I’m doing a permaculture plan for a property in Austin, Texas, and I was wondering which fruit trees are the best to grow here. While there’s a lot of information online, a lot of it is guesswork and incorrect. So, I did some more research. Here’s what I found.
The best fruit trees to grow in Texas are fig, peach, persimmon, pecan, olive, prickly pear, and pomegranate. However, Texas is a large state with 10 different climates. For best results, find your USDA hardiness zone and look at your unique Texas climate. To make it even easier, grow fruit trees native to your area.
So, which fruit trees are best to grow in Texas, what are some native fruit trees, and what’s the best way to grow them? Let’s take a closer look.
In this article:
- The 10 Best Fruit Trees to Grow in Texas
- Native Fruit Trees
- The 10 Worst Fruit Trees to Grow in Texas
- 3 Steps to Choose Fruit Trees for Texas
|City||Best Fruit Trees to Grow||Tips for Growing|
|Houston||Citrus, Figs, Peaches||Well-drained soil, full sun, regular pruning.|
|San Antonio||Citrus, Peaches, Pomegranates||Protect citrus from frost, choose low-chill peaches.|
|Dallas/Fort Worth||Peaches, Pecans, Persimmons||Well-drained soil, full sun, regular pruning.|
|Austin||Figs, Peaches, Pomegranates||Well-drained soil, full sun, low-chill peaches.|
|El Paso||Pomegranates, Figs, Olives||Heat and drought-tolerant, well-drained soil, full sun.|
|Arlington||Pecans, Peaches, Persimmons||Deep, well-drained soils, chill period for peaches.|
|Corpus Christi||Citrus, Avocados, Pomegranates||Frost protection, well-drained soil, full sun.|
|Plano||Peaches, Pecans, Persimmons||Well-drained soil, full sun, regular pruning.|
|Laredo||Citrus, Pomegranates, Figs||Frost protection, well-drained soil, full sun.|
|Lubbock||Pecans, Apples, Grapes||Deep soil, good sun, cold-hardy varieties.|
The 10 Best Fruit Trees to Grow in Texas
Before we look at the best fruit trees for each of Texas’ different climates, let’s take a general look at the best fruit trees to grow across the majority of Texas.
Also, it’s best to know your USDA Hardiness Zone to see if your climate is a good match for these fruit trees. If you don’t know it, simply use this tool by the USDA and type in your zip code.
Hardiness Zones: 5-9
Pecan trees are the official state tree of Texas, which definitely speaks to their growing viability. These “fruit” trees can be successfully grown in all areas of Texas, but prefer the rich, alluvial soil found in the central and eastern parts of the state.
Fun Fact: Nuts are actually fruits.
When growing pecan trees, keep in mind they prefer deep, well-draining soils and requires a good amount of water, especially during the hot Texas summers.
For pecan companion plants, legumes like peas and beans are ideal. These plants add nitrogen to the soil which pecans love, and also attract beneficial insects. You can also plant leguminous shrubs and trees such as sweet peas and acacia (both fairly drought-tolerant).
Other companions include peach trees, mulberries, pawpaw, and grapes (all of which are also on this list).
Just be sure to provide adequate space—pecan trees can grow super tall and wide!
Hardiness Zones: 8-10
Olives are a natural fit for the dry, warm climate of West and South Texas. They can handle poor soils but do best in well-draining conditions. Olives are drought-tolerant once established, so they don’t require much watering beyond normal rainfall.
Companion planting for olive trees commonly include lavender, rosemary, and thyme. These Mediterranean herbs share similar water and sun requirements to olive trees, and their strong scents can deter pests such as snails and slugs.
Hardiness Zones: 6-11
Figs grow well in most parts of Texas, but they do best in the central and southern regions. Fig trees prefer well-drained, sandy-loam soil and require moderate water. Too much can lead to fruit splitting or root diseases.
For example, the property where I’m doing the permaculture plan already has two fig trees, and they require little to no care when established.
Consider fig companions like comfrey or nasturtium. Comfrey adds nutrients to the soil and attracts pollinators, while nasturtiums can deter pests. Mediterranean herbs such as rosemary, lavender, and sage are also great for fig trees.
Hardiness Zones: 4-9
Persimmons love the sandy, loamy soils found in East and Central Texas. These trees have a high tolerance for different soil types but they must be well-drained.
Tip: The Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana) is a native and great variety of persimmon to grow in Texas.
When it comes to watering, persimmon trees are fairly drought-tolerant once a mature size. However, for the best fruiting, a regular watering schedule should be maintained during dry periods.
