5 Varieties of Pecan Trees That Will Produce in Virginia

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Written By Shannon Campbell

Off-Grid Gardener & Food Forager

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Home » Virginia » 5 Varieties of Pecan Trees That Will Produce in Virginia

Who doesn’t love a pecan pie?

The pecan nut is a classic North American culinary ingredient, and both wild and cultivated trees can be found throughout the southern states of the US.

This is because pecan trees typically need a warm and humid climate, and while VA has fairly high humidity levels state-wide, nighttime temperatures in winter can be too low for some pecan varieties to thrive.

Thankfully, there are some cold-hardy pecan varieties that will do very well in the planting zones of Virginia, particularly in the USDA zone 6b to 7b range which covers much of the state. Unfortunately, gardeners living in the northwestern tip of VA may struggle to grow these varieties.

Here are the best pecan trees in Virginia for you to choose from.

5 Pecan Trees For Your VA Garden

1. Pawnee Pecan (Carya illinoinensis ‘Pawnee’)

Pawnee Pecan
Image via Nature Hills

The pawnee pecan tree is steadily gaining popularity in the southeast of the United States, according to the NC State Garden Extension, so Virginia pecan lovers should take note of this cultivar!

Crossed between the ‘Starking Hardy Giant’ and ‘Mohawk’, this 1963 hybrid is best known for two things: its large pecan nuts and its early maturity, with some pawnee pecans ripening in early September.

These medium-sized trees have wide, spreading crowns and very thick trunks. They produce well, and are reasonably resistant to most pests and diseases, with the exception of nut scab which affects many pecan varieties.

But one of the major considerations to make with this cultivar is in regards to pollination – the pawnee is not self-fertile, as their male and female flowers bloom at separate times. To produce pawnee pecans, make sure to choose a variety with the same or similar bloom time.

Growing Zones: 6-9

Average Size at Maturity: 20-30 feet tall, with a 15-25 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Early-Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

2. Kanza Pecan (Carya illinoinensis ‘Kanza’)

Another early fruiting pecan is the kanza, a hybrid of the ‘Major’ and ‘Shoshoni’ pecan released by the USDA in 1996. Not only does the kanza produce large, delicious pecan nuts, but they are also bred to have very thin ‘paper shells’ which make them delightfully easy to peel.

What’s more, they are one of the most pest and disease-resistant pecan cultivars, including resistance to nut scab. It is also relatively cold-resistant, making it a good option for all VA gardeners as it can potentially fruit as low as zone 5. The kanza is also on the taller side, growing up to 100 feet tall with an enormous canopy that allows it to act as a shade tree on your property.

Plant the kanza in loamy, well-draining soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH. These pecan trees require a pollinator, with their most reliable and timely pollination partner being the pawnee.

Growing Zones: 5-9

Average Size at Maturity: 75-100 feet tall, with a 60-80 foot width

Fruiting Season: Early-Fall

3. Desirable Pecan (Carya illinoensis ‘Desirable’)

Desirable Pecan
Image via Nature Hills

With a name like that, it’s not hard to see why the desirable pecan has been one of the most sought-after pecan cultivars on the US market since the 1960s.

Its nuts grow in large clusters and have a tendency to ‘self-prune’, meaning they regularly shed ripe nuts to allow more space for new nuts to grow. This results in the large, easy-peeling paper-shell pecans that the delicious is known for.

The delicious pecan begins fully fruiting after just 5 years, producing as many as 25 gallons of nuts each season! Not only that but it is an attractive tree with glossy leaves and broad crowns that also make them useful as a shade tree.

But the delicious is not without its faults – it is one of the most susceptible to nut scab, meaning it requires an extra degree of maintenance to keep healthy. Cultivars such as the elliot or kanza make a good pollinator pair for the delicious.

Growing Zones: 6-9

Average Size at Maturity: 75-100 feet tall, with a similar spread

Fruiting Season: Mid-Fall

Available at: Nature Hills

4. Candy Pecan (Carya illinoinensis ‘Candy’)

Candy Pecan Tree
Image via Nature Hills

One of the most attractive pecan cultivars for the southeast is the candy, with a full, lush canopy and small leaves that give it a neat and even appearance as it matures. It is also a more manageable size for most properties than certain other varieties, topping out at around 60-70 feet tall.

The candy pecan was originally cultivated for use in sweet desserts, hence the name, but it tastes excellent eaten fresh or used in any type of cooking. Candy pecan trees are reliable producers, and begin fruiting once they reach just 8 feet tall.

The candy pecan is disease-resistant and low maintenance, needing rare watering once established and only occasional pruning to manage dead or diseased branches. They require a location with full sunlight, at least 6 to 8 hours per day. These pecans also need to be pollinated and do well when paired with the desirable variety.

Growing Zones: 6-9

Average Size at Maturity: 50-70 feet tall, with a 50-foot spread

Fruiting Season: Early Fall

Available at: Nature Hills

5. Elliot Pecan (Carya illinoinensis ‘Elliott’)

Elliot Pecan Tree
Image via Nature Hills

Perhaps the most widespread pecan variety in the southeast, the elliot pecan is a reliable tree for Virginia gardeners.

Discovered in Florida in the 1900s, the elliot pecan is known for its rich, buttery flavor and tear-drop-shaped nuts. It is the perfect pecan for making a classic American pecan pie, as well as a number of other dishes. They tend to be one of the highest-earning pecan nuts in commercial operations.

It is also one of the largest types of pecan tree, often growing to 100 feet tall with a canopy that can spread to 75 feet wide – VA gardeners should ensure they have enough space to accommodate the elliot in their garden or orchard.

The elliot is also resistant to nut scab and drought, and are consistent producers year after year. Its biggest weakness is the complexity of the elliot pecan’s pollination process – the Elliot sheds its pollen after its female flowers are able to receive it, so you will need a complimentary variety that produces pollen earlier.

Other Common Names: Elliott Pecan

Growing Zones: 6-9

Average Size at Maturity: 70-100 feet tall, with a 40-75 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

Delicious Pecans Every Season

Pecans are a classic native nut in North America, and Virginian gardeners are fortunate to have a number of tasty and relatively easy-growing tree varieties to choose from.

As long as you understand the pollination type and requirement of your chosen varieties, you’ll have a bounty of rich, buttery pecans for years to come.

For more edible nut varieties check out our list of edible and native nut trees that grow in Virginia. And to extend your home harvest even further, why not plant fruit trees suitable for Virginia too!

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Shannon Campbell

Off-Grid Gardener & Food Forager

Shannon has always loved looking after trees and plants since as long as she can remember. She grew up gardening with her family in their off-grid home and looking after her neighbor's plant nursery. As a child she also participated in native tree replanting, and as an adult has volunteered in reforestation programs in northern Vietnam. Today, she puts her horticultural efforts into tending her vegetable and herb gardens, and learning about homesteading and permaculture. When she’s not reading, writing, and gardening, she’ll be out fishing and foraging for edible flora and fungi in the countryside around her home.

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