Nectarine tree: candy, clean summer season fruit

Nectarines are a fantastic addition to the home garden for their sweet, tasty fruits and the added benefit of making beautiful trees. The cultivation of a nectarine tree adorns your garden with wonderfully fragrant pink flowers in spring, exudes a delicious scent of ripe nectarines in summer and presents a fiery spectacle that signals the beginning of autumn.

A nectarine is a smaller, sweeter version of a peach with a smooth skin. Like peaches, there are Clingstone and Freestone varieties. Clingstone means that the meat sticks to the middle pit. Clingstone varieties are most commonly used for processing and canning. Freestone means that the meat separates easily from the pit. Freestone varieties are most commonly used for fresh consumption and for freezing. Nectarines are usually eaten fresh, but can be used in salads, smoothies, ice cream, cobblers, and jams.

Nectarines have been grown for thousands of years, so there are many varieties available to grow. Strains are designed to grow in zones 5-9. Small rootstocks allow gardeners with limited space to grow nectarines. They can be planted in the ground or in containers.

Growing a nectarine tree requires a lot of care and maintenance, which can be intimidating to new gardeners. The key to successfully growing delicious nectarines is adhering to a maintenance schedule. This guide will take the guesswork out of growing a nectarine tree and make it easy for anyone to grow a healthy plant with an abundance of delicious fruits. If you are looking for the perfect nectarine tree, go to a local plant nursery. They offer varieties that are adapted to your local climate.

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Brief instructions for care

The nectarine tree could be the perfect addition to your food forest. Source: sand_and_sky

Common name (s) nectarine
Scientific name Prunus persica var. Nucipersica
Days to harvest Annually June-August
light Full sun
water Moderate
ground Well drained nutritious
fertilizer 10-10-10
Pests Aphids, red spider mite, peach borers, scales
Diseases Peach leaf flakes, brown rot, bacterial stain, powdery mildew

Everything about the nectarine tree

Blooming nectarineNectarine flowers are beautiful at the beginning of the year. Source: Jason Fiori

Nectarines or Prunus persica var. Nucipersica have the same botanical name as peaches but are classified under the nucipersica variety. Both peaches and nectarines originate from China and were discovered over 2,000 years ago. The lint-free property of nectarine is the result of a genetic mutation observed in peaches. The smooth skin was very desirable so the genetic mutation was continuously bred, resulting in numerous varieties of nectarines available today. The genus Prunus includes several other fruits and nuts such as plums, cherries, and almonds.

Mature nectarine trees grow to between 6 and 30 feet tall, depending on the rhizome used. Prunus persica is a deciduous tree with lanceolate leaves. The flowers are pink and have five petals, similar to cherry blossoms. Nectarines have green skin as they develop and turn into a combination of yellow, orange, red, or white when ripe. The pulp is either yellow or white and there is a large brown pit in the middle.

Nectarine trees are dormant in winter. In spring, the tree breaks the calm with beautiful pink flowers that cover the canopy of the tree. The leaves appear shortly afterwards. Nectarines are self-pollinating and do not require pollination, but pollination increases fruit production. Fruit develops, ripens and is harvested in summer. Nectarine trees lose their foliage in autumn after harvest and prepare for rest. Each variety has a cooling requirement in order to produce fruit for the following season. Cool hours begin to accumulate when temperatures drop below 45 ° F.

There are a ton of great strains for the home gardener to use. Varieties have been developed for zones 5-9, so it is important to choose a variety that is appropriate for your climate. Fantasia is a popular yellow Freestone variety adapted to zones 5-9 with a low cooling requirement of 250 hours. Mericrest is another yellow Freestone variety known for its disease resistance to brown rot and leaf spots. It is hardy to zones 5-8 and has a cooling requirement of 800 hours. If you're a fan of white nectarines, Goldmine is a white Freestone variety that is adapted to zones 5-9 with a cooling requirement of 400 hours. For those with extremely mild winters, Desert Delight is a great choice. It is a smaller nectarine tree that produces semi-free stone-yellow fruit and only takes 100-200 hours of cooling.


