Backyard Fruit and Nut Production Tips

Growing fruit and nuts in your home landscape can be very rewarding. It can also be incredibly frustrating in the most ideal of circumstances.  The weather, the soil, and the squirrels all seem to be conspiring to rob you of your hard-earned harvest.  These backyard fruit and nut production tips will list the varieties that we recommend for Austin and Travis County plus give you some best practices to help you be successful. At the end of this page we will list the fruit and nuts that are not well adapted to our area for those among you that love a challenge. Please visit the Fruit & Nut Resources page at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension for comprehensive variety descriptions and cultural practices.

In general, these types of fruit and nuts can be grown in Travis County: Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Persimmons, Jujubes, Figs, Pomegranates, some Citrus, Table Grapes, Pecans, Olives, Loquats, Strawberries, and Blackberries.

You can download a copy of the complete list here.

Apples

Apple Tree Susceptibility to Cotton Root Rot Alert

Apple trees are particularly susceptible to cotton root rot in Travis County. Cotton root rot (also called Texas Root Rot) is caused by the soil-borne fungus Phymatotrichum omnivorum that attacks over 2000 different species of plants.  Plants who contract the disease will die within 72 hours. Unfortunately there isn’t a way to test your soil to see if it is prevalent before you plant your tree. Sadly, apple trees are often planted by commercial cotton growers as an indicator plant for the disease. If you suspect that your plant has died from cotton root rot, you can submit your root samples to the Texas A&M Plant Pathology lab at https://plantclinic.tamu.edu/.

Winter Chill Hours Required

Apples are temperate fruit that require a certain number of cold hours to flower properly. While in general, Austin is in the 700 hours belt, there is quite a bit of variability throughout the county. Use this resource to determine your chill hours.

Get a Pollinator

Most varieties require  a different variety of apple tree to pollinate with and may even cross pollinate with crabapples (like our native Blanco Crabapple.) Others may be listed as self-fertile, but the best practice is to use a pollinator anyway. Most nurseries will list and carry the pollinators that you need, but do your research ahead of time to insure you get the right one. You’ll want to choose a variety with a similar chill hour requirement to make sure they are flowering at the same time.

Apple Tree Recommendations for Austin and Travis County

Variety Chill Hours
Anna 400
Mollie’s Delicious 450
Pink Lady 500
Fuji 600
Gala 600
Mutsu (Crispin) 600

 

Peaches

Peach Tree Limiting Factors: Soil, Water, Frost

While a peach tree may grow in Travis County, getting a juicy crop of fruit can be a challenge. The first limiting factor is often soil. Peaches need at least 24 inches of well-drained soil. Travis County soils are typically dense, heavy clay soils, even in areas where the profile is only one inch deep.

Another common limiting factor is water. Peaches need quite a bit of water during the months when water restrictions are in place.  You can mitigate this through hand watering or drip irrigation – but check with your municipality to see what is possible.

Gallons of Water Per Week Per Tree

Month April May June July August September
Gallons of Water 14 14 28 56 56 28

Peach blossoms are susceptible to frost damage. Site and variety selection will help. Avoid planting the trees in low areas that may be waterlogged or accumulate cold air.

Plum Curculio Alert

Plum curculio is prevalent in the Austin area and effects peaches, plums, apples, and pears so it’s important to learn how to prevent, recognize, and control this pest. The number one thing you should do is to clean up and dispose all fallen fruit and leaves from under the fruit trees on a regular basis. Do not add fruit and leaves to your compost. This is to reduce potential sheltering sites for the adults and to keep larvae from reaching the soil where they pupate.

Winter Chill Hours Required

Peaches are temperate fruit that require a certain number of cold hours to flower properly. While in general, Austin is in the 700 hours belt, there is quite a bit of variability throughout the county. Use this resource to determine your chill hours.

Peach Varieties for Austin and Travis County

Variety Stone Freeness Chill Hours
Texstar Free 450
TexPrince Free 550
Hawthorne Free 550
La Feliciana Free 600
TexRoyal Free 600
Goldprince Free 650
Junegold Cling 650
Juneprince Semi-free 650
Southern Pearl Free 650
Suwanee Free 650
Bicentennial Cling 700
Flavorcrest Free 700
Regal Cling 700
Dixiland Free 750
Gala Free 750
Harvester Free 750

 

Pears

Pear Tree Disease Alert

There are two main disease that can attack pears in Travis County: Fire Blight and Cotton Root Rot.

