How to Grow a Pecan Tree From a Seed


Pecan seeds can be grown quite easily from seed. After all, in nature they just fall off the tree in fall, find their way underground by flood or squirrel and, voila: new pecan tree. However, while growing a pecan tree from seed is a relatively straightforward process, few gardeners opt to attempt it. Because pecan trees have little genetic uniformity, it is nearly impossible to predict the quality or productivity of an adult tree based on a store-bought nut or even knowledge of the parent tree's characteristics. So homeowners who look forward to an annual crop of tasty pecans often opt to purchase pecan tree seedlings from a reputable nursery.

Step 1

Buy or harvest pecans during the harvest season (October through November). Select only the largest and healthiest pecans to prepare for planting. Discard any pecans that have insect damage or other flaws.

Step 2

Place a 2-inch layer of moistened vermiculite in the bottom of a polyethylene bag. Place your pecans on top of the layer and cover them with another 2-inch layer of moistened vermiculite. If you must layer your pecans, insert a 2-inch layer of moistened vermiculite between layers. Loosely close the polyethylene bag but do not create an airtight seal.

Step 3

Store the bag in your refrigerator's vegetable crisping drawer until you are ready to plant them in February or March. However, they must be refrigerated for a minimum of 3 months. Check on the pecans regularly to make sure that they have not dried out. Throw any rotting pecans away.

Step 4

Choose a location for planting your pecan seed. While pecan trees thrive under full sun, your biggest consideration will be accommodating your massive pecan. When your pecan tree is mature it will not only reach around 40 feet in height, but also send a tap root nearly 40 feet into the soil. Familiarize yourself with your property and make sure that your growing pecan tree will not interfere with any septic tanks or underground pipes.

Step 5

Dig a hole in your chosen location that is approximately 4 feet deep and 3 feet wide. Mix half of the excavated soil with an equal amount of compost. Add a zinc fertilizer to the mixture according to the manufacturer's instructions. Refill the hole with the amended soil and allow it to mature until you are ready to plant your pecan seed in spring.

Step 6

Take your pecans out of the refrigerator and soak them in water for at least 4 days. Quality nuts will swell and split after only one day of soaking. If none of the nuts have split after 4 days, keep soaking them until they do.

Step 7

Use a can opener to cut the tops and bottoms off three tin cans of any size.

Step 8

Water your planting site thoroughly.

Step 9

Plant three of your pecan seeds immediately after removing them from the water (do not allow them to dry out). They should be planted on their sides, 2-3 inches deep, and spaced 2-3 inches apart.

Step 10

Place a tin can over each of your planting sites so that the open top centers over the buried nut.

Step 11

Water the ground again if necessary, but do not soak the ground.

Step 12

Wait 4-8 weeks for the seedlings to sprout. One month after they have sprouted, remove the two plants that are not growing as well. Remove your chosen plant's tin can.

Step 13

Water your pecan tree regularly. During the first three years of its life, it will need roughly one gallon of water per day per number of growing years (for example, a three year old tree will need three gallons of water per day). When your pecan tree is four to seven years, it will need roughly two gallons of water per day per number of growing years (so, a five year old tree will need ten gallons of water per day). The gallons will continue to roughly double every three years following that pattern. An adult pecan tree may require anywhere from 150 to 300 gallons of water per day which can mean running the hose at its roots for ten hours per week (sprinkler systems are insufficient). Water is a pecan tree's most important requirement.

Step 14

Fertilize your pecan tree with a nitrogen fertilizer. Once it has grown for one year, begin fertilizing it every year in early spring by applying 1 pound of fertilizer per inch of trunk diameter (measured one foot from the ground) or 1 pound of fertilizer per year of growth.

Step 15

Annually spray your pecan tree with a zinc oxide solution (200g of zinc oxide per 100g of water), which can be found at most gardening centers. Spray the zinc oxide solution on the leaves of your pecan tree. Apply the first application right after the first leaves form in spring. Then repeat the application three times at 3-week intervals. Do this every year.

Things You'll Need

  • Polyethylene bag
  • Can opener
  • Three tin cans
  • Compost
  • Zinc fertilizer


  • Texas A&M: Pecan Trees
  • Oklahoma State University: Starting Pecan Trees
  • Homeowner's Guide to Growing Pecan Trees
Keywords: Plant pecan tree, Grow pecan tree, plant pecans

About this Author

Emma Gin is a freelance writer who specializes in green, healthy and smart living. She is currently working on developing a weight-loss website that focuses on community and re-education. Gin is also working on a collection of short stories, because she knows what they say about idle hands.