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Monday, November 5, 2018

Consider Miniature or Genetic Dwarf Fruit Trees for Small Size

Q. I am interested in planting a fruit tree in my yard. After reading your blog, I was thinking of a fig tree, however I have been told that they can get very large. I wanted to stay under 8 feet tall and not difficult to grow. When should I plant it and where?
Fig trees like this one can be cut very short when they are older and they will still sucker and sprout, regrowing again.

A. Fig trees will grow very large but they can be severely cut back near the ground, if needed, and they will grow again. But I don’t think you want that kind of work and maintenance. There are some smaller fig trees like Black Jack fig but generally figs are large trees.
            Fruit trees that fit your description are called miniatures or genetic dwarf fruit trees. They stay very small but produce a lot of fruit of normal size. In my opinion, fruit produced by miniature fruit trees do not taste not as good as some fruit from regular fruit trees but pretty good for the casual backyard producer.
Genetic dwarf fruit trees, sometimes called correctly miniatures, stay small without a great deal of pruning but there are not hundreds of varieties to pick from. This is Apple Babe, a miniature apple tree growing in the Las Vegas Valley.

            The problem is terminology; the terms used to describe these types of fruit trees. The terms thrown around in nurseries casually are “dwarf”, “semi dwarf”, “miniature” and “genetic dwarf”. I just looked online and these terms are confused in most, if not all the online fruit tree nurseries. I’m assuming they’re confused in local nurseries as well.
This is a genetic dwarf or miniature peach tree growing in the Las Vegas Valley. There aren't as many varieties to pick from but they offer a fruit tree that stays small but still requires pruning for good production.

            A dwarf or semi dwarf fruit tree can be created by grafting a dwarfing rootstock onto a normal fruit tree. This could be called a “dwarf” or “semi dwarf” fruit tree. They will not meet your eight-foot tall criterion in most cases. The possible exception could be apple trees.
This is Gold Kist apricot on a semi-dwarfing rootstock. Many apricots are not large trees anyway but when put on some rootstocks they stay relatively small. This apricot did not need pruning for four years and was still very productive. An excellent landscape tree.

            Miniatures are sometimes the same as semi dwarf. Miniatures are sometimes genetic dwarfs. It depends on the nursery and their definitions of these terms. Sometimes nurseries create these names for marketing purposes and, in my opinion, cause a great deal of confusion.
When considering fruit trees for containers you might want to look closely at genetic dwarf fruit trees as a possibility.

            In most cases you are looking for what is called a “genetic dwarf”. But like I said, sometimes these are called miniatures. The only real way to know is to find out their true mature size. Nurseries think that small size can be a big selling advantage.
            If the term “dwarf”, “semi dwarf”, “miniature” or “genetic dwarf” is used in its description, check its mature size. It may not be exactly what you think it is. If the mature size is not listed, don’t get sucked in by the marketing. Assume it is larger than you think.
            The very small sized fruit trees that I refer to as miniature or genetic dwarf can be found in almond, peach, nectarine, and apple and vary in height from 6 to 12 feet tall.

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