Gardening in Tucson, Phoenix, and the Desert Southwest

Butterfly Garden
Erosion Control
Fruit, Berries, Nuts
Ground Cover
Hummingbird Garden
Long- and/or Winter-Blooming
Peppers, Chilies
Plant List

Dealing with Critters
Digging Holes for Plants
Fruit: Selection, Cultivation
Garden Bed: Sterilizing
Gardening Schedule Zone 9b
Gardening Schedule Zone 8b
GM / Organic Foods
Landscaping Desert Gardens
Oracle: Weather, Wildflowers
Plant Placement
Selecting Plants
Seeds: Planting
Soil Preparation
USDA Hardiness Zones
Trees: Planting and Watering
Tree Schedule Zone 8b
Watering Shrubs and Perennials


Growing Fruit, Berries and Nuts


  • All plants below need supplemental water, improved soil and periodic fertilization.
  • Trunks must be protected from gnawing.
  • Some fruit crops will be browsed by deer, javelina or bear.
  • All plants are deciduous except where noted.
  • See Selection and Cultivation Tips for information on chill hours and more.


Blackberry: Rubus spp
For most blackberries, the roots are perennial but the canes are biennial (floricane): they grow one year and bloom and fruit the next. A new cultivar, the primocane blackberry, pioneered by the University of Arkansas, produces fruit on the current year's cane in the fall.
Place canes on top of horizontal fencing, 4' off the ground, supported by T-shaped fence posts. When pruning, do not touch first-year canes. After harvest, cut canes that bore fruit to the ground. For the best berries, the plants need heavy mulching, good drainage, and 3' deep, rich, sandy or loamy soil. Avoid planting in soil where nightshade family members (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant, datura, petunia) have grown because blackberries share a common fungus disease with them. Protect from wind and afternoon sun. Mulch well, roots are shallow. To avoid cold chill injury in the winter, lay the canes of trailing types on the ground, cover with a thick layer of mulch.
'Rosborough,' 'Womack' and 'Brison' cultivars, hardy in USDA zones 7-9, are among those said to produce the greatest yields for biennials.

Grape: Vitaceae
Heat tolerant European grapes can be grown in parts of the desert southwest. Plant on a slope and avoid low-lying areas where freezing air will settle. Search for articles on the Internet providing information on growing grapes.

Kiwi (Hardy): Actinidia arguta
Fast-growing, twining kiwi vines require a trellis or arbor for support. Fruit is borne on year-old or older wood. During dormant season, cut out shoots that have fruited for three years. Kiwi vines need regular applications of nitrogen fertilizer and are sensitive to salt burn in alkaline soils. Kiwi vines require moist, well-drained soil. Waterlogged soils are a major cause of first-year failure. Most Argunta varieties grow within USDA zones 5-9.

Passion Vine: Passiflora
Passion vines are grown for their very showy flowers. The cultivar 'Incense' produces fruit with a fragrant, tasty pulp, but not enough pulp to make it more than a curiosity. It is root hardy to USDA zone 7b. Commercially edible passion fruit, Passiflora edulis 'Frederick', is restricted to USDA zones 10-11.

Raspberry: Rubus spp
Raspberries grow best in regions with mild winters and cool summers.


Blueberry: Vaccinium
Blueberries need continually moist, well-drained, very acidic soil. Consider planting in very large containers with sides protected from the sun and holes in the bottom for drainage. Afternoon shade is recommended. Rabbiteye and Southern Highbush varieties can often be grown in USDA zones 6b-9.

Currant and Gooseberry: Grossulariaceae
Gooseberries grow best in regions with humid, cool summers and prolonged winter chill. Most currants need USDA zones 3-8a. The 'Tseme' black currant is said to grow in USDA zones 4-9. Currents need well-drained, fertile soil, acidic to neutral.

Pineapple Guava: Feijoa sellowiana
Grows slowly 12' to 15' high and 8' to 10' wide if not pruned back. While some plants are self-pollinating, others do better with cross-pollination from another variety. Avoid reflected sun. Needs afternoon shade in hottest months and protection from wind chill in winter. Somewhat drought tolerant once established; water weekly when fruiting. Hardy to USDA zone 8b. Can be grown as a hedge or small tree. Very decorative. Evergreen.

Strawberry: Fragaria X ananassa
This small perennial shrub requires raised beds, acidic soil, mulching, consistent moisture during bearing season and careful removal of excess plants to avoid crowding. Low salinity soil and water are required. Plants spread by runners. June-bearing varieties set one main crop in late spring or early summer. Everbearing varieties continue to bloom and fruit early summer through fall. Protect from birds. Most varieties grow in USDA hardiness zones 3-9.

