Widely popular for their sweet, juicy fruits and beautiful blossoms, Peach trees are actually plagued by so many different pests and diseases that they should probably only be planted by the horticulturally dedicated homeowner. A low, broad tree, 15 to 25 feet tall with an equal or greater spread, Peach trees form a rounded crown with upwardly-reaching branches clothed in three to six-inch-long, dark green, deciduous leaves. The lovely flowers which appear in April before the new leaves unfold are available in single, semi-double, and double forms in colors ranging from pure white to deep red and bicolors. The flowers are susceptible to damage by late spring frosts or especially cold winters. The luscious three-inch-diameter fruits mature in July to August. Bright yellow fall color really stands out in many years.
Scientific name: Prunus persica
Pronunciation: PROO-nus PER-sick-uh
Common name(s): Peach
USDA hardiness zones: 5B through 8B (Fig. 2)
Origin: not native to North America
Invasive potential: little invasive potential
Uses: hedge; fruit; highway median; Bonsai; espalier
Availability: not native to North America
Height: 15 to 25 feet
Spread: 15 to 25 feet
Crown uniformity: irregular
Crown shape: round
Crown density: dense
Growth rate: fast
Leaf arrangement: alternate (Fig. 3)
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: serrate, serrulate
Leaf shape: lanceolate, elliptic (oval)
Leaf venation: brachidodrome, pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: deciduous
Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches, 4 to 8 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: yellow
Fall characteristic: showy
Flower color: white/cream/gray, pink, red
Flower characteristics: showy
Fruit shape: round
Fruit length: 3 to 6 inches
Fruit covering: fleshy
Fruit color: yellow, red
Fruit characteristics: attracts birds; showy; fruit/leaves a litter problem
Trunk and Branches
Trunk/bark/branches: branches droop; not showy; typically multi-trunked; thorns
Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure
Current year twig color: reddish, green
Current year twig thickness: thin, medium
Wood specific gravity: unknown
Light requirement: full sun, partial sun or partial shade
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; acidic; well-drained
Drought tolerance: moderate
Aerosol salt tolerance: unknown
Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: no
Outstanding tree: no
Ozone sensitivity: tolerant
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: susceptible
Pest resistance: sensitive to pests/diseases
Use and Management
They have been successfully used in medians of boulevards and around parking lots in a number of Texas communities. They make effective screens for six to seven-months due to their dense, low-branching habit, but are not particularly attractive in winter. Avoid excessive pruning as this stimulates internal sprouting. Many trees live only 8 to 15-years.
Peach trees should be located in full sun or partial shade on very well-drained, moist, acid soils. The trees should be kept on a regular spray and fertilization schedule to insure best fruit production but this is not needed if fruit is not important. Do not allow water to stand around the roots.
Propagation is by cuttings or grafting.
Aphids cause distortion of new growth, deposits of honeydew, and sooty mold.
Borers attack flowering Peach. Keep trees healthy with regular fertilizer applications.
Scales of several types infest Prunus spp. Horticultural oil is used for some control of scales.
Spider mites cause yellowing or stippling but they are very difficult to see.
Tent caterpillars make large webbed nests in trees then eat the foliage. One defoliation may not be serious and small nests can be pruned out and destroyed. Use Bacillus thuringiensis when the insects are first seen and are still small.
Peach leaf curl can attack flowering Peach. The leaves have red, curled, and distorted areas.
A bacterium causes leaf spot and twig cankers on Peach. Small, reddish spots dry, and drop out, giving a shot holed appearance. Defoliation can be severe when conditions favor disease development. Fertilize infected trees and prune out infected branches.
A fungus causes reddish spots which drop out leaving shot holes. Once the holes appear the leaves may drop. The disease is worse in wet weather, but usually does not require control measures.
Black knot causes black swellings or galls on the branches. Branches with galls are pruned out.
Powdery mildew causes a white coating on the leaves.
Peach trees may be subject to witches broom. Branches are deformed and clusters of small branches form. Infected branches bloom and leaf out earlier. Brooms are pruned out.