Planting a fruit tree

When and How to Plant Fruit Trees

Late winter and early spring are the time to plant fruit trees and bushes. While I love my veggie garden, there is a beauty in only having to plant something once and being able to harvest if for years to come. Can I get a holler? No, sheesh, this is exciting stuff, okay, at least a high five.

Having a fruit source on your homestead is a great step towards self-sufficiency and lowering your grocery bill. Plus, there is nothing and I mean nothing, like fresh ripe fruit straight off the vine… or tree or bush. This makes jam, jelly, and syrup making almost free as well.

When to Plant Fruit

Planting in the late winter or early spring is generally the best time to get your new fruit trees in the ground. As long as the ground isn’t too frozen to dig a hole, you should be good to go.

Bare root stock should be planted in winter, while raspberries and blueberries can be planted into spring.

A good rule of thumb is to check the local nursery’s in your area. If they have bare root fruit trees and other fruit plants out, then it’s time to begin planting. Your goal is to have the fruit tree/plant in the ground so the roots can get over the shock of transplanting and begin establishing their root system before the stress of summer and the work of growing leaves and fruit begin.

Where to Get Good Fruit Stock

You have a few options for finding good fruit stock. Your best bet is to go to a local nursery rather than ordering online. You’ll be able to inspect the stock, it’s most likely grown in your region (acclimated to your weather), and the varieties best suited to where you live.

Bare root fruit trees are usually the cheapest route to go and most nurseries will have them on sale in winter, as this is the time they must be planted. Because you’ll be purchasing and planting the trees before they’ve leafed and blossomed out, it may be harder to tell if the tree is healthy.

I look for a tree that has a good set of well balanced limbs, a solid scaffolding in place, and no cracks or scabbing on the limbs or trunk.

If you have a friend with a good raspberry patch, ask if you can get a few canes (the viney branch part of the bush) to start your own patch. It will take a few years before your own canes need thinning, but this was how we got all of our raspberries. An overgrown patch was on my aunt’s property and we transplanted an entire row in the early spring to our yard. Raspberries will also send out runners and you can dig those canes up as well.

How to Plant Fruit Trees and Plants

If you plan on moving an established fruit tree or fruit plant or planting a bare root or potted tree, be sure you dig a hole twice as wide and twice as deep. Create a cone shape of dirt in the bottom of the hole and spread the roots out and down this dirt cone (same technique in How to Plant Strawberries)

Back fill the hole with loose dirt and a layer of compost. If any of the roots are broken, remove them before planting. Keep the level of dirt at the same level it was in at the nursery. You can usually see the line on the trunk of the tree or bush. Create a mote around the base of the tree to allow the water to filter down onto the roots instead of running off into the surrounding soil or land.

Use a small amount of water when you plant the tree . The soil will settle and you’ll be able to see where you need to add more dirt. Don’t over water in the winter months. In the late spring, when the tree leaves out and soil becomes dry, water deeply once a week.

Throughout the first summer, you’ll want to water the plant once a week if you don’t have any rain fall. I neglected to this with one of our new apple trees and lost it. So even in the rainy Pacific Northwest, you’ll still want to follow the rule of watering deeply once a week with a newly planted tree.

Note: It takes an average of seven years before you’ll be able to harvest a sizeable crop from your fruit trees. Most bare root stock is a few years old, but you can ask the nursery for more specifics or older stock, however, the bigger or older the stock, the more expensive it will be. Raspberries will produce the following year and blueberries usually take a couple of years.

Picking Your Variety of Fruit

An important thing to remember when planting your fruit trees is to be sure you either pick a self-pollinating fruit tree or you purchase two varieties that will cross-pollinate. A crab apple with cross-pollinate almost all apple tree varieties as it blooms for a longer period of time than a regular apple, allowing it to pollinate early, mid, and late season apples. Although a crab apple is so sour you’ll never make the mistake of biting into one twice, it is high in natural sources of pectin and will help you get a beautiful set on your jams and jellies.

Some varieties of apples become ripe later in the season. If you live in a zone with early frosts or shorter growing seasons, you might want to pick an earlier ripening variety.

You can also purchase “fruit cocktail” trees, where several varieties have been grafted onto one stock. We haven’t had much luck with these as the grafted branches tend to die off after a year or two and the main stock of the tree takes over.

Even if a fruit variety is self-pollinating, you’ll get a larger harvest if a cross-pollinator is nearby.

