The pistachio mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus) is a small member of the pistachio family. Sometimes trained on one trunk but often grown as a shrub, this plant reaches a maximum height of only 25 feet, with an equally wide profile. It is often called the mastic tree because it is the source of mastic, a sweet resin produced by the bark of the tree that can be chewed like gum or used in recipes or even as a diuretic.
Pistacia lentiscus is native to the Mediterranean region and grows best in warm, tropical or subtropical climates, such as United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) hardiness zones 9 through 11. This tree can tolerate occasional temperatures as low as 20 degrees F.
The mastic tree is an evergreen that thrives in full sunlight or partial shade. It should be exposed to at least six hours of sunlight per day, and will do best with eight to twelve hours of sun exposure. This tree should not be planted in heavy shade.
Pistachio mastic trees are easy to care for, in part due to their low water needs. Extremely drought hardy, established mastic trees need little to no water. The tree does needs long, hot and dry summers for resin production. Newly planted trees, however, should be watered regularly throughout their first growing season so that the roots become established.
Pistacia lentiscus prefers well-drained soil. The soil should not be moist or cool. Rather, it should feel warm and dry to the touch. This tree thrives in rocky or sandy alkaline soil.
Early and General Care
Young trees should be protected from winter cold with a blanket or thick layer of mulch. Seedlings should be grown in a greenhouse during their first winter to keep them warm enough to survive. Pistachio mastic trees do best when fertilized with a balanced (10-10-10) fertilizer for evergreen shrubs in the spring before new leaves uncurl.