Yield of Standard Peach vs. Dwarf

cindybird(Zone 5)February 27, 2011

We're considering buying our first fruit trees.

We're in an urban historic district with a larger lot already landscaped, so we were considering just adding two dwarf peach trees. Alternatively, we could plant one standard and rearrange some landscaping.

What are the yield differences, approximately, between a standard peach and a dwarf peach?

Since it may matter to yield -- I'm looking at ordering Stark's Elberta or perhaps one of the other cold-hardy versions, but their online catalog doesn't indicate if their dwarfs are on standard rootstock.

What are your ideas? What kind of yields have you experienced with your peach trees?



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You mean dwarf dwarf, as in something you might grow in a container on the patio, or a "semi-dwarf" tree? To me a true dwarf peach is a novelty, but then I eat a lot of peaches.
In the nursery trade, anything 85% of full-size or less counts as semi-dwarf. That can easily be a 15 foot tall tree. My "semi-dwarf" peaches on 'Citation' semi-dwarf rootstock are 10-15 feet tall. (I believe 'Citation' is off-patent and sold generically as "red-leaf plum" or some such). You can control size with summer pruning, but after a taste of a fresh peach picked straight from the tree, I doubt you will do it.
I'm in a rocky mountain foothill 5A which is considerably different that Z5 Back East. Still, I'd be a little leery about growing Elberta. My "Fantastic Elberta" sport barely makes it. It really runs out of heat the last week or two.
If you are going to grow one peach, I recommend good old 'Redhaven' Its widely adapted, has excellent quality and seems to want to produce at least some fruit any which way it can. I can just about guarantee that a quality nursery near you carries the tree. The yield should be significant at maturity. Anyway, giving away home grown peaches isn't like trying to give away Zucchini.
Check out your mail order vendor on "Garden Watchdog" site.

P.S. Be sure and plant the tree where you can protect the crop from the two-legged squirrels.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 6:41PM
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cindybird(Zone 5)

Thanks for the information!

I mean dwarf peach as in 8-15 feet tall, as what Stark sells. So far, I don't know what kind of rootstook the Stark dwarf peaches are on.

So, the Redhaven at maturity gives good yields? What about the dwarf (8-15') Redhaven versus standard Redhaven?

Considering our property, it would be easier planting two dwarf peaches than one standard.

It's just a question if we're going to get way less yield going with 2 dwarf peaches versus one standard.

BTW, we moved from the Front Range not too long ago -- funny.

Thanks again,


    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 9:16PM
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misterbaby(7a/b TN)

Going with dwarf trees, expect far fewer peaches but the possibility of two different varieties to stretch out the harvest season. Misterbaby.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 11:07PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

I agree totally. Pick out two semi-dwarf varieties that appeal to you, are disease resistant and bear at different times so you can stretch out your peach-eating time. I would much rather eat 1/2 the amount of peaches over 4 or 5 months, than bushels of the same peach for 2 months :-)

Patty S.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 11:44PM
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A dwarf fruit tree would not be on 'standard' rootstock. To get a dwarf tree it is usually the other way around, a standard tree is put on dwarfing rootstock.

Are you sure you can't plant two standard peach trees? My oldest one now is about 21 years and still bearing prolifically. It is not a huge tree at all.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 12:07AM
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Honestly, there just isn't that much practical difference between full size and an 85% "semi-dwarf" It's not like the apple business where you can grow the same fruit on a tree that tops out at 5' through 25' tall with five or six stops along the way by varying the rootstock. Still, I agree with the others: A "semi-dwarf" tree is a bit easier to work and probably a bit more productive pound for pound.
'Redhaven' is a light bearer in my area--on the other hand, I live in a marginal area for it. Still, its very widely adapted and sets some kind of crop almost every year. z5 presumably would be a bit better than z5a.
Pound for pound, my best producer is actually an heirloom variety called "J.H. Hale" It was developed in New Hampshire. It requires a pollenizer (not a tree with "Hal" in its name making it too closely related). If anything, the fruit quality is even better than 'Redhaven' J.H. Hale is really feeble, though. I wouldn't think of planting it on any but the most robust rootstock I could find, in a really favored part of the garden, with extra fertilizer. Don't let it bear fruit until it gets to a reasonable size. Its an exception to the rule that you should only get the "semi-dwarf" rootstock.
My overall best producer is a white medium sized peach called 'Polly' which is a University of Iowa introduction from the twenties. It can also be of very high quality if properly cared for;most people prefer a tree-ripened white peach to a tree-ripened yellow. It was slow coming into production, which I suspect is a varietal characteristic rather than happenstance. Its a bit hard to find.
"Contender" supposedly the whiz-bang new cold hardy variety has been a disappointment. Second-rate fruit. I don't see the great cold hardiness.
I uprooted 'Mericrest' a cold-hardy nectarine a few years ago. It was VERY unproductive. Like all nectarines, it was a real bug magnet. What few fruits I got were terrific, though.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 12:32AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


