You may have noticed that the State of California has a number of growing zones ranging from polar to subtropical, making it a great State to grow many different fruit trees. Much of the State has a moderate climate with wet winters and warm dry summers. So what are the best fruit trees to grow in California?
What fruit trees grow well in California? Citrus fruit, lemon, orange and grapefruit, fig, plum, avacado, persimmons, pomegrantes, mango, peaches and guava all grow well in California.
However certain fruit trees suit the Northern part of California, while other trees suit the Southern regions of California. Lets take a look into this more thoroughly.
Fruit Trees That Grow Well in California
|Fruit Tree||Southern California||Northern California|
If you live in Northern California then you might be interested to learn that you can grow the mango, but only in certain areas and in a certain way which we will explain below.
We have seen a productive and large Mango tree about 14 feet tall, loaded with mango fruit growing in Pitsburg near where the Bay meets the Delta. This body of water ensures that the surrounding area is frost free, which is great for mango trees.
If you also happen to be located in the foothills that lead upto the North side of the Diablo Range then the slope, which goes down to the Delta, will literally drain cold air away, keeping the temperatures warmer.
Growing Queen Palms or better still King Palms beside the Mango tree will ensure a canopy to also provide a little overhead protection from frosts. If Queen Palms or King Palms are growing in your neighbourhood then this is a good indication that Mango trees will also grow. If you don’t have at least any Queen Plams or King Palms growing near where you live then you shouldn’t really try growing Mango trees outdoors.
Chill Factors For Growing Fruits in California
Some fruits require a certain amount of chill hours to ensure that the fruit sets. Chill hours just means the amount of cold weather. This is not such a problem for Northern California as they average 800 to 1500 chill hours, whereas Southern California may only get 100 to 400 hours.
Apples will grow well in California and especially Northern California as they need on average 400 to 1000 chill hours. However, certain varieties need less chill hours and will do better in Southern California.
These varieties are Anna, Beverly Hills, Dorset Golden, Fuji and Gala.
Varieties that do well in Southern California are Golden Delicious, Fuji, Gala, Red Delicious, Rome Beauty, and Winesap.
Below is a Table dispalying the Chill Hours of a few varieties of apples and which part of California they would grow best in.
|Apple Variety||Chilling Hours||Southern California||Northern California|
|Anna||200 – 300||Yes||No|
|Beverly Hills||250 – 300||Yes||No|
|Dorset Golden||100 – 250||Yes||No|
|Winesap||600 – 800||No||Yes|
Most varieties of Apples need to cross polinate so you will need to plant a couple of differnt varieties close to each other in order for the fruit to set.
Apples in California usually prefer well drained, sandy loam soils.
Depending on the variety, Apples will ripen in California around September or October, however some varieties such as the Gala are harvested in July.
Avacados prefer the warmer temperatures and are more suited to growing in Southern California, however some varieties such as the Mexicoloa and the Fuerte are more cold tolerant and will grow in Northern California if given enough frost protection.
If you are trying to grow the Avacado varieties suited to Northern California then try to plant your tree between other trees and plants to shield it from the cold.
Avacado trees do not require any chill hours for the fruit to set.
Varieties of Avacados that grow well in Southern California are the Hass, Reed, Gwen, Fuerte, Bacon, Zutano and Pinkerton.
Its best to not grow an Avacado tree from seed as they can take nearly a decade or more to bear any fruit. Better to buy a tree and plant in your backyard.
They prefer soil that drains well such as a loose or sandy soil. Its best to plant the trees on mounds rather than flat surfaces to help with the drainage.
Its best to plant two Avacado trees if you want to get fruit. They need another tree for pollination.
Avacado Fruit Ripening & Cold Tolerance Table
|Bacon||November – March||High|
|Fuerte||November – June||High|
|Gwen||April – September||Low|
|Hass||April – October||Moderate|
|Mexicola||August – September||High|
|Pinkerton||December – April||Moderate|
|Reed||May – October||Low|
|Zutano||October – February||Moderate|
Citrus fruit trees such as Lemons, Oranges, and Grapefruit will grow in both Southern and Northern California. Growers usually prefer Southern California due to its warmer climate and reduced chances of losing crops to frost.
Another problem with citrus growing at the moment is the citrus tree disease called HLB (Huanglongbing) which has made it very difficult for alot of the commercial growers. It is spread by insects and is also called citrus greening affecting the tree health and fruit development.
However, there is no reason why you still can’t grow citrus in your backyard.
Lemons are very cold tolerant and so will do well in both Southern and Northern California, however Oranges tend to like warmer climates and will do best in Southern California. If you do decide to grow Oranges in Northern California you will need to provide some frost protection to keep them happy and healthy.
Citrus trees prefer to be in the full sunlight and will do best in well draining soil. You can also plant them in pots and keep them indoors, as many varieties will fruit just well in a pot.
Figs can be readily found in your local supermarket but invariably dried. Its very difficult to buy fresh figs and so having your own tree will allow you to enjoy the rich flavour of a fresh fig. They contain an abundance of nutrients and health benefits.
Figs prefer a warmer climate so those of you who live in Southern California should find no problem in growing this fruit. Those of you in Northern California can still grow figs, but you will have to be make sure they have protection from the frosts and colder weather.
Fig trees tend to do best in soils that are well-drained however they will tolerate wet soils. They can be grown from cuttings and can reach a height of 20 – 30 feet. There is a dwarf fig tree variety that can be grown in pots and will reach a height of 1 meter to 1.5 meters. This variety can be great to grow on the patio or indoors.