Fire blight is a bacteria that invades all parts of the tree but most often manifests as blackened branch tips that resembles fire damage. The best way to prevent it is to choose varieties that are resistant to it. Increasing airflow around the tree by spreading branches with weights or spreaders can also help. You can apply a copper fungicide before fruit is set as a prevention measure. If fire blight infection occurs, prune out diseased wood at least 8 to 12 inches below the last sign of infection, then burn or trash the wood. Do not put it in your compost. Prevent spreading the disease to other trees by disinfecting pruning equipment with a 10 percent bleach solution or  70 percent or higher isopropyl alcohol. Immediately afterward, dry and lubricate the tools to prevent rusting.

Cotton root rot (also called Texas Root Rot) is caused by the soil-borne fungus Phymatotrichum omnivorum that attacks over 2000 different species of plants.  Plants who contract the disease will die within 72 hours. Unfortunately there isn’t a way to test your soil to see if it is prevalent before you plant your tree. If you suspect that your plant has died from cotton root rot, you can submit your root samples to the Texas A&M Plant Pathology lab at https://plantclinic.tamu.edu/.

Get a Pollinator

Some varieties may be rated as self-fertile, but best practice is to get a pollinator anyway. They should be different varieties but with similar chill hour requirements so that they bloom at approximately the same time. Ornamental pears do not serve as cross-pollinators.

Winter Chill Hours Required

Pears are temperate fruit that require a certain number of cold hours to flower properly. While in general, Austin is in the 700 hours belt, there is quite a bit of variability throughout the county. Use this resource to determine your chill hours.

Pear Variety Recommendations

There are generally three types of pears that can be grown in Travis County: Asian, European, and European Hybrids. European pears are usually the most prevalent type available through grocery stores and have the traditional pear shape with soft flesh. There are some varieties that can be grown in Travis County but they are susceptible to fire blight. Asian pears are somewhat rounder, milder tasting, and have a crisp flesh similar to an apple. They also have more tolerance to fire blight. European hybrids are usually crosses between European and Asian varieties in an attempt to build fire blight tolerance. All pears tolerate a wider range of soil types than other fruit like peaches and apples.

Variety Type Chill Hours
Shinseiki Asian 250
Nijisseiki (20th Century) Asian 300
Hosui Asian 300
Shin Li Asian 400
Chojuro Asian 450
Shinko Asian 450
Garber Asian 750
Ayers European 200
Laconte European 300
Magness European 400
Moonglow European 400
Warren European 600
Kieffer European Hybrid 200
Monterrey European Hybrid 300
Orient European Hybrid 350
Fan-Stil® European Hybrid 400
Maxine European Hybrid 400

 

Plums

Plum Curculio Alert

Plum curculio is prevalent in the Austin area and effects plums, peaches, apples, and pears so it’s important to learn how to prevent, recognize, and control this pest. The number one thing you should do is to clean up and dispose all fallen fruit and leaves from under the fruit trees on a regular basis. Do not add fruit and leaves to your compost. This is to reduce potential sheltering sites for the adults and to keep larvae from reaching the soil where they pupate. You should only use an insecticide if your tree is infested or if your property has a history of the pest.

Get a Pollinator

Most varieties may be rated as self-fertile, but best practice is to get a pollinator anyway. They should be different varieties but with similar chill hour requirements so that they bloom at approximately the same time. Ornamental and native plums (Mexican Plum Prunus mexicana and American Plum Prunus americana) can serve as cross-pollinators.

Winter Chill Hours Required

Plums are temperate fruit that require a certain number of cold hours to flower properly. While in general, Austin is in the 700 hours belt, there is quite a bit of variability throughout the county. Use this resource to determine your chill hours.

