Pecan Tree Growing and Care Guide

Pecan trees are a new world native originating in the southern USA. They do best in in warmer regions with long growing seasons.

Although they can be started from seed, pecan trees are best planted from a bare-root or pot-grown tree starts. They should be placed in full sun away from structures both man made and natural that may impede their progress.

Under proper care and conditions it should reach maturity in 2 – 3 seasons, growing roughly 2 to 3 feet per year.

Location and Preparation

Freely draining soil is best, clay soils will not suffice. Although they require above average moisture, soil that retains too much moisture or does not properly drain will not suffice as they are prone to multiple fungal diseases that prosper in persistently soggy soil.

Low lying areas and gullies where water settles should be avoided for the very same reason. A slightly elevated location is best, a hilltop is just dandy, but any location that is slightly above the surrounding terrain will do.

A sun drenched location with ample room is best. Pecans are a rather large trees, some varieties reaching 100 – 150 feet , needless to say they need ample space, small yards or plots are out of the question.

Avoid planting near utility lines as they will eventually come into contact with one another. Much to your chagrin you’ll quickly discover that the local power company has the legal right to enter your property and remove your tree if need be.

Different varieties produce nuts that are slightly different from one another. Thick hulls, thin hulls, some have paper husks and some don’t, small nuts in quantity, large nuts in smaller quantities and so forth.

Many varieties do not produce nuts annually – they produce biennially, every other year. You’ll want to select a variety that is best suited to your locale and available space.


Some pecans are self pollinating, but not all. You can grow a single pecan tree and still harvest nuts, but for best results you should have at least two trees.

Another reason small yards are not feasible is spacing requirements, Pecan trees should be spaced 60 – 75 feet apart.


A light Pruning of both the tree and root system just before planting will enhance healthy growth and make your pecan tree more manageable. Pruning the branches, it is claimed, allows for the root system to establish itself and get growing.

Prior to planting , for a few hours bare root trees should be soaked in a water bucket.

Pecans have fairly large central taproots, if the tree has become, or is approaching becoming ‘pot-bound’ you may notice that the taproot has grown in a spiral circle around the pots base. If this is the case, the tap root should be straightened out before placing it in the ground.

At times, especially if the pecan tree is well established in its pot, you’ll notice that the tap root has form memory and no matter how many times you straighten it out it reverts to its original shape. If this is the case you may need to prune off the lower section of the taproot.

Planting Pecan Trees

The depth and width of the hole will vary depending on the cultivar, its size at planting and the size of its taproot.

As a rule of thumb the average pecan tree at time of planting can be accommodated by a 3X3 hole – 3 feet deep by 3 feet wide.

Fill the hole with water and position the tree in the center of the hole. The soil line on the tree, the section that was below the soil in the pot, should be even with the surrounding soil, at times you may have to back-fill just a tad . 

Refill the hole with a blend of 1/3 Peat Moss and 2/3 of soil that was removed to make the hole.

Do not add any other amendments or fertilizer, pecan trees are very sensitive to fertilization for their first year- no fertilizer, amendments or additional organic material at planting.

As you fill the hole try to keep the smaller roots in a circle about the central tap root. Firm the soil by tamping it gently. With any excess soil build a watering basin around the trees perimeter, this will level out over time and subsequent watering and rain.

You may also need to add more soil after the first few watering’s as depressions sometimes form from air pockets or uneven soil compression.

Early Care

Regular and consistent watering is needed for young pecan trees, don’t drown the little guys but should your area experience a lack of rain be sure the trees get adequate water, particularly during the dog days of summer.

They should be watered twice weekly in the summer months, and weekly in the autumn, spring and winter for the first three years.

Water slowly, a viscous stream of water under pressure is never a good idea, a slow soaking stream is best not only for pecans but all fruit and nut trees.

Water deeply, let the soil absorb as much as possible, allow the water to penetrate the soil so it reaches the root zone. Stop watering when the ground becomes saturated and the water starts to run off.

Immature non bearing trees generally grow 2 to 3 feet per year. During its formulative years, in addition to adequate moisture weed and insect control are essential.

A young pecan grove with ten year old trees.

Once the tree passes it 3 year mark and is healthy and prospering it can be considered a mature pecan tree. At this point adequate soil moisture will play a large role in setting the size, quality and quantity of your pecan harvests, as well as the trees future development.

With the absence of rain, water frequently enough to keep the soil evenly moist. This is particularly crucial from the time the buds appear up till harvest. A few inches of organic mulch at the trees base is advisable, it will help retain soil moisture.

Some growers prefer to plant grass near to the base of the tree to hold the soil in place. Cutting the grass on a regular basis will also add organic nutrients to the soil.

A mature pecan tree in a residential backyard.
Besides providing nuts, a mature pecan makes for a great shade tree in residential settings.

So long as the grass is maintained and mowed it will compete excessively with the tree for nutrients as they draw from different levels of the soil.


Once the tree begins to bud and bare nuts, a healthy dose of a balanced fertilizer is a good idea – a NPK of 10-10-10 is best. Keeping in mind that many varieties of pecan trees are very large and cumbersome you should be applying at least 3 lbs but no more than 4 lbs for each inch of trunk diameter.

Nitrogen and zinc are the nutrients that pecan trees crave. Phosphorus and potassium are only needed in very modest amounts.

Additional amendments in moderation of these two elements is a good idea. But keep in mind that adding excessive additional fertilizer to pecan trees can at times be a lesson in futility, as it will compensate for poor soil or a bad location, inadequate soil moisture or disease and insect damage.

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