Peach Trees in Minnesota

rkinsellaApril 20, 2012

I've heard of some people successfully growing peach trees in the southern part of Minnesota. I live in the St Paul area (zone 4-b), and I'm determined to grow some peaches for our family to enjoy. So far, it's been very promising. Last summer I planted a Polly white peach tree, (zone 4-5 -20F) and it made it through our winter no sweat. (although it was a mild one) It has about a dozen flowers on it right now. If the tree fruits, I'll probably let about 4 or 5 fully develop. I'm excited about the possibility of biting into a fresh off the tree peach this summer.

So today, on a total impulse purchase...I picked up a Redhaven peach tree from a local nursery. I was so surprised to see it there, I just had to buy it. From what I've read, it's cold hardy, but a tree for zone 5. I thought about planting it in a 1/2 whiskey barrel, and moving it into the garage for the winter. But, excitement got the best of me and it's already planted in our yard. I have some ideas to help it through next winter, including an idea for a cover and lamp for some heat if some nights get close to -20F.

Anybody have experience with peaches in MN? Or pushing zone limits with other fruits?

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Every fruit or nut variety (be it plant, bush, or tree) in which I have pushed the zone limit has failed, sooner or later. That doesn't mean everyone will fail - if you have an area with a warmer microclimate then zone 5 rated plants might work for you. The problem is that you might have great success with a certain fruit tree, for example, and it will be happy and grow well for a couple of years, and then we will get hit by a hard winter, or a late hard spring frost, or some other extreme weather conditions that will cripple or kill it. This can be a very disheartening experience.

I personally know of six different people now that have tried growing the new "hardy" peach trees - all failed after a few years. But I also knew of a person who lived in New Ulm that had an older peach tree that consistently produced incredible amounts of delicious peaches - until the new homeowner didn't like the tree and cut it down. :(

Out of curiosity I inspected every tree that died. All were suckering from the grafted root stock which tells me that the buds froze out on every one of those peach trees. Too bad because I really wanted to try planting peach trees myself as well. No longer.

My point is this: It is a rather expensive experiment with a low chance of success. Why not find another fruit type that is tried-and-true, and is well known to grow successfully in your zone or even zone 3? You would then have very good odds of success. Have you ever tasted warm cherry pie made from freshly harvested Meteor or Montmorency cherries? A divine taste experience, and those fruit tree varieties grow quite well here.

Regarding your new peach tree - be aware that squirrels love peaches. My uncle's peach tree (the summer before it died) had a nice little crop on the tree but it was stripped bare by squirrels in one day. I have never in my life seen him so angry as the day that happened. The peach tree was a very negative experience for him because he was so proud of his little tree and had such high hopes of success, but he never got to taste so much as one peach for all the hope, cost, care, and effort he invested in it.

Wishing you success with your growing efforts, whatever you decide to do.


    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 1:31PM
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Sometime ago there was some discussion here about peaches in Minnesota. Maybe if you search some old posts you will be able to find it. Each time I push the zones I end up losing the plants. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 1:53PM
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Thanks for your info Tom. (solient green) I maybe should have mentioned, I have 11 other fruit trees on our property between 3 and 5 years old that are tried-and-true types. In addition, we also have blueberries, raspberries & gooseberries. So we pretty much have every fruit that can grow well in MN, and most have been really good producers. Yes, I agree with you, my homemade cherry pie using our North Star cherries is divine indeed! But I want to experiment with peaches. Why? Because it sounds fun, challenging, creative, and I very much enjoy the whole experience of growing fruit trees. (negatives included) It's a crop to me...there is always next year, and another tree to plant in the future.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 12:55AM
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That's cool. I understand the experimenting thing, and wish you the best of luck. I used to do a lot of experimenting but I find myself doing less of it as I get older - I think that happens to a lot of folks because the window starts to narrow regarding time frames (for example no point in my planting a butternut tree anymore because I doubt I will be around to ever harvest any nuts). If you are successful please report back regarding varieties, advice, etc. to help others avoid any pitfalls. That is what is so great about online gardening forums.