Plum Variety Recommendations for Austin and Travis County

Variety Chill Hours
Methley 150
Santa Rosa 400
Bruce 500
Robusto 500
Allred 600

 

Persimmons

Include Persimmons in Your Garden

Oriental Persimmon Fruit - Backyard Fruit and Nuts

Oriental Persimmon Fruit

Persimmons may be the easiest fruit tree to grow in Travis County, simply because it doesn’t need artful pruning , has low chilling requirements, and is relatively pest and disease free. However, it does have some quirkiness that you should be aware of.

Go Native?

There are two native persimmons that produce fruit, and are relatively easy to care for. The American Persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, has Travis County as it’s western habitat. The trees can grow up to 80 feet tall but the fruit is small. It’s often used as root stock for more prolific varieties. The Texas Persimmon, Diospyros texana, is a small tree that grows on the Edwards Plateau. It has small edible fruit that turn black when ripe.

Astringency

A characteristic of the native varieties and some of the others is astringent fruit.  Astringency is the dry, puckering mouthfeel that high levels of soluble tannins produce and are present until the fruit completely ripens. Some varieties, may not start to ripen until exposed to cold fall temperature s and should be left on the tree for that process to finish. Once ripe, a persimmon has a sweet, delicate flavor with the texture of thick pudding.  There are several Asian persimmons that are non-astringent, and can be eaten as soon as the fruit softens. The biggest challenge is keeping the fruit safe from marauding squirrels – who don’t seem to mind the astringency.

Prepare for Fruit Drop

Just as frustrating as squirrels is the trees own tendency to drop it’s fruit.

Persimmons typically produce seedless fruit, which tend to drop before full maturity and is easily triggered by too much fertilizer, excessive heat, cold, water or drought. While you can’t stop the fruit from dropping, you can reduce the occurrences by using heavy mulch and appropriate watering practices.

Persimmon Variety Recommendations

Variety Type
Fuyu Non-Astringent
Ichikikei Jiro Non-Astringent
Izu Non-Astringent
Suruga Non-Astringent
Eureka Astringent
Tane-nashi Astringent
Hachiya Astringent
Honan Red Astringent
Saijo Astringent
Tamopan Astringent
Chocolate Astringent
Fankio Astringent

 

Jujubes

Jujube Root Suckering and Thorns

At first glance, jujubes seem like the perfect fruit for Texas. They like hot weather and can grow in a variety of soils. The fruit tastes like a small apple and it’s even available in the grocery stores.

The biggest problem with the tree is the root sprouting. A lot of root sprouting. Plant your tree with this in mind because you’ll need free access to cut off sprouts  as soon as they form.  Any root injury will encourage root sprouting, so tilling should be avoided where possible. Do not let the tree form a thicket – the thorns will prevent you from harvesting fruit.  Give yourself more workable space than you think you’ll need and treat it as a specimen planting. It grows fast and can reach heights of 30 to 50 feet.

Jujube Variety Recommendations for Austin and Travis County

Chico
Honey Jar
Li
Lang
Shanxi Li
Sherwood
Sugar Cane
Winter Delight

 

Figs

Don’t Give Up on the Fig Twig!

Figs are another easy to grow fruit for Travis County once they are established. They are a semi-tropical fruit and will react to extremes in temperature.

Figs are going to need some sort of frost protection or heavy mulching when young. Trees can take a few years to become established and may freeze to the ground during prolonged cold. Mulching allows the plant to regenerate from the roots during late spring. Wait until May or June before giving up if your tree seems like it may be dead. Allowing the fig to create three to five trunks as it grows. In periods of heat and drought fig leaves may sustain damage and will fall from the tree. It will usually recover once rain arrives and may even put on a new crop of fruit in response. Despite this reaction, figs produce more fruit when in full sun.

Latex Alert

The sap from figs contains latex. Some people may develop an itchy rash (contact dermatitis) from handling fig branches or exposing skin to the sap.

Fig Variety Recommendations for Austin and Travis County

Alma
Celeste
LSU Purple
Texas Everbearing/Brown Turkey

 

Pomegranates

Pomegranates More Than a Landscape Plant

Like their cousins Crape Myrtles, Pomegranates make a lovely addition to the landscape with the added bonus of producing edible fruit. They grow in a wide range of soils and can tolerate the alkalinity of Central Texas. They root easily and can spread into a dense, shrubby thicket. Prune into three to five main stems for airflow and fruit production unless you want it just for ornamental value.

