • Garden hose
  • 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer
  • Ammonium nitrate
  • Zinc sulfate

References

  • Clemson University Extension: Pecan Planting & Fertilization
  • Arbor Day Foundation: Pecan, Carya illinoinensis

Who Can Help

  • University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service: Pecan Trees
Keywords: grow pecan trees, plant Carya illinoinesis, pecan tree care

About this Author

Sarah Terry brings 10 years of experience writing novels, business-to-business newsletters, and a plethora of how-to articles. Terry has written articles and publications for a wide range of markets and subject matters, including Medicine & Health, Eli Financial, Dartnell Publications and Eli Journals.