How to Grow Pecan Trees

Quite possibly our favorite Southern ingredient.

Pecan Tree
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PLANTING: Pecan trees need well-drained soil. Set out bare-root trees in winter. Dig a planting hole deep enough to accommodate the long taproot; position the bud union above soil level. Firm soil around roots, then water thoroughly.

WATERING: Don’t let soil dry out.

FERTILIZING: Properly fertilize pecan trees in mid- to late February. Without proper fertilization, pecan trees are more likely to have alternate bearing years as well as an early nut drop. (Early nut drop is also caused by drought conditions.) A soil test will help to determine the soil pH and nutrient levels. Nutrients are most readily available at a soil pH of 6 to 6.5. In the absence of a soil test, broadcast 4 pounds of a complete fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, for each inch of trunk diameter (measured at 41⁄2 ft. above soil level). Do not place fertilizer in holes, but broadcast fertilizer evenly beneath the canopy of the tree. Pecan trees also require zinc for proper growth and development, as well as good nut production. Zinc deficiency causes a disorder known as rosette. Symptoms of rosette include bronzing and mottling of leaves; early defoliation; dead twigs at the top of the tree; abnormally small nuts; small, yellowish leaves; and short, thin leaves on older branches with rosettes (clusters) of small yellowish green leaves at the tips. In general, 3 to 5 pounds of zinc sulfate can be applied to large trees each year to maintain proper zinc levels. Alternatively, pecan tree fertilizer containing zinc can be applied. Many pecan fertilizers are available as 10-10-10 with 2% zinc. Apply at the same rate mentioned above for 10-10-10.

HARVESTING: Harvest when nuts fall in autumn; you can shake or beat the branches to hasten drop. Remove husks right away. Leave the nuts in a dry, moderately warm place for several days until pecans are crisp. Store them in sealed containers or freezer bags.

CHALLENGES: Prevent pecan rosette (abnormal clumps of twigs caused by zinc deficiency) by spraying zinc sulfate on expanding leaves in spring. Because pecan trees are prone to aphid infestations (and resulting sticky honeydew droppings), don’t plant a tree where it will overarch a parking area or patio. Instead, plant in a place (such as near a lawn) where honeydew droppings won’t be a problem. Although there is treatment, pecan trees grow so large that you would need a professional arborist with spray gear to reach infested areas.

Get the recipe for our best-ever Pecan Pie here.