Peach trees (Prunus persica) are native to China but are now cultivated in many countries around the world, including Italy, Spain, France, the United Kingdom and the United States. Determining a peach tree variety and choosing carefully are the keys to successful peach-tree growing. Peach trees come in an astonishing array of species and cultivated varieties, with a multitude of differing characteristics. Peach tree varieties vary as greatly as the climates in regions around the world, and there is usually a cultivar or several cultivars that are best suited for each specific climate, as long as the weather is fairly temperate.
Select the peach tree variety based on the cultivar's cold hardiness and its appropriateness for your region, also indicated by the number of "chilling hours." The higher the number of chilling hours, the colder and longer of a winter the peach tree variety can withstand. Peach varieties like Surecrop, Reliance, Raritan Rose, Nectar and Contender all have 1,000 or more chilling hours, are extremely hardy and grow well even in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 or 5, where minimum annual temperatures can dip down to minus-20 or minus-25 degrees Fahrenheit.
Determine the proper peach tree variety based on a fruit tree that's grown on dwarf rootstock or one that's standard size. If you don't have much room to grow your peach trees or are growing them in containers, you may want to choose a dwarf variety, such as Elberta, Reliance or Red Haven peaches that are nursery-grown on dwarf rootstock.
Choose a peach tree variety based on the fruit's flesh color. You can select a peach tree variety that has traditional yellow fruit flesh, such as the Elberta, Gala, Red Haven and Jersey Queen peach trees, or white flesh, like the White Lady, Spring Snow, Klondike White or Raritan Rose.
Determine the peach tree variety based on the arrangement of fruits on the tree, particularly whether the peaches are "cling" or "freestone." Belle of Georgia, Elberta, Hale-Haven and Golden Jubilee are all freestone peach varieties, while Candor, Derby and Dixired are cling varieties. Surecrop, Reliance and Red Haven peaches are among the "semi-cling" varieties.
Select the peach tree variety according to the desired harvest time. Candor, Earlystar, Rich May and Spring Snow peaches all ripen as early as July. Encore, Jersey Queen and Cresthaven are late-season varieties that don't ripen until September or later. Red Haven, Reliance, Carolina Belle, Contender and Nectar ripen in midseason, around early to mid-August.