An 8-15' tall peach tree is a standard, whatever the nursery is calling it.

In your situation, I would order two different peach trees on standard rootstock. Peaches on standard roots are easier to grow, and more forgiving than something Semi-dwarf like Citation. Standards will also probably live longer for you.

Any peach can be kept at 8' by pruning. Ed Laivo once wrote an article on maintaining desired tree height. Although some of it is now dated, it was such a down to earth essay, I printed it off. It's particularly relevant to peaches. I've not seen it on the internet for quite a few years, so I've decided to take the time to type it in here, giving him full credit. It was originally posted on Dave Wilson Nursery Website (www.davewilson.com):

by Ed Laivo

Webster's defines the word dwarf as:

1.) Any human being, animal or plant that is much smaller than the usual one of its species.

2.) Folklore; a little being in human form usually ugly or malformed, to whom magic powers are attributed.

3.) A star of relatively small size or mass and low luminosity i.e. White dwarf.

Now I look at the definition to figure out how, with fruit trees, this term came to mean:

4.) Will fit in any size yard.
5.) Will grow to just the right size and stop.
6.) Less work than a standard of the same species.

It's the old adage subject to interpretation" at work again.
I guess I should be a little more understanding; after all, we are talking semi-dwarf, not dwarf.

So, should the definition read:
1.) Any human being, animal or plant that is somewhat smaller than the Average Size of its species?

What does somewhat smaller mean? What does much smaller mean? For that matter, what does dwarf mean when we are talking about fruit trees?

I want to take myself out of the place of a professional horticulturist for a moment.
I will put myself in the place of the average customer interpreting this word semi-dwarf.

First off, I don't have a clue what the full size of an apple, cherry, peach, nectarine, apricot or plum tree is. I assume BIG! I do know, however, about little people, pigmy ponies and Snow White. As an intelligent non-horticulturist, I realize that the semi-dwarf fruit tree could not be that small; after all, it is a semi-dwarf, not a dwarf!

as a customer, my ability to determine what the overall size of the tree will be is more equated with Webster's 2nd definition, where "dwarf" is often left up to the imagination.

Now, I admit that there are true dwarf fruit trees, but not as many as people would think. The apples have a size that fits the expectations for a semi-dwarf, and fit into the average back yard. These are Apples on M27 rootstock and a few other apple rootstocks. They will keep an apple tree 8 feet tall, they will only grow where they have the best drainage, some must be staked, they must never go dry, and they are ugly. Does that fit the idea of a semi-dwarf?

Also, dwarf peaches and nectarines (genetic dwarfs), are on standard rootstock. They produce far too much fruit and need tremendous thinning. All you give up is the wonderful flavor of the choice regular varieties. They are OK, but not wonderful.

What about the semi-dwarf that says clearly on the label that it only grows 12 to 18 feet tall? Does the average customer have a clue what 12 to 18 vertical feet is? I don't think so. If they did, then they would question how 12 to 18 feet could possibly be considered manageable in an average backyard. A single story house is 12 to 15 feet tall. Does the average person want a tree as big as a house in their yard? I don't think so. Maybe an honest tree label would read: CAUTION, Semi-dwarf: May get as big as a house! Please prune to avoid this problem.

