Garden Oracle / Drought and Heat Tolerant Gardening / Tucson - Phoenix - Arizona - California

Growing Peaches and Nectarines:
Prunus persica

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Botanical Overview

Peaches and Nectarines, members of the Prunus genus and the Rose family, are closely related to apricots, cherries, plums, and almonds.


Form: Tree.
Lifespan: 15-25 productive years.
Leaf retention: Deciduous.
Growth rate: Rapid.
Mature Size: 15-25' high and as wide.
Flowers: White, pink or red, five petals, solitary or paired, appearing before leaves develop. Late spring frosts can kill flowers and reduce fruit production.
Bloom: Mid-winter to spring, depending on local climate.
Self-fruitful: Yes.
Years before fruiting: 3.
Fruit: The yellow or red skin is fuzzy (peach) or smooth (nectarine), the flesh is yellow or whitish, and slightly aromatic. The large, oval, red-brown seed is surrounded by a wood-like husk. Peach and Nectarine cultivars are divided into freestone, semi-freestone, and clingstone, depending on how easily the flesh separates from the seed husk.
Months for fruit to ripen: 3-5, depending on cultivar. They are ripe when they have reached full color, are soft and yielding, and have a strong fruity fragrance. If a fruit does not have the right scent, leave it on the tree for a couple days more.
Storage after harvest: Store in refrigerator for up to one week.
Leaves: Green, lance-shaped, turn yellow in fall.
Stems: Usually thornless.
Roots: Cuttings are grafted onto a compatible prunus seedling that is more pest and disease resistant.
Cultivars of Note: The following trees are self-fruitful, produce yellow fleshed peaches, tolerate high summer heat, and have low chill hours:
'Desert Gold' clingstone, 200 hours, very early ripening.
'Earligrande' semi-freestone, 300 hours, very early ripening.
'Flordaprince' semi-freestone, 150 hours, larger fruit with better flavor than 'Desert Gold'.
'Mid-Pride' freestone, 250 hours, taste test winner.
Wildlife: Attracts bees, birds, mammals.
Toxic / Danger: All parts poisonous except fruit. Seeds are toxic.
Origin: China.

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Cultivation and Uses

USDA hardiness zones: Normally 6-8, but some peach cultivars perform well in zone 9.
Chill hours: 100-1000. Cultivars with chill hours of 300 or less do best in hot, dry climates.
Heat tolerant: Some cultivars do well in high temperatures.
Drought tolerant: Moderate.
Sun: Full sun.
Planting: Locate the peach tree in all day full sun, but so that in the first year, it can receive afternoon shade. Being in a low area where cold air collects, and where the root area and trunk are in shade during winter, may help with winter chill hours, but may also make the tree susceptible to flower damage by late frosts. The location must have well draining soil. Any caliche layer must be removed. Dig the planting hole 4 times wider than the rootball.
Soil: Well drained, best at pH 6-7 (slightly acidic side of neutral).
Fertilize: Apply an organic fertilizer once in early spring. Spread the fertilizer evenly out to the drip line and one foot away from the trunk.
Water after becoming established: Deep water weekly for fruit production. Extra water is needed in high temperatures.
Mulch: Spread organic mulch inside the drip line and one foot away from the trunk to keep roots cool in the summer. Place a rodent guard at the base of the trunk to prevent gnawing.
Prune: In winter, remove dead, crossing or damaged branches. Flowers appear on one-year-old wood.
Remove excess marble-sized young fruit so that only one is present, every 6-8", along the branch, to avoid branch breakage and allow remaining fruit to grow larger.
Remove all grass and weeds growing under the drip line.
Litter: Moderate leaf drop in fall. Wet fruit drop. Remove fallen fruit quickly to avoid attracting small mammals.
Propagation: Cuttings grafted on special rootstock. Seed does not breed true.
Uses: Edible fruit, ornamental.


Nectarine cultivars do not usually perform well in high summer temperatures.

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Peaches and Nectarines: Prunus persica - flowers

Peaches and Nectarines: Prunus persica - fruit

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Latest update: February, 2021