Nectarine tree: cultivation, care & harvest


For many years now, I have been growing various vegetables as a hobby in my spare time, which is what ultimately led me to studying horticulture. I find it fascinating to watch as plants grow from seed to fruit and to then finally be able to make use of the literal fruits of my labour.

Favourite fruit: Strawberries and cherries
Favourite vegetable: Potatoes, tomatoes and garlic

The nectarine is closely related to the peach. We introduce the smooth mutation of the otherwise furry peaches and offer tips on growing, caring for and using the nectarine tree yourself.

A few ripe, red nectarines on nectarine tree
In protected gardens, nectarine trees can bear a lot of fruit [Photo: Jasmina976/]

If you want to harvest nectarines from your own nectarine tree from the garden, you do not necessarily need a greenhouse. In a sheltered location with plenty of sun, a juicy fruit will soon emerge from the magnificent nectarine blossom. The nectarine tree in a pot is also an option for cold winter regions and brings a touch of the Mediterranean to the terrace.

Nectarine tree: origin, properties and flowering time

Since the nectarine (Prunus persica var. nucipersica) is a subspecies of the peach (Prunus persica), its origin can be traced to the Asian region. As the species name “persica” indicates, the first cultivations took place in Persia. Nowadays, the main growing areas are in Italy, Spain, Greece and France. However, nectarines are also grown commercially in this country, especially in southern Germany and the Altes Land. So it is an obvious choice to grow the sometimes slightly sour fruits in your own garden.

Depending on the weather, the tree blooms between March and April for about a week. The flowers are white to pale pink and thus resemble those of the peach. A noticeable peculiarity can be seen in the buds here: the nectarine tree forms triple buds in the optimum case. This means that one flower bud is accompanied by two vegetative accessory buds. Only this constellation results in large and healthy fruits, because the outer buds develop into leaves during the growing season, which supply the associated fruit with energy through photosynthesis.

Close-up of nectarine tree shoot
A promising shoot of the nectarine tree [Photo: Blue Pebble/]

The most delicious nectarine varieties

Not all nectarine varieties are suitable for cultivation anywhere, as many have a very high heat requirement that can rarely be met here locally. We have selected four recommended and delicious varieties for you.

  • ‘Fantasia’: medium-early ripening from mid-August, rather medium-sized yellow-red fruits, firm yellow flesh and abundant harvest.
  • ‘Super Crimson’: early ripening from the end of July, rather medium-sized fruits, yellow flesh, particularly winter-hardy and high-yielding.
  • ‘Silver Gem’: medium-early maturity from mid-August, white-fleshed, low frost susceptibility with medium yields.
  • ‘Ruby Gem’: late ripening around early September, white-fleshed, high yield, more thinning is needed for large fruit.

Planting nectarines

There are a few things to consider when planting nectarine. We have compiled key aspects of how you can best proceed in this regard.

Growing nectarines from seed

With a little extra effort, you can grow a nectarine tree yourself. However, seeds from supermarket nectarines are often not suitable because the varieties offered there come from warmer, subtropical countries and, accordingly, have a high heat requirement. Those who can find suitable fruit and thus suitable seeds – for example, from a local fruit grower – should sow them in October. Fruits from regional cultivation typically have a higher likelihood of success.

How to grow a nectarine from seed:

  • Remove the stone from the pulp.
  • Store stone in a moist place until sowing, e.g. in a damp kitchen towel.
  • Crack the stone and remove the almond-shaped seed.
  • Store seeds for one month at 7 °C and constant humidity to encourage germination, for example, in a tray with moist sand.
  • After one month, place the seeds at 15 to 20 °C and continue to keep them moist.
  • Transfer germinated seeds to a nutrient-poor growing substrate such as our Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost to encourage root development.
  • Continue to cultivate at 15 to 20 °C.
  • Protect from drying out by using an indoor greenhouse or plastic cover. Important: ventilate the small greenhouse daily, otherwise it can quickly develop mould.
  • Once several foliage leaves have developed, the nectarine can be placed in a warmer place or outdoors, but first place it in the shade to protect the foliage from sunburn.

Important: Young nectarine trees are insufficiently frost hardy and should be protected from winter cold.

Nectarine stone next to cut open nectarine
Nectarine seeds are found inside the stone [Photo: alenvl/]

Tip: A nectarine tree grown from a stone will not begin to flower and fruit until it has passed through its perennial juvenile phase (vegetative phase). If you do not want to wait that long, it is better to buy a grafted tree or graft a nectarine tree yourself instead of propagation by seed.

