A pecan tree is an investment that can pay off big rewards if you make the right choices from the start. Amy Hill is here with steps you can take to get started right so you’ll have sweet rewards into the future.
- Pecans are monoecious —having both male and female flowers
- Male flowers may release pollen before the female flowers mature, resulting in poor pollination and nut production. To increase production have more than one tree and select different types of cultivars
- A Gardener’s Guide to Soil Testing
- Adapted from Pecan Trees Need TLC Too, by Mack Johnson, Extension Agent, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
- and Pecan Pollination, University of Georgia Horticulture
You say pe-can, I say pe-kahn, but there’s no calling off the perpetual appeal of this iconic southern tree. Its elegant architecture in the spring, its cool shade in the summer, and the scrumptious flavor of the pecan nut in the fall and winter offer something for everyone.
If you’re considering adding a new pecan tree to your landscape, it helps to know that many of the traditional pecan varieties are considered to be alternate or cyclic producers, which means the tree will produce well one year and not as well the next. One of the popular varieties, called Stuart, is considered an alternate producer. Stuart variety trees are often found around old homesteads.
If you already have a mature pecan tree in your landscape but haven’t seen much nut production over several years, it may not have a pollinator nearby.
Pecan trees are monoecious, which means the same tree contains both male and female flower structures. That means a single tree can self-pollinate. But male pecan flowers usually release their pollen before the female flowers are mature. This timing encourages windborne cross-pollination, resulting in long-term hybrid vigor. That’s great for the long-term survival of the species, but not so helpful for nut production in the home landscape.
Planting more than one variety and more than one type improves pollination rates and yields. Pecan trees are separated into two pollination groups: Type 1 and Type 2. Each type releases its pollen at different times, so for maximum nut production, a homeowner should plant both types of trees, or at least have one of a different type in close proximity, like a neighbor’s yard. In fact, research shows that ideal production happens when you have at least three varieties of pecan trees in a landscape, including at least one Type 1 and one Type 2 tree. The female flowers of the Type 1 are open at the same time the male flowers of the Type 2 are open.
Right now is an ideal time to plant trees, because in our area, root growth will continue even as the above-ground portions of the tree are dormant. Your extension agent or master gardener volunteer can recommend a good pollinator for your tree, or you can peruse one of the pollinator variety charts found online.
And don’t wait until the nuts fall in the autumn to begin to care for your trees. They need some attention all year round in order to perform their best.
In the fall, as you’re picking up your pecans, pick up fallen limbs, leaves, and twigs to curb pecan scab and twig girdlers the following year. Pecan scab is a serious fungal disease that attacks both the foliage and the flesh covering the nut, called the shuck. Pecan scab occurs early in the season and appears as small, olive-color to black circular spots on the leaves. Lesions on the nut shucks appear as sunken black spots and, in severe cases, may turn the entire shuck black.
Pecan weevils can also be extremely damaging to your nut harvest. Understanding this insect’s lifecycle is critical to providing sustainable pest management. The weevil overwinters in the ground and emerges in summer months as an adult. Adult weevils then mate, and the females will impregnate a young developing pecan with an egg. Once hatched, the larvae feed on the nuts and cause them to drop prematurely. On the ground, the larvae chew an escape hole in the nutshell and burrow in the ground to overwinter for next year’s crop. Integrated pest management includes picking up and destroying fallen nuts as soon as possible, typically starting in August.
Finally, fall is also the best time to conduct soil tests to ensure good tree nutrition. Sample the area as you would for a vegetable or flower garden. Instructions can be found on our website.