Tips for Selecting Fruit & Nut Trees

2 Women Selecting a Tree from a Nursery

You’ll want to consider a variety of things as you choose a tree or mix of trees that can bring you years of future enjoyment. Here are some factors to consider:


Brrr! Baby, it’s cold outside… “

At least this is what is required in the winter to allow temperate fruit trees to go dormant. This contributes to the way they will flower and fruit next season. You will want to know your climate zone and number of “chill” hours to help guide your selection.

To get it just right you’ll want to consider you r location, the size that you will allow the trees to get to and identify if they will require a pollinating variety to ensure an abundant crop.


While you want to know your climate zone, it’s also important to understand the microclimate ( what’s happening in your yard)  of your planting area. Microclimates occur because of house location, fencing, established trees etc that alter the surrounding climate. Factors such as wind, slope, thermal mass and access to sufficient sun can cause very localized climate changes. Read more about microclimates at Climate Zones & Chill Hours.

Tree Size

Tree Sizes & Growth Habits

The space you have available need not be a limiting factor. If you have acres, lucky you! But if not, do not be discouraged. All fruit trees can be maintained at almost any height-with pruning.  If you have only a sunny deck or balcony, you maychoose to plant in  container. Citrus, Fig, Pomegranate, and Blueberry are all ideal for container growing. If you have a narrow area to plant, pick from our Urban Skyscrapers line of trees that have an upright growth habit and do well in small spaces. In general, fruit trees fall into one of four categories of size.

Diagram comparing Dwarf, Upright, Semi-Dwarf and Standard Tree Sizes
  • Rootstocks-Are an important par of your fruit tree planting. Remember that the first consideration for what rootstalk to select is disease resistance and next would be soil adaptation. Does the tree grow in the soil you are planting it in? Next is to understand that roostocks are typically marketed by the size that they claim to allow a tree to grow to. Remember all trees can be controlled to any size with pruning.
  • Upright Growers These unique trees have a compact, narrow growth habit – perfect for planting in small yards however there isn’t anything small about the fruit they bear. You will enjoy full size and wonderful flavor from these varieties. The smaller size of the tree allows easier harvesting  and maintaining size by pruning.
  • Dwarf – These are small trees for small spaces, typically these need staking for support or perfect drainage. They bear fruit that is normal size, but the overall tree size is smaller. These are popular for use in high density planting, espaliers or any trellis systems.
  • Semi-dwarf – These rootstocks are typically listed as producing a tree 5-50% smaller than a tree on a standard rootstock . They are often said to grow to 15-18’ tall and give you hundreds of fruit each season, though you might see a year now and then when they take a break. You’ll want to prune semi-dwarf trees annually to keep them well shaped.
  • Standard – Standard trees are the size from generations ago, reaching to heights of 25’ to 30’ or taller. They take many years to get this large, but they start bearing fruit in three to five years. Standards are stately, but due to their size they can be more difficult to prune and harvest.


The birds and the bees

Closeup of Bee on a Flower

Your fruit trees may bloom beautifully in the spring, but that does not guarantee you’ll have fruit in the fall. Pollination is usually needed. Some fruit trees are self-pollinating or self-fertile, but even these varieties produce more fruit with pollination. Here are few keys to successful pollination:

  • Plant two or more different varieties of the same fruit type  nearby.
  • Attract bees to your yard by planting a variety of flowers.
  • Avoid using insecticides, which can kill beneficial bugs as well as pests.

Harvest Size & Timing

Tick-tock!  Tired of waiting for the perfect harvest?

Just how much fruitcrop can you handle? The ripening time of the fruit you choose is an important selection factor. You’ll  want to choose varieties that ripen at different times throughout the season. Early, mid and late season fruit will allow you to enjoy a rolling harvest from spring to fall. Learn more about when different varieties ripen from the Tomorrow’s Harvest Ripening Chart (PDF).