Many home gardeners are first enticed to the world of gardening by the prospect of growing their own fruit.
After all, nothing tastes better than a piece of fruit picked straight off the tree. Not to mention the reduction in your carbon footprint.
Fortunately, the variety of different landscapes of Pennsylvania and the humid, continental climate means that there are a wide array of different fruit trees for the home gardener to consider planting.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the fruit trees that grow in PA.
8 Excellent Fruit Trees To Plant In PA
1. Peach Tree (Prunus persica)
Peaches are widely grown in PA, although production currently remains quite limited due to a pest problem. Peach trees have the advantage of being one of the fastest-growing fruit trees you can grow.
Peaches are trees that thrive in heat; the hotter the better for fruit production. This is in contrast to other trees such as apples, pears, and cherries. This makes peaches perfect for the hot and humid areas of PA. However, many peach varieties do need some chilling time of 500 hours between 0-10 °C (32 to 50 °F) Buds will then break through when there is sufficient warmth.
Generally, stone fruit including peaches, apricots, nectarines, and cherries do best in south-central and southeastern portions of the PA. This is because their early bloom period makes them susceptible to spring frosts. So peaches planted above the lower third of PA may not fruit regularly.
Peaches require well-drained soil and full sun. They’ll do best if planted near similar fruit, such as nectarines, apricots etc. Many varieties of peaches won’t survive consistent temperatures below 10 Fahrenheit.
Other Common Names: Yellow peach, white peach, flat peach.
Growing Zones: 5-8
Average Size at Maturity: 18-20 ft tall and 18-20 ft wide.
Varieties Suitable for Pennsylvania: Red Haven Pennsylvania State University recommends Candor, Relianc, Harbrite, Redkist, Beekman, Garnet Beauty, and Glenglo,
Flowering Season: Spring, depending on when the chill hours are completed.
Pear trees do well in PA and tolerate its poorly drained soil. They produce a dazzling scene of dizzying white flowers in the springtime. Pears are hardy to the cold temperatures of PA’s winters and do well with heat, drought, and high humidity. They also have the benefit of being a bit more forgiving to beginner fruit growers than apples.
Whilst pears will require some pruning, they aren’t as susceptible to fruit pests as some of their counterparts are. Plant pears in soil rich in organic matter, in full sun. Prune pear trees to one main trunk with an upward branch, and four to five outward branches.
A healthy pear tree should produce in three to five years, which is a short time to wait for a lifetime of fruit!
Other Common Names: Common pear.
Growing Zones: 4-8
Average Size at Maturity: 15-20 ft tall and 15-20 wide.
Varieties Suitable for Pennsylvania: Cleveland, Moonglow, Anjou, Bartlett (AKA Williams)
Flowering Season: Late February to Mid April
Apple is probably the most commonly grown fruit tree in PA. According to PA Cider Guild, apples are PA’s fourth-largest agricultural commodity. Whilst many home gardeners are keen to learn how to grow apples, they aren’t the easiest fruit to grow for beginners. They are prone to numerous fruit pests and require extra care to produce a bountiful harvest.
Apple trees are prone to leaf fungus, so don’t overcrowd them, and make sure their leaves can properly dry out after the rain. Apple trees need to be pollinated to fruit, so you’ll need at least two apple trees of different varieties that bloom at the same time. Be sure to plant lots of native plants nearby to attract bees and other pollinators. Apple trees may take up to 8 years to fruit, so be patient. Dwarf varieties may fruit as soon as two or three years.
Other Common Names: Common apple, paradise apple.
Growing Zones: 3-8
Average Size at Maturity: 30-40 ft tall and 25-30 ft wide.
Varieties Suitable for Pennsylvania: Golden Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Jonagold, Red Delicious, Ultra Gold, Paul Red,
Flowering Season: Mid-April and Mid-May after having met the required chill hours.
The pawpaw belongs to the custard apple family (Annonaceae) which are widespread throughout the tropics. The pawpaw is the only member of this family to be found in the temperate parts of North America and reaches as far north as Southern New York and New England.
Pawpaws require only moderately fertile soil, and are most productive in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade as well. They need well-drained soil. Pawpaws produce oblong fruit with a taste that’s said to be somewhere between a mango, pineapple, and banana and is usually weighs six to twelve ounces.
Pawpaws don’t store well and need to be eaten a few days after harvest. Fruit production can vary greatly from year to year, so pawpaws aren’t commercially viable, meaning they’re a good choice if you want to grow something you can’t readily buy in the shops. Being native fruit trees, they also fulfill an important ecological function. They typically yield four years after planting.
Other Common Names: paw-paw, papaw, American Papaw, hillbilly mango, prairie banana, Appalachian banana, Ozark banana, banango.
Growing Zones: 5-8
Average Size at Maturity: 15-20ft tall, and 15-20 ft wide.
Varieties Suitable for Pennsylvania: Allegheny, Shenandoah, Susquehanna, and Potomac
Flowering Season: Late August to September.
