Growing Fruit Trees in Phoenix, Arizona
In this article I talk about which fruit trees do well in Arizona
The first thing I will do is grind your dreams of growing tropical trees. I have seen it done, but the effort far outweighs the reward. If you want a mango or avocado tree in your yard I recommend moving to Hawaii, because that just isn’t the kind of climate we live in. Those who are slightly successful at growing tropical fruit trees in the Phoenix area have to go to great lengths to combat the frost. They have to cover the trees at night and place lights under them to help them survive the Winter. They also have to go to similar lengths to combat the heat. I say forget it and grow something that wants to be here unless tropical trees are simply a passion of yours.
already though Phoenix has plenty of cold weather it isn’t quite cold enough for many stone fruits. Most stone fruits require a certain amount of chill hours in order to produce fruit. I could bore you with a lengthy explanation of chill hours or I could just tell you to not buy anything that requires more than 400 chill hours. This rules out cold loving plants such as cherries and many apples.
The apples that do grow well here are more of what I consider “cooking grade” apples. Some people claim success with Fuji apples, but that is all dependent on having a cold year. Growing apples in the Phoenix desert isn’t much different from tropicals as far as I am concerned: not worth it except to the aficionados.
Let’s now focus on the trees that thrive in Arizona:
Pecans do amazingly well here and I would say that it is one of the best all around trees to plant since it can give good food and shade and good wood for cooking. It is a tree that gives a lot and needs only water and some occasional pruning to beat the wind to the branches. A good arborist does a lot better job of thinning a Pecan than the wind.
Mulberries are prolific in Phoenix and highly under valued. The variety most planted rarely has good fruit on it, which is why the mulberry’s reputation isn’t that great. I am personally a big fan of the Oscar and Pakistani varieties of mulberry with the nod of deliciousness going slightly toward the Oscar. These trees grow fast in addition, and other than water consumption I can’t think of anything I don’t like about them.
There are several varieties of peaches that do well in Phoenix and I have never met a peach that I didn’t like. I would recommend planting several different types close together. For the sake of yard space you can prune them to keep the trees small (I’ll show you how). With the various types of peaches naturally ripening at slightly differing times, you will have a longer peach season than in an orchard specializing in only one variety. This will prolong your life for sure, since everyone knows long peach season equals long life.
I have seen a lot of success with plum trees here, although I am not sure which varieties are best to choose from. The plums I have planted myself haven’t done so well, but there are definitely some plum varieties that seem to do great here. I would plant several and keep the ones that produce and taste the best.
There is a fruit tree that isn’t technically a tree, however it produces fruit that in some countries is considered the ultimate delicacy: it is the Date Palm. Dates are the opposite of Pecans in that it requires a lot of work to produce a good crop of dates. They grow well in Phoenix but need quite a bit of water to thrive. If you imagine a desert oasis, that is where dates would be found. Commercial Date growers will climb their palms 6 times or more each year to pollinate, thin and finally harvest the Dates. If you are serious about having crops of Dates it can be done, but it is definitely a labor of love. One thing to remember is that Dates only copy “true” if they are planted from an off-shoot of a recognized fruit producing variety. You can plant a Date seed and get a Date Palm, but it will not typically produce edible fruit. That being said, the famous Black Sphinx variety of Date was from a seedling planted in Phoenix many years ago.
So now for something really cool: the Loquat. This scarce fruit tree is native to Southern China which seemingly has a similar climate to Phoenix. These trees thrive here and produce an amazing fruit. It’s such a disinctive fruit, and foreign to your average person, so I’m not sure how to describe it. You just have to take my information for it that these trees are worth a try. It can take about five years for the tree to produce fruit, but after that you should have plenty.
The pomegranate does very well in Phoenix. At times it may be difficult to get the fruit to ripen fully, complete with the beautiful ruby red we expect. This can often be resolved by placing a clear plastic cloth over the plant in the day during the hottest months. This causes a large temperature difference between night and day and can cause the ripening course of action. Pomegranates also tend to spread rapidly from sucker growth and need continued pruning to keep them confined to their original space.
All kinds of citrus grow here and I’ll drop a few names of those that I think are often overlooked but shouldn’t be: Kumquats, Oroblanco Pomelo, Mandarins and Yellow Limes. These are all fairly scarce but they taste amazing and I wish more people knew about them.
The best advice I can offer is to buy small trees, buy lots of them, and remember to be patient. Before you know it you will have so much fruit you won’t know what to do with it all. If you are seeking more information I would recommend checking out the Arizona scarce Fruit Growers Club and the several Permaculture sites dedicated to growing in the Phoenix area.