There was a good thread about peach trees which I located via site search but I noticed you had already posted on it so I did not put up the link. For posterity here it is:

BTW apricot trees do well here if you do not have any of those. Not my favorite but makes good pies and preserves. There are threads related to this topic available as well.

Pears and plums do well for us here too - I assume you have those in your orchard.

Best of luck,

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 4:35PM
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Hi Tom,

So I went a little crazy and planted 3 more peach trees since I last posted. I now have a Polly peach (planted last year, currently with 12 open blossoms & and another 14 yet to open) and a newly planted Redhaven, Reliance & Intrepid. I also put another dwarf Intrepid in a half whiskey barrel with handles, and I plan on moving that into the garage for the winter as another experiment. The location I chose is shaded most of day during the winter from our storage garage. From what I've read, that should help them to not break dormancy during warmer winter days. That should also remove the chance of sun scald. The location is also somewhat protected from west winds. So I'll keep you posted.

Yes, we have 2 apricot trees...a Moongold & Sungold. The Sungold blossomed on March 24th, and it looks like any chance of fruit this year was whiped out with the cold nights a couple weeks back. But the Moongold blossomed a little later and held up much better. I counted about 18 apricots starting.

We also have Superior & Toka plums that have been really good producers...I love that Toka...Zone 3 hardy! Also a Parker & Summercrisp pear (3 years old...yet to set fruit...but maybe this year.)

Our crabby neighbor hates our 2 black walnut trees. They are close to the property line, (came with the house) and he tells me at least once a week during the summer that we should cut down those messy trees. But they are about 30 years old, beautiful, and produce buckets of delicious nuts.
Not going to happen;)


    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 11:18AM
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I was not aware how many cold-hardy peach varieties were available now. Are they all rated hardy to zone 5 or are some up to zone 4 now?

If you have trouble moving the full barrel w/tree a furniture dolly might be helpful (or make a custom one with swivel wheels to fit the barrel half). I have a couple of them and use them to wheel in my container plants when severe summer storms arise (bad back). Avoided hail a couple of times last year. You could even leave it on the dolly and move the tree to shelter for the same reason to protect it or its crop. This is all assuming the tree would remain on or near concrete. The mobile peach.

You have a nice selection in your orchard. I have the same apricot tree varieties as you plus Manchurian. I also have Toka and Superior plus wild plums. I have Meteor, Montmorency, North Star cherries. Haralson, Honeygold, Macintosh, wild red and wild yellow crab, and three unknown (names forgotten) apple trees. Lost track of the names of my two pear varieties. Squirrels always take most of my pears but I have a neighbor that I get pears from in trade for garden veggies.

Bushes and Plants: Nanking bush cherry, sand cherry, Pixwell gooseberry plus wild American black, red and black raspberries, strawberries, Rovada, Pink Champagne, White, and Red Lake currants plus wild black, wild Elderberry, Concord grapes, garden huckleberries, cape gooseberry, ground cherries. In fall I harvest wild rose hips in the highway ditches. Most of this stuff goes into preserves - I like experimenting with flavor combinations.

I also harvest from wild Chokecherry, wild Black Cherry, and wild Red Mulberry. Occasionally I will take the fishing boat and go up the Minnesota river to harvest wild grapes from along the river banks - well worth the effort but hard to find the time the last couple of years.

My only real regret is that I cannot grow blueberries here. I tried and tried when younger with no success, then finally gave up. Now I just work with the abundance of varieties that grow well in my soil type.

Going to be a poor production year because many things bloomed too early and did not pollinate well. Many of my unopened apple blossom buds froze as well from a 23 degree night we had two weeks ago.

I also have black walnuts - I hear you regarding the mess, but my grandfather planted them over half a century ago so they stay. Two years ago I harvested three wheelbarrow loads of nuts. Got sick of them. Last year I collected them and fed them to the squirrels for winter entertainment. Now they have lots of healthy babies that will feed on my pears. ;)

Good luck with your new peach orchard!