Persimmons benefit from companion planting with nitrogen-fixing plants like peas and beans, as well as dill or fennel, which can attract beneficial insects. Mexican sunflowers and wildflowers such as bee balm are also great.
Hardiness Zones: 5-9
Every summer, I see countless vendors selling fresh Texas peaches. After talking with them, the consensus is they’re a great fruit tree to grow, as long as you can provide them with plenty of water (especially in the dry and hot summer).
Peach trees are best suited for North, East, and Central Texas. They prefer well-drained soil and need regular water to produce their juicy peaches.
Companion planting for peaches includes alliums (garlic, onions), nasturtiums, and marigolds, which can help repel pests that love peach trees.
Tip: While peaches are grown commercially in Texas, they can be a challenge for the home grower because they require significant effort to prevent peach tree borer and peach leaf curl.
Hardiness Zones: 4-8
Mulberries are probably one of the easiest fruit trees to grow in Texas as they are highly adaptable and can be grown in all areas of Texas. They prefer well-drained soils and are also relatively drought-tolerant, making them suitable for regions with less rainfall.
However, mulberries still need a decent amount of water, especially when they’re newly planted and in the summer months.
Consider mulberry companions like mint or chives. These can deter pests, and their shallow roots don’t compete with the mulberries. Just remember to keep mint varieties contained, as they can become invasive! Other companions include comfrey, nasturtium, and other fruit trees.
Recommended: Why Mulberry Trees are Illegal (The Truth)
Hardiness Zones: 3-10
If you’re new to Texas, you might be surprised to hear that some regions have pretty good wineries. For example, the town of Fredericksburg is well-known for its many wineries and cute German downtown.
I’ve visited the vineyards in Fredericksburg several times and noticed they not only use grape companion plants such as lavender and cover crops, but take advantage of their unique climate to grow grapes.
For instance, Fredericksburg is located in the hill country, so they take advantage of the higher humidity and granite soil.
“Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Syrah, Tannat, Picpoul, Cinsault, Petite Sirah, Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, and Tempranillo are all popular in the Lone Star state.”Fredericksburg Convention & Visitor Bureau
The high plains in Texas are also a great place to grow grapes as you can take advantage of the drier climate and high elevation. Additionally, this region has mineral-rich, sandy loam, instead of limestone (common in much of central Texas).
To see more about the varieties of grapes to grow in your region of Texas, check out this helpful article by Eater.
Hardiness Zones: 7-10
Pomegranate trees grow well in the drier climates of West and South Texas. These trees are highly adaptable to various soil types but perform best in well-drained conditions. Pomegranates are also highly drought-tolerant.
For best fruit production, watering should be consistent during the growing season, but once established, these trees can withstand periods of drought quite well.
For companion plants, consider garlic or marigolds, which can help deter pests and improve the soil’s overall health.
Hardiness Zones: 9-11
Citrus trees, including oranges, lemons, and grapefruit, prefer the warmer southern part of Texas. They need well-drained soils and moderate watering.
Because much of Texas gets freezes during the winter, I recommend not growing citrus trees if you’re in USDA hardiness zones 8 and below (this includes Austin, Texas, where I live).
Citrus benefits from companion planting with flowers like marigolds or calendula to attract beneficial insects, and herbs such as dill and fennel to deter pests.
Hardiness Zones: 9-11
Avocado trees prefer the warmer, subtropical climate of South Texas. These trees need well-drained soils, especially when they start fruiting. A sandy or loamy soil is best, and while avocados are somewhat salt-tolerant, they do prefer slightly acidic to neutral pH levels.
These trees need a consistent watering schedule and prefer deep watering at longer intervals over shallow, frequent watering.
When thinking about companion plants, consider flowers like chamomile and marigolds. They can help repel pests, attract beneficial insects, and add a nice pop of color to your garden
Tip: Although some cold-hardy varieties can survive in parts of Texas, avocados generally prefer a tropical or subtropical climate and may struggle with Texas winters.
Bonus Fruiting Plants to Grow in Texas
If you’d like a few extra fruiting plants to grow in Texas, here are a few more. Remember, check your USDA hardiness zone and then check the plant’s preferred zones to see if they’re a good fit for your climate.
- Prickly pear
Fruit Trees Native to Texas
If you’d like to make things even easier, consider growing fruit trees native to Texas. These plants have had many, many generations to adapt to the Texas climate and ecosystem. As a result, they generally require less care than other fruit trees.
- Texas Persimmon: Native to Central, South, and West Texas, this tree is drought-resistant and does best in well-draining soil and full sun.
