After seeing success growing vegetables in containers, I wanted to branch out and see what else I could cultivate. Then I started to wonder:
Can you grow a peach tree in a pot?
My research found that you can grow a peach tree in a pot. You need to grow a dwarf variety of the peach. You need to use a large enough container. You also need to provide the required soil, sunlight, and water that the peach tree will need.
What Climate is Best for a Peach Tree?
Peach trees have some interesting climate requirements, which is what makes them so good for pots.
These plants thrive in warm weather and ample sunlight. However, they also need plenty of exposure to cold temperatures, too.
Cool Weather Requirements
Peaches need cold weather to bloom. This is what gardeners call a “Chilling Requirement,” or “Chill Hours.” Without getting into the technical details, plants like the peach tree need cold exposure to trigger growth. The hormones that cause dormancy break down at lower temperatures, which makes room for blossoming in the spring.
The exact number of hours and temperature a plant need can vary on its species. For peaches, that number is 600. Peach trees need at least 600 hours at 45 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to blossom.
As a result, most cultivars are not going to do well in tropical or subtropical environments. There are some exceptions, but peach trees need true seasons to reach their full potential.
Ideally, peach trees should grow in areas that regularly stay at 45 degrees or lower during the winter. Extreme freezing temperatures will kill the tree. Luckily, you can easily move your plant to warmer shelter if you’re growing it in a plant.
Peach trees can grow in USDA zones 4 to 8. They will do even better if you live in zones 6 or 7.
Choosing the Right Peach Tree for a Pot
Generally, your best bet to successfully grow fruit trees in a container is to stick with dwarf varieties. Dwarf or semi-dwarf trees are smaller than the plants that grow in the ground. They may produce smaller fruits, too. So, they’re perfect for plants.
That said, dwarf rootstocks for peaches don’t exist.
Instead, you’ll have to go with “natural dwarf” varieties. These are a bit different than other dwarf fruit trees you might be familiar with.
They are still small. Most will only get to about 6 feet tall at the most. However, everything else is pretty much identical to their taller counterparts. They still bloom and look like a thriving tree.
Natural dwarf peaches even produce full-sized fruits. So, you’re getting a true harvest experience without all of the space requirements.
You have several varieties to choose from. Here are the most popular.
Hardy to Zone 6, the Golden Glory is one of the largest natural dwarf peaches. These plants produce freestone peaches covered in golden skin with a soft pink blush.
This variety usually only grows to about 5 feet tall. They’re also a bit more heat-tolerant. They can flourish in Zone 9.
Southern Rose peach trees produce medium-sized fruit. They’re excellent for containers because they can start producing early. Even trees as short as 2 feet tall can provide a sweet harvest.
Most Honey Babe peaches are ready to harvest by the middle of July. Fruits are sweet and have a deep red blush. Meanwhile, the foliage is a vibrant green.
What Pot Should I Use for a Peach Tree?
Choosing the right pot for your peach tree is crucial. Needless to say, it’s going to take a much larger pot than the one you would use for herbs.
The root system of a peach tree in the ground can extend 10 to 20 feet into the earth. Natural dwarf peaches will be a bit shallower, but they’re still capable of growing several feet long.
The last thing you want is for the tree to become rootbound. This is when the roots take over and leave very little room for soil. Some binding is unavoidable. The roots will take on the shape of the pot. But, you still want to have plenty of space for soil.
Choose a thick and durable pot. Material isn’t super important here. You can use a large porous terracotta pot or an ultra-heavy concrete one. Peach trees do well in both.
Whatever you do, avoid thinner plastic pots. Plastic pots don’t do well with weathering. Constant sun exposure can make them brittle. The roots of your peach tree will quickly break through the pot, creating a mess all over your patio.
Larger solid pots can be cumbersome to move, but the added security is a worthy tradeoff.
If your pot if going on a patio or deck, use a secondary tray. Fill the tray with several inches of gravel or pebbles. Then, place the pot directly on top of it.
The gravel and tray will work in tandem to ensure that the drainage holes can work efficiently.
What Soil Should I Use for a Peach Tree?
The key to seeing success with your peach tree is to create an environment that’s conducive to contained growth. The first step in that process is to provide high-quality soil
Peach trees do best in loamy compost soil. Loam is a traditional type of soil that has equal parts of sand and silt. While loam alone may be fine for some plants. Peaches need a bit of extra nutrition.
So, you’ll need to mix in some compost. Create organic compost and mix it evenly with the loam. This will enrich the soil and provide valuable nutrients like potassium, phosphorus, and potassium. But because you’re mixing it with loam, those nutrients won’t be overbearing.
