As a result, many are turning to Landscape Pros for guidance on how to turn their outdoor environments into naturally growing sources of food, nutrition, and beauty.
The right fruit trees for the Bay Area might be just what many are looking for.
How fruit trees add value to any Bay Area gardenFrom the inner city of San Francisco to the outer boundaries of the Bay Area, growing a wide variety of delicious fruit is possible with just a little effort.
When an edible fruit tree is added to a garden, it provides many attractive benefits including:
- | Unique fruit variety + taste
- | Reduced demand for store-bought + conventionally grown fruit
- | Improved soil quality + fertility
- | Attracts pollinators—birds, bees + butterflies
- | Adds ornamental + aesthetic value
- | Seasonal beauty with abundant flowers + color
- | Removes carbon dioxide
- | Releases oxygen + cleans the air
All fruit trees require some care and maintenance to prevent disease, maintain structural form, and produce delicious fruit. Yet, some fruit trees are much easier to care for than others.
How to select a fruit tree for the Bay AreaBefore you recommend a fruit tree to your client, consider that they require at least 6-8 hours of full sun per day to develop and thrive. For a healthy and productive tree, the installation location should also provide well-draining soil and appropriate irrigation.
In recent years, Mediterranean and Asian fruits have become increasingly popular in Northern California. Persimmons, figs, and pomegranates are a few of the easiest to grow and lowest-maintenance fruit trees for the Bay Area that could be a good choice for your clients.
During the dormant season—December through March—we typically have many varieties available and it’s an ideal time to install fruit trees.
The five most important things to consider before selecting or recommending a fruit tree for your client’s garden include:
“We recommend that our clients select fruit trees that are historically specific to an area—like Apples in West Sonoma County or Figs in one of the Bay Area mission cities. These trees connect new landscapes to those who have come before us and to the fruit historically grown on the same land.”
Christopher Reynolds | Reynolds-Sebastiani
Location | Exercise crowd control
Consider that a mature fruit tree could grow quite tall and wide. By challenging the tree with competition from other plants for air and light, it can reduce tree health and impact fruit yield. Most fruit trees are sold on “semi-dwarf” rootstock while standard and genetic dwarf fruit trees are generally less available.
The guidelines below provide a frame of reference for location and space requirements.
• Standard fruit tree | can reach 30′ tall
• Semi-dwarf fruit tree | can reach 15′ tall
• True dwarf fruit tree | can reach 6—10′ tall
Larger stone fruits like plums and pluots are very desirable for their taste and flavor. However, these specimens must be pruned regularly each season or the branches will collapse from the fruit weight.
Persimmons, pomegranates, figs, and citrus, on the other hand, require little pruning and virtually no disease prevention spraying at all.
It’s important to keep a dense foliage canopy on fruit trees for the Bay Area so that the fruit isn’t damaged in seasonally hot summer weather. With the increasing effects of climate change, it’s not uncommon for trees to experience +100° degree weather in many parts of Northern California.
Pollination | Bearing fruit for the next generation
Some fruit trees require a different variety of the same species to pollinate the fruit. This can mean that two apple trees, for example, are needed to actually produce fruit.
Other varieties are “self-fruitful” and don’t require a second pollinator tree. It’s best to check with one of our nursery specialists before you make a tree selection that could require two trees to bear fruit.
Chill Time | Not an option
A critical factor to consider is the number of hours that the fruit tree will receive that are chilled or very cold. Chill hours are the number of hours at 45°F | 7°C or less than a fruit tree needs each winter in order to set fruit, break dormancy, flower, and bear fruit the next season.
And once winter transitions to spring and summer, fruit sweetness from many trees will depend on the intensity and duration of summer heat. So locating a fruit tree for maximum sun exposure will improve the opportunity for a healthy and productive tree.
Harvest | Prepare for bounty
For example, a mature apple tree can provide 100 lbs of apples at harvest time. That’s a lot of fruit deal with and more including:
- | Soft-fruit has a short shelf-life
- | Fallen fruit needs to be removed for disease prevention
- | High fallen-fruit volumes can be messy
- | Fallen fruit that’s not removed can promote unwanted insects—such as stinging yellow jackets
While there are many options for harvested fruit, they all take time and some forward planning. So when a bountiful fruit crop arrives from a healthy fruit tree your customer will have to consider:
- | Eating as much fresh as they can
- | Sharing with neighbors
- | Cold storage
- | Freezing
- | Canning
- | Drying
- | Donating to a food bank
“After having planted hundreds of fruit trees throughout the Bay Area, we’ve learned that Santa Rosa Plums, Loquats, and Meyer Lemons will thrive in our cool summers without many diseases or pest problems.”
