February 7, 2015

1 - Pecans trees are not just limited to southern parts of New Mexico and there are some interesting varieties of pecans and almonds for New Mexico gardeners to consider.

Yard and Garden February 7, 2015


I am looking for some information on growing pecans in Rio Rancho (just west of Albuquerque). I have heard of people growing them in Albuquerque because of the slightly higher temperatures due to increased concrete. I am trying to find recommended varieties and sources for trees for my area. I also want to make sure it is a good idea. I have seen some trees in Corrales producing nuts, but have heard from others that I am better off growing almonds.

Thanks for any help you can give me. I appreciate everything the New Mexico State University does for gardeners in New Mexico. I have read and am following the advice in many of the publications that you all have created.

-Peter G.


I live in Albuquerque, and just down the street from me is a landscape with a pecan tree. I checked on the nuts that fell on the sidewalk and noticed that they had not matured the meat inside the nuts well last year. I also know of pecans growing in Los Lunas, south of Albuquerque. I think many New Mexico gardeners consider the pecan a possibility only for gardeners in southern New Mexico.

To get the best information for you, I contacted Dr. Richard Heerema, New Mexico State University Extension Pecan Specialist. He provided a wealth of information that I will share with you. There is such a thing as northern pecan varieties which were selected from native pecans growing in the mid-western states, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, and others. It is interesting that the scientific name for pecan is Carya illinoinensis. There are many such varieties, 'Colby', and 'Witte' are examples of Northern varieties. For us Dr. Heerema suggests USDA varieties 'Pawnee'(the most readily available), 'Kanza' (smaller nuts, but excellent pollinator for 'Pawnee'. 'Lakota' (good pollinizer for 'Pawnee'), 'Mandan', and 'Lipan' are some new, early-ripening varieties from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Pecan Breeding program, but these are fairly new and may be difficult to find.

Dr. Heerema warned that purchasing pecan trees from 'eastern nurseries', those east of New Mexico, is difficult because of New Mexico Department of Agriculture regulations protecting our pecan industry from the pecan weevil. The weevil is present in those states, so there are strict requirements for any nursery trying to ship pecan trees into New Mexico. Most nurseries will not ship a few trees to us for that reason. California nurseries can ship to New Mexico more easily, so Dr. Heerema recommends considering nurseries in California. Many nurseries selling the varieties of pecan that you are interested in are wholesale nurseries and will not sell one or a few trees to homeowners, but you may be able to contact a local nursery that can order a variety of your choice from a wholesale nursery. Dr. Heerema also warned that adequate heat and length of growing season are necessary to mature the nuts on pecans. The northern and early ripening varieties are most likely to succeed in Rio Rancho, but may not have a good crop each year.

Dr. Heerema also addressed your comment about almonds. Most of us are familiar with the California almonds which are not a good choice for us. Almonds are closely related to peaches are likely to flower too early and have the crop frozen. However, there are some that may produce a crop (but not every year). He mentioned 'Hall's Hardy' almond (not the best for production, but beautiful when in bloom), 'Oracle', 'Titan', 'All-in-One', and 'Bounty'. These will blossom somewhat later and increase the chances of producing a crop. He suggests choosing varieties with medium to high chill requirements (resulting in later bloom) and planting them either near a south- or west-facing wall for heat to protect against late freezes or on the north side of a wall to delay flowering.

He also mentioned that these hardier almonds tend to be self-pollinizing, unlike the commercial almonds of California which require careful selection of varieties to assure pollination and a crop. Consider self-pollinating varieties when selecting your varieties.

Both pecans and almonds may produce for you in Rio Rancho, but they may not produce a successful crop every year. The size of your property may determine which you will grow since the pecan is a much larger tree. Planting several varieties gives you a chance to experiment and increases your chances of success. Dr. Heerema also mentioned that almonds are susceptible to peach tree borer insects, a significant problem for stone fruit cultivation in New Mexico. Pecans do not have this problem.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email: desertblooms@nmsu.edu, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at desertblooms@nmsu.edu, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook page.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!