Maintain Irrigation for Best Results

Pomegranates will bloom and set fruit during the entire growing season if irrigation is provided. During  the summer water at least once a month or as needed if the plant tends to wilt. Do not over fertilize since it stimulates the shrub to sucker.

Fruit Splitting Alert

Fruit has a tendency to split open when the shrub receives too much water. This most commonly occurs after a rain event or if irrigation is applied inconsistently. There are also a few fungal diseases that can cause the same issue. Keeping the bush thinned out for maximum airflow is a good preventative practice.

Pomegranate Variety Recommendations

Al-sirin-nar
Cloud
Fleschmans
Granada
Parfianka
Pink Satin
Russian 18
Salavatski
Spanish Sweet
Sumbar
Surh Anor
Wonderful

 

Citrus

Citrus Growers Must Plan for Cold Temperatures

Any citrus planted in Travis County is a marginal crop. There are varying degrees of cold hardiness, but none can withstand the periodic sustained cold periods that sometimes arrive in late winter. There are several types of citrus that do well in pots if they have winter protection in a garage or greenhouse. The variety recommendations that are listed here are for those that you can plant in the ground and have some measure of success.

Site selection is critical for successful citrus growing in Travis County. Trees should be planted with a southeast exposure and sheltered from the cold northwest winds that arrive in our area each winter. Frost protection blankets can be used with some success on sites that have deeper soils. Citrus is not deep rooted, so is not recommended for sites with shallow soils.

Most varieties are grafted onto hardier rootstock so it is not uncommon for cold damage to kill the tree down to the graft.  The new shoots will have completely different types of leaves and will produce small sour inedible fruits (if at all.)

Citrus Greening Alert

Citrus Greening is a serious threat to the Texas citrus industry. The disease is caused by the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, which is vectored by an insect, the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP). It is currently found all the way to Harris County, so it may just be a matter of time before it is found here in the Austin area. It is very important that you do not purchase uninspected nursery stock outside of the county. The most common symptoms are the small, misshapen green fruit, yellow or blotchy leaves, thinning of leaves or twig dieback. There isn’t a known cure, so, unfortunately, infected plants must be destroyed to prevent further spread..

Recommended Citrus For In-Ground Planting for Travis County

Variety Type
Improved Meyer Lemon Citron hybrid
Miho Satsuma Mandarin
Seto Satsuma Mandarin
Owari Satsuma Mandarin
Arctic Frost Satsuma Mandarin
Orange Frost Satsuma Mandarin
Nagami Kumquat
Meiwa Kumquat
Marumi Kumquat

 

Table Grapes

Victoria Red Grapes on a trellis - Backyard Fruit and Nuts

Victoria Red grapes on a trellis

Eat Grapes Fresh

We’re making a distinction here between grapes grown for the table versus grapes that are specifically cultivated for wine. You can make wine from any grape, but the cultural practices can be quite different between crops intended to be eaten as fruit versus bottled for wine. Please refer to the Texas A&M Viticulture and Enology site for more resources on the Texas wine industry.

Pierce’s Disease Alert

A potential limiting factor for growing grapes is the prevalence of Pierce’s Disease.  It is caused by the bacterial pathogen Xylella fastidiosa, that lives in and modifies the plant’s water-conduction system. This bacterium produces a gel-like substance that hinders the plant from water uptake. The disease is spread by sucking insects in the Cicadellidae (sharpshooter) and the Cercopidae (spittlebug) families. Symptoms of this disease can appear mid – to – late summer when water stress occurs.

For the backyard grape grower, the best practices are to plant resistant varieties and utilize IPM in your garden.

Cultural Practices

Grapes produce best when trellised simply because it’s easier to control the number of clusters and size of berries. The type of trellis and vigor of your vines is based on many factors. Please see this resource for more details: Growing Pierces’s Disease Resistant Grapes in Central, South and East Texas.

