If you live in Tennessee and love the idea of making a fresh-baked pecan pie from your own pecan tree, then you’re in luck! The majority of the state is well-suited for growing several varieties of productive pecan trees.
To grow pecan trees in Tennessee, you’ll need deep, fertile, well-draining soil. Some gardeners in particularly cold pockets in mountainous areas may struggle with their pecan production, but overall these trees should thrive in TN growing zones.
While some pecan trees may self-pollinate to a degree, they grow and produce best from cross-pollination with another genetically distinct variety. As such, we’ll recommend suitable pollinator varieties to plant with our top three picks.
3 Excellent Pecan Trees to Plant in TN
This variety of pecan is known for producing notably large, high-quality nuts. It also matures younger than most varieties and may start producing pecans as young as 6 years.
Like many pecan varieties, however, it does tend to follow an alternating production cycle. In high-production years, the quality of the nuts may decrease. Providing organically-rich and microbially-active soil amendments may help increase quality on years with high yields.
For successful nut-producing cross-pollination, we recommend growing Pawnee pecan within 200 feet of its compatible pollinator varieties such as Elliot, Sumner, or Stuart.
Growing Zones: 6-10
Average Size at Maturity: 50-100 feet tall with a spread of 30-75 feet
Nut Bearing Season: Mid-October through November
2. Elliot Pecan (Carya illinoinensis ‘Elliot’)
For growers in TN’s cooler, more mountainous climates, the Elliot pecan variety is an excellent choice. Known for its cold-hardiness, this pecan variety is more likely to consistently produce in TN’s 5b regions. Elliot pecan trees, like many varieties, prefer deep, well-draining, fertile, and neutral to slightly acidic soil.
This variety produces small, plump, and delicious tear-dropped shaped pecans. The Elliot pecan also adapts well to a variety of soil types and is highly drought-resistant once established.
For successful nut-producing cross-pollination, we recommend growing Elliot pecan within 200 feet of its compatible pollinator varieties such as Pawnee, Desirable, or Oconee.
Growing Zones: 5b-9
Average Size at Maturity: 50-100 feet tall with a 30-75 ft spread
Nut Bearing Season: Late September-October
An absolute favorite for its wonderfully sweet nuts and gorgeous canopy, the Desirable pecan is a great choice for TN gardeners who want to harvest their pecans for baked goods and desserts. This variety is also one of the most common commercially grown pecans in the Southeast.
The nuts of this pecan are medium-large in size. Desirable pecans are favored for their thin, easy-to-crack shells, and this tree is one of the first cultivars marketed as “paper shells”.
Desirable pecans typically start producing at around 10 years of age- later than several other popular cultivars- however, a huge selling point of this cultivar is that it is not susceptible to alternate bearing cycles.
For successful nut-producing cross-pollination, we recommend growing Desirable pecan within 200 feet of its compatible pollinator varieties such as Elliot, Sumner, and Stuart.
Growing Zones: 6-9
Average Size at Maturity: 60-100 feet tall with a 40-80 foot spread
Nut Bearing Season: October- November
Available at: Nature Hills
Chosen for their nut quality, beauty, and ability to thrive across much of the state’s growing climates, these three varieties are excellent nut trees for TN gardeners.
Growing from grafted trees that are at least 6 years old will allow you to start enjoying pecan production within a year or two of planting.
Remember that these large trees will require proper cross-pollination, space and, deep, organically-rich soil to thrive.
Plant with care and enjoy your bounty!
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Cam is a forest dweller writing about animals, plants, and ecological-centered living from the hollers of Southeast Appalachia where she lives off-grid in her self-built cabin.
She shares 20 forested acres with her wonderful partners and pals, an ever-growing pack of rescue dogs, and all the plants and critters who call these woods home.
When she’s not writing, she’s probably either on a mushroom hike, working on the infinite list of to-do projects around the land, playing her viola, or bringing home yet another foster pup.