Northern Pecan Tree — Carya illinoinensis

Last Updated on September 16, 2021 by Grow with Bovees

The pecan pie is a classic North American dessert.

I am ashamed to say that as a Brit, I have only tried one recently, but I will admit it lived up to the hype!

The buttery flavor matches so well with caramel. 

Pecan trees are not just used for their fruit though, the wood is also used in making furniture and wood flooring. 

Commercial pecan varieties are used in cooking, and the nuts can be made into pecan oil, or pecan butter.

Native pecans attract wildlife such as squirrels, wild turkeys, bird species such as blue jays, and wood ducks. 

Northern or Southern Pecans?

The American Pecan tree comes in a multitude of pecan variety, which each require different growing conditions, depending on where their native region is.

The Northern pecan is native to the south eastern mid-west regions. The native region extends from South Wisconsin, all the way to Texas. 

Northern varieties, such as the Kanza northern pecan, are among the earliest ripening cultivars, can generally survive colder winters, and ripen before the colder freeze.

Different varieties of pecan are often propagated from a generic pecan rootstock. It is an illustrative business managing a pecan breeding program. The New Mexico State University is carrying out research into mapping the pecan genome

Guide to the Growing of Pecans

Sunlight and Watering

The best development of pecan trees takes place when the plant has access to full sun. This is a key requirement of pecan trees.

However, northern varieties can handle low winter temperatures, but in colder areas you have more limited options for pecan cultivation. 

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They can be grown either in wet and clay soil, or well drained soil, which can be acidic soil or alkaline. Water regularly to keep the soil moist.


Pecan trees can grow up to 70 feet, so not good for growing indoors!

In open spaces they develop huge trunks, and the branches spread far and wide. In the forest they are straighter, and more dense. It is advisable to not plant them too close to any adjacent buildings.

Production of Pecans

Pecan plants are monoecious. This means that they have male and female catkins on the same tree. However, for best nut production, it is recommended to plant a variety of cultivars.

You can buy a seedling pecan tree as bare root seedlings, but it is best to buy a small plant for beginners. A mature plant is difficult to transport though, because of the extensive tap root.

Pecan trees mature in fall, and you will get a large crop of nuts each time. As a minimum, grown pecan trees can produce at 6 years old — it is a productive tree.

Any pruning is best carried out at the end of winter, but it will not cause harm to the tree if pruning is done at any time of year, and generally, wound paint is not required on the ends of cut limbs.

Your pecan tree will likely outlive you, as they can live up to 300 years, and still bear a good crop of pecans!

Ultra-Northern Pecan

Because the native range of pecans is so wide, it is advisable to buy a tree from a nursery which sources northern pecan varieties. This means they can survive a cold winter better.

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Pecan enthusiasts in a nursery in Ontario, have established a particular cultivar of pecan known as the ultra-northern.

They attempted to search for the earliest ripening pecans, and they now sell different grafts of ultra-northern pecans suited for different growing zones.