Pecan Seedling

We got some really good/large Pecans from a local produce place last fall. I stuck a few of them in pots to see if they would sprout. One of them did and I set it out recently. I’m wondering if it was pollinated from another Pecan tree, or possibly a Hickory or something else compatible(?) The leaves are considerably larger than another Pecan tree I purchased a few years ago. More so than any pictures I’ve seen of Pecan trees actually. What’s the chances of this growing up and eventually having good tasting nuts? If that’s not likely I could always graft a scion from a known variety and use it as rootstock right?

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Whether it’s the case with pecans I do not know, but in some young plants the leaves are outsized. Cottonwoods around here are a good example.


Yep, I’ve seen the same type of enlarged leaves on young oaks and hickories.


Ah, OK… I’ll just wait until it develops more leaves and see if that’s all it is. Then wait many years for it to have nuts :slight_smile:


As others noted, seedlings often have extra large leaflets. There is also a genetic component with Mahan and its descendants often having very large leaflets. If you wait for it to produce nuts, it will likely take 12 to 20 years. Fertilize and irrigate it and you can cut that down to 7 to 12 years.

As for the probability of getting a good pecan from a seedling, the odds are seriously stacked against you. About 1 seedling in 300 makes decent pecans and is reasonably disease resistant. About 1 seedling in 2000 is a good pecan worth keeping alive and enjoying the nuts. About 1 seedling in 20000 is good enough to name and propagate. And about 1 in 200,000 is a world beating pecan that will become an industry standard. The caveat is that you have to start with really good parents to have a chance of finding that 1 in 200,000.

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I was aware of Apples and others not growing true from seed. I just hadn’t spent any time researching Pecans, and it sounds like they are similar in that regard. Hopefully it will serve as rootstock for a known reliable variety at least.



Hello, just found this in one of my milkweed pots. Is it a pecan that the potter tossed in by mistake?

Wipe dirt off the nut and you can likely tell for sure. Looks like it though.

I pull up Black Walnut seedlings animals carry to my wife’s flower beds all the time. Amazing how intact the nut usually still is…

The problem with seedling pecans is they take way too long to bear nuts. Would make a good rootstock however. I don’t have to plant any. I have a huge pecan tree and seedlings come up all the time in my flower beds. Root is too deep to pull up! My seedling pecan tree has nuts 55/lb as big as stuart pecans. Picked up 100+ pounds this year from one 50+ foot tall tree, 24 inches or better at the base.


Agree, most of us don’t have 12 to 20 years to wait on those first nuts. A grafted tree can produce a crop in 7 or 8 years.


The town I grew up in had pecans everywhere, nearly every house had a pecan tree. I never heard of anyone buying a grafted tree, they were just whatever seedling came up. No doubt there was some “natural selection” where the owners cut down trees with bad nuts and not those with good ones, but most of these trees were pretty good. I guess my point is, I don’t think it’s a 1 in a 1,000 shot of getting a decent seedling pecan, my experience is it’s more on the order of 1 in 5 if you start with good parents.

The caveat is that I’m talking about an acceptably good tree for a homeowner, not a professional. There are so many traits that have to be excellent for commercial production that it is indeed a 1 in a million shot of finding a winner. Almost all of the trees there had some issue, alternate bearing, a weak structure, scab or weevil susceptibility, smaller nuts, poor nut color, etc. I would never consider seedling trees for a commercial orchard, but for a homeowner looking for a pretty tree and a few gallons of decent nuts there’s an OK chance of success.

The big problem though will be time to fruit. I remember my dad dug up a small seedling pecan tree and moved it to the house when I was little. That tree has just recently started bearing, and it’s been nearly 30 years since it was transplanted! To top it off the nuts are the size of a fingernail.


Grafting onto a seedling/rootstock that’s many years old already? Is that how those years are being shaved? Otherwise I’m just not sure how…

Age of the rootstock is unimportant when grafting to a known cultivar. Grafting a scion from a bearing tree puts adult phase wood on top. Since the scion has already transitioned from juvenile to adult, the only delay is for the scion to grow large enough to support nuts. I have seen plenty of nuts produced on 2 year old grafts, but it is never more than a few nuts. At roughly 7 years old, a grafted tree should be large enough to support a few pounds of pecans.