- Pawpaw: Best in East Texas, pawpaw trees prefer rich, well-drained soil and do well in full sun or partial shade. They’re understory trees, so consider this when planting.
- Mexican Plum: Found throughout Central and East Texas, they prefer well-drained soils and full sun. Avoid areas with standing water.
- Pecan: Native across Texas, pecans do well in deep, well-drained soils. They need plenty of sun and space to grow.
- Texas Mulberry: Native to West and Central Texas, they’re adaptable but prefer well-drained soil and full sun.
- Mayhaw: Mostly found in the wetlands of East Texas, they prefer acidic, well-draining soils and full sun to partial shade.
- Wild Cherry: This tree is native to East and Central Texas and does well in full sun to part shade and in well-drained soil.
- Southern Crabapple: Found in East Texas, they prefer acidic soil, full sun, and need good air circulation to prevent disease.
Keep in mind these fruit trees still need care, especially when they’re young.
The 10 Worst Fruit Trees to Grow in Texas
A couple of my friends in Austin tried growing banana plants. Not only did the plants require plenty of water to stay cool in the 100ºF+ weather, but when the weather dipped below 20ºF in the winter, the banana plants quickly died.
However, if you’re able to manage the cold and dry weather (such as using a greenhouse with a humidifier), banana plants become a lot more viable.
While there are some exceptions, these are the 10 worst fruit trees to grow in Texas. These plants are generally not adapted well to the climate, soil, and/or pests found in Texas.
- Cherries: Sweet cherry trees need a cooler climate than most parts of Texas can provide, and they’re also vulnerable to several diseases in the region.
- Apples: While some apple trees can survive in the northern parts of Texas, the hot and humid climate in much of the state is not ideal for many apple varieties. Diseases and pests can also be problem.
- Pears: Fire blight is a common bacterial disease in Texas that can kill pear trees. They also require a significant amount of chill hours which can be difficult to achieve in the southern part of the state.
- Bananas: While banana plants can technically grow in parts of Texas, they need a long, warm growing season to fruit, which is not always guaranteed. They are also susceptible to freezing temperatures and will die back in winter, requiring new growth to come from the base in spring.
- Apricots: While some apricots can handle Texas heat, they often bloom early and can be caught by late frosts. Additionally, they’re prone to a several plant diseases in the state.
- Plums: The climatic requirements of many plum varieties do not align well with much of Texas, although some native and Japanese plums can do well. They are also susceptible to many pests and diseases.
- Blueberries: These plants need acidic soil to thrive, which isn’t common in Texas. They’re also not drought-tolerant, making them a poor fit for much of the state.
- Raspberries: While raspberries can be grown in some parts of Texas, they generally prefer cooler, less humid climates than what much of the state provides. They are susceptible to various fungal diseases in warm, humid conditions.
- Kiwi: Kiwis prefer a cooler, more temperate climate than most of Texas can provide. They require a significant number of chill hours to fruit and are sensitive to late spring frosts, which can damage their early growth.
- Almonds: While almonds thrive in climates with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers, they typically struggle in Texas due to the state’s heavy, often poorly draining soils and high summer humidity. Almonds are also vulnerable to a few diseases found in Texas.
3 Steps Choose The Best Fruit Trees for Texas
Now that we know the best fruit trees to grow across the majority of Texas, let’s take a closer look at your specific region.
According to the NDRC and the Texas Water Development Board, Texas has 10 different climates. I drew each of the climates in the graphic above, and here’s a quick breakdown of them:
- High Plains: Continental steppe or semi-arid savanna
- Low Rolling Plains: Sub-tropical steppe or semi-arid savanna
- Cross Timbers: Sub-tropical sub-humid mixed savanna and woodlands
- Piney Woods: Sub-tropical humid mixed evergreen-deciduous forestland
- Trans-Pecos: Sub-tropical arid desert (except for the slightly wetter high desert mountainous areas)
- Edwards Plateau: Sub-tropical steppe or semi-arid brushland and savanna
- Post Oak Savanna: Sub-tropical sub-humid mixed prairie, savanna, and woodlands
- Gulf Coastal Plains: Sub-tropical humid marine prairies and marshes
- South Texas Plains: Sub-tropical steppe or semi-arid brushland
- Lower Rio Grande Valley: Sub-tropical sub-humid marine
So, what does this mean for you?
1. Find Your Climate
If you haven’t already, find your USDA hardiness zone and your specific Texas climate. These both will reveal the best fruit trees to grow, so you can put in less time, work, and money and get more fruit (that’s what permaculture is all about).