When you add the compost, use the opportunity to aerate the soil. Peach trees cannot grow properly in compacted soil
that has drainage problems. Working the soil with your hand or a garden trowel will make sure that it’s loose enough for the roots to flourish.
Another thing you’ll need to monitor is the pH level. Peach trees prefer slightly acidic soils with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. If your soil is beyond that range, the plant will still produce fruit. However, those fruits might no be as large or as sweet as you want.
Changing the pH balance takes time, so make sure to do this well before you plan to start planting.
How Much Light Does a Peach Tree Need?
As I mentioned earlier, peach trees need full sun. They can grow in partial shade. That’s about four hours of sun every day. However, the yield will be significantly smaller.
To get a bigger harvest, you must place the pot in an area that gets 6 to 8 hours a day.
Morning sun exposure is best. Give your plant a good view of the eastern horizon. Make sure that there are no major blockages, such as exterior walls or solid fences.
Early sun works to eliminate morning dew. While morning dew can do a lot to give plants some extra hydration, it can also lead to diseases. Slow evaporation of dew on leaves opens the plant up to fungal issues and pest infestation.
By giving your peach tree some morning sun, the dew can evaporate faster
If you’re worried how morning sun exposure will affect the rest of the day for your plant, there is one simple solution. Put the plant on the south side of your house.
A south-facing plant will get continual sun throughout the day.
How to Germinate Peach Seeds
But remember: dwarf peach tree rootstocks aren’t available. So, you’ll need to start your peach tree the old fashioned way.
You can plant the seed directly into the soil during the fall and wait for the plant to grow naturally. But, germination can speed things up and ensure that your plant starts growing efficiently.
Removing the Seed from the Pit
Many people use the terms “pit” and “seed” interchangeably. The truth is that the pit and seed are two different components.
The seed is what’s going to produce a new plant. Meanwhile, the pit is the hard wood-like structure that protects the seed.
Before you germinate the seed, you must remove it from the hardened pit.
To do this, gently clean off any fruit from the pit. To make things easier, you can choose to go with a freestone peach.
Once the pit is clean, let it dry out. Place the pit in an area with good air circulation, such as a window sill. Leave it to dry for three to four days. When the pit is completely dried out, you should be able to crack it open like a nut and extract the seed inside.
You can use a nutcracker or a pair of pliers to get the job done. Just place pressure on the sides and squeeze. Be extra gentle here so that you don’t damage the seed.
Refrigerating the Seed
Place it in a ziplock bag and leave the top open about an inch. Put it in the vegetable crisper drawer.
Over time, condensation should form on the bag. If it dried out too much, just mist the bag a bit and return it to the refrigerator.
Soak and Soil
When you’re ready to plant, remove the bag from the refrigerator. Fill it with about an inch of water and let the seed soak for a few hours.
With the water still in the bag, add soil. The soil should be damp but not muddy. If the soil looks muddy, add more soil.
Waiting for a Sprout
Place the bagged soil in the refrigerator for five to six weeks. During this time, the seed should start sprouting. Towards the end of this refrigeration period, check the seed regularly.
You want to move onto the planting phase before the sprout gets too big, so monitor it closely.
How to Plant the Peach Seed
Now you’re ready to put your young peach tree in your pot.
To do this, fill the pot up with the loamy compost soil you created earlier. You can leave a bit of extra room on the top for future mulching.
Using a small gardening shovel, dig a hole that’s about three to four inches deep. Place the seed into the soil gently and cover it up.
Don’t pack the soil down. Your seed might be sprouting, but it’s still very delicate. Compaction could damage the new growth and make the soil too hard for the sprout to push through.
After you cover the seed with soil, water it deeply. Hydrate all of the soil in the pot. You want to water it until water starts flowing from the drains on the bottom of the pot.
Then, place your newly-planted peach tree in a sunny spot.
How to Water the Peach Tree
After that initial watering, it’s important to monitor the soil conditions. The amount of water your peach tree needs will depend on several factors. This includes temperature, sun exposure, and the specific variety you have.
Mature peach trees can require up to 36 inches of water every year. But don’t take that as an excuse to overwater your plant.
Too much hydration could lead to fungal problems and disease.
As a good rule of thumb, you should water the plant anytime the soil is dry two inches below the surface. Just stick your finger in the soil and take a feel.
In the summertime, you may have to water every other day. However, the plant will only need weekly watering during the cooler months. When your plant is producing fruits, it will likely absorb a lot more water from the soil. As a result, expect more frequent watering.
When you hydrate your plant, do so slowly. Give the soil some time to absorb the moisture. Watering too hard or too fast will cause everything to just flow through the bottom of the pot.