Growing nectarine trees in pots

The nectarine tree can also be planted in a pot. This way, you can vary the location and thus meet the needs of the plant in summer and winter. In addition, the nectarine tree can be kept small by limiting the root space.

Always choose a pot with a capacity of at least 30 litres for fruit trees. Use a nutrient-rich, structurally stable, well-drained and slightly acidic soil. To prevent the potting soil from slumping after a short time, it should be mixed with one-third crushed expanded clay – this will prevent oxygen deficiency at the root. Even when growing in a pot, it is advisable to tie the small tree so that it grows safely. However, a saucer is not recommended, as waterlogging should be avoided. Alternatively, you can use gravel, expanded clay or pumice to create a drainage layer at least 5 cm thick in the tub. You can therefore also enjoy your little tree on the balcony or terrace.

Tip: Fruit trees in pots particularly need annual nutrient applications. The substrate available to them will soon no longer contains sufficient nutrients, especially with strong growth and vigorous fruiting. It is best to use a complete fertiliser such as our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food, which, in addition to the main nutrients, also provides many trace nutrients and develops a natural long-term effect. The nutrient elements therefore remain available to plants for a longer period of time, thus guaranteeing an optimum supply of nutrients.

Outdoor cultivation

Even outdoors, a suitable location for the nectarine is sunny, warm and sheltered. Once you have found such a place, you can start planting. The best time for this is spring, between March and April.

To do this, dig a planting hole, which should be twice the diameter and the same depth as the root ball of the tree. Loosen the soil at the bottom of the dug hole. Generously spread mature compost or a high-quality potting soil, such as our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost, into the planting hole to help the tree get started in its new location. Our compost is produced sustainably and without the addition of animal ingredients. It provides nutrients from organic fertilisers for several months. It is best to thoroughly mix the planting soil with the existing soil. Nectarines tend to love dry and well-drained soil. Heavily humic or excessively heavy, clay-like soils should in any case be mixed with at least 30% sand. Before placing the sapling in the ground, scratch the roots a little and loosen the root ball. This stimulates the roots to grow again, which is beneficial for growing. The injury stimulates the roots to branch via plant hormones. The resulting fine adventitious roots are particularly important for supplying the tree. Be sure to water regularly in the first year. A watering ring is ideal for this purpose, which you can model from the excavated soil at the time of planting.

It is also advisable to keep a homegrown or small tree in a container at first, and only plant it in the open ground after two years. Pruning is beneficial for the nectarine tree: we explain in more detail below.

Nectarines in nectarine tree
Pruning your nectarine tree guarantees a bountiful harvest of fruit [Photo: Jane Biriukova/]

A support stake is usually driven in the direction from which the most wind is expected to blow, to protect the tree from moving too much or even falling over. The connection should be about a hand’s width below the crown base. Tying up the tree also has the important purpose of preserving the fine roots by reducing strong movement above-ground.

Tip: You can also plant the nectarine tree in a greenhouse or put the pot in there. This protects the tree from late frosts and accommodates its need for warmth. After mid-May, you can plant the tree outside with a clear conscience, and with sufficient heat, you can expect a long-lasting harvest.

Nectarine tree care

In order for your self-planted little tree to thrive, below are the main tips on how to care for the nectarine tree.

Watering and fertilising

Since the nectarine comes from rather warmer climates, it does not need much water. It is important to avoid waterlogging in any case.

A layer of mulch spread around the trunk of the tree can save a watering or two in hot summers, as less water evaporates through the mulch and the soil stays nice and moist. In general, you should protect the tree from lime. Rainwater is therefore best suited for watering.

To maintain the quality of fertile soil before and after planting, a soil fertiliser is recommended. This can improve soil structure and humus content, as well as increase the population of microorganisms. These in turn provide nutrients for the plants themselves in the long term. The nutrient content of soil activators is relatively low, which suits the rather low requirements of fruit trees. If you have a pot culture, you should carry out regular fertilisation with all the essential nutrients. The easiest way to do this is with an organic fertiliser such as our plant-based Plantura All Purpose Plant Food because it not only releases the main nutrients of nitrogen, phosphates and potassium over a long period of time, but also numerous important trace nutrients.

Young nectarine tree bearing many fruits
Young nectarine trees in particular need to be watered during the summer [Photo: QiuJu Song/]

Pruning nectarine trees

Pruning nectarine is necessary to ensure long-term recurring harvests. In fact, the nectarine tree produces the best fruit on one-year-old wood, that is, on branches formed during the previous year. The goal of pruning is thus to encourage the tree to produce this wood in bulk. This requires heavy pruning every year. Heavy pruning triggers the so-called fruiting branches, which results in the formation of many triplet buds that produce particularly high-quality fruit. It is recommended to use the form of a bush tree, which will provide more protection from frost. In addition, a light and open crown should be the goal, because this allows rejuvenation of the wood.