My favorite apple is the heirloom Gravenstein, but because it’s sterile (doesn’t pollinate anything else) so we have a crab apple, and also a Gala and Honeycrisp.

For a full list of cross-pollinating fruit trees go here.

Bare Root Fruit Trees to Plant in Winter

  1. Apple
  2. Apricot
  3. Asian pears
  4. Crabapple
  5. Sweet Cherry
  6. Sour Cherry
  7. Pears
  8. Peaches
  9. Plums

Bonus: Use the same tips for planting Filberts or hazelnut trees.

What to do if you don’t have any land

Even if you don’t have a large yard or any land you can still plant fruit trees. Look for dwarf varieties. Here’s a detailed post on Dwarf Fruit Trees from Untrained

Want to try your hand at permaculture and the Back to Eden gardening? Here’s how one blogger started her mini-orchard in the Back to Eden style and how she got her loads, and I mean loads, of mulch for free.

What kind of fruit do you grow? Do you have a favorite variety or tips to share?

One of the oldest advanced techniques of gardening — and one of my favorites — is espaliering, which involves shaping woody plants into two-dimensional shapes. Now, in bare root season, it’s timely to consider this tree-training technique.

Espaliering has been traced back to the walled gardens of Persia, as long ago as 4000 B.C. It was practiced during the Roman Empire and developed further during the Middle Ages.

There are good reasons for training trees or shrubs into relatively flat shapes. The primary reason in many situations is to garden productively within a limited space. Adding one fruit tree might be possible in a smaller garden, but even trees growing on dwarf rootstock can require a 10-by-10 area, plus some walking-around space, for cultivation. A gardener could use this tree-training technique to grow several different trees in the same 100 square feet.

Espaliering is especially useful in narrow spaces along a driveway or sidewalk, or between the house and the property boundary. With an appropriate training plan, the gardener can maintain a row of fruit trees at a height of 3 or 4 feet, in a low profile that is both accessible and attractive.

If you have a space in which you might like to grow an espalier, check first to determine whether sun exposure is sufficient for the plant you would like to install in the space. The most popular plants for espaliers are fruit trees, particularly apples, apricots, cherries and pears. Other plants also can be grown in flat panels, including berries and climbing plants.

All the popular fruit trees — and most fruiting or flowering bushes or vines — require six or more hours of direct sunlight each day. Specific fruit tree varieties will perform better than others in the Monterey Bay area, so it would be prudent to do a bit of research before buying a tree for this purpose, or any other garden use.

Local garden centers usually offer only varieties that are appropriate for the immediate area. One could also seek the advice of the local chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers. (Visit

Other than making good use of limited space, espaliering has at least two more benefits. One is to increase a fruit tree’s productivity. Training a tree to a two-dimensional form emphasizes horizontal branching, which maximizes the development of fruiting spurs. In addition, the flat form exposes more of the branches to sunlight and air, which promotes fruiting.

The second additional benefit is the opportunity for creative expression. Over the years, gardeners have developed many patterns for shaping the branches of trees and shrubs: fans, candelabras and multi-tiered shapes are the simplest to manage and the most popular.

A special form of espalier, the cordon, is a single-trunked tree that develops spur clusters along its length. In this approach, branching is avoided and the trunk is trained to 45 degrees to the horizontal. A variation, the step-over design, brings the trunk to the horizontal, forming a low border.

For advice on growing fruit trees, attend a fruit tree workshop, such as those offered by Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Farm and Garden; call 831-459-3240, email [email protected] or visit

For specific information on espaliering, visit a bookstore, public library or for Allen Gilbert’s “Espalier: Beautiful Productive Garden Walls and Fences” (Hyland House, 2009). Other, more general books on pruning also would be helpful. Visit your local garden center now for an early selection of bareroot fruit trees.

Tom Karwin is president of the Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and a Lifetime UC Master Gardener. Visit for more info; send feedback to [email protected]

Small Yard Ideas

Home ” Fair Oaks Horticulture Center ” Orchard ” Tour

Grow fruit trees in small yards! In response to visitors’ requests, we’ve added more in-depth information.

Purpose of the Orchard

This orchard was planted to demonstrate orchard techniques that are appropriate for the small urban yard. Of particular interest in this orchard are the techniques used to keep trees small, and to maximize the number of fruit varieties that can be planted in a small space.


