One of the most common questions I get is, “what are the easiest fruit trees to grow?”. And it makes sense—having a fruit tree that’s not demanding and pretty much takes care of itself is the dream.
But are there any “easy” fruit trees, and what can we do to make them even easier?
I put together this list of fruit trees from our personal experience growing lemons, oranges, tangerines, limes, figs, avocados, mangos, grapes, and other fruit trees in our backyard. For more temperate fruit trees that don’t grow in our warm climate, I scoured the web for personal stories and experiences from other gardeners.
Here’s what I found.
|Temperate (Zones 3-8)||Tropical (Zones 9-11)|
|1. Apples||1. Lemons|
|2. Pears||2. Oranges|
|3. Mulberries||3. Tangerines|
|4. Cherries||4. Figs|
|5. Peaches||5. Bananas|
If you don’t know which zone you’re in yet, make sure to check out the USDA hardiness zone map.
Now, let’s take a look at what makes these fruit trees easy to grow, along with some steps we can take to make them even easier!
Temperate (Zones 3-8)
If you’re new to fruit trees, and you’re in zones 3-8, there are a couple of things that may be helpful to know.
First, most (if not all) temperate fruit trees are deciduous trees, which means they go dormant and shed their leaves in the winter as a survival response (similar to bears hibernating).
So, it’s totally normal to see fruit tree leaves turn yellow, brown, and red in the autumn before they drop off the tree. If the tree is healthy and doesn’t experience a severe winter, it’ll grow new leaves and fruit in the spring.
The second thing is most temperate fruit trees require a certain amount of chill hours (every hour under 45ºF) to have a proper fruit yield. This temperature is vital for the tree to remain dormant during the winter and preserve its energy for the spring.
If you have warm winter and your tree doesn’t get the proper amount of chill hours, it might think it’s spring and begin leafing, only to experience a later frost which can damage and stunt the now “awake” and vulnerable tree.
Okay, now that we’ve addressed the unique needs of temperate fruit trees, let’s jump in and look at the 5 easiest fruit trees to grow in zones 3-8.
Apples are one of the most forgiving fruit trees, and because of this (and their taste), they’re the most popular fruit tree to grow. For example, around 2,500 varieties of apple trees are grown in the US and more varieties are coming out all the time (source).
The easiest varieties of apple to grow are:
- Red Delicious
- Granny Smith
- Pink Lady
Generally, the amount of chill hours apple trees require is about 1,000 hours. However, it varies slightly from zone to zone.
Many commercial apple varieties grown in areas such as the Pacific Northwest, along the Great Lakes, and in New England have chilling requirements of 1,000 to 2,200 hours. However, the highest chill hour zone in Texas averages only 800 to 1,000 hours each year.Texas A&M University
Keep in mind that crab apples grow similarly to standard apple trees and can sometimes be hardier.
Pears are related to apples (as both are part of the rose family), so they’re also easy to grow in temperate climates.
Here are the easiest varieties of pears to grow:
As with apples, aim to provide pear trees with about 1,000 chill hours. Most commonly, this includes more temperate varieties such as Bartlett, Bosc, and Anjou.
Although, some varieties can be grown in warmer climates and require fewer chill hours.
Asian and European hybrid pear cultivars typically have chilling requirements of 200 to 800 hours.Jim Kamas, Monte Nesbitt, and Larry Stein Extension Fruit Specialists, the Texas A&M University System
Keep in mind that since pears and apples are related, they can contract similar diseases such as rust and fire blight. To help prevent rust, plant apple and pear trees away from cedar (juniper) trees as they are the host plant for this disease.
Mulberry trees are high-harvest, low-maintenance fruit-bearing species. Once established, they hardly require any care beyond pruning and occasional watering.epicgardening.com
In my permaculture designs, I sometimes include mulberry trees either as an easy fruiting tree or one that grows as an espalier (a fancy word for a trellis placed against a wall).
Not only does it make harvesting the blackberry-like berries easier, but it provides the wall with shade during the warmer months and lets the sun heat the wall in the colder months (after the leaves have dropped). This is a super cool and easy way to get some passive cooling and heating.
Mulberry trees can also be trained to grow on overhangs and provide shade from above, similar to grapevines.
Fun Fact: Mulberry trees are the sole food for silkworms, which provide us with all of our silk.
The easiest mulberry varieties to grow are:
- Red Mulberry
- White Mulberry
- Black Mulberry
Mulberry trees require about 400 chill hours, with white mulberries being the most cold hardy (source).
Another Fun Fact: Mulberry trees are illegal in some areas, so make sure to check if you can grow them first!