    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 1:12PM
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Hi Tom,

Yeah, a number of the peach trees are rated zone 4. They include: Reliance, Contender, Intrepid, Carolina Gold & China Pearl. There's one from Wisconsin called McKay which they say is borderline zone 4/5. Polly and PF 24-C Flamin' Fury are also borderline 4/5. Numerous peaches for zone 5 including TrueGold & Redhaven. From what I've read, the biggest problem in zone 4 is that the tree makes it through a very harsh winter, but the fruiting wood & buds have winter injury. Then you have a peach tree that looks good during the summer with lots of new growth, but no blossoms or peaches. But then again, I guess you'd always be just one mild winter away from a good fruit set.

I made a platform on casters to roll the barrel up the driveway and into the garage, which is usually 12 degrees warmer than outside in the winter. So the winter should be a piece of cake for the mobile peach. I'll probably keep it pruned to about 5 feet and see what happens.

Very nice selection of fruit you are growing. I've always considered adding more apple trees. We only have one Honeycrisp, and a Prairie Fire Crab for cross pollination.

We are growing blueberries with pretty good success. I built a raised garden bed for them, and filled it with half soil and half peat moss. I also mixed in pine bark mulch, and I add pine needles on occasion. But every few weeks I still need to add the liquid fertilizer for acid plants to get the pH back in the 5 range. Otherwise the leaves turn that reddish color. So I hear your frustration.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 11:41PM
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I live in Golden Valley and have a Reliance peach tree from the Friends of School Plant Sale. This is the 4th year and there were buds, but i think they died b/c it got too cold this year, even though we covered them! We got 9-11 delicious fruits the first year we planted. Second year didn't have any blooms because it didn't get enough sun, so we moved it that fall 10 feet to get more sun. It survived the move got 11-14 peaches last year. I have to agree nothing beats fresh fruits picked from the tree. This was rated as zone 5.

I also have gooseberries and currants, more than we know what to do with. We also planted 2 mulberry trees that are also rated zone 5 and have gotten berries, except for the year where we got frost in May and killed the buds. We also have blueberries which have not grown well compared to the zone 5 trees! I commend you on trying new trees! I also bought asian pears rated for zone 5, but the deer ate all the limbs the first winter! Please post your success with fruit tree zone stretching!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 11:40PM
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Thanks for info icekream,

Here is an update on the two trees. Looks like the Polly peach has set 6 fruit. They are all in nice areas of the tree...facing west/south, a little towards the inside of the tree, and not shaded. Very exciting! The Redhaven did have a number of flowers when I planted it...but based on their location, and the fact that I want the energy to go to the leaves and roots this year, I decided to pull them all off. Currently I'm thinking of some tricks to protect my few "prized" peaches on the Polly tree. I might do a simple bird net. I've been doing some reading about Jefferson's garden and orchard at Montecello. Talk about zone stretching! Although he had a fantastic micro-climate there.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 1:45PM
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I planted a Red Haven peach last year in St. Paul and this year have a bunch of peaches on it! Some of them have some insect damage, but some look really nice. Any idea how I know when they're ripe??

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 10:23AM
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If a peach smells like a peach it is ripe.
This is the method I use in grocery stores and it never fails.

I have forty foot tall Mulberry tree up in Sauk Rapids area and never get berries as they are up there aways, but I see them lying on the patio.

I have three cherry trees and two are supposed to be a Choke Cherry but the birds get them and the one I got this year was yellow and did not taste like a Choke Cherry.

