How to Grow Fruit Trees – The Complete Guide

There are not many more intense pleasures in life than biting into a juicy piece of fruit that explodes with flavor and blows your mind during the intense heat of the summer

I have found a tremendous amount of joy growing my own fruit and you can too if you follow some simple principles.  I started growing plants out of college and have continued my passion for many years now. My focus is fruit trees because I believe they produce the most bang for your buck and are less work than annual fruit plants. It’s amazing to me that you can purchase a fruit tree for around $25 that can provide an abundance of high quality sugar blasts for many many MANY years to come. Some will even outlive you! Gardening is magical and I would like to share some of that magic with you so that you can experience the pleasures that I have growing my own fruit.

I grow in containers and in-ground because it provides me with versatility and gives me option with the types and varieties I can grow. If I don’t want too much of one type of fruit I will grow it in a container or if the fruit type does well in containers, I might choose to make one it’s home. Also if you are limited in space or can’t grow in the ground, container are an awesome solution!

I have broken this post up into difference sections to make the content more easily digestible, so hopefully it’s not too wordy.

Getting Started

If you are just getting started and have never grown a fruit tree before I suggest starting with a type that is considered easier to grow than others and self fertile so you don’t need to worry about purchasing another variety that will need to bloom at the same time. One of the factors that makes a fruit tree easy or not is choosing a type that does well in your climate. The first question is: Where do you live? Climate has huge impact on what you can grow. Drive around town and keep an eye out for what type of fruit trees are growing. Check your USDA climate zone. Dripping Springs is in Hardiness Zone 8b.

Zone 8 Fruit Trees to Grow

Fruit trees that are best for zone 8b come in a wide variety. Here, we can eat fresh, homegrown fruit from a variety of common fruit trees, including:

  • Apple Trees
  • Apricot Trees
  • Pear Trees,
  • Peach Trees
  • Cherry Trees
  • Plum Trees

Due to the mild winters, zone 8 fruit trees also include some warmer climate and tropical fruits such as:

  • Orange Trees
  • Grapefruit Trees
  • Banana Trees
  • Fig Trees
  • Lemon Trees
  • Limequat Trees
  • Tangerine Trees
  • Kumquat Trees
  • Jujube Trees

However, when growing fruit trees, it is important to understand that some fruit trees require a pollinator, which is a second tree of the same species. Pollinators are required for apples, pears, plums, and tangerines, so you will need enough space to grow two trees. Furthermore, fruit trees thrive in areas with well-draining, loamy soil. Most people are unable to tolerate heavy, poorly draining clay soil.

Go to a local nursery and see what is being offered. Find out your local chill hours to see what specific fruit varieties will do best in your area. For example peach trees have a huge variety of different chill hour requirements. One peach variety might do great in your area and another may not produce much of a crop at all.

Sourcing your tree

Once you’ve found out what types of fruit trees and varieties will grow well in your area, you need to find the tree! There are two main ways. You can buy one at a local nursery or online because it is quick, convenient and easy, OR you can propagate them yourself which can really help expand your collection especially if your on a budget. Propagating is a whole other subject but in a nutshell you can either buy, trade or ask a friend if you can have a cutting or branch from their tree. There are a number of online sources to buy fruit tree cuttings such as or Some fruit trees will grow easily directly from the cutting and others will need to be grafted or attaching onto an established fruit tree of the same family. It will then grow that variety you sourced and produce fruit that is exactly the same as the specific variety.

The most common way is to purchase fruit trees from a local nursery, which is a great source but be cautious, sometimes your they will sell trees that will have no chance of producing fruit in your area because they have too high of chill hour requirements or they will be killed because they can’t handle the low temperatures of your winter temperatures. This is especially true if you live in an area with many different microclimates.

Hardening Off

Once you have your tree, it’s important to treat it like a baby because that is what it is usually. If you purchase your tree online, you don’t know if it has been hardened off or not, which is a process of preparing a young tree that has been propagated indoors for the outdoor’s in full sun. If you buy one at a nursery where they are being held outside in partial sun, it should be okay to plant directly in the ground, but make sure you water it thoroughly after planting. The basic principle of hardening off is to slowly over the course of a week, introduce your tree to the outdoors and full sun. Start with full shade outdoors and slowly bring it into the sun over time.


It’s also important to know your planting site. There are microclimates within each site. Observe where you get full sun, partial sun and shade and what are the hottest and coldest parts of the site. If you have a south facing wall in the northern hemisphere it’s going to be much hotter than a south facing wall. You can take advantage of these microclimates by planting heat loving plants next to south facing walls and shade loving trees next to north facing walls. Note: Most fruit trees require full sun.


The next step is to plant your fruit tree after it has been hardened off. If it’s bare root it will be a similar process to planting a container grown fruit tree. Essentially you will want to plant it at the same depth as it was grown in the ground previously or at the level of the soil in the container. If it’s planted too deep you could cause rot near the graft which could kill the tree. Watering thoroughly after planting is important but if you have heavy clay soil that doesn’t drain well you could drown your tree if you water too much. The idea is to soak the rootball and part of the surrounding native soil. I don’t fertilize my trees as soon as I plant them because I don’t want to shock them any more than i have to. Any changes in their growing environment will be a jolt to them and they need to acclimate first. Once I see new growth I know it’s safe to fertilize.


