The peach is a deciduous fruit tree of the rose family (Rosaceae), first domesticated and cultivated in Zhejiang province of Eastern China. It bears edible juicy fruits with various characteristics, most called peaches and others, nectarines. The botanical name of peach is Prunus persica and it grown throughout the warmer temperate regions of both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.
The peach tree is relatively short with slender and and supple branches. The leaves are alternately arranged, slender and pointed. The tree produces pink flowers which have five petals and emerge in January and February. Peaches are stone fruits with red, orange, or pink skin covering white or yellow flesh. Peaches are widely eaten fresh and are also baked in pies and cobblers; canned peaches are a staple commodity in many regions.
Table of Contents
4 - 6 feet (dwarf trees)
18 - 25 feet (standard trees)
6 feet (dwarf trees)
15 - 25 feet (standard trees)
6.5 - 7.0
Growth Nutrition of Peach
Mature Peach trees need mostly nitrogen (N) and potassium (K); these two nutrients are found in large quantities in fruits. Phosphorus stimulates root growth and is essential for young trees. Use complete fertilizer during the first three years of the tree, such as 16-4-8, 12-6-6, 12-4-8, or 10-10-10, during the tree's first three years.
Types and Varieties of Peach Trees
Most peach trees in the United States produce fruit with yellow flesh. Flesh color can range from a soft yellow to an orange yellow or yellow streaked with red. Other yellow-fleshed peach varieties are primarily yellow but become red closer to the pit. Examples of yellow-fleshed peaches include cultivars such as “Autumn Gold,” “Earligrande,” “O'Henry,” “Suncrest” and “Tropi-berta.”
Unlike most peach trees in the United States, most Asian peach trees produce white-fleshed fruit. Although less popular than yellow varieties here, white peaches are available in the United States as well. White-fleshed peaches most often have yellow, blush or red skins like yellow-fleshed varieties. Common white peach tree cultivars are “Babcock,” “Nectar,” “Belle of Georgia,” “Strawberry Free” and “Arctic Supreme.”
Babcock: Babcock peaches are small to medium in size, white-fleshed peaches. Semi-freestone peaches, the Babcock is on the tarter side. These peaches require additional sugar for sweetening for baking recipes.
Belle of Georgia: A freestone, white-fleshed peach, the Belle of Georgia is a highly prized cultivar because of its large fruit size and juicy taste. A contender at major peach festivals, this heirloom variety’s skin is a red blush.
Arctic Supreme: These larger clingstone self-pollination peaches have white flesh and red skin and are famed for their excellent taste.
Besides color, peach tree fruit are also distinguished by how their pits separate from the flesh. Clingstones are more difficult to remove from their pits. Clingstone peach flesh is stuck in the pit; commercial growers use machines to separate the pit from the flesh before canning. Examples of clingstone peaches include “Indian Blood,” “Independence” and “Sims.”
Indian Blood Peaches: This heirloom peach from Mexico is a medium sized clingstone peach. It's red skin hides yellow flesh that has red streaks through it, which is where the name comes from. The skin is tough, more like a beet. The flesh is stringy and meaty, but despite this it has a very pleasant flavor.
Unlike clingstone peaches, the fruit from freestone peach trees easily separates from the pit; often the stone can be removed from the peach flesh by hand. This makes freestone peach types popular with home growers who can and preserve their fruit. Perhaps not surprisingly, freestone varieties outnumber clingstone ones grown in the United States. Common freestone peach cultivars are “Elberta,” “Golden Jubilee,” “Red Baron,” “Frost” and “Santa Barbara.”
Elberta: Elberta peaches are self-fertile and omnipresent in Georgia. These freestone peaches are large and have golden yellow skin.
Frost Peaches: They have a reddish skin that contains their tangy, yellow flesh. They're medium-sized and make for a great snack.
Santa Barbara Peach Tree: The fruit is large, juicy, and very sweet. The tree even produces beautiful pink flowers in the springtime.
Most peach trees produce round fruit. However, a genetic mutation has resulted in flatter or saucer-shaped peaches that are formed more like a doughnut. Doughnut peaches have a small clingstone pit, yellow skin with a red blush and white flesh. This small- to medium-size variety is easy to eat and has a mild, sweet almond flavor.
Dwarf or miniature peach tree varieties are good options for home gardeners with limited growing space. Rarely reaching heights of more than 6 feet, dwarf peach trees produce two or more times the number of fruit buds as a standard peach tree. Examples of miniature peach tree cultivars include “Bonanza,” “Honey Babe,” “Pix-Zee” and “El Dorado.”
Bonanza: It is a dwarf peach tree that only reaches six feet tall but produces full-sized fruit.
Honey Babe Peaches: Small and soft, Honey Babe peaches have yellow flesh and a near-complete lack of acidity in their flavor.
El Dorado Peaches: The trees on which El Dorado peaches grow are classified as dwarf trees due to their short size. The fruit they yield, however, is medium-sized.