I guess that would make the Standard sized tree label read: CAUTION, standard: Will get as big as an apartment complex. Please purchase separate property for planting -- but I digress...

The point is, when did it become common knowledge that semi-dwarf rootstock eliminated pruning? And if yoiu have to prune for the sake of fruit production and size control, what difference does it make that the tree is on a standard or semi-dwarf rootstock?

The fact is, it's you who will determine to what size the tree will grow.
You have total control of the size of your tree.

Unless, that is, you let the thing go and the rootstock truly does determine the size.

Don't kid yourself; a semi-dwarf cherry is going to grow at least 18 to 25 feet on the best semi-dwarf rootstock.


- on the best semi-dwarf rootstock, the average peach and nectarine is going to get 15-20 feet of growth unless you prune.

- And the average plum will grow 15 to 18 feet unless you prune!

- The same is true for apricots, Asian pears and domestic pears.

- BIG Big big unless you prune!

Choose a rootstock for a fruit tree based on its ability to adapt to the soil conditions that you are faced with: i.e. heavy clay, sandy, cowiche, etc. This will help the tree to live.

Select a rootstock based on its resistance to known disease problems: i.e. oak root fungus, bacterial canker, brown rot, etc. This will help keep the tree alive.

Are these important things to consider:
If you agree, then why is it that semi-dwarf is still the main issue when the average person purchases a fruit tree?

Are these problems not an issue in most areas?

Yeah, right...I don't think so.

Let's face it; the public has been wooed by the same marketing practices for years.

The variety of dwarfing rootstocks available has been the same for the last 20 years, though home-lot sizes have gotten smaller.

So; if a semi-dwarf fruit tree was too big then, it's even more of a problem today when you consider the ratio of yard sizes to a Dwarf over time.


(Here's the Formula. Call me up & we'll talk it over...)

The new message is: PRUNE PRUNE PRUNE, and PRUNE.

Choose a size and don't let your tree get any taller! 3 feet, 4 feet, 6 feet, 8 feet: it does not matter.

Try Backyard Orchard Culture or do it traditionally.

Just control the tree size to compliment your available area.

You'll still get what your really want: more fresh fruit in your backyard throughout the season.

The Best of Health to You!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 11:09AM
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alan haigh

Olpea, that article seemed to have more value for entertainment than info. I pity the novice that thinks all they have to do is prune, prune, prune to maintain a fruitful, manageable tree of most any height. I could just imagine the endless cycle of stub cuts and excessively vigorous and vegetative regrowth. After a few years the poor sap would probably make the basal cut necessary to end the misery.

It takes a certain amount of knowledge to successfully keep any fruit tree in the desired form and nothing in the article suggests that this can be a bit complicated.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 1:31PM
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Well, because you asked about the word 'yield' I found this in Rodales Gardening guide under peaches. It says nothing about dwarf, but says a full size mature peach should yield 2 to 2 1/2 bushels. 'Smaller harvests are available 3 to 4 years after planting.'

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 5:26PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


I prefaced the essay by saying it was particularly relevant to peaches, especially when we are discussing semi-dwarf vs. standard peaches. It's much less applicable to something like standard sized apples.

Admittedly the article is not that sophisticated to discuss thinning cuts vs. stub cuts, or even the desired shape of the tree. I don't think that was the author's intent.

I think your reading too much into the article. It's not on the level of some of the pruning articles you've authored, but it's written to a different audience. It seems to me it's written as a wake up call to get the attention of a new grower that they can control height if they choose too, much in the same way as a espalier is controlled by aggressive pruning, or even more so in the case of a bonsai.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 7:19PM
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alan haigh