Strawberry Guava: Psidium cattleianum
This plant is hardy to USDA zone 10 and is frost tender.


Almond: Prunus dulcis
The cultivar 'Garden Prince' is self-pollinating, a genetic dwarf, and needs only 250 chill hours. Grows 10'-12' high and as wide. Needs well-drained soil. Moderate water. USDA hardiness zones 6-10.

Apple: Malus domestica
Tree size depends upon rootstock. Standard trees can grow to 20' high and 20' to 25' wide. Apple varieties must be chosen both for your hardiness zone and for the chill hours required. Less than 500 chill hours is preferred. Those needing more chill hours than your winter provides will not set fruit. Some varieties may need a different, specific pollenizer variety which must also be suited to your climate.
'Granny Smith' and 'Gala' are self-pollinating and grow well in USDA zones 5-8. Others to consider are 'Fuji' (USDA zones 6-9), 'Ein Shemer' (USDA zones 7-9), and 'Anna' (USDA zones 5-9) which needs 'Ein Shemer' as a pollinator.

*Apricot: Prunus armeniaca
Grows 15' to 20' high and as wide. Many varieties are early bloomers and will not set fruit in years with late frosts. 'Tilton' (USDA zones 5-9) is said to be most resistant to late frost.

Avocado: Persea
Avocados are thanklessly difficult to grow in hot dry climates. The cultivar 'Winter Hybrid' tolerates temperatures of 18-115°F and may be the best choice. Start in full shade the first year, gradually reduce shade over several years to light shade. Needs regular water and fast-draining soil, but do not over-water. Soil should be half compost. A raised garden bed is recommended for improved drainage. Decrease water during rainy season and in winter. Avocados are very salt-sensitive and desert water is often salty and alkaline. Avoid fertilizing the first year. Mulch well to avoid heat stress on shallow root system.

Cherry: Prunus
Cherries with low chill hours (hours below 45°F) are most likely to bear fruit. Minnie Royal (300-400 hours) and Royal Lee (300-400 hours), which pollinate each other, are two varieties to consider. USDA hardiness zones 6-10.

Citrus: Grapefruit, Kumquat, Lemon, Lime, Orange, Tangerine
Most citrus varieties are frost tender and grow best in USDA hardiness zones 9b-10a. In zones 9a, slopes with proper cold air drainage will support hardy citrus varieties. Bottomland areas of zone 9a will experience frost damage.
'Meyer' dwarf Lemon trees are said to be hardy in USDA zones 8a-11. North of zone 9a, however, they are often grown in large wheeled containers which are moved inside during the winter. This avoids damage from unusually harsh temperatures 10°F below normal minimums.

Elderberry: Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis
Grows 10-30' tall and 8-20' wide. Fragrant, yellow-white flowers in clusters produce blue-black berries.

Fig (Edible): Ficus carica
Most figs grow in USDA zones 7-9. In areas with strong winter winds, figs are best grown as shrubs under 6' high and placed by a southern wall to minimize frost damage. The spring crop may be killed by frost; the fall crop is the primary harvest. Young fig trees are not drought tolerant and should be watered at least twice a week during the growing season. Wilting leaves are a signal to irrigate.
Critters find fig roots very tasty. If burrowing animals are a problem, grow in very large wire baskets or containers.
'Blue Celeste', the most cold hardy fig (USDA zones 6-9), has a closed eye on its blossom end for better insect protection. 'Mission' fig tree grows in USDA zones 8-11.

Jujube: Ziziphus jujuba
Slow to moderate grower 15' to 30' high and 10' to 15' wide. Deep-rooted and somewhat drought tolerant. Needs good drainage. Recommended USDA zones are 6-10. Does better in improved soil and can tolerate alkalinity. Suckering can be a problem in very moist soils.
'Lang' is later ripening and more upright in growth than 'Li', but both are needed to pollinate each other. Fruit resembles large dates, ripen in fall.

*Loquat: Eriobotrya japonica
Grows 15' to 30' tall and as wide in full sun but narrower in shade. Used mostly for ornamental value. Only a few grafted varieties are considered producers of good quality fruit. Grows in USDA zones 8-11. Ask your nursery which variety will do best in your location.

Mango: Anacardiaceae
Mangos are hardy to 30-35°F (USDA climate zones 10a).

