Chinese Pistache

The Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis) is an excellent medium-sized landscape tree that is suitable for planting in South Carolina. This shade tree has amazing fall colors of yellows, oranges, and reds and looks beautiful in a landscape.

The pistache is a cold hardy, disease and pest resistant, and fast-growing tree. They may grow up to 2 to 3 feet each year with good management. Chinese pistache grows 25 to 40 feet tall and 25 to 30 feet wide at maturity. They are also very drought tolerant and tolerate confined planting areas quite well. Pistache trees are dioecious plants, meaning that there are separate male and female trees. If both male and female trees are planted, the female trees make an abundance of small fruit in large clusters. The fruit starts out green in late summer, turn to red, and then a robin’s egg blue in the fall. The fruit hangs down in large clusters with bright red stalks.

Fall is the best time to plant one or more of these beautiful trees in your landscape. This is to take advantage of the dormant season root growth. Roots of ornamental plants in the Southeast continue to grow throughout the warmer fall and winter months. Fall planting allows carbohydrates produced during the previous season to be directed to root growth since there is little demand from the top. This root growth may also lessen the dependency of supplemental irrigation in the following summers. Before digging the hole for your tree, locate the topmost layers of roots in the root ball. Remove any excess layers of soil (or container media) already covering the root ball. As little as a half-inch of excess soil over the root ball can inhibit or prevent water from entering the root ball, especially on trees planted from containers.
If planting a ball and burlap tree, remember to remove the synthetic burlap from the tree entirely. Synthetic burlap will not decompose in the soil and can cause the roots to girdle the tree. Natural burlap is biodegradable can be left along the sides and bottom of the root ball, but removed from the top of the root ball where it is subject to drying out. Dry burlap repels water, making it difficult to rewet the root ball. Wire baskets and wrapping should also be removed after the root ball is in place. To determine which type of burlap is being used, hold a match to a small portion of the burlap. Generally, natural burlap will burn and synthetic will melt.
In well-drained soil, the planting hole should never be dug any deeper than the height of the root ball. The topmost layers of the root in the root ball should be level with the soil surface. Only mulch should be placed over the root ball, being careful not to place mulch on the stem of the tree. In well-drained soils, the planting hole should be at least 2 to 5 times wider than the root ball. Roots will grow more quickly in loosened soil and thus speeding up the tree’s establishment time.
In poorly drained or compacted soils, the plant is best placed higher than its original planting depth at about 2 to 4 inches higher than the surrounding soil. Build the soil up beside the root ball so that the sides are not exposed and do not place additional soil on top of the root ball. This will allow oxygen to reach the roots in the upper surface of the soil and excess water to drain away from the plant rather than collecting beneath it.
For more information on Chinese pistache, please visit the Home and Garden Information Center website at hgic.clemson.edu. Tune in on Tuesday nights to watch “Making it Grow” at 7 p.m. on SCETV or mig.org. Email Outen at [email protected] clemson.edu.
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