For the first time in my life I am buying trees, specifically fruit
and probably citrus.
Is Home Depot any good for this? There are a number of terrific
nurseries around here but it is a matter of time not money, if there
is even a difference. I am not sure. I was kind of caught by surprise
What do you all say?
Julie in SFBA
I don't know about the SFBA, but the Home Depot's around the Dallas, Tx area
only sell fruit trees in the spring. Their trees are fine, but you may find
a limited selection of varieties. I've bought peach , pears and figs from
HD and they have always been fine. But now you have me curious.....it's a
matter of time and not money?
What's the rush? (if you care to elaborate)
Nursery stock is typically planted spring and fall, the
coolest/wettest times of the year. But there no reason one can't
plant all summer if they are willing to water regularly. I find the
best bargains on trees during summer and late fall when nurseries are
looking to empty their stock.
Planting before the best months of rain is a good idea to give the
roots a good start. Sure you can hand water and plant anytime, but
rain seems to do the better job. The worst time is to plant shortly
before a draught. This is a good time (now thru early winter) to
fertilize/mulch deciduous trees.
Whoops, sorry, hit the "send" key too soon.
I was going to say that we here in the Bay Area have a different
sense of planting seasons than people in many other parts of the
country. :-) I, too, am getting ready to do some planting--just
as my friends in Michigan are putting away their garden tools
for the next few months.
Find a local nursery who can advise you on what varieties grow best in
your particular microclimate.
But...most importantly, if you are planting stone fruit - WAIT. Bare
root season is right around the corner and you can get trees much
cheaper then. Starting in December, the nursery will be filled with
bare root fruit trees. If the local nursery that you find has helpful
employees, they will order the varieties you want as bare root stock.
The Sunset garden book has listings of different cultivars if you
don't already have a favorite. You *do* have a Sunset garden book,
Cheaper... cheaper than what???
For the typical homeowner planting like a half dozen fruit trees at
the most, who GAF about saving like *maybe* two bucks on a $17 tree...
I mean it's not like peaches and plums is some kinda rare and pricey
Truthfully, I don't trust either. Half my garden was destroyed this
year from the "Bonnie Blight" incident, and nearly all carried that
brand. Beware of mislabeled plants. I might prefer the store with
the best reputation/guarantee, maybe the cleanest-looking greenhouse.
Pick your poison.
I might buy tools, fertilizers, and other supplies at a hardware store
or lumber yard; but I alway buy my plants from a nursery. Hardware
stores and lumber yards generally fail to give live plants proper care
while waiting to sell them. In fact, few such stores even employ people
who know how to care for live plants.
If "SFBA" means San Francisco Bay area, forget the citrus. It will grow
and thrive, but you are unlikely to get enough heat to ripen the fruit
If you are buying deciduous fruit trees, wait until they are available
bare root (about January). Bare root trees generally adapt to your
native soil better than canned trees. (The same is true with roses, but
few (if any) nurseries sell bare root roses any more.)
Also, be sure that the varieties that you buy is indeed suitable for
your climate. Commercial varieties of apple, pear, and the stone fruits
(e.g., peaches) generally need more winter chill than is found in much
of the Bay area. However, non-commercial varieties of many fruits --
often better tasting -- are available for mild-winter areas.
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
Really? My six citrus (Mandarin orange, Valencia orange, Tangelo, both Meyer
lemons, and the Star Ruby grapefruit), and every neighbor I see with citrus
trees in their front yards, disprove this every season.
I'll also include my nectarine, pear, apple, and persimmon but I understand
that those aren't citrus.
All the saplings came from Home Despost but I've forgotten when I purchased
them; fall I think when they pack 'em in like sardines in their nursery
areas. They've been amazingly hardy, were all on sale when I purchased them,
and came from a variety of sources.