Next step is watering, which is key to a healthy and vigorous fruit tree. In general, it’s easier to kill a fruit tree with more water than not enough water. You want that sweet spot where the tree can grow to its maximum potential given the nutrients available but not too much that you cause fungus or bacterial issues. You can buy a soil moisture tester or a soil sampling tube, or just observe your trees and remember when you watered them last. Watch for signs of stress, If you see wilted leaves, you’ve waited too long to water. You can setup an irrigation system such as drip emitters and have it automated, turn it on manually or just hand water. In the summer you’re going to want to water more than in the winter and your specific climate will have a huge impact on your watering schedule. I setup drip emitters and keep an eye on my trees to get a sense of how much water they need and how often. A general rule of thumb is to water 10 gallons for every inch in diameter of trunk per week, during the summer

Plant Nutrition

Next step is to test your soil for nutrient levels. You can get a cheap soil tester from your local big box store or you can get a professional soil test from a local source or online. I opted for the professional test, which was invaluable because it will tell you exactly what your plants will need including some micronutrients. The big box soil testers usually just measures nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. I live in Southern California by the coast and my soil is alkaline and very low in nitrogen which is typical for this general area. The main nutrient I need for in ground growing is nitrogen. If you’re growing in containers, I will let you in on a little secret that NO ONE talks about. Did you know that plants need 13 essential nutrients from the soil? If you want maximum growth and production you will need to supply your trees with these, especially in containers. If just one nutrient is missing or low, it will be a limiting factor. Here is a list of the 13 plant nutrients that come from soil:

  • Nitrogen (N)
  • Phosphorus (P)
  • Potassium (K)
  • Calcium (Ca)
  • Magnesium (Mg)
  • Sulfur (S)
  • Boron (B)
  • Chlorine (CI)
  • Copper (Cu)
  • Iron (Fe)
  • Manganese (Mn)
  • Molybdenum (Mo)
  • Zinc (Zn)

A great and affordable source of fertilizer for all 16 nutrients is the mittleider method. It’s not organic but will produce amazing results! The main website is Another option but more expensive is to go to your local hydroponic supplier and look at the active ingredients on the back of each fertilizer container until you find one that supplies all 16 and I can guarantee you’ll see results as long as you use it as directed. Generally fruit trees will need fertilizer when the buds start to swell and break in the spring time and regularly during the season until the last crop of fruit develop. I don’t fertilize during the winter and if you live in an area that has consistent frosts it’s not a great idea to fertilize with nitrogen very late in the season because you don’t want to encourage growth that could be damaged by an early frost late during your growing season. You want your trees to go dormant after they are done fruiting for that year.

Here are some organic fertilizing tips I have learned over the years. Note: I have grown my BEST tasting and healthiest looking fruit and trees with 100% organic practices. Organic growing is amazing, there is a symbiotic relationship with everything in the soil and it is the most natural way to grow.

If your fertilizer says it’s “OMRI Listed” that means it’s certified for use on organic farms. One benefit of organic fertilizers is it is much harder to burn your plants than with conventional fertilizer’s such as the Mittleider Method. One fundamental fact is that organic fertilizers need to be broken down by microbes in the soil in order for them to be biologically available to your plant, so you need some sort of life in your soil.

The quickest way to accomplish this is to amend your native soil with well broken down compost. Another great method is to add a thick layer of mulch 3-12 inches deep. It will take a while to break down but will turn your soil into “black gold”. If you don’t have, or can’t afford a ton of compost, what I did was call my local tree trimming service and had them dump all their trimmings all over my gardening site to about 12 inches thick. It’s a free way to build up incredibly healthy soil filled with a ton of life that all your plants will love and will work great with organic soil amendments and fertilizers! It will take a few years but it’s worth it. There is a documentary called “back to eden” on YouTube, that explains this method of growing and all the benefits. It will regulate the temperature of the soil and will allow you to go longer between waterings, saving you money on your water bill!

You can create even better results with organic fertilizers if you use something called compost tea. As the name suggests, compost tea is a liquid concentrate of billions of microbes that is poured onto the roots of your plants which help to break down your organic fertilizer, which in turn feeds your trees. It is made with a few simple ingredients. All you need is a 5 gallon bucket or larger, some compost that hasn’t been pasteurized, a source of sugar such as molasses and a fish tank aerator. In containers I prefer to use conventional fertilizer because I can ensure that my trees are getting all the nutrients that they need. With in ground growing if I don’t provide a specific micronutrient, chances are that it might be available in the native soil.

Another soil additive I use if growing organically in containers or in ground is mycorrhiza fungi. It is a product you can purchase at some local nurseries or online that has a symbiotic relationship with plant and tree roots. It plays an important role in plant nutrient, soil biology and soil chemistry.


The next step in growing fruit trees is to sit back and watch your incredible machines of fruit producing magic do their thing. Some fruit types will benefit from thinning of the fruit when they are about the size of a pea or larger. Stone fruit(Apricot, peaces, nectarines and plums) and Pome fruit(Apples and Pears) are some examples. Thinning will produce a much larger sized finished product. As the season progresses, you will want to keep an eye on your fruit as they ripen and check for any pests.


If any one type of pest starts to take over it’s a sign something is wrong. Usually your tree is weakened or stressed. I would suggest focusing on increasing the health of your tree’s before resorting to any sprays, especially conventional ones. There are some amendments that can help strengthen your trees such as worm castings and seaweed fertilizer. Each has its own way to strength your plants.


One key to growing amazing fruit that will knock your socks off is to be patient. One of the key benefits to growing your own fruit is that you have the luxury of waiting for your fruit to ripen ON THE TREE, hence the terms “tree ripened fruit”. Commercial growers cannot do this and I believe that this is the main distinction between the two and why store bought fruit has a major sucky factor. Another trick to growing super amazing fruit is to cut down on watering once your fruit have reached mature size. The less frequent you water at this stage the higher the sugar content will be in your fruit. If you’ve ever had watery tasteless fruit, one of the factors could have been the watering schedule among other things.

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