Bigdoug, I might agree with you that seedling pecans can be ok up to a point, but for a person who wants to plant one or two trees and expects them to produce lots of pecans, I would never suggest a seedling. That said, seedling trees with proper management can be very profitable. They generally do not have to be sprayed for diseases and may only need one or two sprays for pests. The only expense remaining is to harvest the nuts. Compare this with commercially grown pecans that require up to 20 sprays per year and must be irrigated. They wind up bringing less profit than the seedling trees that don’t have to be sprayed and get watered by rainfall and/or nearby streams.

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K, that makes sense… I’d never really researched this and a quick search and read describes it even further: How long will it take for pecan trees to begin producing?

I have some space I’m not doing anything with, and have no plans to do anything else with. So I’ve planted a few grafted pecans and one seedling. The seedling might take a very long time and might be of inferior quality. But that’s fine, I’ll just let it do it’s thing. If I never get to sample nuts from it, hopefully someone else will.

There are a few Black Walnut semi close and even thought Pecans are “related”, I’m not sure how much negative impact Juglone might have on them. They’re otherwise in very fertile soil with a creek nearby, moisture won’t be a problem. Spraying and their eventual size on the other hand…

A learning process for sure… Thanks.

Pecans produce small amounts of juglone and are pretty much immune to it. I have pecan trees growing right in the middle of my walnut grove with zero issues. Why do I have pecans in the middle of my walnuts? Well, it started about 25 years ago when I planted a row of pecans for rootstocks and then did not dig all of them up. Some of them are 8 inches diameter now.

This is the now fallen ‘Hark’ pecan ortet after 35 years from a seed. It has a 18.5" diameter and is 75’ tall.

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Ah, very good to know, thanks! I was a bit worried about Juglone but hoped Pecans would be more “immune” to it. There are lists of plants that are sensitive and tolerant of it, but not always as complete as they could be. Always good to hear real-world results like that…

You can get lucky sometimes. I have a volunteer pecan tree that grew up on my ranch and I was meaning to cut it down or graft it. I never got around to it and the last two years it has started to produce and it had good sized nuts. I was surprised because I have two other trees it could of sprouted from. One is a native pecan and the other one is a grafted variety.

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The difference between an optimist and a pessimist:

An optimist plants a seedling tree and is happy because he might get lucky. A pessimist plants a grafted tree because he wants to tilt the odds overwhelmingly in favor of getting lucky. A dedicated grower researches thoroughly, consults more experienced growers, studies methods, then plants carefully chosen pecan trees adapted to his climate. The average Joe buys a Desirable tree from Walmart and wonders why it never produces pecans. Then there is the Dabbler who at least asks a few questions and has better than Joe results.

Which are you? Optimist? Pessimist? Experienced Grower? or Average Joe? or Dabbler?

My pecan seedling, came with the house near Houston. In the 7 years I’ve lived here the second year for lots of nuts. Got 25+ gallons/100+ pounds of them this year at 55 nuts per pound which is in Stuart range. Last year about the same but nuts only 1/2 the size. So small I gave away 25 pounds after shelling as many as I could stand. Tree is 24+ inches at the base and 50+ feet high. Have been trimming all the branches off up to 25 feet as high as I can reach with a 24 foot ladder to reduce it’s hurricane footprint. If you look close you can see the two limbs I trimmed this year about half way up. Large native across the street produced lots of nuts before cut down but they were the size of a single peanut. No signs of grafting on my tree. Whole neighborhood is full of seedling trees. Home section across the way is “Pecan Grove” but alas most of the trees cuts down to build houses. Picked up a couple pounds today but they are mostly fallen. No spray and no pests either. “About 1 seedling in 2000 is a good pecan worth keeping alive and enjoying the nuts.” I think that is exaggerated.

A friend has 5+ acres of pecan trees. “How many nuts did you get last year Bob? None but I saved $4,000 from not having to spray them!” Here near Houston not a good region to grow pecans commercially, too many pests and too much rain in the fall.