Plums are one of the few trees you can grow in PA which will thrive if they get a warmer spring and winter. Plums are very resistant to disease, more so than other trees listed here, so if you’re after easy returns, then a plum tree could be for you.
Whilst apples, pears, and some cherries can grow quite large, you won’t have to worry about this with plum trees, which keep quite compact. Plum trees grow best in well-draining soil and direct sunlight and don’t tolerate wet conditions well.
Plums, like apples, are biennial, meaning they may fruit on alternate years. One thing to look out for if you’re growing plum trees in PA are hungry rabbits, deer, and squirrels in the springtime who love to feed on plum trees, so try to protect young trees after planting.
Other Common Names: Plum
Growing Zones: 3-8
Average Size at Maturity: 8-10 ft tall and 6-8 ft wide.
Varieties Suitable for Pennsylvania: Santa Rosa, Shiro, Methley,
Flowering Season: March-April.
Mulberry trees can be found abundantly in Pennsylvania; in open fields, beside rivers and streams, as well as in vacant lots in urban areas. White mulberries were introduced from East Asia and have naturalized in the area after early colonists tried and failed in silkworm production. The introduced white mulberry has hybridized with red native mulberries,
Most of the fruit found in PA resembles raspberries or blackberries, and are loved by children, adults, and birds alike. Mulberry trees are deciduous trees, with low branches and a wide-spreading crown. The bark is light brown and ridged. Mulberry flowers are green and white and give way to the aggregate fruit which ripens from May to August, turning from green to white, to red to black.
According to the PA Government White mulberries (Morus alba) tend to outcompete local species and may be a threat to the local red mulberry (Morus rubra) through hybridization, so if you want to plant a mulberry, make sure it’s a native red mulberry.
The mulberry can handle a wide range of soil types and conditions, including flooding and drought. Mulberries are also very attractive to birds, so some people plant them as a decoy to keep them away from other fruit trees such as plums.
Other Common Names: Mulberry
Growing Zones: 5-10
Average Size at Maturity: 30-40 ft tall and 30-40 ft wide.
Varieties Suitable for Pennsylvania: Make sure it’s Red mulberry (Morus rubra) and not white mulberry (Morus alba).
Flowering Season: Early spring.
The American persimmon tree is a native fruit tree that requires little maintenance in the correct site. It’s not widely grown commercially, like the Asian Persimmon, and many believe it to have a superior taste. So if you want an easy-to-grow tree whose fruit you can’t easily buy in the stores, then consider the American Persimmon.
American persimmons are moderately sized trees that are also prized as ornamentals due to their leathery leaves that turn a shade of purple in the fall. However, they are usually cultivated for their fruit, which is smaller than the Asian persimmon, at only 2 inches in diameter. The golden/orange fruit are sweet when ripe but very astringent when unripe.
American persimmons are dioecious, meaning you’ll need another variety in the area for your tree to bear fruit, However, some self-fertile varieties are appearing now, such as ‘Meader.’ They do best in loamy, moist soil, that’s free-draining. They can also tolerate hot and dry soil.
Other Common Names: Common persimmon, eastern persimmon, simmon, possum apples, possum wood, sugar plum.
Growing Zones: 4-9
Average Size at Maturity: 30-60 ft tall and 25-30 ft wide.
Varieties Suitable for Pennsylvania: Deer Luscious, Meader, Yates, John Rick.
Flowering Season: Late spring.
The cherry tree is a popular tree to grow in PA for its fruit and ornamental value. There are many different varieties of cherries to choose from, from sweet to sour to inedible, purely ornamental varieties. Most sweet cherries need cross-pollination, whilst many sour varieties are self-fertile.
Cherry trees have the advantage of not growing as tall as many other species listed, and can produce heavily on alternate years. The downside is you’ll have to get to the fruit before the birds do.
Cherry trees are very susceptible to very cold or wet conditions, making them somewhat tricky to grow in some locations in PA. To avoid cold damage and death, plant cherry trees on raised sloped ground and avoid cold depressions in the landscape. Most varieties of cherry will need well-drained, light soil to flourish.
Other Common Names: Sweet cherry, sour cherry, self-fertile cherry tree.
Growing Zones: 4-10
Average Size at Maturity: 30-35 ft tall and 20-25 ft wide.
Varieties Suitable for Pennsylvania: Balaton, Danube, Okame
Flowering Season: Late March to early May.
The humid, continental climate of Pennsylvania means there are a whole host of fruit trees that a home gardener can choose to plant in their yard.
Whether you’re in the colder northern reaches, or warmer, more humid stretches of the state, there are plenty of fruiting trees for you to pick from and enjoy for years to come.
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Thomas worked for a number of years as the head of plant propagation for a horticultural contractor taking care of many different species of ornamental trees & shrubs. He learned how to propagate certain endangered endemic species and has a love of permaculture, sustainability and conscious living. When Thomas isn’t hiking in nature he can be found playing music, reading a book, or eating fruit under a tree.