Missouri is a centrally located state that is divided into four USDA temperate zones. The terrain is roughly split, with the Ozark Mountain range in the southern part of the state and the Midwestern plains in the north. Missouri can grow a variety of fruit trees in various locations throughout the state. When selecting a fruit tree, it is important to choose one adapted to Missouri’s climate and soil.
Select a fruit tree that will grow well in the region of Missouri that you plan to grow it. Missouri has four distinct USDA hardiness zones ranging from zone 7 in the boot heel of the state up to subzone 4b in tiny sections of northern Missouri. Average lows in zone 4 may dip as low as minus-20 degrees Fahrenheit, while average lows in zone 7 may hover around zero degrees Fahrenheit. Trees such as the persimmon, which will die in temperatures below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, are not suited to this environment. Early blooming varieties of trees, such as most apricot or cherry trees, will not produce fruit under these conditions because early frosts may damage fruit flowers. The University of Missouri-Columbia extension keeps a list of hearty fruit trees for the state on its website.
Have your soil tested to determine the structure, pH and nutrient content. According to the University of Missouri, most soil in the state is deficient in phosphorous. A soil test will determine your soil type and make recommendations on what amendments to add to improve the soil structure so fruit trees thrive. The University of Missouri has a facility that will test your soil for a fee. Fee lists, paperwork for download and instructions for how to test your soil may be found at the University of Missouri Soil Plant Lab website.
Plant fruit trees in pairs. Most fruit trees that are hearty in Missouri are trees that cross-pollinate, such as apples and pears. Hybrid trees that are naturally resistant to bugs and diseases require less spraying and encourage bees, which will help to pollinate trees. A few trees, such as sour cherry or some peach hybrids will produce crops through self-pollination, but their yields will be higher with cross-pollination.
Time your fruit tree planting for mid-April, when the ground has thawed but air temperatures are still cool.
Dig a planting hole in a location that receives at least six hours of sun daily. The hole should be 2 feet wider than the root ball, but no deeper than the roots of the tree. If your soil test from Step 2 indicated that your soil needs phosphorous, then scratch it into the walls of your planting hole. Phosphorous is an immobile nutrient, so adding it to the soil after your tree is planted will be less effective than adding it to the planting hole.
Plant your tree as soon as you receive it to reduce damage to the tree. Unwrap the tree’s roots from their packaging and inspect them. Prune away broken or diseased roots and shorten long roots to approximately 15 inches. Place the root ball into the planting hole and cover with dirt. Make sure that the grafting minion on the tree trunk is 2 inches above the soil line.