Opea, you don't need to defend the article. I just wanted to encourage any novice who might read it to go a little further, research wise, before following the authors advice- even for pruning peaches, which I find as difficult to manage as anything. Can't put a branch where I want to on the dam things.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 5:41AM
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Hi All,
This is Dave Griffin in central MN zone 4a and I'm the guy who posted the request looking for the "lost peach", 'Compac-Redhven' to use in my cold hardy breeding program a couple of weeks ago. Still looking, but I wanted to weigh in on the dwarfing rootstocks issue. I have the benefit of ad absurdum testing here on the tundra which has the effect of making little flaws into life or death events. This is what I have concluded for peaches on dwarf stocks in cold climates: They will change a risky cultivar on standard stocks into a certain failure for two reasons. 1. Since these rootstocks dwarf by starving the cultivar of nurtrients and water and because peaches are so dependent on lots of water during the growing season, they are more likely to produce a tree that is water stressed going into winter, especially in drought years. In my climate this is a sure winter killer, maybe the worst one. 2. Tender winter injured trees on dwarf stocks, especially peaches and sweets, just don't have enough vigor to recover from damage and will languish and almost always die the following winter. Of course, warmer climates are more forgiving of these flaws but they are flaws nevertheless as you may discover after a test winter or a drought no matter where you are.
By the way, Stark's Compac-Redhaven would be a much better way to get a dwarf tree that is 50%-80% of standard. Lets find that tree!


    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 9:59PM
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Dave again. I was interested to hear kokopelli5a's report on Polly peach. I wrote an article for POMONA on my search for Polly a few years ago and of finding it through a Dave Wilson dealer. After testing and retesting here, I don't think this is the same cultivar that went through all that cold weather at the western IA test station at Glenwood. Now hearing that yours is a small peach I am even more cononvinced of it. The DW Polly is very large with excellent aromatics and eating quality but it is not very hardy. It doesn't even come close to the top 5 or 6 hardiest commercial peaches. What was the source of your Polly? I would love to have the true Polly for hardiness breeding.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 6:32AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

Thanks Dave for chiming in.

What you've written makes sense, but I'm wondering, do you have any thoughts on the idea that water deprivation of fruit trees can actually accelerate dormancy, improving winter hardiness, and how this would relate to peach trees.

More frankly, is this idea a bunch of bunk for northern climates?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 11:40AM
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Hi Redhaven:

I probably got "Polly" from the same source you did: Bay Laurel Nursery on special order. The fruit is at least average size, especially for a 1920's release. I thin for maximum overall production and taste and even then I've broken branches two years in a row, so the fruit is only medium sized for me.

I'm not convinced its the hardiest peach out there. I expect most of these trick cold weather varieties are the same and probably better in that department. As a homegrower I favored taste and ordered it because of a favorable mention in a gardening book geared for Denver, Colorado. It got down to 18 below a month ago so I guess I'll find out about its survivability. I'm not too worried though.

I vaguely recall Jellyman a few years ago describing his uncle's white peach in Iowa that did not bear for several years before springing into production. that sounds suspiciously like my "Polly"

Yeah, I thought it ironic that Compac Redhaven is now a long-lost variety. I could swear I saw it being sold within the past ten years.

I disagree with you about dwarfing rootstock starving the tree. My fruit is average size, and the patent for 'Citation' claims oversize fruit. A vigorous grower just has a better chance. Plus, there's probably a survivorship bias at work--the second rate rootstocks introduced along the way get killed periodically, so the older rootstocks that are still around are naturally going to have a better chance of surviving what happens to get thrown at them.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 8:56PM
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Hi opelia,
Good question because I think there is some confusion about that. Peaches need an incredible amount of water - Rutgers says 36" per year during the growing season and the greatest amount is needed during the size-up period from pit hardening to ripening, which is also the hottest time of the year and a time when regular rains are unusual around here. Any water deprivation in this period will have bad consequences for the fruit and tree. After the fruit is off is when water deprivation will hasten dormancy and not hurt the tree, although if I had my druthers I'd take a long gradual fall that eases into winter and then it doesn't matter if it is also wet.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 10:04PM
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Hi kokopelli5,

Yeah I was afraid your Polly was my Polly. I have the Davis repository's Polly as a budded stock. Time will tell if that is any different. It will be interesting to see what your tree does after -18 F. I'd guess you're pretty close to the limit.
The trick to dwarfing rootstocks is that they dwarf the vegetative parts and not the fruit. I Frankly don't know how they can do this but they do - magic maybe. I dug up a seven year old pear on Old Home x Farmingdale 333 dwarfing stock and the entire root system fit into a 5 gal pail. Good enough for pears maybe but peaches need 35-40 gal of water per day for the last 30 days before they ripen, according to Rutgers. I can't imagine how all that water could get through that little pipe.
You may have indeed seen Compac-redhaven in the last 10 years. Stark just removed its mother trees last August. So close!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 10:27PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

Thanks for the clarification Dave.

