Pecans are very meaty, rich nuts that people love and can incorporate into a huge range of dishes, with pecan pie being at the top of the list. There are also several types of pecans available, and each pecan has something a little unique and different from the other. There are roughly 500 pecan tree cultivars today, and the differences come down to the thickness of the shell, size of the nut, flowering timing, and the age of the first bearing. There are two main types of pecan trees, including:
- Type One – These trees have male flowers that will release the pollen before the female flowers are ready to receive the pollen.
- Type Two – These trees also have male flowers, but they release their pollen after the female flowers are ready to receive it.
So, planting three or more types of pecan trees together, you stand the best chances for pollination, and you get the biggest pecans. The pecan’s size is always a factor when you attempt to find the best ones on the current market. Pecan sizes get classified based on the number of nuts per pound, and they use the following to determine the size:
- Small – More than 70 nuts in each pound
- Medium – Between 55 and 70 nuts in each pound
- Large – Less than 55 nuts in each pound
Meatier, bigger types of pecans are always the most popular choice, and there are many available. We’re going to outline 20 of the most popular types of pecans, and you can get your very own pecan tree to enjoy in your yard.
1. Amling Pecans
One of the most highly recommended types of pecans on the market, this tree is significantly large. It’ll get up to 100 feet tall, and it can reach up to 150 feet in some instances. It works as a nice shade tree for your yard, and you can harvest your pecans in September and October.
It looks lovely in your yard and does a great job of shielding you from the sun without having to do a lot of maintenance. It’ll also produce medium pecans at roughly 62 nuts a pound. As a bonus, this is a scab-resistant type of pecan tree, and it’s a very popular choice for home gardens.
2. Caddo Pecans
This type of pecan was originally from Georgia, and first came to the market in 1922. You’ll get a very high yield of pecans from it, and this makes it a very popular tree. It’s perfect for putting in planting zones six to nine, and it’ll give you roughly 60 nuts in every pound. The nuts are very easy to peel, and this makes them enjoyable.
You’ll get glossy green leaves with very sturdy branches, and it’s a great tree to add to your front yard where you can appreciate it as you go by. It can survive extreme heat without damage, and it can withstand some cold temperatures too. So, you get a very versatile tree that is hardy.
3. Candy Pecans
This is a slightly older type of pecan that got the name because they were originally intended for use in sweet treats. However, they’re also excellent for baking and cooking, or you can eat them raw for a slightly sweet note. Like a lot of pecan trees, they grow best if you live in zones six to nine, and they produce a medium-sized nut very quickly.
4. Cape Fear Pecans
Originally from North Carolina, this type of pecan tree produces nuts that weigh roughly eight grams. So, you’ll get around 58 pecans per pound of nuts you buy or harvest. The kernel is very light colored and attractive looking, and they start producing nuts at a younger age.
The pecans are either a broad oval or oblong shape with a medium thickness to the shell. These types of pecans are fairly resistant to a host of diseases, and they grow in zones six to nine the best. Also, two types of pecans, the Stuart and the Elliot, work as pollinizers for this pecan tree. The trees are very rigorous and sturdy, and they form very deep taproots as they grow.
5. Creek Pecans
If you choose to plant this type of pecan tree, it’s very productive. You’ll quickly be able to have more pecans than you can feasibly use. It’s both scab and disease resistant, and it’ll start producing pecans within five years of planting it to ensure that you can enjoy it quickly.
On average, this type of pecan will give you 54 nuts for every pound, and they have a much thinner shell that is easy to peel. Once it starts producing nuts, it’ll produce more each year. When the tree matures, it can get up to 50 feet wide and 100 feet tall, and this makes it a stunning shade tree.
6. Curtis Pecans
As a late-season pollinizer, this type of pecan tree will produce a lot of nuts that come with a medium-thin shell and they’re on the smaller side. The shell will also have dark speckles on it. It requires a decent amount of heat to grow well, so you should only plant it if you live in zones six to nine or you live in the southern portion of the United States. This tree is very upright and vigorous, and it’s resistant to pecan scab and leaf diseases.
