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TIME TO PLANT MOST FRUITS
Some fruits are very easy to grow in San Antonio and others are more difficult. A few even qualify as xeriscape plants. Pomegranate is one of the least difficult to grow. Naturalized specimens exist in neighborhoods all over the area. They prosper even in neighborhoods with deer and are a good choice for a low water use landscape. Pomegranate has an interesting fruit. The tart flesh surrounds the seeds inside an apple-shaped case with a crown. The fruit is attractive on the shrub but the blooms are spectacular. They are glow-in-the-dark red-orange in late spring. It makes a large dense deciduous shrub. ‘Wonderful’ is the recommended variety.
Oriental persimmon makes an exceptional lawn tree. The trees are small and open with large leaves that can be colorful in the autumn. The fruit on the tree often looks like Christmas bulbs—colorful, well spaced, and showy. Persimmon is astringent; it will make you pucker up if it is eaten before it is mushy ripe. The exception is Fuyu. Another variety to consider is Haichiya. The birds, raccoons, and opossum will eat the fruit you do not harvest. Oriental persimmon can be grown in our native soil. It will survive without irrigation but will produce more fruit if it is watered regularly in the summer.
Figs are also easy to grow in San Antonio. Select from Celeste, Texas Everbearing, or Brown Turkey. The first two selections have a closed eye (keeps insects out). Brown Turkey has an open eye but is still a good choice. Once established, figs can survive without irrigation but will not produce much fruit. Mulch heavily (4 to 8 inches) over the root system and irrigate regularly for maximum production. Birds will help you harvest any excess fruit.
Blackberries provide large amounts of fruit over a short season. The plants spread rapidly and, because of the thorns, can become a problem. Do not plant blackberries near a fence where they can become entangled unless you do it purposely to create a tangle for the birds. A caliche pick is a useful tool to remove canes that emerge outside the designated blackberry area. The old wood must also be removed after harvest in April or May to make room for the new canes. Consider Brazos, Kiowa, or Rosborough for huge yields. Thornless selections such as Arapaho and Navajo are not as productive but are easier to manage.
Most grape varieties are unsuitable for planting in our area because of susceptibility to disease but some varieties can be planted on arbors. Black Spanish and Champanel are productive and aggressive vines that can be used for jellies. Flame and Seibel 9110 are fresh fruit quality.
Our favorite fruits—peaches, apples, plums, and pears—require considerable more attention than the species described so far. They all do best in raised beds irrigated with drip irrigation. A bed formed by used railroad ties (8 by 8 foot) filled with a landscape mix works well. Plant the tree in the middle of the bed. Varieties of these fruits require differing amounts of winter cold to produce fruit. An Elberta peach does not work in San Antonio because it needs more cold than we normally receive. Some selections also cannot cope with our diseases. Bartlett pear is very fireblight susceptible and usually only lasts through one bloom period. These fruit trees also require varying amounts of pruning and spraying attention. Pears and plums the least, and peaches and apples the most. Consult plantanswers.com for pruning diagrams and recommended cultural practices.
Methley is the most reliable plum for the San Antonio area. Santa Rosa also is a good choice. For pears select Orient or Kiefer for a large cooking pear. Warren is a small irregularly shaped pear of dessert quality. Leconte and Moonglow are also good choices.
Peaches are a favorite fruit for our area but require considerable attention including weekly spraying to produce blemish-free peaches. Nectarines are just peaches without fuzz and because of the smooth skin are even harder to grow free of fungus and insect damage. To increase the chance of success, select early maturing varieties. There is less time on the tree for insects, squirrels, and diseases to strike. My favorite are Junegold and Texroyal. Texstar and Florida King are also good early selections. La Feliciana is a freestone that matures in June. If you want a challenge, Armking is the nectarine to try. Try Melba or Belle of Georgia for a white peach. They do best after cold winters. The Red Baron is an ornamental peach. It has the most beautiful and long lasting bloom. The fruit is high quality but it is late to ripen and I never harvest much fruit, as it is very difficult to defend them from the squirrels.
Plant two varieties of apples that bloom at the same time for the best success. A good choice is Anna and Dorset Golden. Mollies Delicious is also an option.
Strawberries need to be treated as annuals in South Texas. Select Chandler or Sequoia plants to plant in the autumn for spring harvest. Strawberries do not survive the summer heat in South Texas. The heat also makes it impractical to grow raspberries or cherries. Blueberries cannot survive in our alkaline soil. Apricots make a beautiful lawn tree but rarely produce fruit in San Antonio.
Your favorite nursery has fruit trees, vines, and plants available right now. Make your selection based on your tastes and your willingness to provide the required attention.