Growing fruit trees in Florida is one of the many pleasures of gardening in a warm climate. Because of Florida's varying climate zones, however, careful consideration is crucial when picking a fruit tree for a particular site. A citrus tree that grows well in South Florida may not survive its first winter in the northern region of Florida. Also, a typical peach tree that grows in Georgia will fail in Central Florida. Fortunately, many varieties of citrus, peaches, avocados, and other fruits have been cultivated and are readily available through garden centers and nurseries.
“Stone fruits” contain a central, hard pit. These include peach, plum, nectarine, apricot and cherry. Most stone fruit trees require a certain amount of “chilling hours” to grow and produce fruit. Several varieties of peach and nectarine trees have been developed that will produce fruit in Florida's warm climate. Peach varieties such as Flordacrest, Flordaking, and Flordaprince are all suitable for Florida, and will grow as far south as Miami. Good nectarine varieties for Florida include Sunhome, Sunmist and Sunraycer.
Many types of citrus grow in Florida--orange, grapefruit, satsuma, sour orange, lemon, lime and more. The most important factor in selecting citrus for Florida is location. Three distinct climate zones in Florida--north, central and south--dictate which plants grow best. Citrus can be successfully grown even in the freeze-prone northern part of Florida, with varietal selection (growing on cold-tolerant rootstock) and choosing protected locations (such as growing smaller trees in the protection of larger trees like oaks). Visit a reputable nursery or garden center and only purchase citrus trees that will be a success in your location.
Avocado trees grow in South Florida and in protected areas of Central Florida. Not only good for providing nutritious fruit, avocado trees are also good shade trees. There are many varieties good for fruit production, including Hardee, Donnie, Nadir, Dupuis, Simmonds, Pollock and Waldin. These varieties are good only for the warmest zones of Florida--the southeast and southwest coasts. Cold-tolerant types, to varying degrees, include Meya, Beta and Gainesville.
Persimmon trees vary by cultivar--some have seedy fruit, and some do not. Some types have fruit that must become soft before eating to lose its astringency (puckering taste quality). In Central Florida, oriental persimmon is well-adapted to the climate. Good varieties include, among others, Fuyu, Ichi and Jiro. Persimmon trees have large, glossy green leaves, and combined with bright orange fruit, they make a pleasant specimen tree in the landscape.
Mango trees are limited to growing in South Florida. Locations such as the southeastern and southwestern coastal areas are suitable for mango trees. Many cultivars are available, including Edward, Glenn, Kent and Keitt.