If you’re looking for a last minute gift for the holidays, a fruit tree is a great choice! It’s a gift that keeps on giving year after year. Almost every type of fruit tree can be grown in Arizona. When you are deciding on which variety to grow, pay close attention to the chill hour requirements and temperature hardiness.
Chill hours are defined as the number of hours the temperature is between 45 and 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Fruit trees need a set amount of chill hours to set fruit, and each variety has different requirements. Usually in Maricopa County we get around 300-400 chill hours per year, but it varies throughout Arizona. For the best fruit production, we recommend picking varieties with 400 chill hours or less.
Temperature hardiness is also important to take into consideration. Even in the city it is not unheard of to have a winter night drop down to the 20s. For this reason, we recommend only planting trees indicated in our plant hardiness zone. Maricopa County ranges from zone 9a to 10a.
There are many peach varieties to choose from that grow well in our climate. Some popular yellow flesh varieties include Desert Gold, Earligrande, Bonanza, Flordaprince, Flordagrande, Desert Red, and Tropic Sweet. Popular white flesh varieties are Babcock and Tropic Snow. All require 100-300 chill hours and are know for producing delicious fruit. We grow three different varieties and our overall favorite is Flordaprince. It produces large, delicious semi-cling peaches that ripen earlier than most varieties, around April.
Plum varieties that grow well here include Santa Rosa, Satsuma, Gulf Gold, Gulf Ruby, and Beauty. All require around 200-300 chill hours. Santa Rosa is one of the most popular varieties in Arizona. We have two growing great in our orchard. They produce sweet plums that often get devoured by the birds.
From our experience, the best apricot varieties are Katy and Gold Kist. They require 200-300 chill hours and produce delicious fruit. I most often see Blenheim (Royal) apricot trees for sale at local nurseries. It is rated zone 7-8 and requires 400-500 chill hours. It is the most popular variety in California and should probably grow fine here, but we don’t have experience growing this variety.
Many people think apples only grow in very cold climates, but there are several varieties that do well in our desert heat. The most popular are Anna, Beverly Hills, Dorsett Golden, Ein Shemer, and Pettingill. We grow Dorsett Golden and Anna trees. Both grow very well and are prolific producers of delicious apples.
The most common figs seen in Arizona are Black Mission, Brown Turkey, and Kadota. They all require around 100 chill hours and are known for producing great figs. We have a Kadota fig that is around 30 years old and it produces juicy, sweet green figs that make excellent jam. We also recently planted a Black Mission fig.
Arizona has an ideal climate for growing citrus. They require no chill hours to set fruit. They are very susceptible to cold weather so protection from winter frost is required, especially for young trees. Lemon, lime and citron varieties succumb more easily to the cold. In the past few years we have had one lemon and two limes perish from the winter frost, despite protection with blankets and heat lamps. More hardy citrus include oranges, grapefruit, mandarins, and tangelos.
Where can I purchase fruit trees?
Any local nursery or big-box store will have fruit trees year round. In the early spring you can find bare root varieties, which are generally much cheaper than potted trees and a lot easier to plant. We have found A&P Nursery to carry the best selection suited for our climate. We purchased our citrus from Greenfield Citrus. They are a local nursery that grow their trees on site so they are adapted well to our climate. They are very knowledgeable about citrus and can answer all of your questions and guide you to the best varieties.