The Pecan tree, Carya illinoinensis, is a deciduous tree grown for its tasty ripe nuts. The nuts are usually shaken or knocked off the tree for easy gathering. However, as times goes by, the shells dry and the nuts can be gathered up. Find out how to grow and care for pecan trees and get some helpful facts on pecans.
The pecan is in the Carya family of trees, which are the hickories. Pecan trees are deciduous trees and are cousins to the hickory tree. Carya illinoinensis grows in Zones 5-9. The height of these huge trees reach from 60-150’ tall, with widths of 60-100’.
Pecan Tree Care
Plant bare-root trees in deep, well-drained, acid soil in an elevated area to avoid frost damage, as pecans will not tolerate salinity. Use a balanced plant food once in early spring at a rate of 1 pound per year of age for immature trees and 4 pounds per inch of trunk diameter just below the scaffold branches for bearing trees. Water newly planted trees thoroughly and maintain consistent moisture. Water mature trees during dry spells. Train each tree to a central leader with lateral branches spaced 8-18” apart.
Pecan trees are also propagated by using grafted rootstock. You should plant at least two different varieties to ensure cross pollunation. However, most people will choose to purchase a pecan tree from nurseries and tree farms.
Trees will start to bear fruit in 5-8 years after planting but have a productive life of at least 50 years. The nuts ripen from late summer to autumn. You can get to the pecans sooner by knocking them from the tree with a long pole or a mechanical shaker where a sheet is spread out over the ground to collect the pecans as they fall. The nuts can be dried in burlap bags hung in a warm, dry area with good air circulation. The nuts can be frozen for long-term storage.
Pecan Pests and Diseases
Pecan scab disease can be a problem in high heat and humidity. Use a fungicide labeled for pecans early in the season on susceptible cultivars. Use insecticides labeled for yellow and black pecan aphids. Twig girdlers, pecan weevils, and stink bugs attack nuts late in the season. Gather and destroy infested nuts and fallen twigs, and remove other vegetative debris from the area that can harbor insects. You will find that deer will eat young shoots and will rub their antlers on the bark; and squirrels and birds will eat the nuts.
Recommended Cultivars: Eastern varieties, such as ‘Desirable’, have large nuts and are resistant to pecan scab disease. Western cultivars, such as, ‘Wichita’, have medium-size nuts and are susceptible to pecan scab, so they are suitable only for desert and dry southwestern areas. Both can be pollinated with ‘Western Schley’ or ‘Cheyenne’. ‘Kanza’ and ‘Pawnee’ are disease-resistant cultivars developed for Zones 6 and 7.
Uses of Pecan: Pecans are tasty nuts that are used widely in pecan cookies, pecan pies, candy, and crushed as coatings for pecan encrusted chicken and fish. Pecan wood is also used to make beautiful furniture, especially dining tables and china cabinets.