Peach tree: profile, cultivation & care


Having worked as a journalist for many years I studied horticulture and now work as a professional gardener. I work as a specialist kitchen gardener, growing a wide range of vegetables, fruit and herbs for chefs in the north of England. I am passionate about gardening and writing, and love growing edibles and trying to inspire others to get outside and grow their own.

Favourite fruit: Apples and Raspberries
Favourite vegetables: Beetroot, celeriac, parsnip and broad beans

A peach tree evokes memories of warm, sunny Mediterranean holidays. Despite their association with warmer climates, peach trees can thrive in cooler UK conditions, and they are easy to grow and maintain. Learn all about growing and planting peaches in your garden.

Peaches on peach tree branches
Peach trees are grown for their delicious juicy fruit [Photo: Vectorcarrot/]

Peach trees have been grown around the world for thousands of years, and you too can enjoy your own homegrown juicy fruits. However, there is a peach tree variety called a flowering peach that is bred to just be ornamental, so make sure to choose a variety grown specifically for the quality of its fruit. Peach trees are desirable – a peach tree blooming in spring is a thing of great beauty – and durable, and they can be trained to grow to a specific size. This makes them suitable for growing in pots, even if you do not have a lot of space in the garden.

Peaches on peach tree branch
Peaches are now grown all over the world [Photo: Natalia Zhekova/]

Peach tree: origin and characteristics

Peach (Prunus persica) is a deciduous tree that was first cultivated in eastern China, but as its name suggests, it has been widely grown in Iran (formerly known as Persia) over the years. It is part of the Prunus genus, which also includes the cherry (Prunus avium), plum (Prunus domestica), apricot (Prunus armeniaca) and more.

A peach tree can grow up to 7m tall and wide. The size depends on the variety, but growth can also be restricted through pruning. Peach trees are available with standard, semi-dwarf and dwarf rootstocks.

Peach tree leaves are glossy-green and lanceolate, measuring 7 to 16cm long and 2 to 3cm wide. In early spring, peach trees produce small pink flowers either singly or in groups of two or three. These blossoms offer an abundance of pollen and nectar for bees and other pollinators. Peaches are famous for their delicious fruits with delicate yellow, white or red flesh. Depending on the cultivar, the peach fruit skin can be velvety or smooth. Most cultivars have fuzzy skin, while those with smooth skin are known as nectarines (Prunus persica var. nectarina). The peach pit is an extremely hard shell that surrounds the small, almond-shaped seed within the fruit, which is why peaches are classified as stone fruit.

Two ripe peaches on a peach branch
Peaches commonly have fuzzy, velvety skin [Photo: Leena Robinson/]

Growing peach trees

Although peaches are a crop associated with warmer climates, they can be grown successfully in the UK. The self-fertile trees need to be grown in a sheltered position. This shelter is required to protect the delicate spring blossoms from frost and to help the fruit ripen. If planted out in the garden, peach trees need fertile, well-drained soil and will thrive in a location that gets full sun, meaning they need at least six to eight hours of sunlight each day during the growing season.

Peach trees are hardy in the UK, except in the far north, but peach tree blossoms are very vulnerable to frosts. Plant your peach trees against a south or west-facing wall to protect them from frost and cold or in pots, so they can be moved undercover over winter. Peach trees can be grown undercover year-round in greenhouses. Peach trees are ideal for growing as an espalier because they can be trained to grow in a variety of formal shapes. A peach tree can also be grown as a bonsai. Choose dwarf peach trees for growing in pots or containers. Peach trees can grow quite large, so if you want to plant more than one, leave 3 to 4m space between them.

Can you grow a peach tree from seed?

Yes, you can grow a peach tree from seed. However, be prepared for a slow process, as it will take at least three to four years for a tree to bear blossoms or fruit. A cultivar grown from seed may not always perfectly replicate the tree it was taken from if other peach trees are in close proximity to pollinators.

