How to Grow and Care for Peach Trees

peach tree

The Spruce / Kara Riley

A peach tree is a self-fertile fruit tree, so you only need one plant to produce fruit though it may take three to four years before it does so. The deciduous peach tree grows best in full sunlight, acidic and sandy soil, and moderate temperatures, but not the tropical temperatures that are necessary for citrus fruits like lemons. There are dozens of peach tree varieties, even dwarf cultivars that you can grow in a container. All parts of the peach tree, except for the edible fruit, are toxic to humans and pets.

Common Name Peach
Botanical Name Prunus persica
Family Rosaceae
Plant Type Fruit, tree
Mature Size 4-25 ft. tall, 5-25 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Sandy, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Pink
Hardiness Zones 5-9, (USDA)
Native Area China
Toxicity Toxic to humans, toxic to pets

Peach Tree Care

Here are the main care requirements for growing a peach tree:

  • Plant a peach tree in the late winter or early spring while the tree is dormant.
  • Select a cultivar for your climate and plant it in a sunny, sheltered location that's slightly elevated where frost won't settle.
  • Plant standard peaches 18-20 feet apart and dwarf peaches 5 feet apart.
  • For a bare-root tree, make sure that the hole you dig is large enough to give the roots plenty of room to spread.
  • Water a bare-root tree deeply and mulch around the root zone to seal in moisture.
  • Stake the tree immediately after planting. Slightly angle the stake away from the tree, drive it 6 to 8 inches into the soil (avoid the root ball), and secure the trunk to the stake with an elastic tree tie.


Peach trees need full sun. Those grown in shade lose their vigor, making them susceptible to pest and disease problems.


Peach trees need good drainage, and like their soil on the sandy side. Adding an organic mulch around the tree, like leaf mold or compost, helps suppress weeds and keeps the soil healthy and slightly acidic.


Keep peach trees evenly moist, especially in the first two years as they establish themselves.

Temperature and Humidity

Peaches like moderate temperatures and generally grow best in USDA growing zones 5a to 8a. However, you can select more cold or heat-tolerant varieties to expand the growing zone to include zones 4 and 9.

Peaches need at least 600 chilling hours at 45 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to trigger fruiting. Extended temperatures below zero may damage the trees. Peaches tolerate humid conditions, but excessive wetness can encourage fungal diseases.


Apply a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer around your peach trees each spring. Start with one pound for each new tree, and add one pound each year, up to 10 pounds, for standard mature peach trees.

peach tree
The Spruce / Kara Riley
peach harvest
The Spruce / Kara Riley
Peach Tree in Bloom
Tan Le/Getty Images
Peach Trees after Pruning
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pest damage on a peach tree
The Spruce / Kara Riley

Types of Peach Trees

There are hundreds of peach cultivars to choose from. While peach trees can produce clingstone or freestone fruits, most varieties sold for home gardens are freestone. You can also choose between yellow or white flesh and early or late-bearing peach trees.

  • 'Halehaven' is a very sweet midseason variety. Even the skin is said to be sweet, and the trees are vigorous.
  • 'Carolina Belle' produces large-sized, freestone, creamy white fruit that ripens from July to August.
  • 'Reliance' is an early-season producer good for colder growing zones.
  • 'Contender' is a cold-tolerant variety that produces medium-sized, freestone, red fruit that is non-browning.
  • 'Galaxy' and 'Saturn' are both donut-shaped peaches that have sweet white flesh.
  • 'Bonanza' is a dwarf peach tree that only reaches six feet tall but produces full-sized fruit.


It may seem strange to remove healthy branches from a thick, bushy peach tree, but proper pruning is vital for managing the fruit size and ensuring enough light is received on fruit-bearing branches. The amount of light that you allow to reach fruiting branches following pruning is important for the development of next season's flower buds. Methods to prune a peach tree may differ from methods used for other fruit trees.

When pruning a peach tree, the finished look of the branches should have a herringbone pattern with an open center, like a vase. To achieve this, prune peach trees that have several well-spaced main branches forming a vase around an open center for sun and air. Using sterilized long-handled pruners or a pruning saw, you can also remove branches in the center of the tree that are growing downward or horizontal.

Do not prune peach trees while they are dormant which can make them less cold hardy. Ideally, prune peach trees annually just as the buds swell enough to reveal their pink color. You can, however, remove shoots developing in the center of the tree at any time.


Click Play to Learn How to Prune Peach Trees

Propagating Peach Trees

The easiest way to propagate a non-grafted tree is through softwood cuttings. Take these steps:

  1. Take a 9-inch cutting in the spring when growth is soft and green.
  2. Dip it in rooting hormone to help the cutting take.
  3. Plant the cutting in a sterile potting medium, and keep it moist.
  4. Roots should form in around a month.

How to Grow Peach Trees From Seed

When grown from a pit, also known as the seed, peach trees take at least three to four years to produce fruit. Purchasing a young tree means you can enjoy a harvest sooner. Plant your peach tree during late winter or early spring, during its dormancy period. But if you prefer to try from seed, take these steps:

  1. Obtain an ordinary peach pit, or seed. It will grow outdoors with little intervention.
  2. Plant the seed outdoors about 3 inches deep in the fall.
  3. Cold winter temperatures will allow the embryo to mature.
  4. The seed will germinate in the spring.
  5. Transplant your young tree to its permanent location.

Potting and Repotting Peach Trees

Dwarf peach trees make great container specimens. Choose a large container that measures at least 3 feet across. Any material pot is fine, from plastic to terra-cotta and wood to ceramic. Never let your peach tree container dry out and protect it from hard freezes in a sheltered area like a garage or shed.