The big box stores get their nursery stock from the same local
wholesalers that supply the independant nurseries... look for how well
the individual store cares for their stock (watering, etc.), otherwise
there is no difference. However the big box stores typically give
better hasslefree guarantees, and they typically charge significantly
less. When I want something unique or of a larger than usual size I
know of some local wholesale/retail growers. Not knowing your
location I can't offer a recommendation and if you're going to grow
citrus I know you are not anywhere near me. If this is your first
attempt with fruit trees I'd keep to the most very basic plants such
as one finds at the big box stores... fruit trees are rather
inexpensive but you don't want to lose the time spent growing more
fussy stock until you gain experience in caring for fruit trees. Being
new you'd only become overwhelmed shopping the large growing
I can relate one experience of mine. Two years ago, I purchased what
was labeled as a Belle of Georgia Peach. It soon developed fruit, but
the flesh was yellow, instead of white. My guess is that it is a
Elberta Peach. Out of curiosity, I tried to trace this tree from Home
Depot. It seems like this tree went through about two or three levels
before Home Depot sold it. The exact identity of the tree could not
be verified. It is a healthy tree, just not what I was expecting.
True, you can get some bargains at Home Depot and other big box
stores, but be aware of the risks involved.
That was probably the last tree I will purchase from a big box. When
I was first getting into growing fruit, I purchased five trees from
Frank's Nursery, who went out of business in my area. A few of them
survived, but some grew larger than I wanted.
As I got more into fruit trees, I discovered the best and most
reliable trees were orderable on the internet as young whips. These
trees grow rapidly and catch up in a year or two to the ones you see
sold in local nurseries and big box stores. There are several good
suppliers, like Raintree Nursery and Tree's of Antiquity out there.
The advantage of ordering from them is they carry many uncommon
varieties not found locally. They grow their own trees, with no
middle men involved. You can be almost certain that the better ones
of these nurseries are accurate on the rootstock (determines final
size of the tree). If you were expecting a tree to grow to 10 or so
feet, you won't be surprised when it grows many feet higher. I grow
mostly semi-dwarfs on rootstock like Bud 9 that produces apple trees
about 12 feet high. If I had to do it over again, I would have bought
the very small trees on M27 that grow about 6 feet tall. You don't
get as much fruit on a dwarf, but maintenance is much easier, and the
trees yield fruit sooner than a full size tree. There are some
nurseries that I avoid simply because they do not specify their
rootstock, just calling it a dwarf of semi-dwarf. Starks and
Millers are two of these that come to mind. They plant their own
stock, but on an assembly line basis, so they cannot track each tree.
If you want to grow some unusual and very tasty fruit that you can't
find in your supermarket, look at these heritage fruits. Visit a
fruit fair in your area where you can taste these unusual fruits
and be sure to pick one that is compatible with your climate zone.
You are correct on all points except for the elements of time and
space. Trees are not like buying a TV that you bring home and it
instantly operates to its full capacity, trees require years to
mature. I've purchased mail order "whips" and they definitely don't
begin producing within two years, they require more like 5-6 years for
first fruit... and still there is no gaurantee they'll be true to
form, they can easily get switched in the shipping departments... and
the trees from independant nurseries are just as likely to be
mislabled as from the big boxes, since they all come from the
same local grower-wholesalers and probably get shipped here, there,
and everywhere before sold to the public. And with bare root trees
my experience is that about 1/4 don't make it... sure they will be
replaced but one loses an entire year before they'll reship... and
shipping costs for barestock whips is typically more than the plant is
worth. Ppotted/balled and burlapped saplings have a far higher
success rate (I havent lost one yet).
And then there is the element of space for planting. If one has
plenty of land to put into orchard and intends to make a major
operation of growing fruit then the best route is to buy mature rooted
trees from an area grower wholesaler/retailer... they will cost about
double and triple than from an independant and big box... but at least
you will have a mature plant that is true to form and is probably
already fruiting. But for someone with a small property who is
intending to have 2-6 trees then I recommend they get started with a
couple of potted trees from a big box, to learn how to care for fruit
trees and have time to decide what they really want to plant in
limited space. If one has the space and wants they can purchase an
assortment of bare root whips and plant in pots and then heel in,
leave them for a couple of years until they know which survive
(arrange for replacement) and decide where to plant. From reading the
OP it doesn't sound like someone who will be planting an orchard, and
says money is no object... then I would recommend forgoing the big
box, the independants, and the mail order bare root, and go directly
to a local grower and buy more mature specimens.. I suggest purchasing
nursery stock as locally as possible to ensure similar growing
conditions... mail order can be from thousands of miles away.
A grower is a much different operation from a plant nursery. Growers
do their own grafting, have many acres planted with stock in various
stages. Some will have a retail section... they are typically listed
in the phone book.