The original trees in this orchard were planted in 1998, a drip irrigation system was installed, and the initial layer of mulch was applied. In 2004, the drip system was replaced with micro-sprinklers to provide adjustable water distribution, and better accessibility for cleaning and repairs.

Over the years many trees have been removed and replaced. Some declined from disease or borers, some produced only fair tasting fruit, and some were planted too close together. These changes have been a learning experience for both the Master Gardeners and the public! Replacement trees have provided a continuing opportunity to taste new varieties and demonstrate how to plant and train young trees.

Fruit bushes

Fruit bushes Look around and observe: most of the trees in the front and central area of the orchard are kept below 7 feet tall. These are called “fruit bushes.”

The benefits of keeping trees this small:

  • Minimizes the need to climb ladders
  • Keeps fruit reachable from the ground
  • Allows space for a wider variety of fruit and a longer harvest season

Fruit bush trees can be grown singly, two in a hole, three in a hole, four in a hole, or in a hedgerow. There will be examples of these during the tour.

The key to fruit bush training is pruning in May, and again after harvest. Vigorous trees may need a third pruning in late summer.

Summer pruning has two main objectives:

  • Control tree size: Prune out new vigorous upright shoots to keep the tree height to the desired level.
  • Open up canopy: Thin out crowded new shoots allowing more light penetration into the interior of the canopy which helps develop flower buds for next year’s fruit.

Summer pruning helps to:

  • Slow down the growth of a vigorous tree by reducing foliage.
  • Develop structure on a new tree faster by starting structural training in the first summer instead of waiting until winter.

Avoid severe cuts that will expose fruit or large sections of bark to the hot sun. If that does happen, paint exposed branches with a 50/50 mixture of white interior latex paint and water to prevent sunburn.

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Fruit bushes planted singly

Single fruit bushes An example of fruit bushes planted singly can be seen with the two trees along the left of the center aisle. The first tree is a four-way grafted pluot (plum X apricot hybrid), which means there are four varieties grafted onto one tree instead of just one graft. Buying one tree with multiple grafts is another way to grow more varieties of fruit in a small space!

Multi-grafted trees can pose a challenge to keep vigorous varieties from crowding out a neighboring variety. Prune each grafted variety to stay within its allotted space. For a four-way grafted tree, envision that the space around the tree is divided up into four equal quadrants. Keep each variety pruned to stay within its allotted space.

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Fruit bushes two in a hole

Notice two trees planted near each other. Each tree has half the space to grow in as a tree planted alone.

When pruning, visualize the two trees as sharing the space of one tree. It is helpful to keep the center area between the trees open so that you can stand in the middle and prune out branches reaching inward.

When planting trees this close together, it is a good idea to choose trees with similar growth rates and similar maintenance needs. These two trees, a peach and a nectarine, both require spraying for control of Peach Leaf Curl.

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Fruit bushes three in a hole

Two peaches and a nectarine were planted in the same large hole. Each tree takes up one-third the space of a tree planted alone.

These trees were planted on a mound originally about twice the height you see today to encourage good drainage. Over the years the mound has settled but is still higher than the surrounding ground.

The original soil in this orchard was heavy clay over hardpan (a dense, almost cement-like clay layer) which prevented water from draining properly. Planting trees on mounds or berms is a good method to improve drainage in problem areas.

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Fig trio

Fig trio Here is a group of three fig trees, each a different variety.

Some fig varieties have two crops a year! Tiny figs begin forming by fall, they can easily be seen during winter, and ripen early the next summer. A larger crop forms on current season’s growth and ripens late August thru October. The three varieties here (Black Mission, Kadota, Flanders) each have two crops a year.

Figs are very vigorous growers but take well to severe pruning. Winter pruning may remove part or the entire early crop. Summer pruning may reduce the fall crop. Whenever you choose to prune (winter, summer, or both), be vigilant in keeping the height down unless you want a very large tree!

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“Beneficial” container garden

Beneficial container garden
This shows some types of landscape plants that attract beneficial insects to the yard. Some beneficial insects help pollinate fruit trees; others help kill or control “bad bugs” in the yard.

For more information about plants that attract beneficial insects, see:
Attracting Beneficial Insects to Your Garden (Garden Notes 129).

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Four in a hole

Note that this group of trees was removed in September 2013.

This group of trees is planted four in a hole. Notice that the center of the group is somewhat open, and that each tree takes up one-fourth the space!