How to grow a peach tree from seed:

  1. Remove the pit from a peach fruit and let it dry for several weeks
  2. Plant outside in autumn (and wait for spring germination) or store in refrigerator for 6 – 8 weeks to break dormancy
  3. Before planting, rub the hard case of the seed with sandpaper to break it
  4. Fill a 30cm deep pot with seed compost
  5. Push the peach seed 2.5cm deep into the soil
  6. Keep moist and place somewhere warm at room temperature
  7. Germination can take up to 6 weeks
Ripe peaches on a branch in the sun
Peaches need at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight each day [Photo: Anton Watman/]

Peach tree care

Peach trees can be bought either as bare-root or container-grown trees. Bare-root peach trees can be planted between November and March when the tree is dormant, while those grown in a container can be planted any time of year. Once planted, there are a few key tasks that need to be maintained to ensure a strong tree and a bountiful harvest of peaches.

Watering and fertilising peach trees

Watering is essential and should be done on a regular basis, especially when the fruits are forming. During hot weather, water peach trees planted near walls regularly, as the soil in such areas can dry out very quickly. Check peach trees in containers daily and water as needed. The key to watering while fruits are ripening is consistency, as irregular or over-watering can cause the skin to split.

Feeding peach trees ensures that they are strong, healthy and capable of producing a great fruit harvest. Feed an established peach tree with a balanced fertiliser twice a year, in late spring and late summer. A fertiliser with a balance of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium will aid fruit development. Our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food is 100% natural and offers a balanced nutrient composition perfect for strong, healthy growth. When there are peaches swelling on the tree, apply a high-potash fertiliser on a weekly basis.

Weed around the base of the peach trees regularly to avoid weeds robbing the tree of nutrients in the soil. Mulch around the base of the peach tree to add nutrients into the soil and keep moisture in the ground, reducing the need for watering.

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Pruning peach trees

If you are wondering when to prune a peach tree, the answer is in spring just before the growth starts. Peach trees grow fruit on one-year-old wood, so it is important to do a “replacement pruning” every year. The aim is to replace wood that has borne fruit with new shoots that will bear next year’s crop. Remove old non-fruiting shoots, making sure to leave behind the one-year-old shoots that are 45-60cm long. Prune back one-year-old fruiting shoots by a third to help boost the development of new shoots for the following year. Up to 40% of the tree can be removed each year. Cut back older branches to where a vigorous new shoot starts to redirect its energy or to the branch collar. Never prune peach trees in winter because it reduces their cold hardiness.

Pruning a peach tree with secateurs
Peaches need pruning in spring, removing old shoots to replace with next year’s flowering wood [Photo: stefan csontos/]

Common pests and diseases

  • Peach leaf curl is a fungal disease that causes leaves to become distorted and fall in spring. Caused by the fungus Taphrina deformans, leaves become crumpled and covered in white spores. Fungicides can be used to treat it, and trees can be covered in plastic to keep emerging shoots dry, or affected leaves can be removed quickly to reduce the likelihood of the fungus reappearing next year.
  • Brown rot fungus (Monilinia fructicola) is a fungal disease that can wreak havoc on a crop. Early symptoms include dying blossoms that form a fuzzy grey mass on the branch and small brown rot spots on the fruits. The spores can multiply extremely quickly, destroying the entire fruit within days. Fungicide can be used for affected trees and all fruit must be removed at the end of each season to prevent the rot from getting a foothold.
  • Peach scab (Cladosporium carpophilum) is a fungal disease that causes fruit to crack and ultimately rot. It thrives in warm, humid environments. Because the scab fungus overwinters in the twigs, identifying and removing infected ones in early spring is one control. Pruning to create an open tree that has good circulation is also a big help. Peach scab is mainly a superficial issue and affected fruit are generally edible once peeled.
A tree affected by peach leaf curl
Peach leaf curl causes leaves to crumple and deform not long after appearing in spring [Photo: Vadym Zaitsev/]

A nectarine tree is closely related to a peach. It has many of the same characteristics as the peach tree but offers a smooth-skinned variation to the furry peaches. Learn more about growing and caring for a nectarine tree in our article.