If you are looking for a perennial nut tree to produce a tasty, crunchy snack full of healthy vitamins and minerals, you may consider planting a pistachio tree. The Pistacia vera requires very specific growing conditions, but, if you can meet its needs, it will yield an abundant harvest.
Pistachio trees grow in arid, hot climates that get plenty of sunshine and the seedlings are best planted in late fall. Though slow-growing (they can take a minimum of five to seven years to produce substantial harvests), the rewards of growing your own food far outweigh the effort and patience required.
These fruit trees can grow up to 30 feet tall, with taproots just as long. Their flowers are not showy and lack petals altogether. But what they lack in looks they make up in tasty nut production.
|Botanical Name||Pistacia vera|
|Common Name||Pistachio tree|
|Mature Size||25 to 30 feet tall|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Light, well-draining, sandy, loamy|
|Soil pH||Neutral to slightly alkaline|
|Flower Color||Reddish-brown buds|
|Hardiness Zones||7 to 11|
|Native Area||Central Asia|
|Toxicity||Toxic to horses|
How to Plant Pistachio Trees
Pistacia vera is a dioecious variety of fruit tree. In simple terms, this means that they are not self-pollinating. A tree will either have male or female flowers, and you'll need one of each if you want to actually produce pistachio nuts.
Gusty winds in the spring and summer are crucial for a healthy pistachio harvest. The pollen from the male trees must have enough wind to blow from the male flowers to the female tree’s flowers. Typically, trees planted within 50 feet of each other will be able to pollinate.
Pistachio Tree Care
Growing pistachios isn’t an option for everyone because of their specific climate needs. The biggest factor to consider is the temperature, humidity, and rainfall of your area. Pistachio trees require very hot temperatures during the day and don't appreciate high humidity or wet soil. It does best in sandy, well-draining, loamy soil. Infrequent, deep waterings are best.
The pistachio tree needs full sun and thrives in hot, arid climates.
Though the pistachio tree will grow in almost any soil type, it does best in light, sandy, loamy soils that are well-draining. Wet, heavy soil is not an option for these trees. Because of their long taproots, it is important that the soil reaches deep into the ground.
The pistachio tree is very drought-tolerant and prefers arid landscapes. However, do not allow this reputation to think it gives you an excuse to deprive your pistachio tree of water. They still require plenty of water to produce an abundant nut harvest.
Your tree will appreciate deep, infrequent waterings, allowing the water to saturate the soil. In the heat of summer, extra water is appreciated. Allow the water to drain before watering again; the pistachio does not do well in soggy soil or standing water. For large orchards, many people use irrigation systems.
Temperature and Humidity
These trees like it hot! Optimal temperatures for the pistachio tree hover at around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite loving such hot temperatures, it does require colder temperatures (45 degrees Fahrenheit or below) for a portion of the year.
This temperature dip triggers dormancy, which is crucial for surviving winter weather. However, pistachio trees can't tolerate frozen ground.
Unlike tropical plants that like hot temperatures and humidity, the pistachio tree does not like too much moisture. It thrives in hot, arid climates.
Before adding any fertilizer, it is important to know what your soil may lack by having a soil test done. If it is lacking in nitrogen, phosphorous, or potassium, you can tailor the fertilization to fit the nutrient needs of your tree.
It is best to apply the fertilizer in the late winter to early spring to help produce a good harvest.
It typically takes a tree five to seven years to bear nuts, usually in October.
When pistachio nuts are ready for harvesting, the hulls will turn a beautiful pink-yellow color and the epicarp (the outer husk of the nut) will separate from the inner husk. Once this occurs, simply rap the branches to dislodge the nuts and collect your bounty.
For an easy harvest, try placing a sheet or tarp below the tree before dislodging the nuts. After collection, be sure to remove the epicarps within 24 hours for the best flavor and freshness.
How to Grow in Pots
These trees can be grown in containers for the first three to five years as a seedling. After this, they should be planted in the garden to allow the tree to mature. This is crucial because of this species long taproot, which would be stunted with long-term container growth.
Like other nut-bearing trees, the Pistacia vera is classified as a fruit tree. This makes pruning vital to getting the best nut harvest.
When the tree is young, identify branches to act as the main branches for the growing tree. It is best to choose ones that are spaced evenly around the trunk. Avoid branches that are directly across from each other.
After choosing the main branches, trim away all branches below the lowest main branch—this should be 24 to 32 inches above the soil. All other branches should be pruned to approximately 4 to 6 inches in length.
Pruning your pistachio tree mid-summer will help encourage the tree to branch and grow thicker. To stimulate ongoing growth, you may want to prune your tree two to three times a year.
Propagating Pistachio Trees
Pistachio trees can be propagated through budding onto rootstock in the fall. It can be tricky to have success though. Many people will buy sapling trees instead to guarantee success.
If your pistachio tree is kept in overly moist conditions (whether through irrigation, spacing or climate), this can lead to a disease called Alternaria Late Blight (Alternaria alternata) where black spores can develop on foliage lesions. Botrytis can also be a problem in wet springs, particularly for male trees.
Verticillium wilt (Verticillium dahliae) can be particularly destructive, even causing the death of the tree. Planting resistant rootstock can help ensure this does a problem you will have to face,