This grouping is a good example of trees which grow well together: an apple, Asian pear, and two European pears. They are compatible because:

  • They have similar growth patterns without one tree being more vigorous than the others.
  • They all are subject to damage from the codling moth larvae, so spraying all four trees is done at the same time.

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Espalier trees

Espaliers are useful where there is a narrow space, such as along a fence or house. Walk along the row and notice how the apple trees are trained. Shoots can be trained along wires or spread out in a fan shape, with fruiting spurs carefully selected and maintained. Or shoots can simply be tied up and the tree clipped like a hedge, with periodic thinning of branches.

Apple espalier Citrus espalier

Apples, pears, and citrus have traditionally been espaliered. At the end of this espalier row is a dwarf pomegranate being trained in a fan shape.

Asian pear arborsculpture We have several other espaliered trees outside the main orchard behind the berry patch. There is a row of three Asian pear trees with some clever arborsculpture shapes (best seen when the trees are dormant). Next to the Asian pear trees on a separate trellis are two young trees (peach and cherry) being espalier trained in the fan shape. Both of these trees are part of a future experiment to cover trees with a fabric at specified times for pest control.

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Hybrid trees

“Peacotum” hybrid Here is a young “peacotum” (peach X apricot X plum hybrid), which replaced an “aprium” (apricot X plum hybrid) that developed disease problems and was too vigorous for this small space.

We are using summer pruning to get a head start on training this young peacotum in its first summer season. Early training helps accelerate the production of fruit. We are using the following guidelines:

  • In late April, begin training the tree to an open center system where the center of the tree is kept free of large branches and shoots.
  • Select three or four shoots that will become the main structural branches. These shoots ideally should be spaced several inches apart vertically, and be evenly spaced around the trunk. If selected shoots are vigorous, head them back to 2 to 2½ feet in late May or early June (or when growth is long enough) to promote side branching.
  • Pinch or head back all other strong upright shoots to 4 to 6 inches.
  • If the tree grows poorly the first year, severely head back primary shoots in winter to three to four buds to promote vigorous growth next year.

For more information see: Fruit Trees: Training and Pruning Deciduous Trees (ANR 8057).

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Hedgerow Originally eight trees were planted 2 feet apart in a hedgerow here. We found this planting much too close—the trees received too little sunlight to produce quality fruit, and it was difficult to prune the trees so close together and so close to a fence. We removed the entire row, installed a raised bed to allow for better drainage, and planted three new pluot trees 4 feet apart. From our experience, we recommend that trees planted in a hedgerow be planted at least 4 feet apart.

Pluots (and plums) are very vigorous growers even with summer pruning! We prune them three times during the summer.

  • First pruning is in late April or early May when we remove the new vigorous upright shoots at the top of the tree to keep the tree height down. We selectively remove upright shoots from the center of the tree to allow dappled sunlight to reach branches where fruit buds will be encouraged to form.

Finally, we prune as needed to keep the sides of the trees trimmed back from the fence and walkways.

  • Second pruning is after harvest in July or early August to thin the canopy, reduce the height again, and continue to allow dappled sun into the interior of the tree.
  • Third pruning is in September.

During the dormant season, without leaves to obscure our view, we concentrate on correcting structure and removing crossing, broken, or diseased branches.

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Dwarf citrus

Dwarf citrus Common citrus varieties are available on dwarfing rootstock. With little pruning, these trees grow no more than 8 to 10 feet tall and wide, and only 5 to 6 feet tall with some pruning.

If you wish to see more citrus varieties, thirteen dwarf citrus are growing outside the main orchard along the west fence beyond the pond and vegetables.

Frost protection of citrus is a concern in the Sacramento area when selecting citrus varieties. Young citrus trees need to have some frost protection for the first 4 or 5 years. Older trees vary in their tenderness depending on the type of citrus.

Sacramento winters frequently dip just below freezing for a couple of hours at night. Occasionally the temperature drops to the mid 20s for several hours. Every seven or so years it seems an arctic cold air mass moves in. Temperatures in the low 20s for more than 6 hours a night for several days can endanger the life of susceptible varieties.

Citrus tree leaves and branches can be damaged below the temperatures shown below (these are not hard and fast figures but guidelines):

Limes 29°
Lemons and grapefruit 26°
Meyer lemon 22°
Oranges and mandarins 21°
Kumquats 19°

Depending on the state of ripening, citrus fruit can be damaged below 27°.