In my location I shop these two:
Both are about an hours drive away in different directions so when I
go I plan to spend a relaxing day strolling the acreage. I'm on their
email list and so several times a year I'm notified of sales. Both
maintain an amazing array of plants, many of which one never finds at
nurseries... plants purchased by lanscapers for large estate jobs, but
often available retail too... sometimes advance notice is needed and
they will notifiy when the plant chosen is dug from the field and
ready for pick up... I bought my blueberry bushes that way and got a
fantastic deal compared to anywhere else. I almost bought my
blueberries on line, what a mistake that would have been as they
charge the credit card long before they ship, and their shipping
charges are outrageous... I recommend no one buy blueberry bushes
sight unseen, you can end up with 1-2 year old twigs, many of which
probably won't survive, and you'll pay as much if not more than I did,
$15 for 8 year old shrubs balled and burlapped filling 5 gallon pots,
That may be true for a tree on standard rootstock, but not so for
dwarfs. I have had vigorous dwarf whips produce fruit the next
year after planting. Five to six years is way too long for a dwarf
tree to fruit, unless the scion and the rootstock is not vigorous.
Of the some 10 odd trees I received as whips on dwarf rootstcck,
none of them took longer than two or three years to give fruit.
Admittedly, this first fruiting is very limited to a handful, and
I would recommend they be removed before they grow large so that
the tree puts it's energy into the roots, where it is most needed
on these young dwarf trees.
... and still there is no gaurantee they'll be true to
Exactly the point of my previous message. If you want to be
reasonably assured of getting a true to species that you ordered,
you have to find a nursery you can trust. I have not found any
of my local nurseries in the Chicago area to fill this bill.
They just buy a load of trees from wherever, and they generally
don't know the first thing about raising fruit trees, bushes
and flowers, yes. That's why I only buy from nurseries out of
state that firstly specify their rootstock type ( a good sign)
and those recommended by my fruit growing friends.
they can easily get switched in the shipping departments... and
Here I disagree with you again. A larger tree is much less likely to
succeed in transplanting. More likely than the nursery cut off too
many roots to squeeze it into a pot or burlap ball. They also have
a harder time adapting to the surrounding soil. These larger trees
are for impatient people who want instantaneous results. In fact,
these whips do not take long to catch up with their larger planted
The majority of people on gardening forums like this are hobbiests,
so large trees just become a big maintenance headache. If they are
working in a backyard, this limits the number of varieties they can
then the best route is to buy mature rooted
I also recommend dwarf trees. My neighbor planted almost all standard
trees about 5 years ago and many have not fruited and they are growing
too big. I advised him then to plant dwarfs, and now he tells me he
regrets not listening to me.
If one has the space and wants they can purchase an
If you are happy with Red Delicious, etc., those are the common
varieties they carry. These kinds of 'supermarket' apples are not
the best tasting, and why bother when you can buy them in the store.
There are literally hundreds of good tasting apples, like Thomas
Jefferson's favorite, Esopus Spitzenburg, for which scion wood or
ready made whips are available.
These guys have a good selection of fruit trees, but absolutely no
mention of rootstocks provided, so I assume they are all on standard
This nursery also has a good selection of fruit trees and they do
describe how dwarf trees behave, but their catalog does not indicate
which trees are available on which rootstocks, or even if they sell
To sum up, one has to do their homework when buying a tree, just like
you check out a new car for horsepower, gas mileage, etc. Once you
plant that tree, you may have the painful task of ripping it out
because it is too big, or is the wrong variety. Brooklyn1 is correct
about checking the pollination requirements, as some trees require a
'companion' variety to produce fruit.
On Sat, 10 Oct 2009 02:03:38 -0500, sherwin dubren
A lot depends on the grower, some will cheat by digging a small root
ball, others will give an adequate ball. More mature trees (and
plants in general) benefit from root pruning. I purchased large trees
with root balls much too heavy for me to haul home let alone plant, I
paid to have that done... all did very well.
No arguement there... I think I covered that in my next section.