You folks in zone 4 have issues growing peach trees I can only imagine. As I understand you, it's the timing of water deprivation which makes the difference. That makes sense. Perhaps depriving the trees of water earlier in the season negatively affects the ability of the tree to store carbohydrates for the winter, whereas if the water deprivation occurs later, the tree has already stored most of its reserves.

You may be interested there is an experienced grower on this forum who deliberately water-stresses his trees to concentrate the brix of his fruit. He's down in TX though, so winter-kill is never an issue.

Where I'm at, winter-kill generally isn't an issue either. But the trees can get canker, which of course can be exacerbated by sub-zero temps.


It's generally recognized dwarfing rootstocks dwarf by virtue of some degree of incompatibility with the scion. By definition, incompatibility involves reducing nutrients and/or water to the scion.

The claim that Citation produces larger fruit is interesting. This is pure conjecture on my part, but I wonder if it works somewhat on the same principle as girdling. People that hold world records for the largest peaches lightly girdle the shoots so that nutrients flow into the shoots from the tree, but are not allowed to flow from the shoot back down into the tree (sort of a one way carbohydrate valve which super-charges the girdled shoot and any fruit on it).

I could envision something similar from a rootstock designed w/ a slight degree of incompatibility. The rootstock would send carbohydrates up in the early development phase of peaches (when cell division occurs), but as the season progresses, some of the carbohydrates are prevented from flowing back down into the rootstock, and instead are utilized by the fruit. This would make the fruit larger, but the rootstock slightly depleted and more prone to winter injury in cold climates.

Just a theory. If it's wrong, I'll go with the magic.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 9:19AM
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Olpea, I like your explanation beter than magic. There is an apricot seedling here that produces larger fruit for all 5 varieties grafted on it than can be grown on the original trees, which are also on their own roots. Woops, back to the magic - there are no grafts involved for any of these trees. Unfortunately apricots cannot be propagated vegetativly - which is a major stumbling block for a rootstock.
The greenhouse peaches grown in China are also water stressed but the reason is to get them rushed to market. They are small because of the lack of water during size-up but that doesn't matter in China. I wonder it the TX peaches are also small and so then the high brix merely a matter of a higher sugar concentration in the relatively smaller fruit?
Also, around here canker follows winter injury to the trunk like clockwork.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 11:35PM
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I have seen Polly peach for sale at Gertens in Inver Grove Heights, MN as recently as 2010

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 12:18AM
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I will chime in here as well....

I have seen "Feral" peaches grown completely from seed.... and they usually top out at between 12 and 15 feet tall.... It seems to me that this is pretty much inline with the typical, mature size for a "Full size" peach in a commercial orchard....

It's not like Apples and Pears - where a "Full size" tree grown from seed could easily be 40' tall....

With peaches - It's not real hard to keep them a little smaller than the 12-15' tall and more well trained for maintenance sake.... Keeping them at 8 feet tall isn't really that hard...

I think if you are comfortable with the size of your average Dogwood tree - then you could easily deal with a normal Peach tree....

True "Dwarf" peach trees are itty bitty things... growing no bigger than an Azalea... Maybe 3-4' tall... As mentioned earlier - they typically give up a lot of flavor and vigor for that small size....


    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 10:12AM
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cindybird(Zone 5)

We bought a Redhaven from Grandpa's Orchard and planted in the fall of '11. I need to do my second spring pruning, running a little late on it.

We did have some blossoms but no fruit that first spring (not that I expected any!). It's probably around 8' tall right now.

It has tolerated the weather well so far.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 10:59AM
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