Chinese Pistache Tree Growing Zones: Planting and Care Tips for Cashew Trees

Man watering a red Chinese Pistache tree after learning how to identify Chinese pistache (pistachio), and how to begin planting cashew tree family ornamental trees, growing zones, care tips.

Known to be hardy, the Chinese Pistache Tree can adapt to grow in most soil conditions as long as it gets bathed in full sunshine every day.

As part of the cashew family, it has outstanding leaves that blaze a fiery orange or a golden yellow at the close of summer. Oh, and it also grows wonderful-looking berries.

Unfortunately, unlike the super tasty pistachio nuts from its close relative, the Pistacia vera, the fruits from this tree are far from edible.

So what’s so special about this tree?

This guide explains everything you might want to know about the Chinese Pistache Tree, it’s growing zones, how to ensure it thives

Chinese Pistache

(Pistacia chinensis)

Chinese Pistache tree image in an oval frame on green background.
  • Family: Anacardiaceae
  • Genus: Pistacia
  • Leaf: Dark green, compound leaf with 10 - 12 inch leaflets that release a pleasant scent when pressed
  • Bark: The outer bark, a grayish brown, peels easily to expose a reddish interior
  • Seed: Inedible
  • Blossoms: The green flowers bloom in April and May
  • Fruit: A small red drupe that turns blue when ripe
  • Native Habitat: Central and Western China
  • Height: 25 - 35 Feet
  • Canopy: 25 - 35 Feet
  • Type: Deciduous
  • Native Growing Zone: Rocky environments and mountain forests
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Ranking

Least Concern


How To Identify Chinese Pistache Tree (Full Grown Chinese Pistache Tree)

Native to China, Taiwan, and even Afghanistan, the Chinese Pistache Tree is a tree for all locations and all occasions. It can handle periods of drought and high temperatures but likes its roots to sit in soils that are moist but well-drained.

That soil can be loamy, sandy, or clay, but as long as it retains moisture and has a high level of organic material for nutrient absorption, the tree will be content.

Full sun is important so it will grow erect. If grown in too much shade it will develop unevenly and appear misshapen.

Wide angle shot of a mature Chinese Pistache with its orange leaves situated near a residential house.

(Image: Reggaeman11)

With sufficient sun exposure and in the right environmental conditions, it starts out appearing a little ungainly, all funny-shaped twigs and branches, and then mature into quite an ornamental specimen.

The trunk, not very thick with flaky scales, supports a full, round canopy of deciduous dark green compound leaves, that gradually morph into an orange, red, or golden yellow in the fall.

Due to its wide canopy, it is often planted on pathways or strategically in gardens to provide a touch of shade on a hot sunny day.

Chinese Pistache Tree Facts (Pistacia chinensis)

Because it doesn’t grow to enormous heights or have invasive roots, the Chinese Pistache Tree is often planted along driveways,6 used for decorating footpaths, and for splashing some color at the end of the season.

A sidewalk with a line of Chinese Pistache trees running along each side during daytime.

(Image: Ping an Chang13)

The best-growing conditions for Chinese Pistache Tree are pretty much anywhere that the sun is shining and where it can show off its spectacular foliage.

Here are a few more details about this interesting specimen that may just tempt you to get one for your landscape if you haven’t already.

Chinese Pistache Tree Size

On average it reaches a height of between 25 – 35 feet. This is an ideal height as it won’t dominate its surroundings and can be placed in a wide range of locations.

However, it has been known to grow up to 60 feet in the wild.

Chinese Pistache Tree Leaves

The structure of the leaf is a compound arrangement with a rachis up to 1 foot long. From this central stem sprouts 10 – 16 leaflets that grow in lengths from 5 – 10 cm.

When bruised, they emit a pleasant aroma. These decorative leaves form a wide-spreading canopy that is by far the main feature of this tree, especially in the fall when they gradually change colors from faded greens to deep reds and fiery oranges.

Chinese Pistache Tree Flower and Chinese Pistache Fruit

The flowers are probably the most inconspicuous and least appreciated on any tree out there.

Red and colorful on muted light green and red panicles, they are nevertheless overshadowed and pushed into the background by the vibrant leaves and colorful fruits.

Chinese Pistache Tree Seeds

There is only one seed per fruit. The fruits are small, and the seeds are even smaller.

Neither of them is edible. Not for humans, anyway.

