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How to Start Pecan Trees From Nuts

By Barbara Biehler ; Updated September 21, 2017

The pecan (Carya illinoinensis) is a large, leafy deciduous tree that is member of the hickory family. At maturity, the pecan tree can reach a height of over 70 feet, with a trunk that measures six feet in diameter. Although variations of pecan trees can survive northern climates, according to the Division of Agriculture at the University of Arkansas, pecan trees grow best in the southern United States where the growing seasons are lengthy and warm. Many pecan trees are grown from grafting, but they also can be grown from properly prepared pecan nuts or seeds.

Acquire fresh pecan nuts or seed from a local nursery, Division of Forestry Service, or your own back yard in late fall. Fresh pecan nuts will need to air dry away from heat sources for two to three weeks.

Stratify the nuts. Pecan nuts will need to be stored in cool temperatures—35 to 45 degree F temperatures—for several weeks prior to planting. Place nuts in polyethylene bags with enough slightly moist peat moss, sand, or vermiculite to surround each nut. Close bag and store in a cool place where temperatures do not dip below freezing.

Select a planting area in February and test soil. Take a sample of your soil to your local garden center or extension office for pH testing. Pecan trees prefer slightly acidic soil—pH 6.0 to 7.5—so add nutrients if necessary. Dig holes approximately 2 to 3 inches deep and 4 to 5 inches wide for seedlings. Pecan trees grow very large, so seedlings should be spaced at least 35 feet apart to accommodate future growth.

Soak the nuts. Pecan nuts need to be pre-soaked before planting to promote germination. Place nuts in a canvas or mesh bag and plunge in a water bath for three to four days until seeds begin to spout.

Plant the seedlings. Place two to three sprouted nuts in each hole and cover the nuts with top soil leaving the sprout exposed. Water the seedlings thoroughly. As the seedlings grow, select the prime seedlings and pull the others out.


Things You Will Need

  • Pecan nuts or seed
  • Polyethylene bags
  • Peat moss, sand, or vermiculite
  • Shovel
  • Topsoil


  • Pecan trees develop large deep taproots and thrive best when planted directly into a permanent location. If transplantation is needed, wait until the second year of growth to avoid killing your tree.
  • Ample water should be provided to pecan trees, particularly during times of drought, to ensure continued optimum growth.

About the Author


Barbara Biehler is a freelance writer who has written articles for various websites, as well as online specialty courses for MyComputerBuddies.com. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Central Florida and over 15 years experience in business development, sales and marketing. An avid gardener, cook and voracious reader, Biehler resides with her family near Nashville, Tennessee.