How To Plant A Pecan Tree {A Full Guide}

Planting pecan trees is relatively straightforward, providing you keep a few important points in mind. It can be very rewarding to raise a young tree up to maturity and enjoy the bounty of your labor. If, like me, you think pecans are simply delicious, then this article will help you discover how, where, and when to plant a pecan tree, as well as all the conditions it requires to thrive and mature into a strong and healthy specimen. 

How Do You Start A Pecan Tree?

how do you start a pecan tree

There are four ways of starting a pecan tree:

  • Method 1. Sprout the nuts and, once grown, plant them out. The resulting trees will be pot luck as trees grown from nuts don’t always follow the traits of the parent trees. You will just have to see what the trees turn out like when they mature.
  • Method 2. As above, sprout the nuts and onto the seedlings graft the cultivar you would like to grow. This produces a tree with the same traits as the parent.
  • Method 3. Plant already grafted trees purchased from a tree nursery or other supplier. 
  • Method 4. Transplant existing seedlings that have grown in the wild and graft on the desired cultivar.
  • Method 5. Propagate cuttings to produce clone trees of the parent.


Seedlings can be grown from stratified nuts. If you want to use them as rootstock, they will need to mature for at least a year before grafting on your desired cultivar. 

The advantages of this are the ability to choose rootstock, which is cold-hardy. It is also a less expensive way to grow a good cultivar tree.

Grafted Trees 

Grafted trees are a fast way to develop an orchard or grow young trees for resale. 

Rootstock can be developed from seed with the desired cultivars grafted on after a year. 

If you buy grafted trees, they are available as either bare-root trees or container grown. Bare root trees are less expensive than their container-grown counterparts but must be planted during the dormant season.

Transplanted Trees

In wild groves and orchards, small seedlings will often germinate during the spring and start to grow among the existing trees. Select the best-looking seedlings to transplant to a better location and use as rootstock for your chosen cultivars. 

Seedlings are easy to dig out with a spade during the dormant season and are a good way of growing an orchard very quickly and economically.


Cutting young whips from your existing pecan trees in spring is another way to grow clones. Not all of your propagated whips will take, but it is still an excellent way to get more trees. One downside to this is the inability to choose a cold-hardy rootstock. 

How Do You Plant A Pecan Tree?

Planting a pecan tree is simple if you follow a few simple rules to ensure the tree can grow strong and healthy.

  1. Location – Decide on the best site for the trees. Ideally, they should be in rich, deep, loamy soil that holds water without becoming saturated. They require full sun and an open aspect. Avoid valleys that can trap cold air and be frost pockets in winter.
  1. Space – Standard varieties of pecan trees can grow very large. They will need 40 feet minimum between each tree, preferably 70 – 80 feet or more.
  1. Hole – Ensure the hole you dig is deep enough so the roots don’t get bunched up. You want the main taproot to grow straight down, not sideways.  Always dig square holes to prevent roots from growing in a circular fashion.
  1. Soak – bare-root trees for 8 hours before planting. If the young tree is in a pot, then water thoroughly first.
  1. Prune Roots – With bare root trees, prune the taproot before planting the tree. You can cut it back by 1/3 to ½. This will encourage the root to grow.
  1. Spreading Roots – When you remove potted trees for planting, spread the roots out well. This will help prevent the roots from matting.
  1. Depth – When planting your tree, ensure the soil is at the same level it was in the pot or, on bare-rooted trees, inspect the trunk and locate where the soil level was. This can be seen from a change in color on the bark. 
  1. Grafts – Be very careful with grafted trees not to put the graft below the soil.
  1. Hole Filling – Mix well-rotted manure or compost with the soil and replace it in the hole, being careful not to leave any air pockets around the roots. When the hole is ¾ full, add a couple of buckets of water. Once it has soaked in, tamp down the soil firmly but carefully.
  1. Tamping – Fill the hole to the top and tamp down again.
  1. Fertilizer – Don’t add any fertilizer at this time. Wait until the tree has been planted for a month before fertilizing in spring. Don’t fertilize in the fall. 
  1. Staking – To help your young trees, it is a good idea to stake them to prevent wind damage. You can also add a good layer of much to help hold in water. 

Planting Tips

There are a few tips that can further help establish your young trees successfully. 

Container Trees

If planting a container tree, don’t make the hole too large. It should be just big enough for the roots to fit easily. 

You can use an auger to make a good-sized hole that is deep but not too wide. Just square it off slightly to help with better root growth.

If the taproot is curled, cut the end off above the curl. This will help it grow down, rooting the tree firmly into the ground and helping make it better at resisting high winds.

You don’t need to prune the top of the tree when you plant it unless you cut off some of the roots. 

Bare Root Trees

Soak the tree for two to 24 hours before planting. Don’t soak for longer, as you will risk drowning the tree.

Ensure the hole you dig is deep enough to take the taproot without curling it up once you have cut it back by 1/3. Also, prune any side roots, so it is neat. 

