Fruit Trees



Sunny Citrus


Try your hand at growing citrus in containers. We're sure you'll find it fun and rewarding... and of course, you'll definitely enjoy the fruits of your labor when those tasty fruits are ready to be eaten! The fragrance of the citrus flowers can fill a room and the bright colors of the fruit and the glossy foliage make handsome additions to your home. We've put together a few tips on maintaining citrus containers:

Citrus grown in pots are temperature sensitive and will not live through the hard freezes typical of Hampton Roads. Plastic and foam pots are best since plants should be taken outside during the warmer months. Potted citrus are grafted and are perfectly happy to live out their lives in pots. Most citrus trees are hardy to 38°F. Lemons, oranges and kumquats can tolerate temperatures down to 32°F for brief periods (hours) without damage.

Tips for Maintaining Citrus Containers:

  • Rotate the pots weekly so light strikes all the leaves.
  • Cut back on watering. Plants in weak light, out of the wind, use less water.
  • Return citrus outdoors as soon as temperatures warm to 40°F.
  • Keep in mind that some winter leaf drop is normal.

All-day direct sun is the most important factor in successful citrus culture. Your citrus trees should be outside, in full sun, except when the temperature drops below 40°F. When cold-temperature warnings occur, bring your potted trees into the house and place in a south-facing window.

Citrus in full sun and out in the wind will use considerable water. After your first thorough watering, check the weight of your new citrus tree. Lift it a few inches, feel how heavy it is. If it is too large to lift easily, push against the pot to get a sense of the resistance it gives your push. Check the weight of your pots several times the first week. If it feels dry, water again on all sides of the pot until water drains out of the bottom.

All plants in pots must be fertilized to grow to their full potential. Since fruit trees are constantly leafing, blooming, and ripening fruit, they need regular fertilization. We recommend using: McDonald’s Greenleaf, 12-4-8, slow-release, every six weeks, plus; Espoma Citrus Tone, 2-3 times per year

Most citrus trees bloom heavily once a year, usually in late winter or early spring. Exceptions are Meyer Improved Lemon and Calamondin Orange, which bloom sporadically throughout the year with good care, in addition to giving you a heavy bloom in winter. You can expect a crop of ripe fruit to ripen as follows:

  • Lemons and Lime: 9 months to turn yellow, let hang another 3 weeks for tree-rippened goodness
  • Calamondin Orange: 4-6 months
  • Kumquat: 5-7 months
  • Orange/Tangerine/Tangelo: 9-10 months

Fruit is ready to harvest when it gives to pressure from your thumb. Fruit is ready to harvest when it is no longer hard and gives to pressure from your thumb. Now you can enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Prune right after you have collected your main crop of fruit, and before the next blossoming period (usually mid-winter). Shorten branches to no more than half of the current length, cutting just above a healthy leaf. If branches are rubbing another healthy branch, remove branches by cutting back to a main stem.


Easy + Delicious

One of the easiest fruits to grow: THE FIG TREE

Figs are one of the easiest fruit trees you can grow and NOW is the time to enjoy this scrumptious fruit. They grow happily in both the ground and in containers, making them perfect for all types of gardeners. Figs grow on low, open trees with no thorns and soft leaves, and they are very easy to pick. You'll know a fig is ready to be picked when it feels soft and it separates easily from the tree when you lift it upwards from its drooping position. Unripe figs are harder, more firmly attached, and do not droop. These delicious fruits are at their peak right now in Hampton Roads and will be remain until frost in mid-October.

Enjoying the flavor of a freshly picked fig in the shade of the tree's canopy is a true Southern tradition. Thomas Jefferson claimed in his retirement to want only to sit beneath a fig tree with his books and watch the days pass by. Luckily, he did a lot more than this. Jefferson not only spread the popularity of the fig from Europe, but also expanded the area where the tree is grown. So, grab a shady seat and enjoy this southern treat!

Our Favorite Figs:
There are hundreds of fig varieties to choose from. Here's a list of our faves...

Brown Turkey - boasts brownish, copper-colored skin, often with hints of purple, and mostly pink/red flesh with some white. They work well in salads or in desserts where a sweetener will be used.

Celeste - approximately the size of an egg, Celeste fruits are purplish-brown when ripe, with a sweet, moist, deep-purple flesh inside. Absolutely delicious!

Mission - named for the Mission Fathers who planted these figs along the California coast. This fig is deep-purple which darkens to a rich, black color when dried. Often called black mission figs, they are extremely sweet and are perfect for serving plain , with yogurt, or with a tangy fresh cheese (such as mascarpone, fromage blanc, or farmers cheese) for dessert.

Strawberry Verde - large, black skinned fig with a scrumptious deep, strawberry-red flesh. It is excellent eaten fresh off the tree or dried. This variety is a dwarf tree well-suited for smaller gardens or containers.



Cold Hardy Citrus


Satsumas are sweet, juicy mandarin oranges that are easy to peel and are virtually seed-free. The traditional season for this cold hardy citrus is mid to late October through February. Satsuma trees are small, reaching a height of 4 to 6 feet and are cold tolerant to about 26 degrees F. Satsuma trees will grow in the landscape or in containers. First introduced from Japan in 1878, Satsumas produce fragrant white blossoms in March and April, with the fruit turning bright orange as it ripens in late October. So, celebrate the New Year by peeling open a nice, ripe satsuma! Once you start snacking you won’t be able to stop.


Squeeze this one inside and out


Who wouldn’t like an endless supply of sunshine, especially this time of year? Well, what if we told you that we knew where you could find a splash of sunshine all year round…that’s easy - the Meyer lemon!

A cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, the Meyer lemon has a smooth golden, edible skin, and a high volume of juice but none of the bitterness of a regular lemon. These evergreen beauties have lush, vivid green foliage and fragrant blooms. The striking fruit and glossy foliage are perfect both indoors and out. In containers, tuck these gems around your house during the winter months and enjoy their beautiful foliage and sweet smelling scent. Once the warmer weather arrives, move them outside and enjoy them all summer long. Most citrus trees are hardy to 38°F, but we recommend keeping them indoors during the cooler months and moving them outside once the mercury begins to rise in late spring.

Meyer lemons were once known only for their looks, but now they are a culinary must-have. Its aromatic, slightly sweet quality enhances desserts, sauces, salads and roasts. Squeeze a little Meyer lemon on fish, poultry, vegetables and fruit desserts as a low calorie seasoning. Its juice also helps to reduce browning on cut avocados and apples, and vegetables like potatoes, cauliflower and turnips will remain white when cooked in water with a little lemon juice added. So, be sure to use a Meyer whenever you want a burst of lemon flavor without the acidic bite. So, pucker up and add little burst of sunshine to your home this winter.



Pruning Fruit Trees 101

February through March is the perfect time to prune fruiting trees & plants. It's important you prune during these months. Don't know where to start? Don't worry - it is not as hard as you might think, and it's worth every minute. Following basic fruit tree pruning instructions will ensure your trees enjoy good health, disease management, and more delicious fruit. Pruning will also stimulate shoot growth, control tree size and shape, and improve the quality of fruit.

Beyond these basic tips, each tree or shrub has its unique pruning needs, so be sure to follow the specific fruit tree pruning instructions for different types of fruit trees. For example, apple trees require a different pruning system than plum trees. However, follow these basic fruit tree pruning instructions and you’ll get you off to a good start.

  1. Always use sharp shears or saws to ensure clean cuts. Use pruning shears on young trees and limbs less than 1/2 inch diameter, and lopping shears for your larger cuts. Use a pruning saw for mature fruit trees.
  2. Start by removing dead wood and broken branches. Cut out any wood that crosses or rubs against any other branches. This opens up the middle so the sun can reach all the fruit.
  3. Make cuts close to a bud, joint in the branch, or to the trunk and never leave a stub. Pruning cuts should be made just above a bud and at a backwards angle of about 30 degrees.
  4. Prune stems just above a pair of opposing strong shoots or buds. If shoots or buds are staggered, find a strong one and prune just above it.
  5. Prune more vertical branches and keep more horizontal branches.
  6. Remove any debris which can harbor pests and disease.

Pruning fruit trees is a skill that is can be easily learned. Just start now and come summer, you will enjoy the fruits of your labor! If you have any specific questions, please see any of our Trees & Shrubs Experts at our three year-round locations.



A Peach of a Tree

Most of us wait all year for that first bite into a juicy peach, just one more reason we adore summer! If you love these juicy gems, we suggest growing your own. Peaches out of your own garden always taste the best. Here are some expert tips to get you started in the peach world:

July Elberta Dwarf are sometimes considered the world’s most famous peaches because of their abundance of taste, attractive color and disease resistance. They ripen to a deep, golden yellow with a blush of red. Elberta peach trees grow rapidly, and mature quickly to a height of 15 feet.

Redhaven Dwarf produces plenty of juicy fruit full of flavor ~ and it produces fruit in abundance very quickly. Not only are the peaches full of flavor, but they are also HUGE! These are one of the largest peaches you can find.

These two varieties of peach trees are normally planted in pairs so they can pollinate each other. This pollination causes your trees to produce more fruit. We recommend cross-pollinating Red Haven with the Elberta peach tree.

Peach trees adore the sun. Pick a place in your yard or garden that will receive full sun all summer long. Dig a large hole and add plenty of compost to the soil. This will give the tree added nutrients and help with drainage. Poor drainage in the soil will kill the root system of growing peach trees, so make sure the soil is well drained.

Peach trees should not be pruned before February. Avoid pruning within several days of predicted cold weather. Pruning peach trees during bloom or shortly after bloom is not ideal, but it will not adversely affect the growth of the tree or the fruit. It is better to prune a little late than too early.

TIP: Harvest the fruit before it turns completely ripe. Once it is picked, it will soften and ripen quickly. The fruit will still be hard, making it easier to handle and store. Store fruit in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight.


A Beacon of Spring


The Yoshino Cherry is a beacon for spring. Each year, these celebrated trees shower us with beautiful blossoms promising warm weather is on the way. Now is the perfect time to plant your own cherry tree to ensure you don't miss the best show of the year!

These deciduous flowering trees have upright to horizontal branching, making them ideal for planting along walks and over patios. The white to pink flowers bloom in early spring, before the leaves develop making a spectacular show! The bloom time usually lasts for about two weeks, and then the leaves will appear. The Yoshino Cherry tree has been bred for its ornamental quality, as opposed to its fruit.

The slightly fragrant flowers will typically appear in mid-March. The trees flower every year, but may not always yield the same quantity of blooms as this relates to the amount of winter cold they receive. Plant the Yoshino Cherry in acidic soil with good drainage for best growth. Crowns can become one-sided unless they receive light from all around the plant, so locate in full sun.

In 1912, the Japanese government gave the U.S three-thousand Yoshino cherry trees. To this day, the Washington D.C area is famous for its cherry blossom season. And, people from all over the world visit Washington D.C. to see the spring spectacular of the cherry blossoms. This year’s festival will be held March 20 – April 27, 2012.