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How to Grow Pecan Trees in Tennessee

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Pecan trees are native to west Tennessee, although the University of Tennessee Herbarium finds pecan trees thriving in several east Tennessee counties as well, including Hancock, Blount, Marion and Sevier. Which variety to plant depends on where you live in the state. For recommendations, call University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service in your county (see Resources). Plant bareroot pecan trees while they are dormant.

Dig a planting hole that is 10 inches in diameter and 20 inches deep. Use the shovel to scrape the sides of the hole. This allows easier penetration of the pecan tree’s roots into the surrounding soil.

Cut the taproot so that the tree will sit at the same depth in the hole as it did when planted at the nursery. You can determine this depth by looking for a soil ring around the lower portion of the trunk. Trim any of the smaller roots as well so that they aren’t wound around the root ball when the tree is planted.

Fill the hole with soil and pack it around the trunk, using your feet. Cut one-third off the top of the pecan tree. Whenever roots are cut, foliage must be cut as well. This will also help the tree to better deal with the heat of the Tennessee summer.

Water the pecan tree slowly with at least 5 gallons of water. A soaker hose works well for this. Give the tree 5 gallons of water every week from April to September in Tennessee.

Select one shoot from the top of the pecan tree to become its central leader, three months after planting. It should be the one that is growing the fastest and the strongest. Remove all other shoots that are within 6 inches of where you cut the tree at planting. Allow the lower side shoots to remain.

Wait until the tree’s second year to apply fertilizer. At that time, give the tree 2 lbs. of ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulfate in April. Reapply the same amount in May and June. Memphis gardeners should aim for early June for the last fertilizer application to avoid the hotter temperatures at the end of the month.


Pecan trees require cross-pollination so you should plant two trees, of different varieties, according to agriculturists with the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service. Plant them no further than 100 feet apart.


Do not fertilize the pecan tree in its first year.

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