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I live in Zone 7 in Northwest texas. It's pretty dry here and the soil is mostly hard clay. I'm very interested in growing fruit bearing pistachio trees, but haven't been able to find any local nurseries that know anything about them (maybe that's a bad sign). Lots of people grow Chinese Pistachios, but that's not the same tree.

Anyway, according to my reading (Aggie Horticulture Extension, Wikipedia, California Rare Fruit Growers, and others) the pistachio will do well in arid climates and is hardy up to USDA Zone 8a. So, it's in the zone...however, I'm more concerned about my soil.

The California Rare Fruit Growers website describes the soil requirements like this:

The trees do best on soils that are deep, friable and well drained but moisture retaining. It can, however, survive in poor, stony, calcareous, highly alkaline or slightly acid, or even saline soils. The root is deeply penetrating.

Wikipedia has this to say:

Pistachio is a desert plant, and is highly tolerant of saline soil. It has been reported to grow well when irrigated with water having 3,000–4,000 ppm of soluble salts. They need a sunny position and well-drained soil. Pistachio trees do poorly in conditions of high humidity, and are susceptible to root rot in winter if they get too much water and the soil is not sufficiently free draining.

Is there anyway I can succeed with this venture? What's the best way to go about it? Should I amend my soil to make it more sandy or loamy? If so, how deep and large of an area around each tree would be best?

Any other advice before I attempt this?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Inspired by @winwaed to dig in a little more, I found an article on The University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Yavapai County website:

The Chinese Pistache Tree - April 14, 2004

The article specifically compares the Chinese Pistachio with the Pistachio Nut Tree in one small section:

The Chinese pistache is a close relative of the pistachio nut tree (Pistacia vera), but is much hardier. The wood is very hard and rot resistant.

The bit about being more rot resistant had me a little worried, but I read on:

Young Chinese pistache trees should be planted in spring or fall. They must have full sun and do best in well-drained soil. However, they tolerate a wide range of soils, some alkalinity, and can live a very long time (several centuries).

The soil should be allowed to dry on the surface between irrigations and never be soggy. Waterlogged soils are not suitable for Chinese pistache trees.

The description of the soil requirements (both like well drained soil and cannot tolerate waterlogged soil) and the fact that there are many healthy Chinese Pistachio trees in my area leads me to believe that the Pistachio Nut Tree will probably be fine in my back yard. The trees are not readily available in my area, but I'm planning on ordering several to plant next spring. I'll try to remember to come back and update this post in a couple of years!


Edit: I found more information that leads me to believe I can be successful with this. I found a USDA soil survey of Lubbock County (PDF) where I live. It describes the soil where I live as follows:

This soil is well drained. Surface runoff is slow, Permeability is moderate, and available water capadty is high. The soil has good tUth and can be worked throughout a wide range of moisture content. The root zone is deep and is easily penetrated by plant roots. The hazards of water erosion and soil blowing are slight

The surface layer is friable, mildly alkaline, reddish brown fine sandy loam about 14 inches thick. From 14 to 46 inches is fria- ble, reddish brown sandy clay loam that is mildly alkaline in the upper 10 inches and moderately alkaline in the lower 22 inches. From 46 to 60 inches is friable, moderately alkaline, pink sandy clay loam that is about 30

What this means is that I was working with a mistaken assumption that the soil was clay based on the level of compaction that I encountered when digging past the surface layer. The soil is actually more sandy, which should be ideal for the Pistachio Nut Tree!

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I favourited the thread as it is an interesting idea. I'm not sure if I'd recognise one (so there might be plenty in the area). However the waterlogged bit doesn't sound good for us. Our spring storms can waterlog the garden for a week or so at a time. Perhaps that means it would have to go in the front where it is free draining (road level was dropped 10 years ago) but we don't have much space there. –  winwaed Jun 13 '11 at 14:13
    
Did you end up planting any of these? –  ashes999 Sep 6 '13 at 4:05
    
I did end up planting three fruit baring pistachio trees that I acquired in Alamogordo, NM. 2 female and 1 male. They haven't been through an entire year in the ground yet, but are doing well so far. –  Shane Nov 16 '13 at 21:57

I've just looked in "Neil Sperry's Complete Guide to Texas Gardening" (2nd edition), which seems to have good descriptions/advice with tree types and varieties.

It only lists Chinese Pistachio. Although this does not mean it is impossible, from this I think we can infer that (at best) it is very unusual to grow pistachio in Texas.


[edit] Put Sperry back on the shelf and on a whim looked in "Dallas Planting Manual". This mentions "Pistache (Pistachio)". It doesn't distinguish between the two types but does mention Pistache texana and implies this it is very similar to P.chinensis but "smaller, multitrunked tree - feathery texture". I don't think this is what you're after, but I'm mentioning it incase it is.

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I love Neil Sperry! However, when it comes to fruit and nut trees I've found that his expertise starts to thin a little bit. However, you inspired me to do a little more research and compare/contract the Chinese Pistachio to the fruit bearing Pistachio. –  Shane Jun 13 '11 at 13:46
    
Currently I'm using his advice for our peach. It is more of a reference book - I'm not sure if his philosophy and mine quite agree, and advice on veg hasn't been too good/useful. Perhaps varieties are out of date. Then again his talk about peach concentrates on getting the right variety - and ours is a generic peach which was a gift ("stick in a bucket of clay" is my description but it is doing well two years later). –  winwaed Jun 13 '11 at 14:03

I live in Dallas TX and have been thinking of growing pistachios too. Seems like our weather is good for this tree as we are hot like a desert. However, you will need a male and female tree to yield fruits and if your yard is not big enough, I am afraid it will break your foundation, which is not good.

I think you also need to alter the soil pH to make it alkaline and keep it well drained.

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