When planning your USDA zone 9b garden, begin with the trees that love mild winters and hot summers.
The time to plant trees is now 🌳
Consider your garden’s “microclimates”, whether warmer or colder than the average within your hardiness zone, sun exposure, space available and soil type. Always check the recommended hardiness zone for the species and cultivar before making a final selection for your home orchard.
Native to Central America, the avocado (Persea americana) has been cultivated since at least 500 B.C. This subtropical tree grows in zones 8 through 11. The three different types of avocados vary in their cold tolerance. The Mexican cultivars tolerate frosts down to 16 degrees Fahrenheit, Guatemalan down to 24 degrees and West Indian down to 32 degrees. Avocado trees can grow to over 60 feet tall under ideal conditions.
The lush fruits of citrus trees (Citrus spp.) make them a desirable addition to your zone 9b garden. In general, the many cultivars of lemon, lime, orange and mandarin thrive in zones 9 and 10. A few, such as pummelo and grapefruit, need extra protection if frost threatens.
Grown in climates from temperate to tropical, the fig (Ficus carica) grows in zones 5 through 10, depending on the cultivar. Native to western Asia, figs have been cultivated throughout the Mediterranean since at least 5000 B.C. The Spanish brought figs to Mexico in 1560 and to California’s San Diego Mission in 1769. ‘Chicago Hardy’ is the hardiest of the figs, grown in zones 5 through 10. Other fig cultivars, such as ‘LSU Gold’ and ‘LSU Purple,’ prefer the warmer temperatures of zones 7 through 10. Most figs are self-fertile but produce a larger crop when a second tree is planted nearby.
Plant loquat trees (Eriobotrya japonica) in zone 8 through 10 gardens. You can prune the 10- to 25-foot tall evergreen trees to a shrub or tree form. The small orange fruits are described as a combination of a plum and kumquat. Loquats do well in full sun and partial shade.
Persimmon trees are native to Asia (Diospyros kaki) and North America (Diospyros virginiana). The Asian species thrive in zones 6 through 10, while the native trees are more cold tolerant, growing in zones 4 through 10. The cold and heat tolerance of both species depend on the particular cultivar. The fruits of native persimmons, and some of the Asian cultivars, are lip-puckeringly astringent until fully ripened.
The pomegranate (Punica granatum), a native of southern Europe and middle to western Asia, thrives in zones 8 through 10. It attracts hummingbirds and bees to its orange-red flowers and produces rounded fruits filled with juicy sacs that contain its edible seeds.
New Cultivars of Old Favorites
In general, many favorite fruit tree species have minimum chilling requirements. The winter chilling requirement is a range of hours each year that hover just above freezing, between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The three basic ranges are high at 1,000 chilling hours or more, medium at 700 to 1,000 chilling hours and low at less than 700 chilling hours. There are a few cultivars that require few or no winter chilling hours, which are suitable for USDA plant hardiness zone 9b.
Planting your own apple (Malus domestica) orchard in zone 9b requires heat-tolerant and low-chill varieties. Among the apple trees that thrive in the mild winters and hot summers of zone 9b are ‘Golden Delicious’ (zones 4-9); ‘Anna,’ ‘Ginger Gold’ and ‘Granny Smith’ (zones 5-9); ‘Ein Shemer’ (zones 6-9) and ‘Cinnamon Spice’ and ‘Dorsett Golden’ (zones 5-10).
Like apples, most apricots (Prunus armeniaca) require more chilling hours than zone 9b can provide. There are a few low-chill varieties, including ‘Garden Annie’ and ‘Tropic Gold’ (zones 6-9). There are also a variety of apricot hybrids (Prunas salicina or Prunas cerasifera x Prunus armenica) available. Of these, ‘Cot-N-Candy’ and ‘Summer Delight’ apriums (zones 7-10) and ‘Candy Stripe’ and ‘Flavor Supreme’ pluots (zones 6-9) will all produce a good harvest in your zone 9b garden.
Natives of Asia, the Asian pears (Pyrus pyrifolia and Pyrus ussuriensis) thrive in a wide range of climates, from zones 4 through 10. There are thousands of cultivars available in Asia and several dozen in North America. The crisp, apple-like fruits smell and taste like pears. Add two different cultivars to your garden to ensure a good crop. ‘New Century’ (zones 4-9) and ‘Hosui’ and ‘Korean Giant’ (zones 7-10) are among the cultivars that will produce fruit in zone 9b.
European-Asian pear hybrids (Pyrus communis x Pyrus pyrifolia) will grow and produce fruit in your garden. ‘Flordahome’ (zones 8-10), ‘Leconte’ (zones 8-9), ‘Hood’ and ‘Spaulding’ (zones 6a-9), and ‘Maxie’ (zones 5-9) are among the possibilities. Some cultivars are self-fertile; plant two to ensure a good harvest.
Though sour cherries (Prunus cerasus) require more chilling hours than your zone 9b garden can provide, you can still grow a few sweet cherry (Prunus avium) cultivars. Your cherry orchard might include sweet and juicy ‘Lapins,’ ‘Sam Sweet’ and ‘Starking Hardy Giant’ (zones 5-9). When selecting cherry trees, consider your available space. Dwarf and semi-dwarf trees are suitable for most home gardens. Standard trees grow up to 30 feet tall with an equally wide canopy.
Most North American native pawpaw trees (Asimina triloba) prefer the colder winters of zones 4 through 8. Low-chill cultivars include ‘Mango,’ ‘Shenandoah’ or ‘Wabash’ (zones 5-9). Pawpaw trees grow from 12 to 25 feet tall and equally wide, depending on the amount of sunlight they receive. The trees tolerate partial shade, making them a good choice in gardens that are shaded by walls, buildings or larger trees in the afternoon. Two different cultivars are needed for pollination and fruit production.
Peaches (Prunus persica) and nectarines (Prunus persica nectarina) are essentially the same species. Nectarines are a smooth-skinned subspecies of the peach. Peaches ‘Desertgold,’ ‘Galaxy’ and ‘Newhaven’ (zones 5-9), as well as nectarines ‘Crimson Gold’ and ‘Flavortop’ (zones 5-9), are among the better choices for home gardens in zones 9b.
From ‘Burbank’ to ‘Santa Rosa,’ Japanese plum trees (Prunus salicina) offer a wide range of cultivars suitable for zones 5 through 9. European plums (Prunus domestica) also grow in zones 4 through 9, with a few cultivars suitable for zone 9b.
Protect Your Trees From Freezing Temperatures
To successfully grow subtropical and tropical fruit trees in zone 9b, monitor weather forecasts. When a frost is predicted, protect your trees by covering them with fabric or plastic sheeting “suspended on poles”.
Weigh the edges down with bricks, rocks or boards to prevent cold air from seeping under the coverings. A heavy layer of mulch, at least 4 to 5 inches, placed over the root ball and thorough watering before the temperatures drop also help protect the tender roots of cold-sensitive trees.
Be sure to remove plastic off your tree as soon as the sun rises. The sun will heat up inside the plastic and do more harm than good. Use plastic as a last choice.
Over the years, i stopped covering plants. I found they were capable of survival on their own. It became exhausting and now I only keep choices suited for 9b growing!!