For more information on frost protection and what to do during a hard freeze, see: Frost Protection for Citrus and Other Subtropicals (ANR 8100).

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Genetic dwarf peaches and nectarines

Genetic dwarf trees

This is a row of two genetic dwarf peaches and a genetic dwarf nectarine.

How is a “semi-dwarf” peach (or nectarine) tree different from a “genetic dwarf” tree?

  • A semi-dwarf peach tree is composed of a standard fruit variety grafted onto dwarfing rootstock. It is the rootstock that affects the overall tree size.
  • A genetic dwarf peach is a variety that has been bred to include a dwarfing gene, producing a naturally small-growing tree. It is usually grafted onto a standard rootstock; it is not the rootstock that affects the tree size.

Observe how short the internodes are—the section of stem between two leaf buds (nodes). This results in compact branches and dense foliage.

Standard varieties of peaches and nectarines are not available in genetic dwarf, but some delicious and productive genetic dwarf varieties are available at nurseries.

Because fruit set can far exceed the small canopy’s capacity to grow large fruit, the home gardener must be careful to thin dwarf tree fruit properly. Not only will proper fruit thinning increase fruit size, but can prevent branches from breaking.

Lower-vigor dwarf trees require more care, such as frequent irrigations, careful pruning to thin out dense foliage, and regular fertilizing. Dwarf trees do not usually benefit from summer pruning.

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Perpendicular “V” peaches and nectarines

Perpendicular V trained trees Notice the row of peach and nectarine trees that have only two main scaffold branches forming a “V” perpendicular to the row. These trees are planted only 5 to 6 feet apart. At some times of the year you can see through the center of the “V” straight through the row! This is a commercial training system that provides early fruit production and high yields. These trees are usually allowed to grow up to about 8 to 10 feet, and do require the use of a ladder.

From our experience, this training system is more difficult for the home gardener to maintain. Sunburn on the main scaffolds is a problem; notice the whitewash paint (50/50 mix of white interior latex paint and water) which helps to reflect sun on exposed branches.

The goal is to have two main scaffolds with

  • No heavy side branching
  • Numerous young productive shoots along the scaffolds producing fruit
  • Adequate leaves to shade the scaffolds from sunburn.

Because peaches and nectarines only produce fruit on one-year old wood, pruning must be vigilant to prevent long-reaching side branches, or clusters of branches at the top. Both of these situations shade lower areas resulting in less new shoot growth and less fruit in shaded areas.

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Peach and nectarine trees with disease resistance

Peach leaf curl resistant trees The three peach varieties here have been hybridized to be resistant to peach leaf curl.

Peach leaf curl is a very common fungal disease on peach and nectarine trees in the Sacramento area. Two products commonly used in the past to control this disease, tri-basic copper sulfate (a blue powder), and lime-sulfur are no longer available to the homeowner. Liquid copper sprays are still available, however, they are not as effective as the discontinued items.

For the most recent information on peach leaf curl, refer to Peach Leaf Curl (Pest Note 7426) or available from the Master Gardeners in the orchard.

Some of the new hybrid peach varieties that are resistant, or partially resistant to leaf curl are Frost, Indian Free, Muir, and Q-1-8. It has been reported that Redhaven peach and most cultivars derived from it are tolerant of leaf curl. A resistant nectarine hybrid is Kreibich.

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Grafted central leader apple

17 apple varieties are grafted on this tree! Apples naturally grow in a central leader shape, although they can be trained in the open center or espalier methods. A central leader tree should be shaped like a Christmas tree, like the one in front of you. Notice that each branch has a white plastic tag near the main trunk. Each of the 17 tags designates a different apple variety that was bud grafted onto the “Fuji” tree. This is yet another way to get many varieties in a small space.

Notice that the branches that radiate out from the central trunk are not directly above the branches below them, but are offset a bit. Offset branches were purposely selected while the tree’s structure was being trained to minimize shading below. Some sunlight is needed on the branches to help develop fruit buds for fruit development the following year.

Also notice that each layer of branches is shorter than the layer beneath it. This creates the pyramidal shape like a Christmas tree. This shape also helps prevent excess shading below.

