For a varied and interesting landscape design, fruit bearing trees and shrubs are a good choice. It’s one way to add color and keep it longer.
As always, think carefully to ensure you are planting the right tree in the right place. With fruit trees in particular, there are some caveats to consider before you decide. Fruit attracts birds and other types of wildlife. Bird and bee-friendly landscaping is beneficial to local ecosystems. These visitors can pollinate plants and, in the case of birds, even help control pests on a property. However, it is important to remember that some of the fruit will end up on the ground and may require clean up. You may also have to do a little extra research when planting. Some fruit trees are self-propagating while others require male and female plants to bear fruit.
Another important consideration is the care of these trees. Ornamentals are smaller in structure so droughts, frosts and damaging winds are more likely to result in damage. On the other hand, their small size makes them ideal for a small property or space in a garden. Pruning and maintenance can maintain the proper structure for the environment where the plant is growing.
Some fruit trees and shrubs are excellent candidates for use with trellises to create a beautiful wall of color. This method is called “espalier” in which plantings are trained to an existing form. Further, color is not limited to bark, foliage or flowers. The fruit itself is colorful and will last longer through the seasons. In fact, some fruit bearers have all four accents – interesting bark, foliage, beautiful flowers and then colorful fruit.
Citrus, apple, lemon and cherry are popular fruit trees depending on geographic location. But there are many other options!
Quince (Cydonia oblonga)
The quince is shrubby and slow growing to 10-25 feet. Known for its umbrella shape, this multi-trunked, small tree produces delicious fruit and requires little maintenance. It has interesting branches that are knotty and twisty. After leaf bud in the spring, white to light pink flowers appear. Following, the leaves change to yellow in autumn. The fruit is fragrant, large and yellow when ripe. Quince is tolerant of most soils, but can struggle in summer humidity.
Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera)
With fragrant white flowers and sweet yellow or reddish fruit, cherry plum grows to 25 feet tall in Zones 4-8. Beautiful bark is dark red shade. There are many popular cultivars. “Atropurpurea” has purple leaves and pale rose flowers. “Thundercloud” has pale pink flowers with purple leaves.
Pecan and Hickory (Carya illinoinensis) (Carya ovata)
Here are two “cousins,” the pecan and shagbark hickory. Pecan (Carya illinoinensis) is a deciduous shade tree that native to the southeast, Zones 7-9. It achieves moderate growth to 100 feet with an equal spread and a rounded crown. Disease can be an issue as pecan is susceptible to scab. Olive brown to black spots on leaves, twigs and on the husks of the pecans are signs of disease. Try varieties that are scab resistant such as “Chickasaw” or “Kaddo.”
Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) is deciduous and native to the southeast, Zones 5-9. It has an irregular oval head and obtains a growth of 70-80 feet. The leaves are large and separated into many leaflets. They are green when they appear in spring and turn golden yellow in the fall. Hickory nuts ripen from September to October. As the trees age the bark becomes “shaggy,” making this tree even more attractive and interesting — especially in winter.
Persimmon (Diospyros kaki) (Diospyros virginiana)
The Oriental or Kaki persimmon grows moderately to 20-30 feet with the branches spreading equally. It adapts best to Zones 7-9 but can be grown in 6. The foliage in spring is a soft, light green that deepens to a darker green in summer. Fall colors are yellow, red and orange. The fruit is bright orange and is sweet. Fruiting varieties include: “Fuyu,” “Hachiya” and “Chocolate.” The bark is also interesting and very recognizable with deep fissures that form rectangles. This planting is ideal for small properties as it can be planted in containers or trained to espalier against a southern wall where it is warmer. It is pest resistant and likes moisture. Fertilization in early spring will minimize fruit drop.
The American common persimmon is deciduous and native to the east, Zones 5-9 but can be grown in Zone 4. It achieves a moderate growth to 30-50 feet with an oval form. The American persimmon shares the good qualities of the oriental including unique bark, and it is more widely adapted. It tolerates a range of different soils and climates. Fruit production requires a male and a female plant.
These are just a few of the fruit trees and shrubs that are available for your landscape. Other plantings like crabapples, pear and cherries are available in many different varieties and they are just as beautiful and adaptable as the ones listed here. The more thought given before planting, the better the results.