Learn more about peach trees, their physical characteristics, how it reproduces, the conditions upon which it thrives, and the pests that affect its growth and health.
The peach tree is part of the genus prunus, which is host to members like apricots, almonds, plums, a cherries. These are all members of the rose family (Rosaceae) and many of them are drupes. Drupes are fleshy fruits that contain one single large seed in the center, these are also referred to as stone fruit.
Peach trees have been cultivated by humans since the neolithic period, that’s around 2000 BC! But these trees have been around much longer than that. There are fossil records of peach pits that are indistinguishable from peach pits we see today, and they are said to have been fossilized since the neolithic period, which was about 2.6 million years ago.
The peach tree has one purpose, and that is to produce delicious and juicy fruits. In 2018, 2.4 million tonnes of peaches were grown and sold. Georgia is considered as being the “Peach State”, due to its very notable contribution to the peach growing industry, which has been present in Georgia since 1571.
There are white peaches, the Elberta peach, clingstone peaches, freestone peaches, and hundreds of different cultivars. Today we are going to focus on the standard peach tree cultivar, so go ahead and gripe a ripe peach, take a seat, and start learning about everybody’s favorite fruit tree!
If you’re interested in other types of fruit trees, we’ve got you covered there. If you find that your curiosity just keeps on growing, head on over to 101 Types of Trees after you’ve finished learning about the peach tree! There are no limits to the amount of cool information we can provide about trees!
Related: Types of Peaches
What do Peach Trees Look Like?
Since peach trees are cultivated so heavily, the way that their root systems develop isn’t entirely up to them. In the wild, a peach tree will develop a strong and deep taproot, where then lateral roots will grow from the taproot.
Peach tree farmers want their trees to grow faster, and will often cut the taproot to encourage the growth of the lateral roots, which will then encourage quicker height gain in the tree.
When peach trees have the opportunity, they will usually grow as wide as they are tall, which can sometimes reach over 7 meters. However, peach trees are usually pruned into specific sizes. The best peach-bearing size for a tree is usually closer to 3-4 meters wide and tall.
Depending on the peach variety, a common young tree will have multi-stemmed trunks that split rather close to the ground. Branches are upward ascending and create a nice robustly shaped crown.
New shoots that emerge from the tree are a light green color. The young twigs and branches of a peach tree will start out as smooth burgundy bark, and as it ages it will turn into light gray color. Older trees have bark that is much rougher in texture, and bark is covered with horizontal lenticels.
Peach tree leaves are lanceolate in shape and are a very simple ovular shape with pointed tips. A leaf has smooth margins and is a bright green color, and the leaf is pinnately veined.
How do Peach Trees Reproduce?
Peach trees are self-pollinating. This means that they have hermaphroditic flowers; flowers have both female sexual characteristics and male sexual characteristics. Grains of pollen is transferred from the anthers of a flower (male) to the sticky stigma of the flower (female). This results in fertilization.
Peach tree’s flowers are small, pink, and have 5 petals. These flowers are produced in the early spring, and will often bloom before the spring leaves do.
These flowers grow in very dense clusters on a tree and create quite the majestic flurry of pink flowers. However, when too many flowers occur on one branch, the fruit will end up being smaller and less flavorful. Peach tree growers will often pick away some of the flowers to encourage larger and sweeter fruits.
Everybody knows what the fresh peach looks like. These large fruits can be either covered in velvety skin (peaches) or be bare and smooth (nectarines from a nectarine tree). The skin is usually russeted, and a mixture of yellow, orange, and darker orange. Fruits will usually start to emerge in the early summer.
The inside of the fruit contains a single large seed that is a red-brown color and is surrounded by a very hard husk. This is called the pit, or the stone, or the drupe. The stone is surrounded by very juice, white or yellow flesh.
There are hundreds of different cultivars of peach trees and nectarine trees, though they can be divided into two separate groups:
- Freestone Peach – freestone peaches or nectarines have flesh that separates very easily from the pit. These types are best for fresh eating.
- Clingstone Peach – clingstone peaches or nectarines have flesh that clings to the pit. These types are best used for canning.
Peaches will start producing fruit at different times, based on how they were originally cultivated. If a peach tree was planted directly from the peach pit, it can take 3-4 years for the tree to start producing fruit.
If a peach tree came from a nursery, it will take only 1-2 years to start producing fruit. However, this doesn’t actually leave all that much time, considering that peach trees only have a lifespan of about 15 years!
Where do Peach Trees Grow?
Peach trees have a rather limited growing zone because they have very specific requirements in order to produce delicious fruit. These ranges are usually limited to dry, continental, temperate climates.
Trees have very specific chilling requirements, which exclude any tropical or subtropical regions from being able to host peach trees. However, it is possible in tropical or subtropical regions that occur at very high altitudes, like Nepal, India, Colombia, Ecuador, or Ethiopia.
What are the Growing Conditions of Peach Trees?
Peach trees require very fertile, moist, and well-drained sandy soils in order to grow properly. Growing peaches is not easy! They are very picky trees, many peach planters will use fertilizer to help the tree along.
Though peach trees do require moist soils and average precipitation, they will not perform well in areas that receive significant rainfall in the winter. This is because peach trees are very sensitive to a fungal disease called “leaf curl”, which is promoted by heavy rains.
Peach trees require full sun, all day every day. They also cannot be planted too close to one another for the risk of blocking out sunlight, or risk of not enough airflow. Make sure to keep this in mind when planting a tree!
Though peach trees can survive temperatures as long as -15 degrees Fahrenheit, this will completely disable a trees’ ability to produce flowers, therefore resulting in no crops that season. Late spring frost can also be detrimental to a successful crop.
These trees have very specific temperature requirements in order to produce fruit. They require a minimum of 500 hours at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, where they will enter a dormant period. After this initial dormancy, they will entire the quiescence period, where the buds will break out once warmer temperatures hit.
These warmer temperatures are required for proper maturation and ripening of the fruit, and these temperatures must be between 68 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
What Pests Affect Peach Trees?
Peach trees are unfortunately rather susceptible to multiple fungal diseases, bacterial canker, pathogens, insects, and pests. Some of them are as follows:
- earwigs – feed on leaves and blossoms at night, weakening the plant
- peach leaf curl – defoliation by over-saturation
- larvae moth species – peachtree borer, yellow peach moth, fruit tree borer, apple leafroller, etc
- Japanese beetles, Promethea silk moth, orange oakleaf, brown playboy,