When I say a mature tree I mean one about 5-7 years old, not some
gnarly ancient. All transplants suffer shock, but in the end a young
mature fruit tree will do better than a bare root "whip"... and I'd
much rather have a plant that was grown locally than one from here,
there, everywhere, and many states away. I've purchased those mail
order bare root "whips" and some did well but others died, they were
replaced but a year later... it wasn't worth all the planning,
preparing a piece of ground, anticipating arrival, the disapointment
of opening the large box and seeing a twig no larger than a strand of
pasta but still planting it, and then the disappointment when it never
leafs out. No thank you... I'll buy plants I can see growing. The
balled/potted fruit saplings one finds at the big box and most
nurseries are a good choice, but then being retired I didn't want to
wait longer than necesary so I opted for something a bit larger... so
a persons age has a lot to do with choosing nursery stock. Those mail
order whips I think are no bargain, they cost more and with shipping
one can buy two growing plants at Home Depot.
Dwarf fruit trees are rather small, they grow perhaps to 8" ht and 6"
wd, are fine for those who have limited space but since I have space I
prefer semi dwarf (they grow 12'-15' tall and as wide), they are very
manageable with a small step ladder and pole pruner. I also need
trees that grow taller because deer would make salad of dwarfs unless
I kept them fenced forever. With semi dwarfs I keep them fenced until
I can prune them to begin branching at about five feet, at that point
I can remove the fence and the deer will keep them pruned fastidiously
to five feet. If ever you pass a large orchard you will notice how
all the tree's lower branches are the same height, deer do that with
all trees/shrubs they browse.
These growers don't sell on line or from catalog. They are primarily
wholesale growers (they only sell what they themselves grow) and only
keep a web site for advertising their retail business to the locals,
which I readily admit is not much of a web site, and it's listings are
probably not up to date. If one has specific questions they will be
happy to answer. I have found all the personel quite knowlegeable and
helpful... they will help you choose, insist upon loading your plants
and covering them so they will be protectected from wind damage on the
trip home. And in fact their main location is only a very small part
of the operation, they own many hundreds of acres of planting fields
and greenhouses at other nearby locations that the public is not
permitted to browse.
It's really only the mail order and on line sellers who maintain fancy
schmancy web sites with all manner of hype... but it's rare they grow
any of their own stock. Those "whips' and tiny plants are shipped
from many private growers scattered about in states where
land is cheap and ordinary folks do it as a cottage industry... those
companys only handle the paperwork, their mail order plant business
has no more to do with growing than Sears has to do with manufacturing
clothes washers. Didn't you notice how all their pictures are of
perfect plants that one can never achieve in reality... ain't
Well, it may make shipping and replanting easier, but is certainly not
advantageous to the plant, depending on how much you cut off. There
are cases where you can kill a tree that way.
Makes no difference where it was grown. As I said, soil is a bigger
factor. Any arborist will tell you the smaller the tree, the greater
the survival rate. Even a one year old plant will survive sooner
then a two or three year old plant if it is planted properly.
I've purchased those mail
Did you ever think you were ordering plants from the wrong place? I
have never had a whip die on me, but a good nursery stands behind
their product and will replace it, if it dies prematurely.
As I stated earlier, whips can catch up to these larger trees over a
few years. Certainly buying standard rootstock trees like you seem
to prefer, will delay fruit production by several years.
You can't effectively prune apple trees by topping them. Other
I also need
You must have a nice tall ladder to handle your style trees. Also,
spraying must be lot's of fun. I can appreciate the problem with
deer, but your solution is not good, especially for someone of your
Maybe so, but these commercial guys like this usually grow varieties
that sell well in supermarkets, not the interesting ones that home
orchardist's would like.
Those "whips' and tiny plants are shipped
Your description fits the big box stores and some nurseries. That is
why I stress checking out a seller before you buy. One clue is if
they don't specify the rootstock type. That means that they are
either planting their trees on an assembly line, or they may be
buying from an intermediary.
Here is a site where you can find reliable trees and scion wood:
This site recommends checking these nurseries and others at the
Here you will find customer reviews of various nurseries. Some are
mixed, so obviously nobody has the same experience in these cases.
Also, not many buyers make the connection to the rootstock type,
like with Stark's Nursery. They see graft failures and other
problems, but don't make the rootstock connection. Generally, one
can get a rough idea of what to expect from these reviews.
I've bought from Raintree Nursery and their fruit trees have grown
have grown 2-3 feet this summer. The nursery is in my state so I knew
they would grow well here. That, I think, makes a huge difference in
how well fruit trees grow. They're semi-dwarf apple and cherry. I had
blossoms on them this year but they didn't develop. Next year? Maybe
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