Smart People Plant Chinese Pistache

November 2, 2010 | By | Comments (10)

Chinese pistache2

I know you’re embarrassed because I said smart people plant Chinese pistache, seeing as how you’ve never heard of it. Don’t hide — you can redeem yourself in both the Grump’s and the world’s eyes by writing three little words in indelible ink on your forehead.

“It’s a tree.”

There. Looks good, You are now smart. Because of this, you should plant a Chinese pistache this fall, especially if you want a tree that:

+ Doesn’t get too big (grows 30-50 feet tall and wide with a rounded shape)

+ Grows in almost any well-drained soil

+ Is suited to most of the South (Zones 6-9)

+ Provides light, dappled shade that grass will grow in

+ Has no significant pests, so you don’t have to spray

+ Grows quickly, so you won’t die before you enjoy it

+ Tolerates heat and drought, so you won’t die at the end of a hose

+ Consistently develops spectacular fall colors of scarlet, orange, and yellow

Native to China (duh), Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis) is cousin the the pistachio tree (Pistacia vera) that gives us those muy delicioso nuts. Unfortunately, the nuts of Chinese pistache are delicioso only to wildlife. But while Chinese pistache won’t sate your physical hunger, it will satisfy your spiritual yearning for a beautiful tree in the yard. You can plant Chinese pistache by the street, in the middle of the lawn, or use it to shade a courtyard or patio.

Chinese pistache can be either male or female (just like many of the entertainers downtown). Only females bear fruit, which some people find a little messy. In this case, the solution is to plant a male selection called ‘Keith Davey.’ Heritage Seedlings offers seedlings of this tree and Forest Farm has offered it in the past. Plain old Chinese pistache is widely available at garden and home centers.

It’s election time, which means most of you probably just did something a little dumb. Make up for it. Plant a chinese pistache.

Question & Answer Time!

Crabgrass: How do I get ride of crabgrass and when? Diana

Answer: Crabgrass will die with the first good frost, so there really isn’t any point in treating it now. Cut the grass often enough to prevent it from going to seed. Next spring, treat the lawn with one of those granular crabgrass preventers you see at garden and home centers, like Scott’s Halts. It will keep crabgrass seeds from germinating.

Holly hater: Hey Grumpy, old co-worker here. I’m giving our front yard a huge makeover…like a Joan Rivers reconstruction. Our landscape plan calls for ‘Mary Nell’ hollies to anchor each corner of the front of the house. Is there a suitable substitute…I’m a holly hater. Helen

Answer: Grumpy suggests planting a fall-blooming sasanqua camellia (Camellia sasanqua). One of his favorites is ‘Sparkling Burgundy.’ This upright grower doesn’t get too big (8-10 feet tall) and features very showy ruby-red flowers.

Mint: I live in Michigan. My parents brought mint from my grandparents’ home in Kentucky and transplanted it here for me one May a few years ago. The scent of the mint brings fond memories with it. Now, we have an opportunity to move to Tennessee. I’d like to bring some mint with me to transplant. Is there a way to keep my mint going so that I could take some with me if we move in the winter? Penny

Answer: Mint is one tough plant. What I would do is dig up some now and grow it in a pot. Take the pot indoors before the weather freezes and then take it with you to Tennessee. Don’t plant it outdoors until after the last spring frost there next year, because it won’t be hardened off. Once it’s planted, though, you can leave it in the ground for good, and you’ll always have plenty, because it spreads faster than a rumor at an all-girls’ school.




  1. Steve Bender


    Don’t give up! Chinese pistache is becoming quite popular. Check your garden center again in the spring.

    September 26, 2014 at 10:45 am
  2. stephanie

    Okay, I’m SOLD!!! I actually went shopping for one of these gems today. Unfortunately, our local garden center didn’t receive the memo about Georgia being “The Peach State” and they are convinced that we should all grow citrus instead. I don’t love the idea of mail order, so thus I will remain pistache-less.

    September 25, 2014 at 8:40 pm
  3. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Don’t confine the roots too much. I would plant it at least 6 feet from the sidewalk. Raised bed is OK, as long as it’s at least 6 feet wide.

    September 26, 2011 at 1:25 pm
  4. mnmmusicman

    I just ordered a Chinese Pistache today, & I’m looking forward to planting it. I don’t want the roots to one day damage the sidewalk, so how far away from the sidewalk should it be? I’m in Carrollton, TX so I have the clay soil concern, but since I’m on a corner-lot, my yard drains well. Should I still put it in a 6-inch raised bed?

    September 25, 2011 at 4:58 pm
  5. SusannaS

    For mints of all kinds, put them in a 1 gallon plastic pot (like the cheap ones you usually get plants in at a the Big Box Home Improvement Centers). Plant the mint in that. Then dig a hole where you want the mint in your yard and put the whole pot in it! I usually leave the lip of the pot just above ground level. I have a whole bed of different mints (chocolate mint, spearmint, lemon balm, apple mint) and they’ve behaved quite nicely in their confined quarters.

    November 18, 2010 at 6:57 pm
  6. forshop

    Ruby red, to me, would be Yuletide, Kramer’s Supreme or Professor Sergeant.
    Still, an excellent choice.

    November 16, 2010 at 2:22 am
  7. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Actually, I should have described the flowers as “sparkling burgundy in color,” don’t you think?

    November 10, 2010 at 7:51 am
  8. Holly

    My Sparkling Burgundy has lilac colored flowers. Not remotely red maybe because it’s in the shade. It is one of my favorites though.
    Ruby red, to me, would be Yuletide, Kramer’s Supreme or Professor Sargent.
    Still, an excellent choice.

    November 9, 2010 at 6:42 pm
  9. esh

    This post is making ME grumpy! Chinese plants indeed! Hurry up with the next post ….

    November 8, 2010 at 1:08 pm
  10. UrsulaV

    Just don’t plant it in Texas! It’s quite invasive in such climes and the DNR spends a lot of money trying to eradicate it from wild areas. This might be one species best limited to males for ornamental purposes.

    November 6, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s