7. Desirable Pecans
When you’re looking for high-quality types of pecans, you can’t get much better than this option. They have medium to thick shells on them with a much larger nut. If you look at even half of this type of pecan, the size is sure to impress you. The shells are also relatively soft, and they fall between the medium and large size range.
In the Southeastern part of the United States, this is the type of pecan that sets the standard for other nuts. The trees are very large, and the pecans will start to ripen from the end of October until the second week in November. They won’t do well in overly dry conditions, and they prefer to be in zones six to nine.
8. Elliot Pecans
The Elliot type of pecan is originally from Florida, and it has a reputation for being a tasty and sweet nut. The tree can get up to 70 feet wide and 100 feet high at full maturity, and it usually produces 72 nuts for every pound in teardrop-shaped shells. It has the ability to grow in most southeastern United States regions, and it’ll produce nuts from November well into February each year.
This is a vigorous and strong tree that is disease and scab-resistant. It needs a Type 1 pollinator to produce nuts, like the Oconee or Caddo tree. It offers several positive qualities that let this tree be the perfect addition for commercial and home use, and it works well in larger orchards with fruit trees.
9. Hican Pecans
The trees with this type of pecan are a mix of Mahan and Hickory. However, they’re much more tolerant to the cold than other trees. The pecans will offer a very elegant flavor profile that tastes like 20% pecan and 80% hickey, but they’re very similar to northern-style pecans. They are a highly prized species because they are extremely rare. The trees can pollinate with pecan and hickory trees.
10. Kanza Pecans
If you’re after a type of pecan that is resistant to disease and very tolerant to the cold, Kanza is the answer. As a bonus, it doubles as a nice shade tree during the hotter summer months. Since this is a heat-tolerant species, it thrives in moist but well-drained soils with full sunlight. You’ll start to harvest the nuts in September and continue through October.
You’ll get roughly 74 nuts per pound with this type of pecan, and the tree can get 80 feet wide and 100 feet high. It has very bright green coloring on the leaves, and you’ll get a very tasty, meaty pecan. They don’t do well in very cold temperatures, so you should only grow them if you live in southern states.
11. Mahan Pecans
This type of pecan is very rich with the flavor and has a soft shell, and they grow very large. Even when the tree is on the younger side, you’ll get an abundance of nuts and a lot of shade for the yard. These pecans like drier climates and warmer winters, and they ripen between November 10th and November 25th.
12. Mandan Pecans
Mandan pecan trees will give you around 49 nuts in each pound, and this makes them a very productive type of pecan tree. They can get 70 feet wide and 100 feet high, so they double as shade trees for your yard or garden.
This is a northern tree species, so the nuts will get decently large and the shells are so thin that you can easily enjoy them right after you harvest them. They have strong branch angles that allow them to stand out with your garden design. You will need a Type 2 pollinator like the Kanza or Elliot pecan tree for it to produce nuts.
13. Moreland Pecans
This type of pecan tree is extremely resistant to diseases, and it’ll produce very high yields each year. They are originally from Louisiana, and they’ve vigorous trees that offer very dense nuts and leaves. If you go with this type of pecan, you’ll get around 55 nuts per pound.
They grow best if you live in zones six to nine, and they can get pollinated by the Desirable pecan tree. This allows the tree to produce medium-thick shells with tasty pecans that are very popular.
14. Oconee Pecans
Offering around 48 nuts in a pound, this type of pecan tree does best in zones six to nine. It gives you shells that are very easy to crack with meaty nuts that will stay intact after you open them. The nuts will show up after the fifth year of growing. The older the tree gets, the more pecans you’ll get each season.
You should pollinate this type of pecan tree with a Type 2 tree like the Elliot or Kanza. It’ll get 70 feet wide and 100 feet tall at full maturity, and it’s a very low-maintenance pick that is a fairly new hybrid to the market that has been available since the 1980s. It needs moist soil and full sun to do well.
