Growing Peaches in Alabama

Growing peaches in Alabama's humid summer climate and fluctuating winter freezes can be a challenge. But the hobby fruit grower can afford to take the risk!

Peaches develop their leaf and fruit buds in the summer for the coming year. During fall and winter months, these buds go into a resting or dormant period. Vegetative and fruit buds remain dormant until they have accumulated enough chilling hours (hours where temperatures are 45 F or below). If buds don't get enough chilling hours during the winter, trees may suffer delayed and/or reduced leafing-out and flowering. Conversely, a variety that has a low chilling hour requirement may come out of dormancy too early and begin bud swell only to be damaged by a late freeze.

Choosing varieties adapted to our climate and selecting several varieties which vary in chilling requirements, will maximize chances of getting fruit each year. See the variety charts below to determine required chilling hours.

Another consideration in choosing variety is taste. There is no relation between peach blush (red color) and taste! Yellow peaches are just as sweet. Also, peaches don't get sweeter after they are picked. This means as a home fruit grower, you can let peaches ripen on the tree for a sweeter taste!

Where can I find these varieties?

You may have to order trees by mail to get the cultivar (cultivated variety) selection you want. Two mail-order sources for fruit trees include Stark Brothers and Cumberland Valley Nurseries. Contact your local county Extension office for a list of these and other nurseries.

Most peach varieties are self-fruitful, which means they can produce a crop with their own pollen. J.H. Hale, a variety available at most nurseries, has sterile pollen and if used, must be planted with another variety. Some fruits (self-unfruitful) require more than one variety which has compatible or overlapping flowering dates.

SUGGESTED HOME PEACH VARIETIES FOR ALABAMA
VARIETY CLING OR FREE STONE CHILL HOURS REQUIRED DAYS RIPEN BEFORE ELBERTA
Surecrop Semi-Free 950 43
Correll Cling 850 51
Sweethaven Semi-Free 850 42
Dixiered Cling 950 41
Redhaven Semi-Free 950 28
Norman Free 850 28
Harbrite Free 850 26
Jayhaven Free 850 16
Winblo Free 850 15
Belle of Georgia White-Free 850 3
SUGGESTED HOME PEACH VARIETIES FOR SOUTH ALABAMA
VARIETY CLING OR FREE STONE CHILL HOURS REQUIRED DAYS RIPEN BEFORE ELBERTA**
Starlite White, Semi-Free 650 55
Empress Cling 650 52
Goldprince Cling 650 47
Sentinel Semi-Free 850 34
Sunland Free 750 23
Fireprince Free 850 17
Summergold Free 750 10
La Feliciana Free 550 10
Dixiland Free 750 3
Ruston Red Free 850 5
Redskin Free 750 2
It is recommended that a home fruit grower plant several varieties that have varied chilling hour requirements (for example 750, 850, 950).

**Because of the variability of ripening over a period of years the actual harvest date is designated in relation to a known standard, in this instance the Elberta Peach. Elberta ripens between 5-15th of July in south Alabama, between the 10-20th of July in central Alabama and between the 20th-30th of July in north Alabama.
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SOURCE: Mary Beth Musgrove, Extension horticulture associate, Alabama Cooperative Extension System (334) 844-5481.