The Time to Plant Fruit Trees is Always Now

The best time to plant a fruit tree is always when you have your tree in front of you and your pick and shovel are at hand. Waiting to plant will only make you have to water your plant in its container, and that is harder to do than if it is in the ground. But…if you have a choice, the very best time to plant is during south Florida’s rainy season. The high humidity and rainfall are a perfect pair to help your new tree establish itself and begin to grow. Our rainy season typically begins in late May and goes through to late October, so what are you waiting for?

Where to Plant
Almost all fruit trees need to be planted in the full sun. The area chosen should be large enough to allow the tree to grow to at least twelve feet by twelve feet, and still receive a large amount of sunlight. The planting area should not hold water after a heavy rain. Fruit trees should not be planted in the middle of a lawn, if the lawn is going to be irrigated and fertilized, as excessive irrigation and nitrogen have negative impacts on fruit production.

Properly staked and protected by mulch.

How to Plant
Fruit trees should be planted as soon as possible after the trees are purchased, and should be planted in our native soil. Augmenting the soil with additives is not recommended. The hole for the fruit tree should be dug just larger than the root ball using a pick-axe to break up the limestone rock.

The most important factor is planting at the correct depth. The first lateral root, also called a flare root, will guide you as to what level the tree should be planted. The flare root should be at or slightly above ground level. Break up the root system before the tree goes into the ground and make sure that the tree is not root bound (has circling roots). Trees that are not kept in containers for an excessive amount of time normally have healthy roots.

Young trees need to be protected, so be sure to place a mulch barrier around the tree. One bag of mulch, or more, should circle the young tree with the center of the mulch pulled away from the tree’s trunk. The tree’s trunk should not come into contact with the mulch. The mulch barrier will protect the young tree from string trimmer and other types of mechanical damage.

Make sure that the tree is also watered on a fairly regular schedule when the tree is newly planted. Always water at planting, and then water every two to three days after that until the summer rains begin, or until the tree has put out two new flushes of growth. Too much water is detrimental as the tree’s roots will rot. Make sure that is the tree was staked, or if it has a label, that the tree tape or label is not too tight on the plant causing it to be girdled.

Fast Production
Planting a fruit tree will reap rewards as they should begin fruiting rather quickly. Most fruit trees are propagated by grafting, a type of asexual propagation. Trees that are grafted are a clone of the parent tree, so they keep all of the characteristics of the mother plant. They also skip the stages of growth and maturity that a tree planted from seed would have to go through and are therefore ready to fruit and flower immediately. Most trees are planted at the 3-gallon size, so they simply need to grow large enough to be able to support fruit production. It typically takes two to three years before a tree is ready to produce fruit, although some trees can produce sooner.


Jeff Wasielewski
Posted: June 14, 2024

Category: Agriculture, , Crops, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Fruits & Vegetables, Home Landscapes, Horticulture, SFYL Hot Topic, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Extension

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