Check out our article dedicated to growing fig trees in California: How To Grow Fig Trees In California. See what fig varieties do best.
Plums will thrive in the warm, medditeraen climate of Southern California, and two of the most common varieties grown are the Japenese plum and the European plum. The Santa Rosa plum is considered the best all round plum for growing in Southern California.
They will grow best in soil that has good drainage with a deep sandy loam, however they are pretty much tolerant of a wide range of soil types.
Its best to select a planting location that will receive full direct sun for 6 to 8 hours at least.
The plum fruit takes 140 days to 170 days to mature and be ready for picking. The season for harvesting in California is from May to October, with the earliest varieties picked in mid May and the later varieties picked in late September or early October.
Check the Map below for Major Plum Growing Regions in California.
Southern California produces over 70% of the plums grown in the United States, so you should have no problems groing these fruit trees.
Persimmons grow very well in both Southern and Northern California with most commercial growing centered in Fresno and San Diego.
Persimmons are not too particular with the type of soil they grow in and will tolerate extremes such as the dry summers and wet winters. One type of soil they do not like is a soil high in salinity, however most other soils are fine.
Cross polination is not neccesarry and the fruits are pretty much pest free.
The Asian varieties are a lot smaller and easier to manage than the American varieties. They are also sweeter and better tasting. Both the ‘Hachiya’ and ‘Fuyu’ varieties grow very well in California.
Most persimmon have a low chilling factor of less than 100 hours, but in saying that there are many varieties that do very well in the cooler areas.
Its important to eat a persimmon when it is a bit mushy as firmness usually means that it is unripe and unpleasant.
There are two types of persimmon, the non-astringent, which is eaten fresh, and the astringent which is better suited for drying.
Persimmons suitable for growing in California:
Astringent: Ormond, Giombo, Saijo, Sheng
Non-Astringent: Fuyu, Hachiya , Hana Fuyu, Izu
Peaches will grow very successfully in most parts of California. You can grow different varieties that mature at different times of the year to have a good supply of fresh peaches ready to eat.
The best peaches for Southern California are those with a low chill factor such as the Earligrande, Florida Prince, Desert Gold, Babcock, Tropic Snow, Early Amber, Stark Saturn, Santa Barbara, Bonita and Double Jewel Peach.
One of the best peaches to grow in Northern California is the Nemaguard Peach with its rootstock that is best adapted to sandy dry sites.
|Variety||Very Early Season|
(May – July)
(May – July)
(June – July)
(July – August)
|Bonanza Miniature Peach||No||No||Yes||No|
|Double Jewel Peach||No||No||Yes||No|
Guava can be grown in Southern California but are not a common sight in Northern California as they prefer a humid and dry climate and are very sensitive to frost.
They prefer a well draining soil and like lots of sunshine, so be sure to plant them in a spot that receives plenty of direct sunlight.
Depending on the variety they can have a red, yellow, pink or white flesh that is full of small edible seeds.
A number of different guava varieties can be grown in California, including the white Brazilian guava and the pink Brazilian guava.
The “lemon guava” and the “strawberry guava”, and the pineapple guava are also popular varieties for growing in California.
There are also some rare guava varieties that can be grown in Southern California such as the Costa Rican guava.
The pineapple guava can withstand temperatures below freezing along with droughts, making it a very hardy plant worth trying to grow in Northern California.
The flavor of the pineapple guava has a sweet cinammon taste with very small edible seeds.
Persimmons, pomegranates, figs, and citrus, are good choices to grow as they require little pruning and virtually no disease prevention spraying at all.
If you are wanting something really easy to grow then you could try blueberries, raspberries and logan berries, although these are not fruit trees but rather shrubs.
What Is The Best Way To Plant Fruit Trees
The most important first step is to choose a location with good drainage. If you are unsure weather the spot you have selected has good drainage then a good way to find out is to dig a hole about a foot deep and wide and fill it with water. Let it drain completely, then fill it again with water. If the second filling takes longer than 4 hours to drain then you have a drainage problem.
Selecting a tree with a rootstock that suits your soil. If you are unsure, then take a visit to your local nursery and ask them about what fruit trees would suit your soil.
Next, you would want to dig a coned shape hole that is deeper in the center and then tapers out to the sides. Place your tree into the hole and add any amendments. A soil amendment is used to improve its properties, such as drainage, water retention, aeration and structure. The reason for soil ammendments is to provide a better growing environment for roots.
If you are going to plant a fruit tree near a fire hydrant you will want to read this article first: How Close Can You Plant A Tree To A Fire Hydrant.
If your soil is good then will not need to add any ammendments to the soil. Just fill in the hole and add the ammendments to the surface.
When you plant the rootstock, ensure that the top of the soil reaches the same level as the top of the soil it was previously planted in. You can usually tell this by the change in color of the rootstock. Where it changes color is where the original soil line was. This prevents the tree from rotting.
Backfill the hole ensuring the tree is kept straight and the soil stays at the same line as the original soil line on the rootstock. Press the soil down compactly around the planted fruit tree.
Add a good 3 to 4 inches of mulch to the base of the tree and your fruit tree should be all set.
 UCANR: Planting alternative backyard fruit trees in Southern California
 University of California: Fig
 University of California: Fruit and Nut Research and Information – Fresh Plum
 Tropicaloasisfarms: Guava – Growing Guavas in California
 Colorado State University: Choosing a Soil Ammendment
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