A genetic mutation of the peach resulted in a variety lacking the fruit's characteristic fuzzy skin – the nectarine. Like peaches, nectarines may have yellow or white flesh and clingstone or freestone pits. Common nectarine varieties include “Arctic Rose,” “Harko” and “Panamint.” Dwarf nectarine culitvars include “Nectar Babe” and “Southern Belle.”
The other varieties:
‘Redhaven’ is the standard and most popular choice. These peaches are medium-size, but can be small if the tree is not properly thinned. Its skin is tough and firm and red in color.
'Halehaven' is a very sweet midseason variety. Even the skin is said to be sweet, and the trees are vigorous.
'Carolina Belle' produces large-sized, freestone, creamy white fruit that ripens from July to August.
'Reliance' which is a hardy variety. It produces small and soft fruits. It is an early season producer good for colder growing zones.
'Contender' is a cold-tolerant variety that produces medium-sized, freestone, red fruit that is non-browning.
'Galaxy' and 'Saturn' are both donut-shaped peaches that have sweet white flesh.
‘Harmony’ (‘Canadian Harmony’), which is winter hardy and moderately resistant to bacterial leaf spot. It produces medium to large fruit and freezes well.
When to Plant Peach Trees
Peach trees should be planted while they’re dormant—typically in late winter or early spring (depending on climate).
In regions where the ground freezes during winter, hold off on planting until the soil has thawed and the ground is no longer waterlogged from snowmelt or heavy spring rains.
It’s best to plant the trees the same day that you get them (if possible) to reduce stress. Potted trees can tolerate not being planted for a little while, but bare-root trees should be planted as soon as possible.
Select a tree that is about 1 year old and has a healthy root system. Older trees tend not to be as productive or vigorous overall.
Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site
For the best fruit production, the tree should be planted in an area that receives full sun all day long. Morning sun is especially crucial because it helps to dry morning dew off the fruit.
Choose a site with well-drained, moderately fertile soil. Peach trees won’t do well in areas where soil is compacted or remains consistently wet.
Soil pH should be on the slightly-acidic side, between 6 and 6.5.
Be sure to avoid planting in low areas, as cold air and frost can more easily settle there and affect the quality of your peaches.
How to Plant Peach Trees
Dig a hole that is a few inches deeper and wider than the spread of the roots. Set the tree on top of a small mound of soil in the middle of the hole. Be sure to spread the roots away from the trunk without excessively bending them.
For container-grown trees, remove the plant from its pot and remove any circling roots by laying the root ball on its side and using clean shears to cut through the offending roots. (Keep root pruning to a minimum, overall.)
For grafted trees, position the inside of the curve of the graft union away from the sun when planting.
Tip: Especially for dwarf or semi-dwarf grafted trees, the graft union must be 2 to 3 inches above the soil surface. If it’s any lower, the grafted tree (called the scion) may start to put out its own roots and grow into a standard-size tree.
Do not fertilize at the time of planting.
If you are planting standard-size trees, space them 15 to 20 feet apart. Space dwarf trees 10 to 12 feet apart.
Most types of peach trees are self-fertile, so planting one tree is all that’s needed for fruit production.
An Alternative Planting Method
If your circumstances are suitable, you might want to try a technique practiced in England. It involves planting a peach tree—ideally a dwarf variety—on the south side of the home (or other structure), directly under the eaves. Over time, the gardener prunes and trains the peach tree to espalier in a fan-shape against or very near to the wall of the house.
Plastic sheeting is attached to the eaves and draped to cover but not touch the tree, similar to a lean-to tent. This keeps the tree dry in winter, and the tree enjoys the warmth of the sun—directly and reflected off the house—year round. The plastic should be opened or lifted during bloom time to welcome pollinating insects, and on hot, sunny days to ventilate the tree and prevent foliage burn.
How to Care for Peaches
About 4 to 6 weeks after the tree blooms, thin the fruit so that they are 6 to 8 inches apart on the branch. If too much fruit is left on the tree, it is likely to be smaller and subpar. Thinning the fruit ensures that the tree will focus energy on the remaining fruit.
Prune and fertilize to encourage 10 to 18 inches of new growth during spring and summer.
About 6 weeks after planting, fertilize young trees with a balanced (10-10-10) fertilizer.
Tip: Apply fertilizer in a circle around the tree, but keep it at least 18 inches away from the trunk. This encourages the roots to spread outward, rather than in on themselves.
During the second year, add 3/4 pound of nitrogen fertilizer once in the spring and once in the early summer.
After the third year, add about 1 pound of nitrogen fertilizer per year to the mature trees in the spring.
To help make the tree hardier, do not fertilize it within 2 months of the first fall frost date or while the fruit is maturing. Fertilizer should only be applied between spring and mid-summer.
Pruning Peach Trees
Peach pruning should NOT be avoided. If left unpruned, peach trees weaken, may become diseased, and bear less fruit year after year. Peaches bloom and bear fruit on second-year wood; therefore, the trees need to make good growth each spring and summer to insure a crop for the next year.
