Chinese pistache tree offers reliable fall color, and durability
making it one of the best trees for the urban landscape.
Right outside my
office door stands one of the true testaments to one of our country’s
great plant acquisitions, the Chinese pistache. The Coastal Georgia
Botanical Gardens got its start as a USDA Plant Introduction Station
and today those early obtainments are monolithic in size and
confirmation of plant durability and performance.
If you are not
familiar with the Chinese pistache, it is one of our best sources for
fall color. I first became acquainted with the Chinese pistache when
it was selected as a Texas Super Star Winner. In Texas, fall color was
hard to come by, but this tree was rock solid and reliable. At the
Columbus Botanical Garden I enjoyed them as small trees for the urban
landscape with a blaze of fiery orange and yellow that would compete
with the hybrid red maples and bald cypress. Now in Savannah, Ga., I
see their 100-year potential and I can say I still adore them. Draped
in Spanish moss they are even more picturesque.
pistache is also drought tolerant — recommended in places like New
Mexico and Arizona — and is native to western China. When selecting
your location keep in mind that it does not like wet winter feet so
choose a site that drains well. It is cold hardy from zones 6 through
9, meaning from St. Louis to Orlando, Fla., gardeners can relish the
dark green leaves that become a blaze of fall color.
always asking about fast growing trees, and though fast is not a good
criteria for selecting trees, the Chinese pistache certainly holds its
own. It is not uncommon to see 2 to 3 feet of growth a year. Fall is a
terrific time to plant. To grow yours, choose a site in full sun. Set
out nursery-grown plants into well-drained moist fertile soil. Dig the
hole 3 to 5 times as wide as the root ball but no deeper. The top of
the rootball should be even with the soil profile. This will give you
the best root expansion and establishment in your landscape.
pistache can look a little leggy or lanky in its early years but turns
from ugly duckling into beautiful swan with a nice oval shape.
Container-grown trees rarely require staking. In the second year,
prune lanky branches to encourage development. Feed in late winter
with an application of an 8-8-8 fertilizer at 1 pound per 100 square
feet of planted area. This is the area from the trunk to just outside
The trees are
dioecious, meaning they may be either male or female. Though there are
a number of named varieties, generic is still the norm, so most likely
you will not know which type you are buying. If you do have a choice,
know that male trees grow slightly faster and offer the best form and
pistache is being widely used for city beautification, from city and
college landscapes to medians. They are used extensively in Columbus,
Ga., making for an extraordinary downtown. I assure you they will do
the same for your landscape!