Young trees can be planted in the ground or in pots. Choose a sunny location with at least 8 hours of direct sunlight. Avoid planting in an area with strong winds. Adequate drainage is essential for a healthy tree. If the desired planting location does not have good drainage, trees can be planted in a raised bed. Raised beds should be 5-6 feet in diameter and 10-12 inches in height.

Nectarine trees should be planted as dormant trees in late winter or early spring. Whether you plant in the ground or in a container, keep the graft joint at least 2-3 inches above the ground and mulch. Thin trees may need a tree pole for support. If you are planting multiple trees, keep the trees 8 to 12 feet apart.

To plant in the ground, dig a hole twice the size of the root ball. Fill with loose soil and cover with mulch. Use a 15-20 gallon pot and good quality potting soil when planting in a container.


Nectarine gardenA nectarine plantation that blooms in spring. Source: Muffet

Nectarines grow well with an established grooming routine. Failure to follow a maintenance schedule can lead to disease and pest problems, as well as poor quality fruit.

Sun and temperature

Nectarine trees require full sun or at least 8 hours of direct sunlight. Nectarines can be grown in zones 5-9. Hot summers and cool winters are ideal for optimal growth. Nectarines take a certain number of hours to cool for flowers to develop. Cool hours begin to accumulate as temperatures drop below 45 ° F. If you are gardening in an area with mild winters, it is important to choose varieties that require less cooling.

During the dormant phase, some strains can tolerate very low temperatures, as low as -15 ° F. Although the tree is very frost tolerant, flower buds are much more susceptible to damage. Flowers in full bloom can tolerate temperatures as high as 28 ° F before damage occurs. Frost damage to flower blossoms reduces the amount of fruit produced for the season.

Nectarines are often grown in areas with high summer temperatures consistently above 95 ° F. Sunburn can occur, but the damage is usually mild.

Water and moisture

Trees set in the ground should be watered once a week. Keep the soil moist but not saturated. Water early in the morning to avoid prolonged wetness during the night. High humidity and wet conditions create an environment favorable for disease development. Use drip irrigation and soaking hoses to avoid wetting the trunk and leaves. Check soil moisture during winter and rainy seasons and reduce watering as needed.


Nectarines grow best in well-drained sandy loam soils with a pH between 6.0-7.0. Nectarines are very susceptible to disease and pest infestation, so good quality soil is essential to growing a healthy plant.


Fertilize new trees with 10-10-10 a week after planting. Trees should be fertilized with 10-10-10 every March, May and after harvest. Spread fertilizer 8-12 inches from the trunk.


Annual pruning is required during the dormant trees. The goal of pruning is to keep the canopy open, remove weak or damaged branches, and encourage fruit production. Nectarines should be pruned to leave an open center with 3-4 scaffold branches. Maintaining an open center maximizes sunlight and enables airflow that reduces disease pressure. Thinning the fruit is also important to prevent breakage and produce high quality nectarines.

When planting

Young nectarine trees should be planted as a single whip and pruned to about 30 inches. Pruning the top of the tree encourages side branching.

1 year

Select 3-4 branches to become scaffold branches. Choose scaffolding branches that are at least 3-4 inches apart on the main trunk and pointing in different directions. Scaffold branches should never overlap and should have an angle of about 45 ° to the main trunk. Remove all other growth.

2+ years

Start by removing any damaged and diseased twigs and branches. If there are any fruits or leaves left, remove and discard.

Next, remove branches that are growing in the center of the tree, keeping the center open. Examine each branch of the scaffolding. There will be plenty of newer shoots from the spring and summer that will be next season's fruitwood. Fruits mainly develop on annual wood. Annual growth can be distinguished by color. Annual twigs do not have a woody appearance like older growth and are light brown, green, or red.

When pruning, expect to cut off around 40-50% of the new wood growth to keep it in good shape and to prevent the tree from producing too much fruit. Without pruning, the tree will grow many weak branches and breakage will occur as the fruit develops. Select strong branches in an alternating arrangement to the right and left of each scaffold branch. Cut off any branches that are pointing directly in or outside the tree canopy. Cut new shoots back to 18-24 inches on an outward-facing bud.