Slow waterings make it easier for the soil to retain some of the moisture, which will make it more readily available to the roots.
How to Fertilize the Peach Tree
Potted plants, include your brand-new peach tree, require more fertilizer than crops grown in the ground. The reason for this is the contained environment.
Plants in pots can only utilize a finite chunk of soil. They go through the soil’s nutrients faster, so you’ll need to provide additional nutrients to promote continued growth.
The best kind of fertilizer is a slow-release formula. Liquid fertilizers work well, too. However, liquid fertilizers require a continual application. This could make it easy to overdo things and damage the plant.
Slow-release fertilizers will usually release nutrients over the course of six to eight weeks. Not all fertilizer products act the same, so follow the instructions on the label and use it as a guide for your fertilizing schedule.
Utilize an organic fertilizer that focuses on phosphorus. All of the nutrients and trace elements are important. But, phosphorus is the nutrient that’s most important. It’s responsible for root development, flowering, and fruit production.
If you’re using a traditional liquid fertilizer, you can apply it directly to the root zone. This ensures that the roots are getting direct access to the nutrients.
For granular slow-release fertilizers, you want to apply to the plant’s drip line. This is the perimeter of the plant’s canopy. If your plant is still young, you can sprinkle the fertilizer close to the edges of the pot.
How to Prune the Peach Tree
Plants will continue to develop leaves and foliage if you don’t take action with pruning. This results in smaller fruits and a less bountiful harvest.
Most fruit trees do fine with winter pruning. That’s not the case with peach trees. You should not prune the tree while it is dormant. Otherwise, you run the risk of killing shoots and branches. This could ultimately make the plant less hardy during future winter seasons.
Prune your peach tree in the early spring. Wait until the new buds form and start to swell with pink coloration.
Remove any dead and diseased branches. Then, focus your attention on choosing a handful of “main” branches.
Potted peach trees do best with vase configuration pruning, also called open-center pruning. This is when you let three to five main branches develop from the trunk of the tree. These branches can develop smaller shoots. But, they will grow outward to leave the center of the tree open for light exposure.
Choose the strongest branches as your scaffolds. Then, remove any branches that could compete with them for energy.
As you continue to prune the tree annually, those branches will thicken up. They’ll be able to fully support the foliage as well as the fruit.
How to Pollinate the Peach Tree
Many fruiting trees need another plant for fertilization. However, most peach tree varieties are self-pollinating.
Each flower of your fruit tree contains male and female parts. Flowers have anthers, which hold the pollen. They also have a sticky stigma, which receives the pollen. When the pollen from the anthers gets into the stigma, the flower is ready to develop fruit.
It’s a fascinating process that usually happens naturally. Plants rely on the wind or insects to transfer pollen.
However, that might be tough with potted plants. If your peach tree is on a deck or behind a screen barrier, natural methods of pollination aren’t always feasible.
Luckily, you can take care of the process yourself.
If you feel like your peach flowers aren’t pollinating, you can move the process along with a simple artist brush.
Use a brush with soft and pliable bristles.
All you have to do is brush the pollen off of the anthers and apply it to the stigma. You can do this all within the same flower.
It sounds complicated, but the anther and stigma are very close together. Usually, the anthers surround the stigma. So, you can use your brush to give the stamen a gentle wiggle. That should be more than enough to pollinate the flower.
How to Harvest Peaches
Don’t expect to harvest peaches any time soon if you just started.
Peach trees use the first two years or so to developing the structure of the tree. In some cases, it may take up to four years of growth until the plant is ready. It all depends on the cultivar and the growth cycle.
You may get some surprise peaches early on. But there’s a good chance that those fruits will be small and unpalatable. It’s best to snip the peaches off if they start developing too early. Let the plant develop some strong roots and a stable structure first.
When the plant is ready to grow some fruit, you’ll see it changing right before your eyes.
Most cultivars will start blossoming during the spring. Whether that’s early spring or late springs depends on how many chill hours the plant got. Ideally, flowers will bloom early.
After pollination, it takes an additional three to five months for the fruit to develop. So, you’re looking at a mid to late-summer harvest.
How to Check for Ripeness
It’s not hard to tell when a peach is ready. As they grow, peaches take on a green color. The more they ripen, the more yellow they become. The fruits slowly develop that pink blush, too.
You can also check ripeness by determining the fruit’s firmness. A ripe peach will have some “give.”
Wait until the fruit is fully ripened before removing it from the tree. Unlike other fruits, peaches don’t ripen after picking.
Use gentle pressure when pulling the peach off the brach. It’s best to use the sides of your fingers rather than your full hand or fingertips. Applying too much pressure will only bruise your fruit.