Each winter, a large number of red 18- to 24-inch shoots need to be present as fruiting wood. If the trees are not pruned annually, the fruiting shoots move higher and higher, becoming out of reach. Alternate-year pruning results in excessive growth the year following heavy pruning, so annual, moderate pruning is essential for the long-term control of tree vigor and fruiting wood.
Be sure to prune the tree to an open center shape. In the summer of the first year, cut the vigorous shoots that form on the top of the tree by two or three buds. After about a month, check the tree.
As soon as you have three wide-angled branches, spaced equally apart, cut back any other branches so that these three are the main branches.
In the early summer of the second year, cut back the branches in the middle of the tree to short stubs and prune any shoots developing below the three main branches. After the third year, remove any shoots in the center of the tree to keep its shape.
Be sure to prune the tree annually to encourage production. Pruning is usually done mid to late April. Pinching the trees in the summer is also helpful.
How to Harvest Peaches
Peaches are harvested when they are fully ripe from late June through July and August.
With peaches, it’s especially important to harvest at the RIGHT time.
Though this timing depends on what type of peach variety, you can generally go by the color of the fruit. When peaches are fully ripe, the ground color of the fruit changes from green to completely yellow. No green should be left on the fruit. They should come off the tree with only a slight twist. The fruits found on the top and outside of the tree usually ripen first.
Be careful when picking your peaches because some varieties bruise very easily.
Tip: Peaches ripen faster in a closed paper bag at room temperature.
How to Store Peaches
You can store peaches in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. They should keep for about 5 days.
You can also make use of fresh peaches by making peach jam or peach butter.
Peaches can also be canned or frozen for storage.
Pests, Diseases and Animals
Common pests of the peach tree include aphids, lygus bugs, stink bugs, and several varieties of borer. Your best defense is a regular program of spraying with horticultural and dormant spray oils, or if you are not growing organically, a chemical insecticide.
Diseases found in peach trees include anthracnose and brown rot, which can both be controlled with a copper fungicide. Armillaria root rot is another fungal disease that causes dull or wilted foliage. It will eventually kill the tree, but can be controlled for years by digging around the root area, and leaving the trunk and upper roots exposed to air, and keeping them as dry as possible.
Animals ranging from rats to deer may bother your peach trees. A tree guard will keep smaller animals from chewing bark. The only foolproof way to keep larger animals away is by fencing in your trees.
Benefits of Peaches
Peaches contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps stabilize blood sugar and keeps cholesterol levels in check. Insoluble fiber aids in digestion and helps prevent constipation. Eating the skin of the fruit can maximize your fiber intake.
Besides the goodness of fiber, peaches may keep your belly happy in other ways, too. The tea and extracts made from peach flowers may help improve digestion.
The plant-based polyphenols (micronutrients) and prebiotics (live bacteria) that are found in peaches and other plant-based foods can decrease inflammation, which can, in turn, decrease your risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Stronger immune system
The fuzzy skin and juicy flesh of peaches contain good-for-you antioxidants, including vitamin C, polyphenols and carotenoids. Antioxidants are compounds in plants that fight cell damage, and antioxidant-rich diets can help protect your body against aging and illnesses, including cancer.
Peaches are a moderate source of beta carotene, a red-orange pigment found in fruits. The body turns beta carotene into vitamin A, an essential vitamin that’s important for healthy vision.
Helps in Fighting Anemia
Anemia occurs due to the deficiency of iron. Peaches are one of the best non-heme sources of iron and are effective in increasing the iron content of the body. Anemia can also occur with low levels of vitamin C. Peaches, being rich in both iron and vitamin C, are excellent foods to combat anemia.
Peaches are a good source of fiber, and fiber promotes satiety and contributes to weight loss in a healthy manner. Peaches are also low in calories and fat free which makes them ideal for weight loss. Moreover, they also contain natural sugars which do not raise the blood sugar or insulin levels in the body.
Act as Stress Reliever
Peach is called the “Fruit of Calmness” in Hungary. This is because of its ability to relieve stress and anxiety. It helps to restore the calmness of mind. Using peach flowers have proved to be highly beneficial for treating restlessness.
Peaches are high in antioxidants, particularly chlorogenic acid whcih help prevent the multiplication and spread of cncer cells in the body. Peach also contains another compound called caffeic acid, which offers protection against breast and colon cancers by reducing the cancer growth.
Peach trees are primarily grown for their fruit which is consumed fresh.
Peach trees are also grown as ornamental plants.
Fresh peaches are used to make peach jam or peach butter.
It also acts as a great moisturizer and helps in protecting the body from harmful UV rays.
Being rich in vitamin C, A and K, beta carotene, potassium, magnesium and selenium, peach prevents hair loss and acts as a scalp cleanser.
Peach wood was also used for the earliest known door gods during the Han.
peach bonsai trees are used as decoration during Vietnamese New Year in northern Vietnam.