Pruning nectarine trees is possible at different times. You can also prune the tree several times a year, as it is usually very strong growing. Recommended times are after harvest (August to September) or just before flowering (February).

First of all, it is necessary to remove any hanging branches, as they grow weak. Furthermore, light should be brought into the tree. This includes removing branches that grow strongly vertically and branches that cross each other. Always keep branches that rise easily, are young and grow in a favourable direction, so which do not compete with any other shoot.

Next, prune the leading branches of the nectarine tree. They emerge from the tree’s central shoot or, in the case of a funnel crown, from several main shoots and bear the fruiting wood. Young, healthy leading shoots are not pruned. Older shoots, which have already borne fruit in the past year, are shortened to a stub of about 20 cm – they are replaced by the younger shoots. On the stumps or elsewhere, this alternate pruning creates new shoots that grow for the following year’s harvest.

Throughout the crown, be sure to avoid crossing shoots, so that a single branch has enough space. In the end, two to four leading branches should remain in each cardinal direction.

Important: As with all stone fruit species, the nectarine is always pruned so that a cone or stub remains. This is because stone fruit has little wound-healing ability and dries up instead of covering wounds. This means that pruning always leaves two eyes, that is, new shoot buds.

Pruning nectarine trees at a glance

  • Possible at several times.
  • The nectarine tree forms fruit on annual wood, so wood regeneration should be carried out by means of pruning.
  • Alternate pruning guarantees a rich harvest in the long term.
  • Thin, weak branches or branches growing in the wrong direction are not wanted, so no vertical shoots either.
  • The goal is a light, open bush tree form.
Many nectarine trees in bloom
Nectarine trees are cut back heavily each year to ensure new fruiting woods grows the following year [Photo: images72/]

Nectarine tree: diseases and pests

Nectarines are susceptible to some diseases, including insects and fungal and bacterial pathogens.

  • Curl disease: fungal infection that leads to curling of the leaves when the weather is too wet during budding.
  • Scab and shot hole: fungal attack that affects fruit and leaf formation; however, also shows on shoots.
  • Aphids: due to feeding damage buds do not blossom and leaves are eaten.

Tip: Always remove mummified fruit from the tree – these are fruits that are already starting to dry out, but still remain attached to the tree. These serve as spore repositories for disease and fruit rot, and ensure re-infection the following year.

Is the nectarine tree hardy?

It should be noted that while the wood is often hardy, early bloom is at risk of freezing during late frosts, putting the crop at risk. In the meantime, however, the variety of cultivars is so great that there are numerous varieties that are not only winter-hardy, but – going even further – are also very robust in the face of strong temperature fluctuations, wind and frosty soil temperatures. Nevertheless, a warmer and sheltered place in the garden should be chosen, and not a cold winter. A suitable variety would be the ‘Silver Gem’.

Plants in pots should be placed in a sheltered place in winter or after the end of the growing season, i.e. after harvest. Nevertheless, peaches and nectarines have a certain need for cold, which must be satisfied so that the buds sprout evenly and vigorously after the winter. Therefore, the tree should not be overwintered indoors, but simply kept frost-proof. The optimum temperature for this is 0 to 10 °C.

Close-up of frost on nectarine blossom
Nectarine blossoms are sensitive to frost [Photo: Bogdan Vacariuc/]

Harvest time and use of nectarines

The nectarine ripens on the tree from the end of June to September, depending on the variety and location, and can then be harvested gradually. The best way to check the fruit is by gently pressing it. If the skin gives slightly, you can harvest the fruit. It is recommended to harvest nectarines continuously, as the ripening process extends over several weeks.

Young grafted trees also produce fruit relatively quickly after planting. Nevertheless, you cannot expect fruit in the first year. In the second year, depending on the variety, and at the latest from the third year, the sapling forms flowers that announce the first successful harvest. Young trees in particular should be discouraged from fruiting to promote establishment. To do this, simply remove any fruits that form.

The use of the nectarine is varied. Whether in jams, cakes, to decorate or enhance appetisers or in desserts – nectarines captivate with their sweet juice, as already indicated by the name “nectarine”. Unlike peaches, nectarines have a lower water content but contain more sugar. Whether in a fruit salad or simply for snacking – a nectarine can and should be eaten with the skin, because this part contains the most vitamins.

Nectarines slices on crispbread with cream cheese
Nectarines are great as part of small appetisers [Photo: DronG/]