John Herbet | Gentle Giants Landscaping
Disease + Pests | Maintain health to thrive
Nature provides a balance between plant pests and the beneficial insects that control the pests. The less you tamper with that balance, the more likely a fruit tree will be successful.
IPM recommends the use of chemical controls only when necessary in recommended amounts to minimize negative effects on beneficial insects or other species. For effective IPM compliance, the use of the most environmentally safe sprays should also be applied only at the right seasonal time.
Many disease issues or pests do not become problems until a tree begins to bear fruit. The table above is a helpful guide for Integrated Pest Management on popular fruit trees for the Bay Area. So if one or more of these diseases or pests are not present on a fruit tree, the application of disease preventative chemicals should be avoided.
Espalier | Growing sculpture you can eat
If you have limited space, want a manageable yield of fruit, or just want to install something that adds a strong sculptural statement to a garden, an espalier fruit tree could be just the right solution.
Espalier is the art of growing fruit trees—usually apples or pears—by training the branches to grow horizontally along cordons similar to how grapevines are grown.
The benefits of installing a sculptural espalier tree include:
- | Creates a living fence
- | Easy fruit picking within reach
- | Optimized for growth in narrow space
“Space is often a challenge and I frequently guide my clients to Espalier Fruit Trees. Apples, figs, pears and even Meyer Lemons do well as espaliers. And when they come into bloom and the pollinators show up for nectar, these fruit trees are literally humming and buzzing with excitement and fragrance!”
Pete Vafiades | San Francisco Garden Man
It’s a good idea to disclose to your clients that an espalier tree will require more ongoing care and maintenance to retain its form and effectively produce fruit. While most fruit tree varieties are not readily available in an espaliered form, they can be trained from a young age.
The chart below outlines the primary components for the proper installation of an espalier tree that will make you look your best with your customers and ensure tree health.
Great Fruit Trees for the Bay Area
Apple | Fuji + Gala
There are hundreds of apple varieties, and some varieties have several strains, each with its own characteristics. Apples that are well adapted to the Bay Area include the Fuji and Gala varieties.
These trees prefer moist, well-drained soil with lots of sun. A cool climate is needed for good coloration and the production of fruit. Winter chilling requirements are between 1200–1500 hours below 45°F. Foggy days and wet dews can cause heavy cosmetic russeting on fruit.
It’s best to plant apple trees in the cold season from January through to March.
Apple trees also require cross-pollination from another variety that blooms at the same time and produces abundant amounts of pollen. Gala, for example, is a self-fertile variety, but planting it with another pollinating variety will yield better tree health and fruit production results.
Avocado | Hass
Avocados are a healthy fat-filled superfood that provides essential components of a nutrient-dense diet. They are also savory and simply delicious.
Avocado trees do best in a southern-facing, full sun location that has well-drained soil that soaks up excess moisture. They can grow to 40—80′ with foliage canopies that are usually low and dense. Because these trees can get quite large over time, a planting area of 25—30′ is recommended.
In order to promote flowering and produce fruit, Avocados need very little chilling time between 32—45°F during the dormant season.
Most avocados varieties are considered “self-fruitful” and therefore do not need a partner tree for cross-pollination.
However, every avocado variety is either a Type A or Type B tree. For example, Hass is a Type A and Fuerte is a Type B tree. In order to encourage optimal fruit development, it’s best if both type A and type B avocado trees are planted in close proximity to one another.
Interestingly, Avocados can develop fruit without a partner tree. Hass and Reed, for example, do produce a fruit crop when grown solo. But with the opposite Type A or Type B partner tree planted close by one another, a more successful and higher volume crop is ensured.
Avocado fruit has to be harvested by hand so if it isn’t picked, it won’t fall off the tree and it won’t ripen. Fortunately, the tree can be used as a storage unit for as long as 8 months. Harvest can begin as early as February and as late as September. And the longer the fruit stays on the tree, the richer the taste. Yum!
Fig | Black Jack, Black Mission, Brown Turkey
Figs are a great choice for Bay Area gardens because they are so easy to grow.
However, they do require 6-8 hours of full sun and heat for the fruit to mature properly. Fig trees do best in well-drained soils but will tolerate wet soils better than most other fruit trees.
These trees with great sculptural leaves only require 100 hours of chill time below 45°F. If you’re considering a fig tree, be forewarned, gophers love them and preventing these pests from causing havoc or destruction can be a challenge.
Fig trees reach a height of 20–30′ with an equal spread. They can also be pruned to a smaller size. Most varieties require no cross-pollination and through parthenocarpy, they can produce more than one fruit crop each year.
