Growing Fruit Trees

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July 30, 2010

Hardy Fruit Trees For The Backyard OrchardMost gardeners have only limited amounts of space, so deciding what type of fruit trees to plant warrants careful consideration. Beyond your personal preferences, you need to know which fruits grow best in your zone, how much space you will need, and what types of yields you can expect in return for your investment. If you've been considering turning part of your garden space into a mini orchard, consider planting one of more of the following hardy fruit trees.


General Growing Requirements

The following fruits are considered hardy, meaning they can be grown successfully in temperate climates (climates in the middle latitudes). All require a sunny location, adequate shelter from the wind (to ensure pollination), and nutrient-rich soil deep enough to grow sturdy roots. If you live in a temperate climate and want to try growing citrus and other tropical fruits, consider growing them in containers. Many fruits such as apricots, figs, lemons, limes, or nectarines, will thrive in large tubs or pots. If your garden space is extremely limited, compact varieties of apples, plums, and cherries also grow well in containers.


Apples come in full-size, semi-dwarf, and dwarf forms. Dwarf varieties (from 3 to 10 feet tall) are easiest to grow and harvest. When buying plants, look for healthy, virus-free trees that are at least one to two years old and have a least four to five branches.


Hardiness: Apples grow well in a wide range of climates and are hardy to zones 3 through 9. Most varieties require a period of cold temperatures, so gardeners in Zones 8 and 9 should select varieties suited for milder winters. Colder zones with shorter growing seasons should plant full-sized trees (they are the hardiest) and avoid planting late season varieties.

Harvest: Late summer through autumn.

Yields: 1-3 bushels per mature tree (1 bushel = 42 to 48 lbs.).

Growing Tip: Most apple cultivars are not self-pollinating. You need to have room to plant at least two or more cultivars to ensure cross-pollination.


Peaches can be tricky to grow, but are well worth the effort. Every cultivar needs a specific "chilling" period of before its flowers will open in the spring, so gardeners need to select varieties based on the harshness of their winter and the length of their growing season. Full size peach trees get big, but they can be kept 10 to 12 feet high with regular pruning. With the exception of a few heirloom varieties, most peach trees are self-pollinating so you only need one tree to produce a crop.


Hardiness: Zones 5 through 9.

Harvest: Mid-to late summer.

Yields: 3-5 bushels per mature tree (1 bushel = 48 to 52 lbs.).

Growing Tip: In general, these fruit trees are very susceptible to insect and disease problems. Contact your county extension office to get recommendations on which cultivars grow best in your area.


Pears suffer from fewer pest and disease problems than most other fruit trees. They are closely related to apples, but easier to grow. They come in dwarf, semi-dwarf, and full-size forms. European and Asian pears are the two types most commonly grown. You need to plant two or more compatible varieties for pollination.

Hardiness: Depending on the variety, pears are hardy to Zones 3 through 9.

Harvest: Late summer through autumn.

Yields: 3-4 bushels per mature, full-size tree (1 bushel = 48 to 50 lbs.).


Growing Tip: Once picked, European pears need at least 2 or 3 weeks to ripen. Asian pears can be left on the tree to ripen without losing their flavor.


Cherries are normally referred to as either sweet or tart. They come in dwarf, semi-dwarf, or full-size forms that can grow anywhere from 6 feet to over 30 feet tall. Sweet cherries have either white or dark flesh and can be eaten in hand, straight from the tree. Like their namesake, tart cherries are sour when eaten raw, and are typically used to make jam or wine.

Hardiness: Zones 5 through 9 (sweet cherries); Zones 4 though 9 (tart cherries).

Harvest: Early summer (sweet), mid summer (tart). Eat sweet cherries right from the tree as soon as they are ripe. Tart cherries are ready when the fruit turnsvery dark in color.


Yields: 50 to 100 lbs. (sweet cherries); 30 to 50 lbs. (tart cherries).

Growing Tip: Sweet cherries can be complicated to cross-pollinate. Most need two different, yet compatible cultivars to produce fruit. All tart cherries are self-pollinating to you can plant just one. Unlike sweet cherries, they flower and produce fruit on wood from the previous year.


Plum trees are small to medium in size, and a variety exists for just about every climate. Depending on the cultivar, the fruit can be either sweet or tart, and colored purple, blue, red, yellow, or green. The three most common species are the European plum, the Japanese plum, and the wild American plum and its various hybrids.

Hardiness: American plums (Zones 4 to 8); European and plums (Zones 5 to 9); Japanese plums (Zones 6 to 10).

Harvest: Mmid to late summer.

Yields: 1 bushel per full size tree (1 bushel = 50 to 56 lbs.).