Grape Varieties Recommended for Austin and Travis County

A note about muscadine grapes (Vitis rotundifolia.) Most of these varieties need acid soils. The ‘Southern Home’ variety that is listed is currently under trial with Texas A&M and is showing some tolerance for alkalinity, so have included it in our listing. Mustang grapes (Vitis mustangensis) is a wild grape that grows in greenbelts and other wild areas. Some people use it for jelly or wine, but because of it’s tart astringent taste it is not included as a table grape.

Variety Color
Black Spanish (Le Noir) Purple
Champanel Purple
Favorite Purple
Southern Home Muscadine Purple
Venus Purple
Herbemont Red
Victoria Red – a Texas Superstar® selection Red
Blanc du Bois White
Lake Emerald White
Verdelet White

 

Pecans

Pecans – High Water Demand Alert

Pecan trees are native to and are the state tree of Texas. They can be found growing along creek and river bottom areas where they have access to water.  Understanding this need for water impacts the amount of nuts you can expect from your tree, whether a native or improved variety.

They do best on deep soils and need quite a bit of water during the months when water restrictions may be being enforced.  You can mitigate this through hand watering or drip irrigation – but check with your local municipality to see what is possible.

Proximity to greenbelts and water ways can help pinpoint sites that have a high enough water table for the tree to thrive. Keep in mind that Pecans can grow to 80 feet or more and tend to shed branches easily.

Gallons of Water Per Week Per Tree

Month April May June July August September
Gallons of Water 150 150 150 200 150 200

Pecan Varieties Recommended for Austin and Travis County

Caddo
Desirable
Oconee
Pawnee
Prilop
Elliott
Forkert
Kanza

 

Olives

Not Really Adapted for Central Texas

Olives, like citrus, should be considered an exotic fruit for the Austin area. You might be able to get the tree to grow, but will find difficulty achieving consistent crops.

Most olives can tolerate a wide range of soils and alkalinity, and, as a bonus, don’t need deep soils. They do require well-drained sites and have a low tolerance for being water-logged for any period of time.

Plan for Cold Temperatures

Travis County is on the edge of acceptable temperature ranges to grow olives. Site selection is critical in order to protect the tree from the wide swings of temperature that can happen day to day, and often, hour to hour.  Young trees are especially susceptible to cold, although even a mature tree can freeze to the ground.

The best spot in your garden is one that is protected from northwest winds and is not in an area where cold air drains and accumulates. Commercial orchardists have had the best luck on hillsides where trees take advantage of warm air updrafts. You can use frost blankets or other types of covers with some success, although your tree will soon outgrow any practical application of this method.

Fruit Budding Alert

Unlike other fruit trees, olives set flower buds during the winter only after being exposed to cool nights (35 to 50°F) and mildly warm days (less than 80°F). This warm day/cool night exposure is called vernalization. Unfortunately, Travis County climatic conditions are erratic in January and February and may trigger the tree to set buds and even flower at inopportune times. Olive trees bear two types of flowers: staminate and perfect. Staminate flowers contain only male parts. Only perfect flowers can become fruits.

Olive Varieties to Try in Austin and Travis County

Arberquina
Mission

 

Loquats

September Blooms Create Fruit Inconsistencies

Loquats are semi-tropical fruit that can be grown in Travis County with some caveats. The mature loquat tree can withstand temperatures of 10 degrees without serious injury, but both flowers and fruit are killed at temperatures below about 27. Unfortunately, loquats bloom in late fall to early winter and must mature its fruit during the winter months.

Prune the tree to maintain three to five main stems and lop off the tops if you want to maintain a size that allows for easy frost protection. Otherwise, allow the tree to grow to it’s intended 25 feet in height with a 20 feet spread and enjoy fruit during the years with mild winters.

Site Selection Important

Loquats can tolerate alkaline pH and do best in moderately deep well-drained soils. Plant the tree with a southeast exposure and use your house or other outbuildings to protect the tree in winter from cold northwest winds.

Loquat Varieties Recommended for Travis County

Most nurseries propagate the trees as loquats rather than a particular variety. In Texas, it is likely that most of the loquats are from seed or were vegetatively propagated from seedlings. Consequently, fruit quality is highly variable among loquats in Texas. Contact your local nursery to see what they can order in, otherwise there are some online purveyors that sell named varieties. The following list are common varieties that are grown commercially in Florida or California.