Like apples, cherries are an incredibly easy and popular fruit tree. The average cherry tree provides about 7,000 cherry fruits, enough to make 28 pies! (source)
Generally, sour cherry trees are more cold hardy than sweet cherry trees. Sour cherries grow best in zones 4-6, while sweet cherries grow best in zones 5-7. However, both types require around 1,200 chill hours.
The most forgiving sweet cherry trees to grow are:
- Black Tartarian
And the easiest sour cherry trees:
- Early Richmond
Fun Fact: Sweet cherries are better for eating straight off of the tree, and sour cherries are better for jams and baking.
Plum trees are related to cherry trees and are also easy to grow!
Here in Texas, peach trees are easy to grow and plentiful, so you can find them just about everywhere in late spring and early summer.
Fun Fact: Peaches are related to almonds.
Interestingly, while Georgia is known to be the peach state, California produces the majority of peaches (source).
Aim to grow these easy peach varieties in your backyard or orchard:
However, the majority of peach varieties are fairly easy to grow, so feel free to choose whichever one you’d like!
Keep in mind that most peach varieties require around 600-750 chill hours, with some needing up to 950 chill hours (source).
Tropical (Zones 9-11)
Many tropical fruit trees experience little to no frost, so they don’t need the same survival strategies as deciduous trees (such as going dormant and dropping their leaves). Since tropical fruit trees generally keep their leaves year-round, most are classified as evergreen.
As a result, tropical fruit trees don’t require chill hours.
There are a few other subtle differences between temperate and tropical fruit trees. For example, tropical fruit trees are used to slightly sandier soils (which is common in the tropics), but overall, both types of fruit trees have similar growing needs.
Let’s take a look at some of the easiest fruit trees to grow in zones 9-11.
I grew up in Orlando, Florida, and we had plenty of lemon trees in our backyard and community (along with oranges, grapefruits, and other citrus). We also had lemon/orange hybrids which were amazingly sweet and tart.
These lemon tree varieties are the easiest to grow:
Meyer is the most forgiving lemon tree by far and is commonly grown in pots (this is how I got started growing citrus trees). It’s also one of the most cold tolerant, surviving down to the low 20s (Fahrenheit).
However, if you’d prefer to grow lemon trees that are heavy producers, plant Eureka lemon.
While lemons aren’t as hardy as oranges, the majority of lemon trees are grafted onto trifoliate orange rootstocks. This makes them better able to survive a mild winter, which is still possible in subtropical areas such as central to north Florida.
We had some orange trees in Florida (and later, some in California) and fresh squeezed orange juice was way beyond anything we could buy.
One of the clearest memories I have growing up in Florida is driving by the orange groves just outside our neighborhood. The smell of orange blossoms truly has no rival (maybe other than bacon, but that’s different).
Here are some of the most forgiving orange tree varieties:
- Washington Navel
Similar to lemon trees, many dwarf varieties of orange trees can be grown in pots without much difficulty or maintenance.
We currently have a tangerine tree in our backyard (along with several other fruit trees), and it’s providing us with hundreds of fruits a year with little to no work. Of course, it’s a mature tree with an established canopy and root system, so it’s beyond its most sensitive phase.
We water it weekly, but it really doesn’t need much when we get regular rain.
These are the best varieties of tangerine to grow:
- Golden Nugget
- Tangelo (hybrid)
Like other citrus trees, tangerines generally handle down to 20ºF, but they do best above 32ºF. If you get some frost, make sure to cover your tangerine tree’s canopy with a bedsheet and provide lots of mulch to insulate the roots.
While figs grow best in warmer climates, they’re less tropical and more Mediterranean (dry). For this reason, figs grow amazingly in places such as California, Spain, Italy, and parts of the Middle East.
Because of this, figs don’t need nearly as much water as tropical fruit trees. So, if you have water challenges on your property, figs are one of the easiest fruit trees to grow!
As a bonus, fig trees are fairly hardy to most fruit tree diseases and are incredibly fast-growing. We can also confirm this with our two fig trees in our backyard.
Aim to grow these fig varieties for best results:
- Brown Turkey
- Chicago Hardy
- Peter’s Honey
As arid fruit trees, figs can also survive in some colder zones. For example, Brown Turkey figs commonly survive down to zone 7, with Chicago Hardy tolerating down to zone 5.
Unlike figs, banana plants are unquestionably tropical, requiring plenty of water, humidity, and heat.
Bananas are also a bit different than the other fruit trees on this list as they’re not a tree, but an herb. This is because they lack a woody structure and instead regrow as “pups” after fruiting, which is every 9 months or so.
As a result, it’s normal for the main banana plant to die after fruiting, allowing its pup to grow in its place.
