How to Care for Pecan Trees

Jun 14, 2021

Pecan tree care in Texas can be tricky, but if you don’t mind some patience and hard work, the effort is worth it. These trees provide plenty of shade, and they’re aesthetically pleasing, with their towering height and plentiful leaves. Of course, they’ll also provide you with pecans, and plenty of them: In a commercial orchard, a tree can produce as much as 50 pounds of pecans in a year.

It can take some time to get there, though. Pecan trees won’t bear fruit for at least six years after they’ve been planted — and may take twelve or more years to get going. And that’s not even a long time when considering their lifespan, considering they often live for over a hundred years.

So if you’ve decided you’re in it for the long haul, or if you’ve been fortunate enough to move somewhere that already has pecan trees, here’s how to care for one. 

Where to Plant a Pecan Tree

First, make sure you’re in the right place. Pecan trees — a type of hickory tree — do well in Texas, and in Ft. Worth specifically. But they’re native to other parts of the southern US and can thrive in surrounding areas that have a mild or warm climate with a long growing season.

Pecan Trees Need Open Space

You’ll want to plant a sapling at least 20 feet from your house or any other structures that might be in your yard. And make sure it’s at least 30 feet from other trees. Pecan tree roots will spread far from the trunk.

When choosing a spot, keep in mind that its trunk and canopy need space to grow. At maturity, pecan trees reach a height of around 70 to 100 feet, with a crown that extends 40 to 75 feet around the trunk.

Also, look for a spot with deep soil — at least three feet of well-drained soil, clear of rocks. Also, try to plant in an area that gets plenty of sunlight.

If you’ve checked off all of these requirements, you can move on to planting. For more information, here’s our guide on how to plant a tree.

After You’ve Planted, Give it a Good Prune

You need to “train” the tree to develop a strong structure, and that means pruning a good portion of the sapling. Remove a third or so of the previous season’s growth.  This resource, from the University of New Mexico, has some helpful diagrams.

How Do You Prune A Pecan Tree?

Once a pecan tree is in the ground, it’ll require pruning every other year or every three years. You’ll want to do so late in their dormancy period, at the end of winter, right before new buds have formed. In North Texas, that’s late February to mid-March. If you prune too early, you’ll put the tree at risk of disease. 

Prune branches that are broken, diseased or rubbing together. Also, remove branches that grow low to the ground — on a full-grown pecan tree anywhere under five feet. Don’t remove too much. The goal is to keep it healthy and trim, so the full canopy gets plenty of sunlight. 

Pecan Trees Need Plenty of Water

To properly care for a pecan tree in Texas, you’ll need to give it plenty of water. These trees can get thirsty. 10 to 15 gallons of water per week is adequate, and then you’ll need to increase that as it ages. During the peak of summer, a full-grown, producing tree will need as much as 250 gallons of water.

When you water a pecan tree, make sure you’re watering the “drip line.” That’s the circle directly below the outermost branches. Too often, we see people water right at the base of the tree, which prevents the roots from absorbing all the water.

Make sure to never go more than three weeks without watering; otherwise you risk damaging the tree or reducing that year’s crop of pecans.

A Certified Arborist Can Help

If this all sounds complicated, that’s because it is. We recommend working with a certified arborist with experience on how to care for pecan trees in Texas. If you’re in the Ft. Worth area, Arbor Leaf can help now. Call us at 817-862-7735 for a free estimate, day or night, rain or shine. If you’re somewhere else, can help you locate other certified arborists.

Good luck!

Brandon Crowell

Brandon Crowell is the owner and operator of Arbor Leaf Tree Care. He is a certified arborist who, for more than 18 years, has helped Dallas/Fort Worth-area homeowners retain the natural beauty and value of their properties. He is on call 24/7, 365 days a year.
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