Small animals and birds can’t get enough of these bite-sized snacks.

Chinese Pistachios: Pistacia chinensis vs Pistachio Tree (Pistacia vera)

Pistacia chinensis and Pistacia vera are closely related.4 They look very similar, and hail from the same family yet have distinct differences in certain areas.

Similarities and DifferencesPistacia ChinensisPistacia vera
Native ToCentral and Western ChinaCentral Asia and the Middle East
HeightUp to 35 feetUp to 32 feet
Compound Leaves2Yes, 10 – 16 leafletsYes, 3 – 7 leaflets
Edible NutsNoYes
USDA Hardiness Zone6 – 97 – 11
LifespanUp to 100 yearsUp to 300 years
ICUN Red List StatusLeast Concern (LC)Near Threatened (NT)

There are another 10 species of pistachio trees with even more cultivars, but when it comes to these two, they each have their own individual value.

Pistacia vera is loved for the edible nuts that are consumed the world over, while the Chinese Pistache Tree is coveted for its flashy fall foliage, hardiness, and its wide, shade-providing canopy.

Chinese Pistache Tree Growing Zone: Indoors and Outdoors

One of the easiest ways of growing a Chinese Pistache Tree from a seed is in a container in a controlled indoor environment.

If you have decided to install one of these ornamental beauties in your back garden to make a natural shading area then there are just a few simple steps to follow:

Indoor Planting Tips for Chinese Pistache Tree

  • Getting started requires placing the seeds inside a sealable plastic bag with some moistened peat moss in a refrigerator for approximately 45 days.
  • After 45 days, take them out gently and place them about an inch deep in a few different trays containing a combination of peat moss and vermiculite, then just add water.
  • The seed starting trays should be kept in a cupboard, room, or shed where the temperature is at least 80° F. It’s important to keep the soil moistened so regularly use a spray bottle.
  • When they get their second set of leaves, it’s time to carefully transplant the seedlings from the trays into containers that are filled with a mixture of potting soil, peat, and sand.
  • As the roots grow, transplant them into larger containers.
    If you decide that growing a Chinese Pistache Tree from a cutting or growing a Chinese Pistache Tree from a seedling is your preferred method of propagation, then the above steps would be avoided.
    The end of a cutting would have to be treated with a rooting hormone and pushed into a potting mix until the root and leaves developed, and then the process would be the same from there onward to transplant outside.
  • Dig a hole 3 times as deep as the root ball is high,9 place it inside, and support it until it is back-filled with the garden soil mixed with organic material.
  • Water thoroughly then spreads a 2-3 inch layer of mulch around the base to retain the moisture and deter weeds from growing.
    For the first year, the watering needs for Chinese Pistache Tree plants require that it is watered deeply whenever the topsoil becomes dry to the touch.

How To Prune a Chinese Pistache Tree

Before it turns into a magnificent, colorful specimen as a mature tree, the Chinese Pistache starts growing ungainly and awkward.

And if left to its own devices it may well continue to grow like that.

Close up of a Chinese Pistache with its green narrow leaves during daytime.

(Image: Krzysztof Golik12)

If you want your young Chinese Pistache Tree to develop its umbrella shape, prune its canopy in January or February when it reaches a height of more than six feet. Topping it off will help to promote a healthy growth pattern, and the expected balanced, rounded shape.

Prune just the branches that are causing the most harm to the trunk rather than being too aggressive and trying to force it early into the desired shape. It takes some time to train the tree into an attractive shape as the ungainly limbs still continue to grow at different rates and odd angles.

Raking up fallen leaves and fruit from around a tree will help keep it from sprouting weeds that will compete for water and nutrients.

Chinese Pistache Tree Pros and Cons

Choosing a tree to rear in your garden is a long-term investment, not only in regards to growing it from a seed or a cutting but the care and attention required to keep it healthy.

It’s worth weighing up the benefits and the drawbacks of a Chinese Pistache Tree so you’re ready to enjoy the best of it, and be prepared for the worst it has to offer.

No one wants a tree that is going to be a daily battle to keep alive so it’s always advisable to factor in the pros and cons, and the same analysis should be undertaken for the Chinese Pistache Tree.