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Grafted cherry

Multiple graft cherry tree Six cherry varieties were grafted onto a Lapins cherry tree. Most cherry varieties need a second cherry tree as a pollinizer, but not here! Another good reason to learn bud grafting, or buy a multi-variety grafted cherry tree!

A few cherry varieties are “self-fruitful” which means no pollinizer tree is needed. Some common self-fruitful sweet cherry varieties are:

Craig’s Crimson




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Brown rot resistance

Brown rot resistant nectarine This Cavalier nectarine variety is resistant to brown rot disease. Brown rot can occur in most stone fruit, although susceptibility varies among species and their varieties. (Other brown rot resistant varieties are Harko nectarine, and La Feliciana and Scarlet Robe peaches.)

Brown rot appears as light brown soft areas on the ripening fruit, followed by powdery looking spores. At harvest, picked fruit may appear healthy, but then develop brown rot shortly after. There is more information on managing brown rot at the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Online site.

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Open Center Training

Open center trained cherry Many of our trees have been trained to the open center method, and the Asian pear at this stop is a good example. The center should be kept fairly open to allow dappled sunlight onto the lower branches to promote flower bud formation and fruit set.

The open center system works well for peach, nectarine, pear, plum, apricot, and cherry trees. To create an open center tree:

  • Immediately after planting a bare-root tree, cut off the top of the tree to about 18 to 24 inches from the ground.
  • During the next year (including the first summer) select three or four scaffold branches that emerge at wide crotch angles from the main trunk. Ideally, the branches are evenly spaced around the center, and are also spaced apart vertically by several inches.
  • During the life of the tree, the center is kept open with just a few small shoots providing shade and fruit in the center.

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For more information on training fruit trees, see

  • Fruit Trees: Planting and Care of Young Trees (ANR 8048)
  • Fruit Trees: Training and Pruning Deciduous Trees (ANR 8057)

Other useful fruit tree publications:

  • Fruit Trees: Thinning Young Fruit (ANR 8047)
  • Frost Protection for Citrus and Other Subtropicals (ANR 8100)
  • Codling Moth (Pest Note 7412)
  • Peach Leaf Curl (Pest Note 7426)

ANR publications are available at

Pest Notes are available at

Fruit Tree Sizes

Do you want to grow your own, but find fruit tree sizes a bit confusing? We’re here to help clear up some of the fruit tree sizing lingo.

What are the differences between dwarf, semi-dwarf, and standard fruit trees?

Generally speaking, the fruit trees with the smallest mature height will be dwarf trees.

Dwarf fruit trees will grow 8-10 feet tall and wide and, depending on the environment, may start bearing fruit sooner than their larger counterparts. Dwarf trees are ideal if space is limited, and care and maintenance (spraying, pruning, harvesting, etc.) can be done from the safety of the ground — no ladders needed! Some dwarf fruit trees require staking to help them become established and grow upright, but this is a quick and easy task made possible with tree stakes. Trees planted in particularly windy areas may require staking even if you are not planting dwarf sizes.If you are limited on space, even for a dwarf tree, consider growing fruit trees in containers. Most fruit trees, with adequate care and maintenance, will grow and produce fruit in a container environment.

Semi-dwarf is the next-larger size in fruit trees.

These trees will reach 12-15 feet tall/wide. Once semi-dwarf fruit trees are bearing fruit, a 6-foot tall person can harvest most of the fruit without needing a ladder. Sweet cherries are an exception: running a little larger, the semi-dwarf size sweet cherry tree reaches 15-18 feet tall/wide. The average semi-dwarf fruit tree may yield almost twice as much fruit as a dwarf-sized one, without taking up much more space. Semi-dwarf fruit trees tend to be well-anchored and have a greater surface area to yield fruit, compared to dwarf fruit trees, all without taking up that much more space. With proper care and pruning management, a semi-dwarf fruit tree can be the perfect fit for a modest yard or garden, and they are also suitable for being grown in containers!

Standard is the largest-sized tree of any variety.

