How to Grow a Pistachio Tree

People can’t get enough of pistachios; yearly, in the United States, more than 45,000 tons of pistachios are consumed. Even though the first commercial crop of pistachios wasn’t grown in the United States until 1976, California’s production alone today makes the United States the second largest producer of pistachios in the world, falling second only to Iran with an average yearly crop yield of about 108,598 metric tonnes. However, for some truly devout pistachio lovers, those crop numbers might not cut it. If you love pistachios, live in the right environment, and want to enjoy them from your own backyard, consider these tips for growing your own pistachio tree.

Manage your expectations.

While it would be nice to plant a pistachio tree at night and wake up to a bushel of fresh nuts in the morning, growing pistachios — like growing anything, especially on a tree — takes patience and a good deal of time. Most pistachio trees won’t start producing nuts until they’ve reached at least 8 years of age, and even then they likely won’t produce an impressive crop until they’ve been alive at least 15 years.

Getting ready to plant.

If you want to grow a pistachio tree from the ground up, the best time to start is late autumn. First, you need to obtain some raw pistachio seeds. If you purchase nuts at the store in the hopes of planting them, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Since most nuts you purchase in the market have been roasted or cooked in some way or another, they’re unusable for planting. You’ll need to make sure the seeds you buy are raw. Then, you prepare the seeds for planting by allowing them to soak in room temperature water for about 16 hours. By soaking them, you allow the seeds to swell with water and soften which lets the embryo inside know that it’s time to start growing. Once the seeds are ready, before you plant them outside you want to let the plant germinate and establish itself first. Plant the soaked seeds in small flower pots, allowing them to receive partial sunlight, and keep them indoors until springtime rolls around.

Transplanting outside.

Pistachios are mostly tricky to grow due to the particular climate that they need to flourish. While they grow best when they’re exposed to temperatures higher than 100°F/38°C during the day, they also require winters that reach between 15°F/-9°C and 45°F/7°C so they are able to effectively complete their dormancy period without freezing. Pistachio trees are fairly hardy, and can make it through droughts, but they do not do well in Also, while pistachio trees can survive and even flourish in any soil type, they do their best in deep sandy loam soil, as it drains very well.

Preparing for pollination.

Before your tree can produce any amount of nuts, the flowers need to be pollinated in order to produce. Because of this, you need to have two trees to produce any nuts; a male tree and a female tree. Once the trees are planted outside, the work of pollinating goes to the bugs and the bees as they transfer pollen back and forth between your trees.

Keeping the trees well pruned.

In order to achieve maximum crop yields, pruning your trees is a must, especially when they’re young. You’ll want to select approximately five branches of your young tree to serve as the primary structure as it grows, cutting all branches above and below these down to 5 inches to prevent them from hindering growth of the trunk. Then, when you prune them in the summer, trim those same branches back to about 3 feet in length to promote growth. Trees can be pruned between two and three times a year, once in the spring (and/or summer), and once during autumn before the tree goes into dormancy.

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