“Ficus carica L. is perhaps the hardiest and fastest-growing fruit tree that I have had great customer success with. Figs do well throughout the Bay Area and they can produce two crops per year. I am particularly fond of the ‘Black Mission’ varietal for its ties to the missionaries who introduced Fig trees to California in 1769.”
Scott Wheeler | The Urban Arborist
Persimmon | Fuyu + Hachiya
Persimmons are an excellent choice for Bay Area gardens. However, in San Francisco and on the coast they require a sheltered sunny location to produce fruit.
In the right location, they can produce so much fruit that branches can break from the weight. Therefore, thinning may be required to retain form and tree health. Persimmons bloom late in summer and only require 100 hours of chill time below 45°F.
Persimmon trees also don’t need ideal soil and they will tolerate damp roots in winter and dry conditions in the summer. Cross-pollination is not usually necessary for the trees to bear fruit.
And when the delicious fruit arrives, it’s a brilliant orange color and is mostly pest-free. Persimmon trees can also grow quite large and should be planted about 20′ apart.
“Fuyu + Hachiya Persimmons prefer warmer climates and our clients have had success with them in the East Bay, Marin and on the Penninsula. We recommend avoiding planting these trees for San Francisco gardens.”
Christopher Campbell | Christopher Campbell Tree Design
Pomegranates are exotic fruits that grow on a small tree that can reach 15—20′ tall.
The trees have a long life with shiny bright green foliage with a long flowering season. Pomegranate trees are sensitive to frost in fall and spring and do not mature well in cool climates.
They tolerate wet, heavy soils but perform best in deep, well-drained conditions. What makes them ideal fruit trees for the Bay Area is that they require a short 100-150 hours of chill time below 45°F.
They are relatively disease resistant and are not attractive to many fruit pests including codling moth or twig borer.
Plum | Santa Rosa + Green Gage
Plum trees are one of the best-adapted fruit tree species for almost anywhere in the Bay Area. They are very easy to grow and are tolerant of wet winter soils and dry summer conditions. Plumbs often bloom late enough to avoid most spring frosts and they have few pest problems.
There are two different kinds of plums—Japanese and European. Most Japanese plums bloom earlier and mature earlier. They also require less chilling than European plums. Both types of plums require about 140–170 days to mature the crop.
Most Japanese plum varieties need 500—900 hours of chill time below 45°F, while European plum varieties often require 700—1,000 hours.
Plum trees get relatively large and should be spaced 12–18′ apart. Most plums require cross-pollination so it’s a good idea to plant two different varieties to ensure maximum fruit production. Check with one of our seasoned specialists to learn if the variety you’re interested in requires a pollinating partner tree.
Lemon | Meyer
If your Bay Area clients are looking for citrus fruit all year long with delicious, bright orange-yellow fruit, dark green leaves, and intensely fragrant flowers, then a Meyer lemon could be a great solution.
The Meyer lemon fruit is a rich orange-yellow in color and is thinner-skinned and sweeter tasting than the more acidic lemon varieties such as Eureka or Lisbon which are the most common lemons found in grocery stores.
Meyer lemon trees are self-pollinated and grow to about 10′ tall. They also make an excellent hedge because they need little or no pruning. These hard-working trees can also tolerate colder weather than most citrus and require no minimum amount of chill time to bear fruit. In severe cold below 20°F, they should be covered to avoid frost damage.
Meyer lemon trees perform best when planted in sandy loam and they prefer moist soil that’s not soggy. Allow adequate dry out time between waterings to prevent disease. They also benefit from generous additions of mulch for conserving water and improving soil quality.
Mulberry | Pakistan + Persian
If your client is interested in a low-maintenance, drought-tolerant, and unusual fruit tree, a Mulberry is a great candidate worth considering.
Mulberries are fast-growing, fruit trees that can reach 50′ tall with a crown height of about 5—6′ from ground level. They tolerate poor soil and will also accept soil with moist conditions.
These beautiful trees perform best when pruned once a year during the winter season. After the leaves have fallen, trimmed tree branches can be used to make durable baskets or other agricultural crafts.
Mulberries set fruit without pollination and only require about 400 hours of chill time between 32—45° F. Their fruit resembles a rustic blackberry which turns from pink to red while ripening, then dark purple or black in late spring to early summer. The result is a sweet, delicious, unique berry flavor when fully ripe.
Loquats are easy to grow as small trees or large evergreen shrubs that are often used as an ornamental plant in Bay Area gardens.
These trees feature boldly textured foliage add a tropical look that adds texture and contrast to other plants in a garden. Classified as a subtropical fruit, loquats are grown most successfully in hotter, citrus-friendly Bay Area regions with higher heat.