When they have grown to their full mature size, these fruit trees can reach 18-25+ feet tall/wide. That is, unless you’re considering standard-sized peach and nectarine trees, which will reach 12-15 feet (this may appear to be the range of a semi-dwarf but, because they naturally don’t grow very large, it is the ‘standard’ size for these trees). Depending on the type of fruit tree you’re hoping to plant, the mature height may vary just a little: pears* and plums reach about 18-20 feet in height, while apricots grow up to 15-20 feet tall/wide. Standard-sized trees may take longer to bear fruit but, once they get started, they will produce a greater quantity of fruit over all. At maturity, these trees may require use of a ladder or a fruit picker to help you harvest the fruit, and family and friends to help you consume it. *Some fruit trees, like pears, have more of a conical (narrow but tall) growth habit – these trees naturally won’t have much of a wide spread: Dwarf pear trees will be 8-10 feet tall and spread about 6-7 feet wide; Standard pear trees will be 18-20 feet tall and 12-13 feet wide. Remember, from smallest to largest, it goes: dwarf, semi-dwarf, standard. For spacing purposes, it is safe to assume that the mature width of a fruit tree will be the same as its height. Now that you understand fruit tree sizes, the real challenge is to choose your favorite fruit trees to fit your available space. Good luck!

Shop All Fruit Trees at Stark Bro’s “

  • Article Categories:
  • Fruit Tree Care
  • Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions: “Where on the Dave Wilson Nursery website are the dwarf and semi-dwarf fruit trees?”, “What variety-rootstock combinations are grown?”.

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Novice home fruit growers soon learn that for home planting, dwarf and semi-dwarf fruit trees are highly desirable. This is certainly true for trees on rootstocks that are adapted to the soil and climate of their planting site. Among the keys to success for establishing healthy, productive fruit trees are informed variety and rootstock selection – and regular pruning, including summer pruning if small-sized, easy-care trees is the goal. This means there may be trade-offs to consider when there is a choice for rootstock, such as the perceived easier maintenance of a smaller-growing tree that is less well suited to the site in some way vs. the overall easier maintenance (with a little more summer pruning) of a more vigorous tree with characteristics better suited to the site. The better adapted tree will have fewer problems, be easier to maintain and more likely to beome a strong and healthy, productive fruit tree.

For sites with poor drainage, wet soil tolerant rootstocks (and/or planting on mounds, a berm or raised bed) is a top priority. Sometimes a more vigorous rootstock is necessary to conquer weak soil. Pest/disease resistance is often a key factor. See Selecting Varieties & Rootstocks, Backyard Orchard Culture, and Fruit & Nut Tree Rootstocks for related information and recommendations.

If you are choosing home fruit trees for the first time, in addition to basic information about rootstock strengths and weaknesses, local information is extremely valuable; you should consult your local or area retail nurseries and the Cooperative Extension services for your state or region (Google search: cooperative extension ). Ideally, the best retail nurseries and garden centers in your area will have learned over time which rootstocks are the best choices locally – they have done the homework and you have the good option of simply following their lead.

New in the DWN home orchard catalog are fruit type subgroups that include current variety lists by rootstock. For example, go to Fruit Trees, find Apples, and click on “View Subtypes”. Note also that a fruit variety’s page in the catalog now lists rootstocks the variety is offered on for the current planting season: see Gala Apple, for example, at page bottom.

For reference, the list below includes the 2018-19 top-selling 50% of Dave Wilson Nursery miniatures, dwarfs, and semi-dwarfs that are 3/4 of standard size or less, plus a few qualified varieties described as “relatively small trees”. Also included are some leading cold-country dwarf/semi-dwarfs. These trees represent DWN’s most popular, more commonly available small-stature fruit trees. Remember too that all figs and pomegranates are easily kept small.

DWN Top-Selling Dwarf and Smaller Semi-Dwarf Fruit Trees
Included are semi-dwarfs that are described as 3/4 of standard size or less
Relative tree sizes (unpruned) are approximate, varying with variety and location

Almonds, Dwarf & Semi-dwarf (standard root)
All-In-One (semi-dwarf)
Garden Prince (dwarf)

Apple, Dwarf on M-27 (6-8 ft., staking required)

Apples, Dwarf on Geneva 935 (1/3 TO 40% of standard size)
Golden Delicious
Granny Smith
Pink Lady®

Apples, Semi-dwarf on M-7 (2/3 of standard size)
Dorsett Golden
Golden Delicious
Granny Smith
Pink Lady®

Apricot, Genetic Semi-dwarf on Citation

Apricot, Semi-Dwarf on Citation (3/4 of standard size)
Autumn Glo
Brittany Gold
Gold Kist
Royal Rosa
Wenatchee Moorpark

Apricot, Semi-Dwarf on St. Julian (3/4 of standard size)