To prepare a peach tree for the winter, harvest the fruit so there is no hanging fruit to stress the tree. Mulch the base and reduce watering to alleviate stress on the tree. A peach tree needs to be covered top to bottom with burlap or cloth only during harsh freezes when it needs the warm air trapped inside. Otherwise, the tree needs to breathe.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Besides aphids and spider mites that create sticky or mottled leaves, the most significant peach tree pest is the peach tree borer. This clearwing moth resembles a wasp and deposits its eggs on tree bark in the fall. Signs of frass (sawdust-like insect waste) will alert you to the problem. The grubs hatch and burrow into the trunk, where they feed on the trunk and roots. Look for a jelly-like sap at the entry hole and impale grubs with a wire. Insecticidal soap can also help with all of these pests.

Powdery mildew can cause fuzzy spots to show up on fruits. Other types of fungi can cause peach tree leaf curl, leading to leaf browning and deformity. Use a copper-based fungicide in late fall or early spring to prevent and control this issue.

How to Get a Peach Tree to Bloom

Bloom Months

It helps to know that newly planted and very young peach trees do not flower until they reach two or three years old. Bloom times can vary depending on the cultivar of tree that you have, but weather and the necessary chilling hours also affect bloom time. (Peach trees have chilling requirements to produce fruit, and there are low-chill and high-chill varieties.) Blooms may start in February or March.

What Do Peach Tree Flowers Look and Smell Like?

Peach tree blossoms appear bright pink, and infrequently lavender or creamy white. The flowers are small, about an inch across in diameter, and consist of many petals. Peach blossoms have a mild floral fragrance.

How to Encourage More Blooms

To encourage more blooms, be sure to plant the correct cultivar for your region and keep vigilant about the amount of chilling hours your tree needs. Low-chill trees need fewer chilling hours and will bloom the earliest. High-chill trees need more chilling hours and will bloom later in the season. At the same time, stay aware of when you need to protect the tree during cold snaps that could damage peach blossoms because fewer buds mean less fruit.

Deadheading Peach Tree Flowers

Deadheading a peach tree's blossoms as they bloom or right after bloom is more typically called "thinning out" the tree to get larger fruits. If you keep every blossom on the tree, you may potentially end up with many smaller peaches. The old leaves will fall off on their own but you can pick some off to get to the flowers you'd like to thin. Some branches may have hundreds of blossoms. Look for flowers, buds, and budding fruits that are touching one another to thin out the tree. The rule of thumb is to leave about 6 to 8 inches between flowers or fruits, and a cluster of two to three fruits with space around them is fine to leave.

Common Problems With Peach Trees

Growing a peach tree is not always easy, and the challenges typically arise when it comes to fruiting. But the health of the leaves can also indicate what is going on with your peach tree.

Not Bearing Fruit

There are a few reasons why a peach tree is not bearing fruit:

  • The tree may be too young to bear fruit.
  • If the tree grows vigorously but produces mainly foliage and no peaches, there could be too much nitrogen in the soil.
  • The tree may be over-pruned.
  • There may not be enough pollinating insects, which might be the case if a wide-spectrum insecticide was used nearby that killed bees and other pollinators.

Dropping Fruit Too Early

There are three main reasons for premature fruit drop:

  • The tree could be going through a natural process that it has to go through when it has too much fruit on it and needs to shed some.
  • A late frost or unusually cold temperatures could instigate early fruit drop.
  • Insects or diseases can also lead to premature fruit drop.

Yellowing Leaves

If you see yellowing veins in the leaves of the peach tree, it could mean there is an iron deficiency, possibly in the soil, or possibly because the tree is not able to absorb the iron in the soil. If severe, the leaves may begin turning white. The addition of chelated iron is often recommended for temporary help. Root and crown rot could be an issue if you see a general yellowing of the leaves.

Holes in Leaves

There are a couple of reasons why peach tree leaves have holes. A fungal disease, called coryneum blight, also called shothole blight, causes purplish-black lesions that turn into holes. Or, paper wasps may bite holes in leaves to lay eggs.

  • How long does it take for a peach tree to produce fruit?

    It can take a young tree grown from seed four years or more to produce fruit, A young tree (not grown from seed) starts to bear fruit two to four years after planting.

  • Do I need two peach trees to bear fruit?

    Peaches are self-pollinating or self-fertile so you only need one tree for fruit production.

  • Are peach trees hard to grow?

    Peach trees are not native to North America, so yes, they can be challenging to grow. They need plenty of sun, space, and air circulation, which can be tough to get right in the backyard.

  • Are peach trees and nectarine trees the same thing?

    Peach and nectarine trees are the same species—Prunus persica. The nectarine fruit is fuzz-free and somewhat smaller and sweeter than the peach. Peach trees may sometimes grow nectarines, and nectarine trees may grow peaches. Professional growers control their crops by grafting branches that previously produced nectarines onto peach trees. Fuzziness is a dominant trait, but if your peach trees decide to go rogue and produce a nectarine crop, consider it a bonus.

  • How do you harvest peaches from a peach tree?

    Following their showy pink spring blooms, peach trees will develop many tiny green peaches in the early summer months. In addition to the natural fruit drop that occurs at this stage of development, you must also thin the crop, or you'll face the disappointment of walnut-sized fruit at harvest time, which is generally late June through August and into the fall depending on the cultivar. Remove all but the largest fruits from each branch, leaving at least 6 inches between fruits.

Article Sources
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