Growing Tip: No matter what variety you choose, plan space for two different cultivars. Although many are European varieties are self-fertile, they will perform much better when cross-pollinated by another European variety. The same is true for Japanese cultivars, which require either another Japanese or an American variety to produce fruit. American plums also perform best when cross-pollinated. Your nursery should be able to recommend suitable matches for each variety.

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Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 153 Feedbacks
September 28, 2006

If you have even a tiny yard with sunshine, plant a fruit tree! Fruit is only one of the crops you will get from it. Trees do a wonderful job of cleaning the air.

cheeries hanging in a tree

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10 Questions

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September 21, 2009

I have a cherry tree and some how a pear tree also popped up next to that. Both trees bear nice fruits. How do I separate them without damaging either one? I would like to transfer the pear tree somewhere else. Thanks.

Hardiness Zone: 5a

By Udgith from MA


September 25, 20090 found this helpful
Best Answer

For the last several years they've been recommending planting 3 fruit trees in 1 hole to conserve space, I have 2 sets of 3 trees and all are doing well so don't worry about it just leave them as they are, if you're getting fruit and good growth don't bother disturbing them.

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April 2, 2007

We have several apple, peach and pear trees and would like to know what to spray on them to prevent the apples from getting wormy and rusty and the pears from looking good but soft and mushy and bitter on the inside. They were not like that when we moved in our first year but since then they are useless as edible fruit. Can anyone help me?

Hardiness Zone: 7a



By Cheryl (Guest Post)
April 4, 20070 found this helpful
Best Answer

You can Google apple tree spraying online. You should be able to find info re. what to spray your trees with & when.
Re. your pears: you have to pick them while they're green (under ripe) and allow them to ripen off the tree. Keep checking them so you don't let them get mushy after they've been picked!

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May 10, 2009

I just bought a couple fruit trees, but I need to know if they need to be cross pollinated with other trees. I bought a Vans sweet cherry tree and a Toka plum tree. So, do I need to pollinate these or will they pollinate themselves?

Hardiness Zone:

By natalie from UT


Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 112 Feedbacks
May 11, 20090 found this helpful

Yes, the Van sweet cherry tree has to be cross-pollinated. Scroll to the very bottom of this webpage:

Plum trees also have to be pollinated. Toka has earned the reputation of being the best pollinator.

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May 13, 20090 found this helpful

Plum trees have to be cross-pollinated, but you have to know if it is a European or Japanese tree, because Japanese can only cross-pollinate Japanese and the same with European. Call your local nursery and they can tell you which it is and what trees cross-pollinate with it. Also, if anyone within a mile of your home has the same type of trees, theirs can cross-pollinate your trees .

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August 28, 2005

I planted 3 fruit trees this past spring and I want to know when would be the right time to remove the supports that came with the trees. My trees look healthy, but have not grown a leaf since I planted. Are the supports keeping the trees from growing?



Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 214 Feedbacks
August 29, 20050 found this helpful

Your trees are probably working on the root system and using all their energy to do so. I would leave the supports on the tree for a year or two until you know for sure that the trees are firmly established. Give them a deep drink every few weeks this summer/fall and next spring you should see new growth happening.

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May 13, 2005

We are going to be moving to the country next month. The property has a vineyard and one corner the vines were damaged by a fire. The whole thing is watered by drip irrigation. I really don't plan to just have a vineyard and would like a farm with all types of nut and fruit trees.

Could I just clear out where the dead/burned vine was and plant something new in it's place? I figured it would also get watered when the vines do. The ground is sandy so I know I would have to add something to the ground before we plant but I don't know what. We live in the California's central valley.

Our zone is 9 I believe.

Firefly 1985


Silver Post Medal for All Time! 364 Posts
June 18, 20050 found this helpful

Just a comment about fruit trees. They make a lot of mess. Be sure you are willing to go out there and clean it up on a daily basis because if you don't, your property is an open invitation to rats.

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April 15, 2016

This is a page about fruit trees not producing fruit. Sometimes there are reasons beyond your control that cause your fruit trees not to bear fruit. There are often things that you can do to correct the issues that result in the trees not producing.

Trees and grass

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April 14, 2016

This is a page about "Do I need to remove fruit from my fruit tree?" When your fruit tree sets too many fruit, you may want to remove some of the immature ones to improve your harvest.

Close up of ripe oranges on orange tree

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February 7, 2013

This is a page about growing fruit trees in pots. In cooler climates or homes with no garden space, it is often preferable to plant fruit trees in pots.

orange tree in a terra cotta planter

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Home and Garden Gardening Fruit TreesFebruary 7, 2013
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