Growing unusual fruit in Pa

glieseJanuary 3, 2008

Hi all. I'm a fan of fruiting plants who hasn't yet visited this part of the forum. After searching through the 33 pages of past posts and not finding what I was looking for, I figured I might as well start a thread.

For a while now, I've only been looking at tropical fruit that don't stand a chance outside. However, I've recently discovered that I've been an idiot to ignore the fact that there's a lot more than apples I can grow here in zone 5, but I'd like to see if anyone has had a good experience with any of the ones that I'm looking to plant. My nice long list is: Pawpaw, Quince, Goumi, Gooseberry/Currant, Elderberry, Ginkgo, Saskatoon berry, Blue Bean Bush (Decaisnea fargesii), Bannana Yucca ( Yucca baccata), Nanny berry (Viburnum lentago), Americian/Lotus Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana/lotus), Seaberry, Spice Bush (Lindera benzoin), Chequer tree (Sorbus torminalis), Kousa Dogwood (Cornus Kousa chinensis), and (if and only if I can find evidence that it won't be invasive in this area) Lycopene Berry (Elaegnus umbellata). I'd also like to grow some sort of rose with edible hips and a frost hardy opuntiod cactus. The only one of those I've ever actually seen is the Ginkgo growing in the PSU Altoona campus, but, although the rest should be hardy in zone 5, I was wondering if anyone had any experience with any of the above mentioned species. I'd like to make sure that they've got a chance before spending any money.

I'd also like to know if anyone knows if any type of Jujube tree is hardy to zone five. The infamous TyTy nursery claims they are (and they also claim that a pomegranate cultivar called Plantation Sweet is hardy to zone five). I'm not going to order from them any time soon after what I've heard about them, but can anyone here back up or refute these claims?

While I'm on the topic, does anyone know of any nurseries that carry anything of the sort in the central Pa area? I was planning on getting them from several mail order sources (no single one has all that, unfortunately), but would much rather buy local, provided its not too costly. Also, does anyone here grow any other type of unusual fruit they could recommend?

Thanks (Sorry for the long post)

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ladyslppr(z6 PA)

I have grown a couple of the plants you asked about. I planted currants in Johnstown years ago and had very good success. The soil was a moist, clayey, probably acidic soil. Two bushes each had loads of berries every summer. I found the berries pretty sour, but the birds loved them. I got my plants from Burpee, I think, and they were a standard red garden currant. Very easy to grow.

Wild elderberry is very common in PA, and should be no problem to grow. They pop up by themselves all the time in my yard in State College.

Spicebush is common in parts of PA in the wild. With reasonably moist soil they should do fine. Only female shrubs get berries, but you need at least at a couple of males. Where they occur in the wild it is often possible to find tons of seedlings that you could transplant. Unfortunately you can't tell if a seedling is male or female until it grows large enough to bear flowers. I have not heard of people eating them, but birds love the berries.

Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) is VERY invasive and is one of the most invasive plants in open woods and fields of PA. I don't think anyone should ever plant it. However, if you want berries it shouldn't be hard to find lots of wild ones in the fall.

Ginkgo is a fairly common street tree. I think you'd have no trouble growing one anywhere in the state.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 5:26PM
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Thanks. I guess I'll skip the E. umbellata. Too bad. According to, the spice bush's powered fruit can be used as an allspice substitute, as well as, and I quote, 'The new bark is pleasant to chew.' They gave it a 3/5 ranking for edibility, so I'll give it a shot. Do you happen to know the names of any superior fruiting strains of currant or elderberry?