One other question for you fruit tree growers.
Do young Choke Cherry trees have maroon leaves or did seller give me a crab apple.
He is out of business as is the place I got the other two from.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 6:39PM
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I have grown peach trees in Minnesota for 3 summers now. I currently have Redhaven,Veteran, Reliance, Madison, Carolina Gold, Autumnstar and McKay. I received my advice on what to grow from a Peach Tree grower and researcher for peaches in Cold Spring, MN (zone 4a). As you can image he has quite low temperatures but he has had peach trees survive -29F. He has also had ones die at much lesser temperatures. One thing you have to realize is that peaches don't just die of absolute cold, they die of sunscald on cold sunny days , not going dormant soon enough or in deep dormancy for certain temperatures in early winter and in 2012 we saw peaches die of root injury from dry soil w/o snow. Growing peaches in MN is not just plant and wait. If nothing else I would recommend that you build up a pyramid around the tree of snow after the first snows and keep it going to insulate the roots and protect the trunk. You can also try tarping of the roots in fall to dry out the tree and get it to go dormant. That is more necessary in my experience if you have a wet fall which wasn't the problem in 2012. I don't believe the naysayers who say my tree died of exposure in 2012 in MN when I know those were NOT temperatures in the metro area that could kill a peach all alone. I lost a 1st year peach tree but it was obviously killed by having no snow cover due to drought for its roots when we had cold January temperatures that was enough.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 11:02PM
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Have you heard of Iowa Indian white freestone peaches? They are a rare heirloom variety that grows true to seed. I bought a few this year and have had 100% germination.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 10:58AM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

I don't believe the naysayers who say my tree died of exposure in 2012 in MN when I know those were NOT temperatures in the metro area that could kill a peach all alone.

If by "exposure" you are are talking about temperature only, then yes, I with ya. But...

I lost a 1st year peach tree but it was obviously killed by having no snow cover due to drought for its roots when we had cold January temperatures that was enough.

I would certainly classify that as exposure, too.

A good idea about tarping in the fall, but shouldn't the tarp be removed before heavy, permanent snow? I'd hate for that advice to be taken as is, without being complete. With a tarp remaining into the early spring, dessication stress might be brutal.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 4:42PM
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Anyone ever put any of Sepp Holzer's practices to use? The guy can grow tropical and subtropical plants in the alps with careful placement of ponds and rocks.

I've never tried it, but his book is pretty inspiring.
This youtube video is kind of a synopsis of the book.

Here is a link that might be useful: Farming With Nature - Permaculture with Sepp Holzer

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 7:12PM
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Hello there: I write a column, "Pushing the Zone", for Northern Gardener and I'm interested in following up on your peach-growing experience. You can email me at or leave a post here for me.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 11:30AM
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I'd like to bump this thread for a couple of reasons:

1. Last year we had a winter that was at least one zone colder than our USDA area. So, I'm curious how the Peach trees did.

2. I'm technically in Zone 4 (Central Wisconsin near Custer, WI). I planted a lot of "Zone 3" apples, cherries, plums, pears, etc. and I'm interested in trying a few Peach Trees next year.

So, for those that have tried this how did they do? Advice?



    Bookmark   December 21, 2014 at 12:03PM
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    Bookmark   December 23, 2014 at 6:58PM
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I live in Green Bay WI, zone 4-5. Summer of 2013 I had tons of Reliance peaches on 4 trees that are from 10 to 3 years old, and tons of Bartlett Pears on my 1 tree that is 35 years old. Then the "Polar Vortex" winter. This spring - 2014 - My peach trees had lots of flowers, but not 1 peach. My pear tree had about 9 flowers and no pears.
All trees had good leaf cover this year.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2014 at 9:55PM
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I planted contender, reliance, intrepid and blushingstar spring of 2013. The severe winter killed them all to the ground. We're just north of Minneapolis and our low backyard hit -30. We replanted all 4 varieties this spring plus a mericrest nectarine and a sweet cherry. Four are in the ground fairly close together and tented with two layers of 6 mil plastic with a 500 watt light I turn on for cold nights. 2 are in half whiskey barrels in my garage also tented with a light. The other night when it was -10 the outside tent was 20 above. Hopefully this extra protection will do the trick. Btw I did get about 20 contender peaches in late August, they were excellent!

    Bookmark   January 8, 2015 at 12:12PM
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