by Matt Gibson
Caring for fruit trees can be extremely satisfying. There aren’t a lot of things in life that are quite as fulfilling than biting into a fresh piece of fruit that you grew yourself, just picked from the tree and still warm from the sun. Fresh fruit is not just healthy and nutritious. It’s also one of the most expensive things you can add to your grocery cart each week, depending on which fruits your family likes to eat and whether they’re in season. Once you make the initial investment in cash and time that it takes to plant fruit trees, they just require a bit of time devoted to maintenance and, in the long run, can end up saving you tons of money while helping to keep plenty of fresh, vitamin-filled fruits in your daily diet—even when you can’t afford to spend a lot of your budget on fresh produce.
Whether you want to grow a couple of fruit trees to save some money on your grocery bill and add more servings of fruit to your daily diet or you have plans to plant a whole backyard orchard (or even if you just want to feed the birds and enjoy the beauty of these fragrant flowering trees) you’ll find plenty to add to your knowledge base in this guide full of helpful tips to get you started. Here’s what every gardener needs to know before taking on the task of planting and caring for your own fruit trees.
Pollination Is Key for Fruit Trees
Unless you are growing fruit trees strictly for their pretty flowers, you will want to plant your garden while keeping in mind the need to draw in as many birds, bees, and other pollinators as possible for success. You could choose a few fruit trees that self-pollinate, but that is really going to limit your selections. Self-pollinating fruit trees include peach, citrus, and nectarine trees. Trees that need a buddy or two in order to produce fruit include apples, pears, and plums.
To max out your garden on being pollinator-friendly, you’ll want to take a two-pronged approach. First, do away with elements that can be harmful to pollinator populations. These include habitat loss, toxic pesticides, and certain specific threats, such as the white nose syndrome that threatens bats. Once you’ve made sure your yard isn’t threatening the wildlife you mean to attract, then go on the offensive by taking steps to attract these friendly pollinating fauna to your garden. Simply including plants that bloom at all times of the year in your flower beds and featuring native plants when possible can go a long way toward boosting your number of pollinator visitors. If you want to put more time and energy into attracting pollinators to your plants, you can visit these regional planting guides put together by the nonprofit Pollinator Partnership to find out what plants attract the pollinators native to your location.
Planting Time for Fruit Trees
No matter which fruit trees you are planning to cultivate, knowing the proper planting time is essential. If you plant certain fruit trees too close to the winter time, you risk a frost killing it before it has a chance to establish itself. If you plant certain fruit trees too close to the summer, you chance that the developing roots may not have a chance to soak up enough water that is critical to their growth and development.
Refer to the tree’s instructions from the seller, which you’ll often find on packaging or online listings, or you can check out our articles on each tree type to find out the details for what you’re planning to grow. We’ve also provided the basics for many types of fruit below in the next section.
How to Grow an American Persimmon Tree
How to Grow an Apple Tree
How to Grow an Avocado Tree
How to Grow Your Own Banana Plant or Banana Tree
How to Grow a Brown Turkey Fig Tree
How to Grow Coconut Palm
How to Grow Crabapple Trees
How to Grow Figs
How to Grow Lime Trees
How to Grow the Jujube Fruit
How to Grow a Mango Plant Indoors
How to Grow Mulberry Trees
How to Grow Pomegranate in Containers
How to Grow Plums
How to Grow Sea Berry
Growing Specialty Fruits
Growing Nut Trees
Additional Care for Each Type of Fruit Tree
Every variety of fruit tree comes along with its own care needs and instructions. You will need to pay attention to your tree throughout its lifespan by watering, fertilizing, trimming, pruning, protecting it from pests and disease, and performing other maintenance tasks. Pay close attention to the specific needs of each type of tree (or plant) that you decide to grow. If you give each tree in your garden a lot of love, you will get a lot of love back in return—in the form of a harvest of delicious fruit to keep your fridge and fruit bowl stocked all year long.
Soaking, storing, and finally planting a peach pit is just a preamble to the three years that you will have to wait before your peach tree produces any fruit worth picking. Aside from the wait, growing your tree from a peach pit only has one other drawback. There is no way to ensure that you are growing a particular breed of peach if you’ve planted a pit that you procured from a store-bought peach. Peach trees love mild temperatures and will produce fruit even if you have just one self-pollinating plant in your garden. Biting into a peach that you grew yourself after waiting more than three years—that’s priceless.
A cherry tree that doesn’t get pollinated will still produce some of the prettiest blooms you’ve ever seen. Sour cherry trees can self pollinate, but if you want to grow your own sweet red cherries, you will need to have two varieties planted near to each other in your garden so that the trees can be cross-pollinated. If you have an abundance of sunshine and well-draining soil and you live between USDA zones 5 and 8 (or in a similar climate area), you can try your hand at growing cherry trees.
Apples love the climate of the north, and they need the break of a dormant season to produce fruit to their fullest capacity. Rainy seasons and snowy winters don’t feel nearly as inconvenient and gloomy when you own apple trees, as every dormant season will result in a boosted harvest of apples. If you grow your apples from seeds, however, you will need to exercise a great deal of patience while you wait for your trees to produce fruit. Most varieties of apple trees will need at least four years to grow before any fruit is produced.
Sweet orange sunbursts explode in your yard against glossy dark green foliage when you plant oranges, one of the prettiest fruit trees you can grow. Like all the other citrus fruit favorites, oranges love warm climates, lots of sunlight exposure, and climates that experience no frosts. Citrus trees can be grown in a slightly cooler climate as long as you have the room to move them indoors or to a greenhouse during the winter so they don’t have to endure the frost outdoors. Considering the beautiful contrast of colors that orange trees provide and their ability to produce blooms all year long, making the move isn’t too much of an imposition for gardeners who love them.
If you have the proper climate for apple trees, pears will do well in your area, too. Pears are also similar to apples in that they produce a core of small seeds and, when planted from seed, come with a four-year wait before they will produce fruit. However, we think you’ll agree that the pear is another tasty fruit that is well worth the wait. Once the four-year growing period is over, you can expect an abundance of pears from the tree you’ve been tending. You will likely find yourself with plenty of produce to give pears away to friends and neighbors all year long, as pear trees have been known to produce up to 2,250 pounds of fruit a year.
See these videos about growing fruit trees:
Learn from those with experience. This video, featuring advice from two expert gardeners, will give you five tips for growing amazing fruit trees at home:
This tutorial shows you how to prune a fruit tree—and how not to prune one:
Planting your trees directly in the ground? This video provides 10 helpful instructions to follow to make sure you’re doing it right:
Planting your trees in containers? This in-depth how-to will teach you all you need to know:
Want to Learn More About Growing Fruit Trees?
Better Homes & Gardens covers Growing Fruits at Home: What You Need to Know
Gardening Know How covers Growing Backyard Fruit Trees
Mother Earth News covers All About Growing Fruit Trees
Treehugger covers 10 Tips for Growing Fruit Trees at Home