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 6:30PM
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nick_17815_pa(NE_PA z6)

Great Thread, I've been interested in growing some alternative fruits myself. I've had dwarf indoor pomegrante plants that I put outside every summer, but being dwarf the fruit is simply ornamental. I was tempted to get some of the pomegrante varieties that Ty Ty offers and claim to hardy in our zone.. Maybe this spring, but if anyone has any experience with that nursery at all, I'd be interested in hearing about it.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 6:46PM
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Well, I've never ordered from them myself, but from what I hear, they threatened to sue Dave's Garden if they didn't remove their site from the Garden Watchdog portion of the site due to the overwhelming number of negative comments posted about them. The Better Business Bureau site says they've gotten 50 complaints in the last 36 months. Not a good sign. I found a few links to other discussions about them that you might want to read first. If you put TyTy and Dave's Garden into Google, you'll find more of the same.
A Gardenweb thread on the subject
Another GW forum thread
A pretty long thread about them
BBB's site
I was considering ordering from them just a short while ago (a few days ago, when I stumbled across all this, actually, hence the reason I asked if Jujubes can do what Tyty says they can), but after reading all that, I'll take my business elsewhere, which is unfortunate because it looked like they had nice stuff.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 8:43PM
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For a very rare, vigorous, non-invasive and healthy fruit, do a search for Vietnamese Gac. But it is not cold hardy.

70 times the lycopene of tomatoes and 10 times the beta-carotene of carrots, in a mild tasting, easily prepared oil readily mixed with many foods.

There is some mention on other forums.......

Here is a link that might be useful: wikipedia link for gac.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 7:14AM
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alisande(Zone 4b)

We've grown currants here in NEPA and I saw gooseberries in someone else's garden. Elderberries are all over the place.

I'm surprised to hear that Autumn Olive is invasive. We planted two Cardinal Autumn Olive bushes 30 years ago, and we still have only two. Their shining moment came about 20 years ago when migrating Bohemian Waxwings covered them, passing down berries from one to the other.

I haven't done the research, but my understanding is that most rose hips are edible but some varieties produce larger hips than others. For large hips I recommend the rugosas. They have other fine attributes, too, like great cold hardiness and disease resistance. Which rugosa you choose depends in part on what size plant you want. I have four in my garden: Roseraie de l'Hay and Blanc Double de Coubert grow large, and Dart's Dash and Wildberry Breeze top out at three or four feet.


    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 11:10AM
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ladyslppr(z6 PA)

Like a lot of invasive plants, Autumn Olive spreads by seed, not vegetatively, so the extra plants produced by your original two (and I bet there are a thousand of them) may be miles from your garden. Birds eat the berries then pass the seeds, so the bushes can spread anywhere the birds can fly, which could be a long way with Bohemian Waxwings! I have not ordered from TyTy nursery, but they have a terrible reputation on gardenweb. I have also read that you should avoid other nurseries near TyTy Georgia, I assume because they might simply be new names for the same old Ty Ty Nursery.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 4:23PM
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alisande(Zone 4b)

Ladyslppr, I guess I shouldn't be surprised because the same nursery that sold us the Autumn Olives sold us rosa multiflora. Talk about a planting mistake! Back then they were touted as a wonderful hedgeÂa wildlife shelter that bloomed sweet-smelling roses. That was all true, except for the wonderful part. It didn't take us long to regret the purchase, but it was years before my son pulled the huge plants out with a truck.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 9:26PM
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I have a relative with several Kousa Dogwoods in his yard, so I intend to plant a few myself. I also plan to plant the blue bean and pawpaw. I'll let you know how that works out since I'm just getting to PA. We have elderberries and currants growing wild in our yard already, as well as lycopene berries. Lycopenes are considered invasive and I tend to agree as I've seen them EVERYWHERE in Western PA in the last three years I've been in the area. My persimmon died, but that was probably due to neglect because I had to leave the state shortly after planting it (since I was still living in VA). I plan to plant another because I bought it from a nursery in Ohio that I found on eBay. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 4:16PM
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Last year I collected pawpaw fruit from a nearby county park. I ate the fruit which tastes like banana custard. I saved the seeds washed the fruit residue off them and placed them in a plastic bag on a moistened paper towel. I them put that in the refrigerator until this spring when I took the seeds out and planted them in 4" pots. I now have about a dozen seedlings in pots which I will probably sink in the ground to over winter. I don't think you would have any problem growing pawpaws in our state.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 12:42PM
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