Oliver
Advance (a dwarf variety)
Champagne
Early Red
Eulalia
Golden Red
Moy Grande

 

Strawberries

Yes, you can grow strawberries in Austin

Plant strawberries as a winter annual for best success. Select a site that receives at least six hours of sun, has well-drained soil, and that can be easily irrigated. You may consider utilizing raised beds to meet these requirements. Strawberries can also be grown as patio plants as long as adequate soil moisture can be maintained.

Avoid Everbearing Varieties Alert

Strawberries are divided into three basic groups:  spring bearing, everbearing, and day-neutral. The essential difference between these three groups is the day length conditions when flower buds are initiated in the crown of the plant.

Spring bearing cultivars initiate flower buds in the fall and winter months (for the following spring’s crop) when the day length is relatively short, about 12 hours. Everbearing cultivars initiate flower buds as the spring bearers, but also initiate buds for a fall crop. Day-neutral cultivars can initiate flower buds during any day length. Flower buds will continue to develop as long as the temperatures are not too hot or too cold.

The problem with the old everbearing types and the new day-neutrals is that they produce lower yield overall than spring bearers, and most suffer greatly in the Texas heat. This means that you are sacrificing a heavier crop for a plant that will require a high amount of care to help it live through the summer.

Plant Berries in Late Fall

Plants can be difficult to find in local garden centers during the fall season, and may have to be mail ordered. Many of the larger nurseries start taking orders in early summer and can sell out quickly. Local nurseries in Austin start carrying plants sometimes as early as November.

Strawberry Varieties Recommended for Travis County

Benicia
Camarosa
Camino Real
Chandler
Douglas
Festival
Oso Grande
Radiance
Seascape
Sequoia

 

Blackberries

Blackberries Best Fruit Choice

Of all the types of fruit that can be grown, blackberries will provide the highest measure of success for Austin and Travis County. The improved varieties were developed from the native dewberries, so are well-adapted to a wide range of growing conditions. They are relatively easy to grow in small areas, they tolerate our summers, and don’t need deep soils. They will develop iron chlorosis if the pH is over 8 so  you may need to treat with chelated iron products.

Trellis and Mulch for Best Results

Most varieties grow erectly, but a heavy fruit load will bend the canes to the ground. Simple trellis systems, like a stretch of fence wire, can help keep fruit aloft. Trellising also helps provide a structure if you need to erect barriers or covers to prevent thieving birds.

Mulch your berries heavily to suppress weeds and maintain soil moisture. You will need to irrigate, so make sure that mulch is not preventing water from reaching the soil surface. Simple mulches like hay or even tree leaves can be used.

Blackberry Variety Recommendations

We’re listing the varieties by type of thorns. Please note that the thorny varieties produce more fruit.

Variety Type
Brazos Thorny
Brison Thorny
Kiowa Thorny
Rosborough Thorny
Apache Thornless
Arapaho Thornless
Natchez Thornless

 

Fruit & Nuts for Risk Takers

The following is a list of fruit and nuts that aren’t well adapted to Travis County. Be aware that there is always someone out there who will say they have grown ___ successfully. They may very well have. Our weather and terrain are highly variable and there are microclimates that can support all sorts of plant growth. But what works at one person’s house doesn’t always translate to another, thus they are listed here as something you can try with reduced chances for success. Please visit the Fruit & Nut Resources page at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension for comprehensive variety descriptions and cultural practices.

Limiting Factor: Winter Cold

Grapefruit
Oranges
Limes
True Lemons
Avocados
Pawpaws
Mayhaws
Bananas
Mangos
Papaya
Pineapple

Limiting Factor: Not Cold Long Enough

Apricots
Nectarines
Cherries
Walnuts
Almonds

Limiting Factors: Can’t Take the Heat or pH

Blueberries
Raspberries
Kiwi
Guava (note that Pineapple Guava, Feijoa sellowiana, has some success on well-drained soils protected from cold.)

Additional Fruit & Nut Resources

Fruit Varieties for Travis County
Chill Hours for Austin area
Aggie Horticulture Fruit and Nut Resources
Fruit and Nuts for Austin Overview

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