Not every fruit tree will grow and reliably produce fruit in North Florida.
Temperature is the most important factor determining where certain fruits can be grown. It’s the reason why apples and blueberries do not do well in South Florida. It’s also the reason why people living in the northern part of the state find it difficult to grow tropical fruits such as papaya or mangoes.
Deciduous fruits, such as apple, peach and plum, require colder winter weather when these trees are bare of leaves and are in a state of dormancy in order to produce fruit. While most of the more tropical, evergreen fruits such as citrus require milder temperatures in order to do well and produce.
You can’t always rely on the folks selling the fruit plants to get it right in providing the best match for our weather.
There are a handful of apple cultivars from which to choose that will produce fruit with our milder winters. Florida is not known as an apple growing region of the United States. There are a few more options when it comes to peach and plum cultivars that will produce with our relatively warm winters.
The same colder winter weather of North Florida that is beneficial for the growth and production of deciduous fruits can injure the more cold sensitive tropical fruits, including most citrus types.
Two of the more cold-hardy types of citrus that will tolerate and survive our average winters are Kumquat and Satsuma. It is interesting that the entire citrus industry has progressively moved south in Florida due to historic freezes. Most commercial citrus production is now south of Orlando. North Florida’s colder winter temperatures are not conducive to growing most citrus species.
In order to be successful with fruit production in North Florida, fruit enthusiasts need to do their homework and ask a lot of questions before selecting and planting the first plant. Which varieties grow well here? How much care is needed to grow this type of fruit? Do I have time to devote to pruning, spraying, fertilizing and watering?
As part of doing your homework, you may want to attend a presentation by Okaloosa County Master Gardener Margaret Stewart titled Growing Fruit in Okaloosa County on Wednesday, June 21. This hour long lecture begins at 10 a.m. at the Gerald R. Edmonson Extension Building located at 3098 Airport Road in Crestview.
There is no cost to attend but space is limited so registration is required. Please call the UF/IFAS Okaloosa County Extension Office at (850) 689-5850 to register.
Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County, June 14, 2017
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