The tree structure includes a rounded crown, short trunk, and woolly new twigs. It can grow 20—30′ high but usually is about 10′ tall. It blooms in late fall to early winter and must mature its fruit during the winter months. Loquats also require very little or no chill hours.
The fruit grows in pear-shaped, yellow, or orange clusters and the taste features a succulent, tangy flesh that’s sweet and acidic.
The loquat is normally pollinated by bees with self-infertile or partially self-fertile cultivars available. Although the loquat is remarkably drought resistant, it needs regular irrigation to remain healthy, particularly in the summer season. Loquats also prefer loamy, well-draining soil.
A Loquat is a great choice for an espaliered tree if it’s clipped frequently to maintain form. It’s also quite resistant to most diseases and insect damage.
Apricot | Blenheim
Blenheim Apricot trees are a favorite for your clients who are looking for a great fruit tree that will do well in the Mediterranean climate zones of the Bay Area.
These flavorful beauties reach 10—20′ tall and 10—15′ wide. They perform best in full sun with moist, well-drained soil. Apricots also require 400 hours of chill time below 45°F in the winter to prepare for spring buds.
They bloom in February and early March and do best in conditions with dry spring weather. Apricots are also susceptible to late spring frosts and bacterial canker is a common disease of young trees in the Bay Area.
Trees should be planted about a 10—20′ apart and they begin fruiting in their second year. Apricots are mostly self-fruitful and ripen in late June to July. The fruit is sweet, aromatic, and juicy which makes it great for eating, baking, drying, or canning.
Pluot | Dapple Dandy + Flavor King
Pluots are a relatively recent addition to the stone fruit family. As a hybrid, they were created by naturally crossing a plum with an apricot using hand pollination. The result is a tasty option to consider for just about any Bay Area garden.
The pluot is a naturally small tree, reaching 15—20′. They have growth requirements similar to those of plum trees including full sun and well-draining soil. Once established, they need less water and perform best with generous amounts of mulch to conserve moisture and prevent weeds.
Pluots need less than 400 hours of temperatures at 45°F or below to produce fruit. And they should be planted in late winter or early spring. Pluots also require more heat than most San Francisco or coastal locations can provide.
With a beautiful and striking appearance, pluots come in many varieties and colors ranging from black, green, and red. The fruit is very sweet and intensely flavorful, with the juicy texture and tangy skin of a plum and the floral flavors of apricot.
Trees are ready for harvest usually during late summer and early fall. Varieties including Flavor King hold well on the tree while remaining firm for a short period after maturity.
“Pluot Dapple Dandy trees need a partner to cross-pollinate and I have had success planting them near a Santa Rosa plum. While the trees are dormant, and during spring leaf-out, a spray of compost tea and kelp helps keep disease in check. Be sure to deep water these trees during fruiting to avoid cracking the sweet and juicy fruit.”
David Martinez | Dig It Landscape
Pear | Bartlett, Buerre D’Anjou, Seckel
Pears are beautiful and delicious fruit trees that are worth considering for your client’s garden. However, they are the most pest-ridden of all fruit trees and require the most disease preventative maintenance to produce clean, appetizing fruit.
Pear trees can grow quite large reaching 20′ with a similar spread at maturity. As a result, they require a spacing of at least 18-20′ apart. Pear trees also have a natural upright structure and need to be trained and pruned to develop a spreading growth habit.
Many pears are tolerant of wet soil conditions but perform best in well-draining soil locations. And most pear varieties are self-sterile and require cross-pollination by another variety to get a good crop set.
The popular “Bartlett” pear tree is self-fruitful and requires no partner tree for pollination. Bartlett also requires about 1500 hours of chill time below 45°F for producing fruit.
Fire blight can be a serious problem in pears and preventive spray maintenance should be factored into choosing a pear for a Bay Area garden.
Turn to the Bay Area fruit tree specialists for your projectIf you’re looking for some beautiful and delicious fruit tree solutions for your next project, we’ve got you covered.
As both a grower and a plant broker, we’re ready to work with you to provide just the right fruit trees, edibles, and native, water-wise plants that will make your project a success.
It’s one of the many qualities that has made us different from just an ordinary nursery for over 150 years.
These easy-to-use lists can help you find the exact plants that you’re looking for. And if the plant you want is not on our lists, we’ll do all that we can to get you what you want, when you need it.
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As President of Pacific Nurseries, Don Baldocchi gets satisfaction knowing the Bay Area is greener and more beautiful by helping landscape professionals succeed. Email Don or give him a call at 650.755.2330.