Cut off the top one-half of the tree. This will help balance the root system. Don’t cut below the graft. 

Transplanting Seedlings

To create an orchard from a native grove, plant them in rows allowing enough room between each tree for full growth to maturity. 

Graft on the desired cultivar once the trees have been transplanted for a year.

All Newly Planted Trees

To protect young trees, they can be wrapped with a tree wrap to prevent deer rubs or sunscald. Trunk guards stop herbicides from touching the trunk. 

Remove all weeds and grasses which may compete for nutrients and moisture around the base of your young trees. If using a herbicide to do this, make the ring a minimum of six feet around the tree’s base. Mulching is a non-chemical way of achieving this. 

Put in drip lines around each tree, in a six feet circumference around the trunk. They can be used to maintain a good moisture level in the soil. Water deeply to encourage taproots to grow down deep. 

In this video, you will discover some excellent pecan tree planting tips:

Where Do You Plant A Pecan Tree?

There are some things to consider before deciding where to plant your pecan trees:

  • Soil
  • Sun
  • Space
  • Surroundings 
  • Cross-pollination


For pecan trees to grow well, they need fertile, well-drained soil that allows the water to drain down to at least five feet. If water is unable to soak down this far for drainage due to layers of rock or compacted earth below the surface, then roots won’t develop correctly. 

Poorly developed roots put the tree at risk during drought conditions, as it won’t be able to access sufficient moisture for survival. It will also be prone to blowing down in high winds. 

Most of the roots will grow in the top three or four feet of soil and expand outwards at least four times wider than the canopy.

In parts of Arizona, there is a layer beneath the soil called “Caliche.” This is a white rock that is high in calcium. Although caliche holds water and can make a good subsoil, the layer will need to be well broken up when the tree is planted to allow the taproot to penetrate it and water to permeate around the roots. 

The presence of caliche also means there will be a zinc deficiency in the soil which will require balancing out with added zinc fertilizer. 


Pecan trees like an open sunny position, but a minimum sun exposure of six to eight hours is required to keep the tree happy. 


Be aware of any water pipes, electricity cables, sewer lines, patios, and building foundations. Keep your trees well away from these to avoid future problems as the tree grows. 

It can be easy to misjudge just how large your young tree will grow. It’s vital that you provide the space it will require as a fully grown specimen at the time of planting that is a minimum of 40 feet all the way around, 70 to 80 feet is preferable. 


Other surroundings that need to be thought about while the tree is still young are how it will impact things like overhead cables, sidewalks, views from your and your neighbors’ homes. 

Once the tree is two years old, transplanting it will be complicated, so it’s essential to put it in the perfect location right from the start. 


Pecan trees require another pecan tree close by to act as a cross-pollinator. The second tree needs to be a different variety as it is crucial that when your female flowers are receptive, the pollen from the cross-pollinator is blowing from the catkins of that tree to fertilize your tree’s flowers.

Although some cultivars are self-pollinating, you will always get a higher nut yield with a second tree acting as a cross-pollinator. 

When Is The Best Time To Plant A Pecan Tree?

when is the best time to plant a pecan tree

The best time to plant a pecan tree is from late September to mid-October if they are pot-grown. 

Pecans left in containers over winter can be killed as their roots become too cold. Planting them protects the roots. 

Alternatively, you can bury the pots in the ground until you are ready to plant after frosts have finished in the spring. 

Bare root trees need planting while they are dormant from January to March. If your soil will still be frozen at that time, dig the holes in advance and store the earth under cover until you’re ready to plant. 

How To Transplant A Pecan Tree?

Transplanting a pecan tree should be done while the tree is dormant from late fall to early spring. In most areas, the best time is February. 

Only trees that are very young (under two years) are suitable for digging up and transplanting. 

Find a suitable tree to transplant and carefully remove the surface soil until you start carefully exposing the roots. This will allow you to see how far around the tree you need to dig. 

Carefully dig around the entire perimeter of the tree’s roots. Be aware that the main taproot will, most likely, go down deeply, directly below the main trunk. It will generally grow as deep as the height of the tree. 

You can cut the bottom of the taproot off by 1/3, providing you also prune the top half of the tree to balance this out. 

Once you’ve lifted the tree from the soil, place it in a bucket of water while you dig the hole you are going to put it into.

As described above, find the best location for your tree, ensuring it has enough space, light, and soil depth to grow into a strong tree. 

Then follow the directions given above in “How Do You Plant A Pecan Tree”. 


No matter if you are planting one pecan tree or dozens to grow your own orchard, a certain amount of care needs to be taken to ensure success. 

The most important considerations are:

  • Water
  • Soil 
  • Location
  • Sunlight
  • Spacing
  • Feeding

All that’s left now is to await your first crop of delicious pecans!

If you enjoyed reading this article, there are many more on pecans and lots of other topics available on our website.

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