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Pruning Pistachio Trees: Learn How To Prune Pistachio Nut Trees

Pruning Pistachio Trees: Learn How To Prune Pistachio Nut Trees


By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Pistachio trees are attractive, deciduous trees that thrive in long, hot, dry summers and moderately chilly winters. Although care of the desert trees is relatively uninvolved, pruning pistachio trees are important for commercial orchardists who use machines to harvest the pistachios. For the home gardener, pruning is less important and is primarily used to increase yields and control the size of the tree. Read on for helpful pistachio pruning tips.

How and When to Prune Pistachio Trees

According to California Rare Fruit Growers, initial pruning involves training the pistachio tree to a central leader with four or five primary (scaffold) limbs about 4 feet (1 m.) above the ground. The lowest branch should be about 2 to 3 feet (0.5 to 1 m.) above the ground.

Plan carefully, as this will be the primary structure of the tree. For example, although the branches should be equidistant around the circumference of the tree, they shouldn’t be directly across from one another.

All other branches should be cut as evenly with the trunk as possible. This initial pruning should take place in the spring of the first growing season.

Prune the primary branches to lengths of 24 to 36 inches (61 to 91.5 cm.) in June. This will force each of the primary limbs to develop side branches, which results in a fuller, bushier tree.

Trimming a Pistachio Tree

Once the tree is trained to a central leader, little pruning is required and too much reduces harvest. However, weak or damaged branches should be removed, along with branches that cross or rub other branches.

Trimming a pistachio tree can be done in spring and summer, with a final trim when the tree is dormant in autumn.

With a good trimming of pistachio, you’re sure to maintain the health and vigor of your tree, along with an endless supply of tasty pistachios each season!

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How to Grow Pistachio Trees

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If you are looking for a perennial nut tree to produce a tasty, crunchy snack full of healthy vitamins and minerals, you may be considering 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. Though slow-growing (pistachio trees 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
Plant Type Fruit
Mature Size 25 to 30 feet tall
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Light, well-draining, sandy, loamy
Soil pH Neutral to slightly alkaline
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Reddish-brown buds
Hardiness Zones 7 to 11
Native Area Central Asia


Pistachio Varieties

There are several different types of pistachio plants, but only Pistacia vera is grown commercially. The Pistacia vera tree has long, grey leaves, and grows in USDA plant hardiness zones 7-11.

There are a few types of vera pistachios that grow well in the U.S.

  • Platinum is a vigorous grower that can handle some cold. This variety is a clone developed after verticillium wilt nearly wiped out commercial pistachio crops in the U.S.
  • Pioneer Gold is another clone that resists wilt. It’s the most widely grown variety in the U.S.
  • Kerman is a new type introduced to the U.S. from Iran. It produces large, bright green fruits and bears in 6 years. Plant with the Peters variety as a male pollinator.
  • Joley never gained commercial success because it has smaller fruits, but it’s a good option for home growers.
  • Red Allepo is popular in Syria. It blooms early and grows crisp, crunchy fruits.


3. Potted Plant Drainage

Speaking of drainage, using pistachio shells to line the bottom of any potted plant will prevent them from becoming waterlogged.

This trick is especially useful when the pot lacks a proper hole for drainage.

With an empty container, add an inch or so layer of pistachio shells along the bottom. Top the container up with soil and add plants.

Water that isn’t taken up by the plant will drain into this pistachio shell layer – keeping the root system up and way from excess moisture.

Though the classic drainage materials are small rocks and pebbles, the advantage of pistachio shells is they will eventually biodegrade, so you’ll never have to fish them out of the soil when re-potting your plants.


When planting near other plants, space your Hydrangea macrophylla 'Pistachio’ three to five feet, center on center. Spacing correctly allows your plants to develop strong roots and ensure its has room to flourish.

USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-9
Flower Color(s): Red, Green & Chartreuse
Bloom Period: June to October
Foliage Color(s): Green
Exposure: Part Sun to Part Shade
Height: 2-3 Feet Tall
Spread: 3-5 Feet Wide
Spacing: 3 Feet Center on Center
Habit: Rounded
Blooms On: New & Old Wood
Watering: Medium
Shrub Type: Deciduous
Scientific Name: Hydrangea macrophylla 'Horwack' Pistachio
Common Name: Pistachio Hydrangea

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Pruning to Maintain Size

If you have a large crepe myrtle tree growing in a position that doesn’t accommodate its size, then you’ll need to undertake annual pruning to keep it at a manageable size. The best practice to ensure good shape and health is to remove all of the tips of the tree. This is known as ‘tipping’ and will reduce the size of the tree while retaining an attractive look. This is a time-consuming process that might be difficult if the tree is very large, and you cannot reach all areas of it.

However, if possible, this is the best option for reducing the size of the tree. If this option is not suitable, you can use ‘pollarding.’ This involves cutting the tree back quite dramatically to branches that are around three years old and several inches thick. These stumped branches will produce new twigs, and each year you should remove the twigs and cut back to the same place you previously cut. This will allow you to maintain the tree at a certain size quite easily, but it will not look as attractive as before.

When pruning a crepe myrtle, remember that these trees have vigorous growth habits, so pruning needs to be carried out annually because the tree will quickly regrow to its former size if it isn’t kept in check. When choosing that method of pruning to choose, you may want to consider the effects they have on blooming. A tree that is just pruned at the tips will not have its flowering ability negatively affected. If you choose to use pollarding, then you can expect blooming to be delayed by around a month while the tree takes extra time to recover. The more severely you prune the tree, the more blooming will be affected.


Watch the video: Grafting Pistachio Seedlings.