How to grow and care for peaches
What better way to round off a summer meal than with a luscious peach? Even better, a peach you’ve grown yourself!
But can you grow peaches in the UK? With a sheltered sunny location and careful nurturing, you can grow peaches in the UK. Prunus persica originates from China and in the age of the grand country house was extensively grown in specially designed glasshouses. Follow this guide to learn how to grow peaches in your garden at home.
Types of peaches to grow
Here is a selection of widely available peach trees to grow in your garden, including some smaller trees suitable for growing in containers. Most of the peach plant varieties listed have pretty pink blossom in spring. We’ve highlighted where the flowers are a slightly different shade.
- ‘Peregrine’: has red tinted skin and white flesh. It is said to be one of the most reliable varieties for a generous crop of fruit ready to harvest in August.
- ‘Rochester’: another white fleshed variety, the skin of a ripe Rochester peach is golden. The fruits are ready to pick from mid to late August.
- ‘Avalon Pride’: is said to be strongly resistant to the most common problem when growing peaches, leaf curl disease. It ripens from early August with yellow flesh that parts from the stone relatively easily.
- ‘Duke of York’: an early variety ready to harvest from early summer, the fruits have red skins and sweet white flesh.
- ‘Saturne’: grow this ‘doughnut’ peach for something a little different. Children love the flat fruits with extremely sweet white flesh.
These compact and slow growing varieties have been bred to grow in containers:
- ‘Bonanza’: crops in late summer with large red and yellow skinned fruits with yellow flesh.
- ‘Terrace Amber Dwarf’: red yellow skin and yellow flesh. Bright pink flowers.
- Sibley’s Patio Peach ‘Melred’: the sweet yellow flesh parts easily from the stone. Magenta red flowers.
- ‘Garden Lady’: a later fruiting variety with yellow and red skins and yellow flesh.
What you’ll need to grow peaches
The best soil for planting peach trees is moist but well-drained. To improve drainage in clay soils, place rubble in the base of the growing hole. Enrich all soils by adding well-rotted manure.
Growing peach trees in pots is possible if you choose the right variety, for example ‘Bonanza’. You’ll need:
- a container with a diameter of at least 45cm.
- pea gravel at the base of the pot for drainage and stability.
- soil-based compost.
Where a peach tree is planted against a wall or fence, provide support with horizontal strands of strainer wire at 15cm intervals, attached to the vertical support with metal vine-eyes. Train the branches of the peach onto bamboo canes arranged on the wires in a fan shape.
To take care of a peach tree you need to provide protection at several stages of growth with:
- Polythene sheeting shelter: in winter this protects the tree from peach leaf curl.
- Horticultural fleece: in early spring this protects the delicate blossom from frost. Remove it during the day for any early pollinating insects to reach the flowers.
- Strong netting: from April through to harvesting because some animals (including squirrels and foxes) and birds eat the peaches off the tree.
Peaches often flower before many pollinating insects emerge. A small paint brush can be used to pollinate the peach flowers by hand. Just dab each flower with the brush at around midday every day during the flowering season.
Where to plant and place your peaches
Peaches grow best fan-trained (see above) against a sunny, sheltered south or south-west facing wall or fence. Peach trees are often sold bare-rooted and should be planted between November and March about 15-20cm from the wall, at a slight angle towards the wall. If planting more than one peach, space them at least 3.5m to 4m apart.
In a sheltered location, peaches can also be grown as a free-standing shrub.
If you have a large lean-to greenhouse facing south, fan train the peach against the rear wall using bamboo canes and horizontal strainer wire. You will need to hand-pollinate a peach growing in a protected environment as there will be few pollinating insects circulating inside the space.
Caring and nurturing your peaches
So, how do you take care of a peach tree? Follow these care tips for growing successful crops of peaches:
- Peaches prefer warm conditions in a sunny spot and protection from frost: see above.
- In late winter feed peach trees with a high potassium fertiliser followed by a mulch of well-rotted manure. For peaches grown in containers, apply a liquid feed high in potassium such as tomato food every two weeks during the growing season.
- Keep the ground moist throughout the growing season and water peach trees generously during hot sunny weather as the soil near a wall can quickly dry out. Water peaches grown in containers daily.
- Although this seems very radical, thin out any badly placed or misshapen fruits from the growing clusters to allow the remaining fruits space to develop. This should be done when the fruits are about 1cm wide. Aim to leave about 15cm between each peach.
- The fruits are ready to harvest when their skins have coloured up and the flesh around the stalk yields slightly. Cup your hand around the peach and remove it from the tree by giving a slight twist. Peaches do not store well and are best eaten when freshly picked.
- Prune peach trees immediately after harvesting. Because peaches flower on one year-old growth, remove as much old growth as possible. Cut back stems which have fruited to a new shoot, and tie in the new growth to the support to replace the old growth.
- Propagating peaches: how to grow a peach tree from a peach stone (pit). You will need a 13cm pot and John Innes No. 1 potting compost. Set one stone per pot and plant the seedling in the garden when it is about 15cm high. The plant can be placed in its permanent location during its second winter.
- Re-pot container grown peach trees approximately every three years.
Key features of peach bulbs
Botanical Name: Prunus persica.
Plant Type: Deciduous fruit tree.
Native Location: Peaches originate from China.
Light Exposure: Full sun.
Soil pH: All soil types: acid, neutral, alkaline.
Flowering Time: March.
Flower Colour: Pink.
Frequently asked questions about peaches
Do you need two peach trees to produce fruit?
No, Peach trees are self-fertile. But you may need to hand pollinate your fruit tree (see above) as the tree can come into blossom before the emergence of pollinating insects.
How big do peach trees get?
The average height of a mature peach tree is between 2.5m and 4 metres.
What is the lifespan of a peach tree?
Peach trees live for an average of 12 years.
Where do peach trees grow best?
Peach trees grow best in full sun, fan-trained against a south or south-west facing wall or fence.
Common pests and diseases with peach trees
What is peach leaf curl?
Peach leaf curl happens in spring when new leaves blister and turn bright red or purple followed by a white layer of spore. The leaves then drop. The disease is caused by a fungus carried by wind and rain which overwinters in the bark and bud scales.
To control it, remove infected leaves before the spore layer forms. Encourage the growth of replacement leaves by feeding and watering the tree. Fan trained trees can be protected from mid-winter to late spring with a temporary open-sided shelter made from polythene sheeting.
Can aphids attack my peach trees?
Aphids can attack peach trees, with the leaves becoming wrinkled and turning a yellowish-green in late spring/early summer. It’s caused by a couple of species of aphid (both green and black). You can control it by spraying from mid-spring with a plant oil pesticide.