Chinese Pistache Tree ProsChinese Pistache Tree Cons
The beautiful fall foliage is one of the favorite benefits of Chinese Pistache Trees. The annual leaf-color change put on by these trees is nothing short of spectacular.If not controlled, the roots can wrap themselves around the trunk,10 causing girdling.
Very resilient and versatile, they can survive in dry weather and a variety of soil types.The inedible fruits from the female tree can be a sticky nuisance when they litter the ground around the tree as they fall.
Low-maintenance and once established they are drought-resistant.Susceptible to root rot if the soil becomes waterlogged.
Long-livedDoes not tolerate cold conditions
A wide-spreading canopy provides ample shade.The wide canopy can be a problem for small landscapes. Hence, they need to be planted at least 15 feet away from buildings.

Do the pros outweigh the cons?

Planting a Chinese Pistache Tree provides a slew of pros, and cons that can easily be mitigated by following just a few basic rules.

That includes knowing when to plant Chinese Pistache Tree for the best yield planting male trees so no fruits are able to grow, maintaining the correct distance away from a building, and following a correct irrigation routine.

Pistachio Trees (Types of Trees and Cultivars)

Pistachio trees, known for their hardiness and adaptability, are a prime example of resilient and versatile types of trees.

Chinese Pistache tree with its branches green leaves and cluster of fruits.

(Image: Ping an Chang14)

The best growing conditions for Chinese Pistache Tree and the other varieties allow them to be grown in numerous countries, coveted for their edible nuts as can be seen below.

Tree NameGrown In
Fandoghi (Iranian Round)Iran
Lost HillsCalifornia
Badami (Semi-Long)Iran
Turkish AntepTurkey
Golden HillsCalifornia
AegimaGreece and Spain
UzunIran and Turkey
Kalleqouchi (Iranian Jumbo)Iran
Peter PistachiosMiddle East
Gum DropCalifornia

Any country that exports pistachios in large quantities is partaking in an industry that is estimated to be worth over $56 billion in the next few years.

It is currently valued at $43 billion, with Iran, Turkey, and the United States the top producers, accounting for 97% of worldwide production.

Italy, Syria, Greece, and Spain have instigated a drive to capture a larger share of the profitable market, but the U.S., supplying 70% of the global demand, is still hanging on to the top nut spot.

Chinese Pistache Tree Disease Prevention

Certain diseases such as verticillium wilt and root rot are known to adversely affect the pistachio trees.8 Leaves become yellow and fall off, the branches can die back, and the vascular system of the tree will become restricted, reducing the flow of water and nutrients.

Both of these illnesses can be treated by excising the infected parts of a tree, but once they take hold, they can be challenging to manage.

How to stop Chinese Pistache Tree disease before they can even rear their ugly heads relies on proper weekly watering techniques, adding fertilizer once a year, and keeping your tree clean.

Don’t only remove fallen branches and debris from around the base of the tree, but actively prune away any damaged branches or any that you suspect may be deceased but are still clinging on.

Companion Plants for Growing Chinese Pistache Tree

Experienced gardeners have learned that the growing zones for Chinese Pistache Tree, where to grow them, and what to plant around them can determine if the common pests of the Chinese Pistache Tree begin lining up from day one to get some cheap snacks, or are blocked from the berry buffet by natural deterrents.

Planting a Chinese Pistache Tree male vs female tree will determine if fruits are grown in that area, as the trees are dioecious, and also what companion plants should be incorporated in the surroundings.

Aphids and scale insects are bothersome pests that can be controlled by planting garlic, marigolds, cilantro, radishes, pyrethrum, and other aromatic plants whose scent will keep them at bay.

Close up a wild garlic plant with its white flowers and green leaves.

(Image: Hans15)

Equally, some plants to avoid that will attract them are sunflowers and nasturtiums.

Some other reasons for companion planting are to introduce nutrients into the ecosystem such as nitrogen, and alleviate problems with the soil becoming compacted.

Beneficial insects and birds can also be lured by the promise of sweet nectar from some of the companion flowers, and in return, they become a natural pest control for Chinese Pistache Tree by preying on the aphids and other pests attacking the leaves, twigs, or boring into the trunk itself.

An often overlooked aspect, however, is using them to fill a gap under your tree or to bring texture or a splash of color to the area.

Planting and Care Tips for Cashew Trees

The Cashew Tree, or Anacardium occidentale, is from the same family as pistachios, Anacardiaceae, and is considered to be even more of a snacking nut than pistachios, and used in more cooking recipes.