2. Establish a Microclimate (If Needed)
Now that you found your specific Texas climate, it still may be a little too harsh to simply stick a fruit tree in the ground and leave it to fend off the rough Texas weather.
Fruit trees evolved as understory plants in forests, so they prefer some partial shade (from the afternoon sun) and heavy mulch. The shade and the mulch significantly retain water, regulate soil temperature, and promote beneficial soil life.
However, because many properties remove trees when building, shade is difficult to come by. Because of this, it’s a good idea to plant “support species” to establish microclimates for your fruit trees.
Support species are typically fast-growing plants that pave the way for the more sensitive, “productive species” such as fruit trees.
Tip: Along with being fast-growing, many support species are also nitrogen-fixing, taking nitrogen from the air and adding it to the soil. And since nitrogen is the primary nutrient for fruit trees, these plants make amazing companion plants.
Plants That Help Texas Fruit Trees
To give your Texas fruit trees a better chance at growing, here are some good supporting plants to grow first:
- Black Locust: This fast-growing tree fixes nitrogen and provides excellent biomass for mulch. Tolerates a wide range of conditions and can do well throughout Texas.
- Autumn Olive: A medium-sized shrub that fixes nitrogen and produces berries edible for wildlife. Adaptable to various conditions but prefers well-drained soils, it should do well in most parts of Texas, but it’s considered invasive in some areas.
- Alder: Alder trees are fast-growing, fix nitrogen, and improve the soil with their leaf drop. Generally prefers cooler, wetter conditions than what most of Texas provides, but there might be success in the northern and eastern parts of the state.
- Russian Olive: A nitrogen-fixing shrub that’s drought-tolerant, providing great windbreaks and wildlife habitat. Adaptable to various conditions and can do well throughout Texas. However, note that it is considered invasive in some regions.
- Mimosa: A medium-sized tree that fixes nitrogen and provides shade with its spreading canopy. This tree should do well throughout Texas, as it is heat-tolerant and can handle a variety of soils.
- Siberian Pea Shrub: A hardy nitrogen-fixing shrub that can provide shade and wind protection. This shrub prefers cooler conditions and might be best suited for northern Texas.
- Sea Buckthorn (Sea Berries): A nitrogen-fixing shrub that also provides edible berries. Prefers cooler climates, so it might not do well in most of Texas.
- Mesquite: A native to Texas, mesquite is highly drought-tolerant and thrives in most parts of the state. Provides shade, and offers edible pods.
- Pigeon Pea: A perennial legume that provides nitrogen, edible peas, and can serve as a living trellis for other plants. This is a tropical to subtropical plant and should do well in southern and eastern Texas.
- Goumi Berry: A nitrogen-fixing shrub that also offers edible berries. Adaptable to various conditions but prefers well-drained soils, it should do well in most parts of Texas.
On a similar note, keep in mind that soil likes to be covered.
When uncovered, the soil dries out in the sun, and erodes with the wind and rain. Covered soil allows beneficial soil life to thrive such as earthworms and mycorrhizal fungi, which significantly benefit fruit trees.
Mycorrhizal fungi promote many aspects of plant life, in particular improved nutrition, better growth, stress tolerance, and disease resistance.Department of Biology, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
For example, cover crops are a great way to cover the soil between fruit trees. Not only do you get a bonus crop with unused space, but most cover crops provide the soil with nitrogen.
3. Provide the Proper Care
Fruit trees are sensitive plants, but once they’re established, they can (mostly) provide for themselves. While there are many things to keep in mind for fruit trees, here are my best tips for caring for fruit trees:
- Sunlight: Provide fruit trees with 6+ hours of sunlight daily. During temperatures above 90ºF, consider sheltering them with about 2 hours of afternoon shade (from the western sun).
- Water: Only water when the top 2-4 inches of soil gets dry. This prevents both under and over-watering. Also, provide 2 inches of compost and 4-12 inches of mulch for water retention, nutrients, and improving the soil.
- Nutrients: Use an organic fertilizer 1-2 times per year (spring and fall), and/or 2 inches of compost every 1-2 months.
- Soil: The majority of fruit trees do best with sandy, loam soil. Make sure the soil is well-draining so water doesn’t stagnate and become moldy.
- Spacing: Provide fruit trees with 5-10 feet of space from each other and 10+ feet away from structures such as houses, sheds, and fences. Avoid planting walnuts near most fruit trees as they produce a growth inhibitor called juglone. However, peaches and mulberries are immune and can be used as a buffer.
To learn more about caring for fruit trees, check out the full guide here: How to Care For Fruit Trees (7 Things to Know)
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.