*Nectarine: Prunus persica
Require good drainage, regular fertilizing and more pruning than other fruit trees. There are varieties of nectarines and peaches for many climate types. One low chill, self-pollinating nectarine hardy to USDA zones 8 is 'Snow Queen' (250 chill hours). When selecting trees, check for self-pollinating varieties so only one tree will be needed. Also check bloom month; early bloomers may lose fruit to late frost.

Olive: Olea europaea
Grows 30' tall and wide. Small, clustered, creamy-white flowers produce olives.

Papaya: Caricaceae
Papayas need winter temperatures no lower than 30-35°F (USDA climate zone 10a).

*Peach: Prunus persica
See Nectarine

Pear (Asian): Pyrus pyrifolia
Grow 25' to 30' tall and about half as wide. Can be kept to half-size with pruning. Choose low chill varieties. Most Asian pears grow in USDA zones 5-9. Check varieties for being self-pollinating. Do not plant pears near apple trees, roses, pyracantha or Bermuda grass.

Pear (European): Pyrus communis
European pears need at least 600 hours of winter chill and may not reliably bloom. They can grow 30' to 40' tall and half as wide. Most European pears grow in zones 4-9. Check varieties for fireblight resistance and being self-pollinating. Do not plant pears near apple trees, roses, pyracantha or Bermuda grass.

Persimmon: Diospyros
Persimmons do best in USDA zones 6-10. Height depends upon species. Non-astringent varieties are apple-crisp when ripe. Astringent types need to ripen to be very soft before they become sweet rather than bitter. They tolerate many soil types but must have good drainage. Inconsistent watering and over fertilization cause fruit drop. These trees are often grown for their ornamental value.

Pine Nut (Pinyon): Pinus edulis
Slow grower to 20' high and 16' wide. Hardy USDA to zone 4a. Most drought resistant of all native pines. Cones produce edible nuts sold commercially as pine nuts. Evergreen. Full sun.

Pistachio: Pistacia vera
Grows 25' to 30' high and as wide. Hardy to USDA zone 8a. Needs 500 chill hours 50% bloom) to 1000 chill hours (100% bloom). Summer temperatures above 100°F are ideal. Requires one to four 'Kerman' plants to bear nuts and one 'Peters' (upwind) to provide pollen. Often grown for flowers in spring and red leaves in fall. Fruiting starts 4 - 5 years after transplant. When established, deep soak once every two weeks during warm weather.

*Plum (Japanese): Prunus salicina
Grows 15' to 20' high and somewhat wider but can be kept pruned to 10' X 10'. Best in USDA zones 6-10. Choose a low-chill variety appropriate for your climate. Some varieties are self-pollinating.

*Plumcot, Pluot, Aprium: Prunus domestica X armeniaca
These are hybrids between plums and apricots and have characteristics similar to both.

Pomegranate: Punica granatum
A very ornamental plant and most drought resistant of all fruit trees.

Quince: Cydonia oblonga
A slow grower 10' to 25' high and as wide. USDA climate zones range 4-9. Bears fruit when no late frost. Needs good drainage. Needs slightly acidic soil to avoid iron deficiency. Water weekly until established.

Walnut: Juglans regia and major
Juglans Regia, English Walnut, is a rapid grower when young to 60' tall and as wide. Requires deep soil; mature trees need less supplemental water except for nut production. Self-pollinating, but two trees produce a better crop. Bears nuts in five to seven years. Not considered a good landscape tree because it is bare much of year, has messy drip and fruit drop, and size requires a multi-acre yard. Produces a rain-soluble substance on its leaves that inhibits the growth of many plants. USDA hardiness zones 7-9.
Juglans major, Arizona Walnut or Nogal, is a moderate to fast grower, usually to 30' tall and as wide, but can reach 50'. Tree is self-fertile. Nuts are small, oily, edible, but go rancid fast. Nut crop is irregular, depending on rainfall. Older trees may live for centuries. Full sun to part shade. Moderate to high water, found in wetter areas of the desert. USDA hardiness zones 6-9.
The roots of both species produce a toxin that can kill many species, including apples and white pines, out to ten feet past the drip line, and further downhill. Tree trunks should be planted more than 60' from a house.

Punica granatum: Pomegranate

* Loquat and all Prunus species except Almond and Cherry need excess small green fruit removed so that remaining green fruit is spaced 8" apart on the branch. This will avoid branch breakage and allow the remaining fruit to grow larger.

copyright ©