Aprium® Interspecific Apricot, Semi-Dwarf (3/4 of standard size)
Flavor Delight
Leah Cot
Summer Delight

Cherry, Sour, Dwarf (8-10 ft., standard root)
North Star

Cherries, Dwarf on Newroot-1 (8-12 ft.)
Black Tartarian
Craig’s Crimson
Royal Rainier
Utah Giant

Cherries, Semi-dwarf on Maxma 14® (2/3 of standard size)
Craig’s Crimson
Minnie Royal
Royal Lee
Royal Rainier
Utah Giant

Cherries, Semi-dwarf (relatively small tree, any root)
Bali (sour)
Compact Stella
Craig’s Crimson
English Morello (sour)

Figs, Semi-dwarf (relatively small tree, own root, potted)
Black Jack
Brown Turkey
Violette de Bordeaux

Jujube, Semi-dwarf (relatively small tree, seedling root)
Honey Jar

Mulberry, Dwarf (6-8 ft., own root, potted)
Dwarf Everbearing

Nectarines, Genetic Dwarf/Miniature (4-7 ft., standard root)
Garden Delight
Necta Zee
Nectar Babe

Nectarines, Semi-dwarf on Citation (1/2 to 2/3 of standard size)
Arctic Glo
Arctic Jay
Arctic Rose
Arctic Star
Double Delight
Heavenly White
Honey Kist
Liz’s Late
Snow Queen

Nectarine, Semi-dwarf on St. Julian (1/2 to 2/3 of standard size)

NectaPlum™, Semi-dwarf on Citation (1/2 to 2/3 of std. size)
Spice Zee

Peaches, Genetic Dwarf/Miniature (4-7 ft., standard root)
Garden Gold
Honey Babe
Pix Zee

Peaches, Semi-dwarf on Citation (1/2 to 2/3 of standard size)
Arctic Supreme
August Pride
Donut ‘Stark Saturn’
Eva’s Pride
Fay Elberta
Gleason Early Elberta
Indian Free
J. H. Hale
July Elberta
May Pride
Red Baron
Sauzee Swirl
Snow Beauty
White Lady

Peaches, Semi-dwarf on St. Julian (1/2 to 2/3 of standard size)
Gleason Early Elberta
White Lady

Peach, Semi-Dwarf (relatively small tree, any root)
Rio Oso Gem Peach

Peacotum, Semi-dwarf (naturally small tree)
Bella Gold

Pear, Semi-dwarf on OHxF333 (2/3 of standard size)
Blake’s Pride
D’Anjou Red
Harrow Delight
Sensation Red Bartlett
Southern Bartlett

Pear, Asian, Semi-dwarf on OHxF333 (2/3 of standard size)
20th Century

Pear, Asian (relatively small tree, any root)
20th Century

Persimmon (small tree, standard root)

Pomegranate (relatively small tree, own root, potted)
A.C. Sweet
Red Silk

Pluerry™ Interspecific Plum, Semi-Dwarf on Citation (3/4 of standard size)
Candy Heart
Sugar Twist

Plum, Semi-Dwarf on Citation (3/4 of standard size)
Elephant Heart
Emerald Beaut
Golden Nectar
Late Santa Rosa
Santa Rosa

Plum, Semi-Dwarf (relatively small tree, any root)
Burbank Plum

Plum/Prune – European/Damson, Semi-Dwarf on Citation (3/4 of standard size)
Blue Damson
Early Italian-Richards
French Improved
Green Gage-Bavay’s

Pluot® Interspecific Plum, Semi-Dwarf on Citation (3/4 of standard size)
Candy Stripe
Dapple Dandy
Dapple Supreme
Flavor Grenade
Flavor King
Flavor Queen
Flavor Supreme

Pluot® Interspecific Plum, Semi-dwarf (small tree, any root)
Flavor King

Multiple-Budded, Semi-Dwarf
Apricot/Aprium® on Citation
Cherries on Maxma 14®
Peaches, Cold Hardy on Citation
Pears on OHxF333
Pears, Disease Resistant on OHxF333
Pears, Asian on OHxF333
Plums on Citation
Plums, Low-Chill on Citation
Fruit Salad, Cold Hardy on Citation
Pluot’R’ Interspecific Plums on Citation
Zee Sweet® Nuggets Pluot’R’ Interspecific on Citation
Cherry-Plums on Citation

last edit 7:47am 2-5-19

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