This is part 1 of a 7-part series of how to grow fruit trees easily.

I had no idea what to grow when I first moved to Austin, Texas.

So, I did what any reasonable gardener does—I went to the store and bought one of my favorite foods, only in tree form.

Fast forward a few months and Austin was hit with a snowstorm (yes, it snows in Texas).

No surprise, my lemon tree didn’t make it.

If I had known about the USDA hardiness zones at the time, I would have realized that citrus trees prefer zones 9-11, and Austin is 8b. So, I was just under the cutoff.

While these zones aren’t a rule (for you can establish microclimates), they are incredibly helpful guidelines for avoiding dead fruit trees. And fewer dead plants mean your time, money, and energy go further.

Before selecting fruit trees for your garden, start with your climate. This gives you the best chance to successfully grow fruit trees with the least amount of effort.

While it may sound fun to grow banana plants in Alaska, the reality is you’d be spending more time and energy battling the climate than enjoying the fruits of your labor.

3 Primary Climate Types

a banana circle
Banana plants are originally from the tropics and do best when grown in similar climates.

There are 3 main climates:

  • Tropical – Warm and wet
  • Temperate – Cool
  • Arid – Dry

For example, if you live in a hot (and especially dry) climate, such as Arizona, New Mexico, or parts of California, it’s best to avoid growing tropical fruit trees as they usually prefer lots of humidity and water.

Instead, consider growing drought-tolerant fruit trees such as olives, figs, pomegranates, pecans, and the like.

At the same time, temperate fruit trees such as apples, cherries, and pears prefer cooler climates such as Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, and don’t do well in hot and dry weather.

Because of this, it’s best to stick with fruit trees that are native to your climate and grow well in your USDA hardiness zone.

While it might be a bit of a bummer not to grow your favorite grocery store fruits, the time, money, and energy saved are almost always worth it.

Now, it’s time to find out which climate you’re in.

Find Your Climate

USDA Hardiness Zones

USDA hardiness zone map
Source: USDA

If you live in the US, use the USDA Hardiness Zone map by typing in your zip code.

“The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location.


These zones show you the average minimum temperature in your area. Once you have your zone, check the plants you’d like to grow and see if they share the same preferred zone.

However, there are two problems with the USDA hardiness zones:

  1. It only shows the cold temperature, not heat or precipitation
  2. It’s not worldwide

Because of this, consider also using the Koppen Geiger Climate Classification. 

Köppen-Geiger Climate Classification

Don’t let the name or the symbols scare you! The Koppen Geiger method is a 3-step graph that gives you a full classification of your climate.

Here are the 3 steps, from left to right.

1st (Group)2nd (Precipitation Type)3rd (Level of Heat)
A (Tropical)f (Rainforest)
m (Monsoon)
w (Savanna, dry winter)
s (Savanna, dry summer)
B (Dry)W (Arid Desert)
S (Semi-Arid or steppe)
h (Hot)
k (Cold)
C (Temperate)w (Dry winter)
f (No dry season)
s (Dry summer)
a (Hot summer)
b (Warm summer)
c (Cold summer)
D (Continental)w (Dry winter)
f (No dry season)
s (Dry summer)
a (Hot summer)
b (Warm summer)
c (Cold summer)
d (Very cold winter)
E (Polar)T (Tundra)
F (Ice cap)

To keep it easy, check out this map to find your Köppen-Geiger Climate Classification.

To start, you’ll need to find your:

  1. Average monthly temperatures
  2. Average rain and snowfall

Both can be found with a quick Google Search. With these, you can find your climate classification. 

For example, let’s look at Austin, Texas.

Austin’s average temperature in the coldest month (January) is around 50°F (10°C ), and the warmest month (August) sees average temperatures around 82°F (28ºF). Austin also receives the majority of its annual rainfall in the spring and early summer, with a dry late summer and autumn. 

Based on the Köppen-Geiger system, Austin falls under the “Cfa” category – a humid subtropical climate. “C” stands for a mild temperate climate where the coldest month averages above -3°C (26ºF) but below 18°C (64ºF), “f” stands for fully humid conditions, and “a” represents a hot summer where the warmest month averages above 22°C (68ºF).

While it’s a bit more complex than the USDA Hardiness Zone map, The Köppen-Geiger Classification gives you a full scope of your climate, including cold, heat, and rain/snow.

The Best Fruit Trees for Your Climate

our fig tree holding in our soil
Our fig tree. Unfortunately, its fruits don’t have any taste, but we continue to let it grow to help hold the soil on our hillside and leave the fruits to feed wildlife.

Once you know your USDA Hardiness Zones, and/or your climate classification, see which fruit trees grow best in your climate.

To give you a head start, here are some fruit trees in each of the main climates.

  • Tropical (Zones 9-11) – Citrus, avocado, banana, mango, coconut, dates, dragonfruit, passionfruit, kiwi, and pineapples.
  • Temperate (Zones 3-8) – Apple, cherry, peach, pear, pawpaw, plum, apricot, grape, and berries.
  • Arid (When rainfall is less than 10-20 inches per year) – Olive, fig, pomegranate, grape, date, and persimmon.

Keep in mind that’s it’s possible to have combinations of climate types. For example, an arid tropical climate. This is sometimes called a drylands or desert.

Other than checking their preferred climate, here are some other things to keep in mind when choosing fruit trees:

Basically, don’t grow olive trees if you hate olives.

However, you may find these less ideal fruit trees are a good support species for the other fruit trees you want to grow (growing figs in the olive tree’s shade).

Native & Local Fruit Trees

pecan tree in a meadow
Pecan trees are native to Texas and grow well here (they’re also the state tree!).

For even more confirmation of the easiest fruit trees to grow in your area, see what’s growing around you!

  • See what grows wild or like a weed – little to no water, attention, and fertilizer. Are there any “volunteer” fruit trees—planted by birds, squirrels, or the like?
  • What are others growing effortlessly? Talk with your neighbors, online community, or local nursery
  • What’s already growing well in your backyard? Consider making your job easier and doubling down on similar plants.

Native plants are plants that have adapted to your local environment. Because they’re adjusted to your area over generations, they’re typically more resilient, hardy, and provide better food and shelter for the local wildlife.

Keep in mind, invasive plants can sometimes come in handy, such as bamboo for a privacy screen or windbreak (make sure to use a “clumping” variety and not a “running” variety). 

Action Items:

  1. Find your USDA hardiness zone and/or Koppen Geiger Classification
  2. What are 3-5 fruit trees that grow well in your climate? Were these fruit trees different than the ones you originally had in mind?

Once you have your list of fruit trees, in the next section we’ll look at how to plant them!

Similar Posts