Pecan Tree Selection

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Mature pecans in tree

UGA CAES Extension CCBY2

Pecan trees (Carya illinoinensis) are relatively affordable and bring beauty, shade, and food to your landscape. Cultivar selection is the most important factor in purchasing pecan trees. Select varieties that are resistant to pecan scab. In North Carolina, pecan scab is the most damaging disease to pecans. It is difficult to control because many homeowners are unable to adequately apply pesticides on a large tree.

Pollination is the second most important factor in purchasing pecan trees. Pecan trees are monoecious: they have separate male and female flowers on the same tree. Pollen is not released when flowers are receptive, so pollination within and between the same cultivars is limited. Cultivars are separated into type I and type II for pollination purposes. For optimum pollination, NC State Extension recommends planting at least three cultivars with at least one of each pollination type. Type I cultivars include ‘Cape Fear’ and ‘Pawnee.’ Type II cultivars include ‘Stuart’, ‘Sumner’, ‘Forkert’, ‘Gloria Grande’, ‘Kiowa’, ‘Chickasaw’, and ‘Elliot.’

All cultivars have positive and negative attributes, so do your research before purchasing. Purchased pecan trees are grafted scions onto rootstock. Nuts that are collected and planted, or seedling trees, will not produce the same nuts as the parent tree. Each nut or seedling tree is a unique species and will have traits from the mother and father tree. This tends to result in variable nut quality.

Pecan trees should be planted in late January and early February. Dig the planting hole deep and wide enough for the root system without curling the roots. Plant the tree so that the bud or graft union is at least 2 inches above the soil surface after planting and soil settling. For more information, see Growing Pecans in North Carolina.

—Brad Hardison