Monday, January 21, 2013

Deciduous Fruit Trees

 Hawaii, as well as other tropical climate zones, is not the best area to grow deciduous fruit trees.  These are trees like apple, peach, plum, pear, etc., that lose their leaves and go dormant in the winter. They actually require a dormant cold period in order to produce an abundance of good quality fruit. Deciduous fruit trees are rated by their chilling requirement, that is, how many hours below 45 degrees Fahrenheit they need to experience before breaking dormancy and yielding fruit.  Many trees like cherries and pears require 700 - 1200 hours below 45 degrees F during the winter.
Tropical areas do not have those conditions except to some degree at higher elevations.  Over the years, however, breeders have developed a number of deciduous fruit tree varieties with a low chilling requirement – 300, 200, or even as little as 100 hours of chilling. These are the varieties that are possible for Hawaii and other warm climate locations. (Yields and quality will not be equal to the better deciduous growing regions like California’s Central Valley.) In general, yields will be low, the fruit small, and foliage scant.   

When shopping for a deciduous fruit tree, select the low chill varieties: Apple – Beverly Hills, Anna and Gordon; Peach – Tropic Sweet, Florida Grande and Tropic Sweet. Normally, deciduous fruit trees are sold in January and February and are brought to the Hawaiian Islands from California.