Fruit thinning

Thinning the fruits is best done about a month after flowering, while the fruits are still small. Start by removing the smallest fruit. Then thin to keep larger fruits 6-8 inches apart.


Nectarines can be propagated by seeds, cuttings and grafting.

Seed propagation is mainly used to propagate rootstocks, but it can also be used to propagate fruit trees. Propagation from seeds is time consuming and the properties of the tree and fruit are not guaranteed. This method may be acceptable to the patient gardener with room for multiple fruit trees. It takes 2-4 years for a tree grown from seeds to bear fruit. To propagate from seeds, first remove the seed from the pit. Seeds removed directly from the fruit are dormant and need to be layered to break the calm. Place the seed in a container or bag of moist soil and store it in the refrigerator at a temperature of 34-40 ° F. Check regularly for germination. Germination can take up to 3-4 months.

Cuttings are usually used to propagate rootstocks that do not produce single-variety seeds, but they can also be used to propagate fruit varieties. From October through January, collect hardwood cuttings from last season's growth. Cuttings should be 10-12 cm long. Use a rooting hormone to encourage calluses and roots to develop. Put the cuttings in soil and keep them moist until roots form. Protect the cuttings from direct sunlight.

Grafting is the preferred method of propagating nectarine trees. When processing, you can choose the most suitable rootstock and variety for your growing area. Underlays offer advantages such as height control and nematode resistance. Lovell is currently the most widely used rootstock due to its cold tolerance and grows well in a variety of soil types. Rootstocks are grown from seeds or cuttings and refined using the chip budding method from May to early June or late July to September.

Harvest and storage

Ripe nectarinesNectarines are firm and have a bright color when ripe. Source: Rhian de Kerhiec

A fully grown nectarine tree will produce an abundance of delicious fruit. Here are some handy tips to help you determine when the nectarines are ready to harvest and how to save extra fruit that is not eaten fresh.


Nectarines can be harvested between June and August. Some early and late varieties can extend the season from May to September. The first sign of readiness is color. Fruits are harvested ripe when they show their full color without leaving any green. The fruit should come off the tree easily with a gentle pull or twist. Before you harvest all of the fruits at once, it's best to do a taste test to confirm they're done. The fruits are firm and crisp when picked for the first time and soften a few days later. Do not pick up fruit from the ground. They can be bruised and contaminate the other fruits.


Store in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks. They can only be kept for a few days at room temperature.

There are several options for long-term storage. They can be frozen, canned, freeze-dried, dehydrated, or used for jams and jellies.


Immature nectarinesImmature nectarines are dark to light green. Source: Unconventional Emma

Growing a nectarine tree is incredibly rewarding, but it's prone to a handful of problems. Fortunately, there is a lot of information available about growing nectarines, so preventing and resolving many of these problems is easy with proper care.

Growing problems

Bad weather during the flowering period can affect nectarine production. Excessive wind can damage or cause flowers premature fall. Late frost can also damage the flower blossoms. Although we cannot change the weather, we can still protect plants from adverse conditions. Do not plant trees in a windy area. If wind is a problem, plant in a sunny spot near a fence or wall that can provide a barrier from harsh winds. Bring the tree indoors during late frost events or cover it with frost material.

In warmer winters, the need for cooling may not be met and the flowers may not develop fully. this leads to little to no nectarine production for the season. It's important to choose varieties whose cooling requirements are consistent with your climate so this doesn't become a recurring problem.

Excess nitrogen can lead to soft fruit, poor color, shortened shelf life and increased pest pressure. Do not over-fertilize. If you suspect the tree is overfertilized, reduce the rate. Zinc deficiency is also common. The most common symptom of zinc deficiency is small new leaves. Add a fertilizer to the mixture that adds zinc and other essential micronutrients.


Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects that feed on the sap of delicate growth tips. In extreme cases, damage caused by eating leads to curling and yellowing of the leaves and premature leaf fall. Aphids also produce sugary feces that lead to sooty mold. Creating an environment that encourages beneficial insects allows the pest to be controlled naturally. If beneficial insects do not keep populations low, an early infestation can be removed manually with water from the hose. In severe cases, horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps are effective organic treatments.

Red spider mites are small arachnids that feed on individual cells in the leaves and cause stain damage. High levels of infestation can lead to leaf fall. Mites are very small, so the damage to the tree is usually noticed before the pest. In general, mites are attracted to stressed or over-fertilized trees. Maintaining a healthy tree is the first line of defense against mites. There are naturally occurring predatory insects and mites that keep populations under control. When the balance is disturbed and red spider mites get out of hand, horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps can be used to control heavy infestations.

Peach tree borer is a moth with clear wings, a blue-black body and an orange band across the belly. The eggs are laid on the trunk or crown of the tree. Larvae are creamy in color with a brown head. Larvae burrowed into the crown and trunk of the tree and damaged the cambial layers. A sign of an infestation is gumming up of the trunk and the base of the tree. Larvae can easily surround and kill young nectarine and peach trees. It can take several years for an untreated infestation to kill mature trees. Moths can be seen from May to September, while the larvae stay in the tree all year round. It is impossible to treat larvae in the trunk, so treatments should deter adults from laying eggs and preventing them from hatching. Spray neem oil or spinosad on the trunks to prevent the moths from starting another cycle. Both products must be applied every 1-2 weeks between May and September. Pheromone traps can also be used to monitor and trap adults.

Libra are typically found on twigs and branches of fruit trees. There are different types of scales in a variety of colors like yellow, green, brown, and black. Damage from dandruff is usually minimal. However, their excretions lead to the formation of soot mold that covers the foliage. Soot mold inhibits photosynthesis and can cause leaves to fall. Dandruff is usually controlled by natural enemies. If treatment is necessary, spray with organic horticultural oil.


Peach leaf curl is caused by the pathogen Taphrina deformans. Symptoms include red or yellow thickened, curled leaves. The pathogen prefers cool, wet conditions so white spores can be visible on branches and buds after rain. Prevention Is Key To Handling Peach Leaves Spray organic copper fungicide on December 1st and February 1st to prevent infection. Without treatment, the disease can infect and kill entire branches.

Monilinia fruticola or Brown rot, causes flower and late blight. Gumming can also be present at the base of infected flowers. This pathogen overwinters as a mummified fruit on the tree and on the ground. Remove old fruits and leaves in autumn and winter to prevent future infection.

Bacterial stain caused by Pseudomonas syringae prefers cool, humid conditions and is most common in spring. Pseudomonas syringae is spread by splashing water. Young nectarine and peach trees are the most susceptible to infection. Symptoms of infection include leaf spots, limb death, cancer, and an explosion of young flowers and leaves. To prevent this disease, follow pruning and fertilizing plans to maintain a healthy, vigorous plant and avoid splashing water.

Spaerotheca pannosa is commonly known as Mildew mild. Powdery mildew favors cool, humid nights and warm days. The most obvious sign is white powdery fungus growth on the leaves, shoots, and fruits. Affected leaves are deformed and the fruits are scarred. To avoid powdery mildew, keep the tree as dry as possible until late at night by not wetting the leaves and surrounding soil for a few hours before sunset. Spray with an organic sulfur fungicide for treatment.

frequently asked Questions

Nectarine flowersNectarine flowers range from white to a pinkish-pink hue. Source: dsleeter_2000

Q: What time of the year do nectarine trees produce fruit?

A: Nectarines are ready for harvest in summer between June and August. The exact time varies depending on the variety and climate.

Q: Do I need two nectarine trees to produce fruit?

A: No, nectarines are self-fertile. Having two trees increases the amount of fruit, but is not necessary.

Q: How tall does a nectarine tree get?

A: The tree size varies, but nectarine trees can grow up to 9 meters tall. There are some dwarf rhizomes to hold 6-10 feet in height. Size management can also be achieved through trimming.

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