15. Osage Pecans
This tree was specifically created to thrive in the northern portion of the United States, and they offer medium or small nuts that have an oval or elliptical shape and are very high-quality. The trees resist diseases very well and start to ripen in early September each year.
They are very similar to Elliot types of pecans, and they have a fantastic oil content, rich taste, and they create perfect halves. Since the production of pecans for this tree is strictly in the northern United States, this is the perfect tree to have for colder regions.
16. Paper-Shell Pecans
One of the biggest advantages of this type of pecan is that the shells are paper-thin, as the name suggests. In turn, anyone can open them. They’re popular for use in baking pecan pies, and the taste is slightly sweeter than normal pecans. The cultivation process is why the shells are so thin. You can crack them open without having to use a nutcracker, and this makes them great for elderly people, anyone who has dexterity issues, or small children.
17. Pawnee Pecans
If you’re considering adding a pecan tree to your landscape but you have a smaller yard or limited space, this is the type of pecan tree to get. It will usually get only 30 feet wide and 30 feet tall at the most, and it will grow nicely from Texas to Georgia. It’s an excellent pollinator, and they produce very sweet and large pecans. They also fall into the paper-thin shell category, and this makes them very easy to crack open.
18. Stuart Pecans
Even though this type of pecan is large, they’re not quite as large as Desirable types of pecans. However, they are some of the most common pecan types on the market, and you should grow them if you live in zones six to nine. The trees are very sturdy with an upright growth habit, and you’ll find them mostly in the Southeastern portion of the United States.
This is a very low-maintenance tree to have when you compare them to other pecan trees, and they’re later-season pollinators. So, it’s best to plant them mixed with an early-season pollinator. The medium-sized nuts come roughly 52 per pound, but it takes between 8 and 10 years before the plant will start producing once you plant it.
19. Summer Pecans
Originally from Southern Georgia, this type of pean is a very late-season pollinizer that will give you very large nuts at approximately 48 nuts in each pound. The kernels can be slightly darker than other pecan types, but it’s a very tasty, high-quality nut. Summer pecan trees are great for planting in your yard in zones six to nine. A lot of people mistakenly think that they’re only for commercial growth, but they also do well in residential settings.
20. Zinner Pecans
Offering stunning green leaves and the ability to give you up to 44 nuts in a pound, this type of pecan will give you very thin-shelled nuts that are easy to peel. They get up to 50 feet wide and 70 feet high, and they’re very easy to grow. This is an excellent option for novice gardeners.
You can pair it with a Type 1 pollinator like the Cape Fear or Caddo pecan tree. Since they’re so low-maintenance and they produce such delicious nuts, they work well for commercial and domestic settings. They prefer to be planted in zones six to nine, like most other types of pecan trees.
How to Grow Various Types of Pecan Trees
A single tree will produce enough nuts for a larger family, and they give your yard plenty of shade to make the southern summers easier to bear. However, it’s not practical to grow a pecan tree in a smaller yard because most of them are very large and wide. At full maturity, most trees stand between 100 and 150 feet tall with a spreading canopy.
Planting Pecan Trees: Ideal Location and Site Preparation
You want to plant your type of pecan tree in a location that has free-draining soil at a depth of five feet. Growing trees with a long taproot that is prone to diseases if the soil is soggy makes it vital to have well-draining soil. Hilltops are an ideal location, and you want to space them between 60 and 80 feet apart from power lines and structures.
If you prune the roots and tree before you plant your tree, it can encourage strong growth and make it easier to care for the tree. You want to cut one-half to one-third of the tree and all of the side branches off to allow for strong root development before they have to support a broad canopy. Don’t leave any branches lower than five feet from the ground intact. This makes it easier for you to keep up with the groundcover and it prevents branches from being obstructions.
Any bare root trees that feel brittle or dry should get soaked in a bucket of water before you plant it. The taproot of a pecan tree grown in a container requires special attention before you plant it. The longer taproot typically grows in a circle around the bottom of your container and you want to straighten it before you plant it. If it’s not possible to do so, you can cut the lower part of the taproot before removing all broken or damaged pieces.
