Carya illinoinensis, commonly called the pecan, is a large deciduous lowland tree that is the largest of the hickories. It typically grows 75-100’ (infrequently to 150’) tall with a large rounded spreading crown. Trunks mature to 2-4’ in diameter. It is native from Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio south to Alabama and Mexico, being primarily found in the Mississippi River valley and the valleys of its principal tributaries. Pecan features medium green, odd-pinnate, compound leaves, with each leaf having 9-17 pointed leaflets. Leaflets range from 2-7” long. Leaves mature to yellow green in summer, eventually turning yellow brown in fall. Non-showy, monoecious greenish yellow flowers appear in April-May, the male flowers in pendulous catkins (to 4” long) and the female flowers in short spikes. Female flowers give way to sweet, edible nuts. Each nut is encased in a thin husk which splits open in four sections when ripe in fall. Pecans are an important commercial nut crop in the U.S. Most pecan commercial plantings are located in the southern U.S., from North Carolina to Florida west to Arizona and California. Many cultivars are available. Best grown in humusy, rich, moist, well-drained soils in full sun. It is grown as a tall ornamental shade tree and for nut production. Hardy in zones 5 to 9.
Growing Instructions for the Pecan
The seeds have a period of dormancy. They can be planted outdoors in the fall or winter for spring germination or they can be cold stratified to simulate winter conditions and to break their dormancy at any time of the year. 1. Place the seeds in a plastic bag and seal it. Store the bag in a refrigerator for 2-3 months. 2. The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Fill a pot with a mixture of half potting soil and half sand or vermiculite. Use a deep pot because the seedlings have a long taproot. 3. Sow the seeds on the soil and cover them with a layer of soil about 1 inch thick. 4. Water the container. 5. Put the pot in a warm, sunny area. 6. Water the pot regularly so that the soil is moist but not wet. 7. The seedlings can be transplanted when they are a few inches tall.