Even though it’s not really a nut,3 but a drupe.

The natural habitats of this nut-bearing 46-foot tree are in the northeastern regions of Brazil and southeastern Venezuela, but the leading producers are India and the Ivory Coast.

With a global valuation of over $7 bn, plantations in southeast Asia, wider parts of Africa, and other places with similar tropical and warm climates are competing for minor shares.

Only USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11 are ideal for cultivating Cashew Trees so the growing zones are more or less limited to Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and South Florida.

  • Sow fresh cashew seeds for the best chance of achieving a bountiful harvest, but it will be about 5 years before you’ll know if your care and attention have paid off or not.
    To reduce that waiting period to between 2 – 3 years, you can always purchase saplings from a local supplier.
  • In either event, when prudent to do so, place the saplings in full sun for optimal growth. Just like pistachio trees, they need to receive at least six hours of sunlight per day. Any less and when they are finally ready to be harvested, they may be a lot fewer nuts than you had anticipated due to initially planting in a location with too much shade.
  • Plant on sandy soil with a pH level of about 6. Cashew Trees are not as hardy as Chinese Pistache Trees so don’t plant in clay or other heavy soils since they hold too much water.
    Cashew plants require soil with very good drainage as they are prone to root rot.
  • To put it mildly, overwatering can kill your Cashew Trees, so be sure to let the soil dry out fully between waterings. During very dry summer months, though, ensure that the watering frequency is increased to avoid the opposite problem of the tree dying of thirst.
  • Fertilize your plants every other month using a phosphorus-rich formula during the growing season when the trees are more vulnerable to diseases, and require more nutrients.
  • Spread a layer of compost or organic mulch in your garden around the base being careful that the mulch is not touching the trunk.7
  • The Cashew Tree is frequently attacked by many species of borers, and they can lay waste to your Cashew Trees as early as the seedling stage.
    They attack under cover of the very bark itself by tunneling into the wood directly, and then the newly hatched larvae chew away to their heart’s content, silently and stealthily wreaking havoc. Getting rid of them involved chopping off infected branches or spraying the tree’s bark with a specific organic contact insecticide to kill the borer infestation.

As tasty as they are, caution should be exercised when working with raw cashews and their shells. When handled incorrectly, the liquid inside the shells can be toxic if ingested and as annoying as poison ivy,1 a close relative.

Wear gardening gloves for protection and avoid skin irritations and allergic reactions by thoroughly washing your hands after handling any cashews.

Even though the pistachio nuts are not fit for human consumption from this pistachio tree, the advantages of its expansive shade-granting canopy filled with a blooming kaleidoscope of red and orange leaves in the fall, the Chinese Pistache Tree makes your landscape the envy of the neighborhood.

If you plant to grow your own Chinese Pistache tree, just make sure that there’s plenty of sunlight and lots of room.

Frequently Asked Questions About Chinese Pistache Tree

What Is the Chinese Pistache Tree Growth Rate?

The tree will grow about 1 foot a year until it matures to an average height of 35 feet.

How Do Pistachios Grow in Dry Conditions?

What enables this tree to be so drought tolerant is a taproot that can extend as far as 30 feet below the surface to absorb moisture from the surrounding soil. This answers the question “how do pistachios grow in dry conditions?”

How Long It Takes To Grow Chinese Pistache Tree?

How long does it take for a tree to grow can depend on the species and the environment. It can take up to 20 years for a Chinese Pistache Tree to reach full maturity, but it will then continue to live for at least another 80 years after that.

How Much Sunlight Does Chinese Pistache Tree Need Each Day?

A minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight is required each day.

Are Chinese Pistache Tree Roots Invasive?

Chinese Pistache Tree problems can include invasive roots in some regions that can cause damage to a house’s foundations,5 but learning how to prune a Chinese Pistache Tree will prevent this problem from occurring.

How Far Apart To Plant Chinese Pistache Tree From a House?

At least 15 feet is recommended as the canopy can grow as wide as 35 feet in total.

Chinese Pistache Tree Symbolism?

The tree symbolism of Chinese Pistache Tree are generosity and friendship.

How Much Carbon Does Chinese Pistache Tree Sequester?

The quantity of carbon dioxide that a tree captures relates to its age and size. Over a year, a mature Chinese Pistache Tree will capture about 30 – 50 lbs of carbon emissions.


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15Photo by Hans. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>