How To Plant and Grow Pecan Trees
Pecan trees are easy to grow and will provide you with loads of tasty pecans when planted right and in the right spot. Because they are large, wide growing trees, it is important to plant them at least 30 to 40 feet away from power lines, homes and other buildings.

If you are planting several pecan trees, space them at least 60 feet apart to allow plenty of room to grow and receive sufficient sunlight. Crops can be reduced when trees are overcrowded.

TIP: Pecan trees are available in bare-root (with no soil around roots) and container-grown. Bare-root trees should be planted while they are dormant (with no leaves on trees). Container-grown trees can be planted year round however will suffer less stress when planted during the fall, winter or early spring. 

Here's a breakdown of what you need to know to plant a pecan tree...

Pecan trees grow and produce the best nuts in well-drained moist soil, however tolerate a wide range of soils as long as water and nutrients are not limiting and soil pH is adequate. They like the soil to hold a good supply of water, especially when new trees are developing a root system, but not so much water that the soil stays constantly soggy or wet, which can cause problems with the roots. They are tolerant of heavy clay soils if drainage is good.

How To Test Soil Drainage:  If you are uncertain about soil drainage in the area you intend to plant, it's well worth taking the time to test the drainage before planting. To test soil drainage, dig a hole 12" wide by 12" deep in the planting area. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Then, after it drains, fill it with water again, but this time clock how long it takes to drain. In well-drained soil the water level will go down at a rate of about 1 inch an hour. A faster rate, such as in loose, sandy soil, may signal potentially dry site conditions. A slower rate indicates poor draining soil and could be a caution you might need to improve drainage, plant in a raised mound or bed, or look for plants that are more tolerant of wet or boggy conditions.

Soil pH
Pecan trees grow best in a slightly acid to neutral soil ranging between 6.5 and 7.0 on the pH scale. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.

Testing Soil pH  Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil and is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline. If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, or whether or not it is suitable for growing pecan trees, it's a good idea to test the pH in the planting area. You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH tester probe. To raise the pH (make more alkaline) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil Sulfur, Aluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions. 

Light Needs
The best and most nuts will be produced when pecan trees are growing in full sun.

Planting Your Pecan Tree

Bare-Root Trees

Bare-root pecan trees have long taproots so will need a deep planting hole.

Start by digging a hole at least three feet deep and 18 to 24 inches wide so that all side roots can be properly positioned as the hole is backfilled.

When centered in the hole, trees should be set at the same depth they were at the growing operation, which is usually indicated by a color change on the bark. Avoid planting your pecan tree too deeply because the roots may die from lack of oxygen. Also, trees planted too deep are often easily blown over in a storm when they reach 15 to 20 years of age.

Roots should be arranged in a natural position in the planting hole. You can trim off twisted or broken roots and lightly trim excessively long roots so that they'll fit in the planting hole. if necessary, excessively long taproots can be trimmed.

TIP:  Do not place any fertilizer in the hole. In excessively hard clay soils it's okay to add a little soil conditioner, such as ground pine bark fines or bagged top soil, but not too much.

After the tree is set at the appropriate depth, begin filling the hole with water. When the hole is filled halfway with water, push dirt in the hole while the water continues to run. When the water level approaches the top of the hole, turn the water off and fill the rest of the hole with dirt. This will prevent air pockets from developing around the roots. You can level the soil around the tree but avoid packing it down. It is not necessary to create a berm or basin around the tree to hold water, however it's okay to do when trees are planted far from a water source.

After planting, prune one-third to one-half of the top of the tree and remove any branches to compensate for the large percentage of roots lost when the tree was dug at the growing operation.

To protect your new pecan tree from cold damage, chemicals and animals for the first few years, painting the trunk with white latex paint or by placing a 2 to 3 foot growing tube or sleeve over the tree, such as 4-inch corrugated drain pipe, is beneficial. You'll want split the pipe down the entire length of one side so they can be easily removed after a few years.

Mulch trees with a six-inch layer of pine straw or leaves, or a two-inch layer or old sawdust or wood mulch. This helps to hold in moisture and prevents competition from weeds.

Container-Grown Tree Planting

Plant container-grown pecan trees similarly to bare-root trees.

Start by removing your tree from its container. If the tree is stuck in the pot cut the pot away with a knife or some snips.

If the roots are root-bound pull some of the roots away from the surface of the root ball and trim them a little. If the taproot has become twisted at the base of the container, it should be straightened or cut to encourage new taproot growth.

Place your tree in the hole with the top edge of the the root ball at or slightly above ground level to allow for settling.

Then add water and soil as indicated above for bare-root trees. 

TIP:  Because container soil mix can act as a wick and pull moisture away from the roots, cover it with an additional inch of soil to prevent roots from drying out.

Care of Newly Planted Pecan Trees

Your newly planted pecan tree will need adequate water to thrive. In the absence of sufficient rainfall, supply each tree with 10 to 15 gallons of water per week for the first two years (growing seasons). Avoid over watering. Constantly soggy or wet soil can lead to root rot and other plant diseases. 

Do not place fertilizer in the planting hole at planting time. Doing so can burn the roots of young trees, especially bare-root trees, and the result can be death of your tree. In June of the following year after planting, a specialty Pecan Tree Fertilizer can be applied in a 25 square foot area on top of the ground around a tree. Follow instructions on product label. The following year apply fertilizer in March and June. 

NOTE:  Avoid placing fertilizer within 12 inches of the trunk of your pecan tree.

TIP: Young pecan trees should put on two and four feet of terminal growth each year. Where growth is less, apply one pound of ammonium nitrate fertilizer per inch of trunk diameter in June or July. As a general recommendation, apply one pound of zinc sulfate per tree for the first three years following planting. Spread the fertilizer and zinc sulfate in a circle around the tree outside of the planting hole.

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