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How to Grow Pecan Nut Trees in South Africa

Pecan trees are one of my favourite kinds of nut trees. Their flavour is so rich, buttery and sweet that it’s hard to believe that they’re not fattening! Pecans can be used in many desserts, especially pecan pie and pecan cookies. But did you know that there are actually two types of pecan trees? The type we usually find in South Africa is the “Carya illinoiensis”, which produces small nuts with a thin shell. However, there’s also another species called Carya ovata which produces larger nuts with thicker shells called “Texas Pecans”. Therefore some people like growing their own Texas Pecan trees so much: because they can grow them right here on our shores without having to import them from America!

Pecan trees can grow as high as 35m, with a canopy spread of up to 30m.

They are extremely tolerant of heat and drought conditions and will tolerate both full sun and partial shade in order to be productive.

You should plant pecan trees on deep, well-drained soils with good fertility. They do not tolerate water logging or flooding so they do not do well if planted in low-lying areas where water collects after heavy rains or where irrigation is used during the growing season. The best location for a pecan tree is under an existing tree that shades it from harsh sunlight during summer months while allowing it to receive enough light during winter months when growth occurs.

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The leaves are compound, made up of 9 to 17 leaflets. The leaflet itself is a single leaf made up of two halves that are joined at the base.

The leaflets are green, shiny and leathery (or tough). The edges of the leaflets are coarsely serrated.


The pecan nut tree bears nuts in clusters, each cluster comprising 2 to 3 nuts co-joined at the tip. When they are young, these nuts are green and soft. As they mature, they turn brown and harden into a shell encasing a single seed.

When do pecan nuts develop?

Pecan nuts develop over the summer months, ripening in early spring. They are borne on the tree over time and can be gathered at any stage. All Pecan nuts are edible but not all varieties are sweet enough to eat raw, so they must either be cooked or roasted before eating. Besides being delicious and rich in protein and fibre, pecans also contain heart-healthy fats (monounsaturated), which help lower cholesterol levels.

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How to harvest pecan nuts

Harvesting is done by shaking the tree or using a nut harvester attached to a tractor. Harvesting can be done manually or with machines, but you can harvest most pecan trees by hand because they’re too big to fit into most machinery.

Do pecan trees grow well in South Africa?

Pecan trees are well suited to South African conditions and can be grown in a variety of soil types. They can grow in a wide range of climates, including warm or hot subtropical climates, dry temperate climates and humid tropical regions. In South Africa, you can harvest pecan nuts between 2-3 years after the planting date and they take 7-8 years before they produce nuts.

When planting pecan trees, it is important to consider their spacing requirements and the depth of soil required for optimal growth. Pecans require a deep root system so that they have access to water during dry periods without having to compete with surface roots from adjacent plants for moisture (1). According to research conducted by Dr Terry Graham (University of California) at least 90cm deep is required for proper development of roots but even better would be 125cm+ (2). Research conducted by Dr Gifford Miller at Cornell University New York State USA has shown mature tree spacing


Pecan trees are beautiful and tasty, but they take a while to produce nuts. If you want to grow pecan trees in South Africa, it’s best to plant them during the summer months so that they can grow strong roots before winter sets in.

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