Stone fruit

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At a glance

  1. Plant type: Small tree.
  2. Height: Up to 10m.
  3. Width: Up to 5m.
  4. Sun: Full sun.
  5. Can be grown in pots.


Stone fruit require a cold winter in order to crop. Peaches and nectarines are the least cold-demanding and can be successfully grown in the subtropics.



The sizes of stone fruit trees vary. Dwarf peaches attain a height and spread of 2-3m, while cherries can exceed 10m. Pruning trees can keep them between 4-7m and many can be trained as fans or cordons, ideal for small gardens.


Container-grown trees can be planted any time and all crop well after a few years. Bare-rooted trees are sold in winter for immediate planting.


Autumn is the best time to prepare the ground for planting and order your stone fruit. Buy and plant bare-rooted trees during Winter.

Unless self-pollinating (e.g., cherries), it's important to plant at least two trees so they can cross-pollinate, and it's wise to discuss which varieties - including the rootstock - best suit your local climate and soil, and which make good pollen partners before purchase.

The ideal position for stone fruit is in open ground where it receives all-day sunshine, away from any frost-collecting hollows. Planting rows on a north-south axis and avoiding overcrowding helps reduce the risk of disease.

Soak roots of bare-rooted trees in a bucket of water for half an hour before planting. Stake and water well.

There are many varieties of stone fruit available, usually sold as virus-free, grafted trees. All flower from late winter to early spring and flowers are frost-sensitive.


They prefer sandy or loamy soils that are well-drained, well-dug, fertile and compost-rich. Clay soils must be improved by annual applications of gypsum and installing a drainage system can help. Plums and cherries tolerate heavy clay soils best.


They're prone to various fungal diseases.

Spray with Bordeaux or lime sulfur in autumn as leaves fall, then in winter as the flower buds swell. This controls brown rot, leaf curl, scale, mite, aphids and mealybug. As flowers open, spray with a copper-based fungicide and again when fruit are nearly mature. Observe the manufacturer's withholding period between spraying and harvesting. Hand-thinning fruit may be necessary to avoid breaking branches and damaging fruit quality.


Most varieties naturally form a vaseshaped tree which is the simplest way to grow stone fruit. Remove any dead, whippy or crossing branches. Prune to shape in late summer or autumn after harvesting.


Feed annually after flowering finishes using a complete organic fertiliser, then monthly using either seaweed or a flower and fruit fertiliser.


Water well when in leaf during dry weather - drip-irrigation is ideal. Avoid wetting foliage when watering or feeding.


Use 4cm-square netting to protect fruit from birds and fruitbats; standard 1cm square bird netting can injure or kill birds.

Fruit-fly is a significant pest and in some districts there may be a legal responsibility to bait and spray. Early Rose-scented bottled peaches cropping fruit trees planted in temperate regions ripen before peak fruit-fly season. Use Dak pots to bait male fruit-flies.


Harvest fully formed fruit when they develop some aroma and the flesh has just slightly softened.

Remove fallen or spoiled fruit and either bury 50cm deep or dispose of in the garbage. Do not compost fruit. European wasps are attracted to ripe fruit and their nests need professional control.

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