How to Plant a Pecan Tree
You want to plant your types of pecan trees in a hole that is roughly two feet wide and three to five feet deep. Position your tree in a hole so that your tree’s soil line is even with the surrounding soil and adjust for the depth of the hole.
Start filling the hole in with soil, and arrange the roots in a natural position as you work. You don’t want to add fertilizer or soil amendments to the fill dirt. Once you get the hole half full, you will fill it with water to get rid of the air pockets and settle the soil. Once the water drains, fill the rest of the hole with soil. Press down with your foot before giving it a good drink of water. If there is a depression after you water, you may have to add more soil.
Caring for Your Pecan Trees
For newly planted, young pecan trees, regular watering is a mush. You should water weekly if it doesn’t rain for the first two to three years after you plant it. You want to apply your water deeply and slowly while allowing the soil to absorb as much as it can. Stop watering when the water runs off.
When your trees mature, the soil moisture will determine the size, number, and fullness of the nuts it produces as well as the amount of new nut growth. You want to water it enough so the soil stays evenly moist from the time the buds first start to swell until you harvest them. Cover your root zone with two to four inches of mulch to slow down water evaporation and keep the soil moist.
The year after you plant your type of pecan tree in the spring, you should spread a pound of 5-10-5 fertilizer over a 25 square foot area around your tree. Make sure to start a foot away from the trunk. The second and third years after you plant the tree, apply a 10-10-10 fertilizer in the same area in later winter or early spring. Apply it a second time in late spring. Once the tree starts to bear nuts, add four pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer for each inch of the trunk diameter.
When and How to Harvest Pecans
Stately and statuesque pecan trees will start to shed the nuts during the fall months before they drop their leaves. Depending on the climate and the variety you have, harvesting your pecans will take place from late in September until early in November. Pecans by Peter Burka / CC BY-SA 2.0
Before the pecans start to drop, they don’t look anything like the finished product. The nut will form inside of a green husk that will gradually turn brown as it dries out and the nut matures. As the nuts start to mature, the husks will start to crack open, and this is a clue that they’re ready to harvest. Once the pecans mature fully, they drop out of the husks and end up on the ground.
As long as the ground is dry when the pecans fall, they will start to cure and dry to help improve their quality. Curing the pecans will enhance the flavor, aroma, and texture. Wet ground will darken the seed coat and increase how much fatty acids are in each pecan, and this can lead to stale or rancid nuts.
If you allow the pecans to fall to the ground, harvesting them is extremely simple. You can encourage the pecans to drop by knocking them out of the tree using a long pole or gently shaking the branches. The key to harvesting these nuts on the ground is to pick them up as soon as possible before pests get at them.
The hulls will usually drop from the pecans or stay in the tree for the most part. Some hulls can stay stuck to the nuts, and you’ll have to hull them if this is the case. If you have several nuts with tightly stuck hulls, the nuts aren’t fully ripe.
Once you harvest your pecans, you’ll have to dry or cure them before you store them. You can dry them very slowly by spreading them out in a thinner layer on a plastic sheet in an area where the air circulates and the light is low. Stir your pecans around to make this process go quicker, and consider having a fan going on them. Depending on your conditions, this process can take between 2 and 10 days. A pecan that is properly dried will have a brittle kernel that separates easily from the exterior.
Once you dry your pecans, you can make them last longer by freezing or refrigerating them. Whole pecans left in the shell will store much longer than shelled ones. You can store whole kernels for a year in 32 to 45-degree F space. If you drop the temperature to 0 degrees F, they can last for two years or more.
Now that you know the 20 most popular types of pecans, how to grow them, and how to dry and store them, you can try it for yourself. You will need to pay attention to which type of pollinator you need to produce nuts. However, if you get it right, you’ll end up with a tree that produces an abundance of high-quality pecans to enjoy.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.