We’re currently growing ice cream banana and cavendish and both are super simple to care for, but I’ll include a couple of other easy varieties too:
- Ice Cream
If you live in a cooler climate or don’t have a backyard, consider growing dwarf banana plants and moving them indoors during the winter. While some varieties are ornamental, some such as dwarf cavendish provide fruit.
Bonus Easy Fruit Trees
Here are some other easy fruit trees that deserve special mentions:
5 Hardest Fruit Trees To Grow
- Avocados – We have three avocado trees, and while they do well in our climate (zone 10a), they’ll quickly die if we don’t tend to them often. The most common issue they get is brown leaves, and they’re even picky about the type of water you provide them. The easiest places to grow avocados in the US are southern Florida and southern California.
- Mangos – Our mango tree isn’t doing so great at the moment, and we’re providing it with everything we can. We’ve also heard from other mango tree growers that these trees are fairly sensitive.
- Berries – Especially raspberries and blackberries.
- & 5. Apples and Cherries (Occasionally) – While many people easily grow apples and cherries, these trees can be picky to certain climates and soil conditions. Additionally, because they’re so popular, they have more potential to contract pests and diseases. The key is to select varieties that have been known to grow successfully in your zone and soil type.
Tips To Make Growing Fruit Trees Easier
- How long do fruit trees take to fruit? – Grafted fruit trees generally take 1-3 years to fruit while those grown from seed take closer to 5-10 years. If you bought your fruit tree, it’s most likely grafted.
- Are fruit trees self-pollinating (do you need 2 trees)? – While many fruit trees are self-pollinating, they almost always do better when cross-pollinated. This increases the amount, size, and health of the fruit.
- What fertilizer is best for fruit trees? – For most fruit trees, I recommend a balanced NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—the main nutrients for plants). However, citrus and avocado trees prefer double the nitrogen. You can visit my recommended fertilizer page for more information.
- How much water do fruit trees need? – Since there are many unique factors affecting watering such as climate, humidity, and soil, the best rule is to only water when the first 2-4 inches of soil is dry. I simply check this by pushing a finger into the soil, under the tree’s canopy.
- How much sunlight do fruit trees need? – Provide at least 6 hours of daily sunlight. Keep in mind that more isn’t necessarily better. If your fruit tree is getting too hot (above 90ºF) and is starting to get curled, drooped, or browned leaves, provide it with plenty of compost, mulch, and shade from the afternoon/western sun.
- Which soil type is best for fruit trees? – Aim for soil that’s a sandy loam. Too much sand and the drainage is too quick. Too much clay and there’s little to no drainage. Most plants (including fruit trees) prefer a soil pH of 6.0-7.0.
- Do fruit trees need to be pruned? If so, when? – Fruit trees don’t need to be pruned, but it does train them to grow quicker and provide more fruit. If you’re pruning, aim to do so in the late winter, just before spring. Select branches that are clustered or overlapping to provide better sunlight and airflow.
Remember, each one of these fruit trees has its own specific needs. Some will need more mulch, less light, more nitrogen, you get the point.
But don’t get overloaded with information. The best way to find these details out is to do 5 minutes of research to see if the tree is a good fit for your growing zone and soil type, and then just plant!
A great place to start is to see what other people in your area are growing and what’s growing naturally. Chances are, those are the best fruit trees for you to grow.
Also, most times the fruit tree tells you what it needs as it’s growing. Leaves drying, curling, and browning most often mean too much heat and not enough water. Yellow leaves are generally indicative of nutrient deficiencies (usually iron).
And yes, there will be times when you’ll lose a fruit tree (or a few), but the key is to double down on those that do survive and especially—thrive. You can even clone these hardy fruit trees for free via propagation to help make up for those that were lost.
Follow the golden rule of only watering when the top 2-4 inches of soil is dry and apply plenty of compost and mulch, and you’ll have avoided the majority of growing issues.
If you’d like to learn more about the best way to plant fruit trees, check out this video below by GrowVeg.
Need More Help?
You can always ask us here at Couch to Homestead, but you should know the other resources available to you! Here are the resources we recommend.
- Local Cooperative Extension Services: While we do our best with these articles, sometimes knowledge from a local expert is needed! The USDA partnered with Universities to create these free agriculture extension services. See your local services.
- 7 Easy Steps to Grow Fruit Trees (Free Guide): Need more fruit tree help from the ground up? See our free guide to make growing fruit trees a breeze.
- Ask the Free Community: Join The Couch to Homestead Community and connect with other members discussing gardening, homesteading, and permaculture.
- 30-Day Permaculture Food Forest Course: Learn how to turn your backyard into a thriving food forest in just 30 days with our online course.