By Erin Marissa Russell
If you live in a dry area or one that experiences drought, it can be hard to find the right fruit trees for your garden. That’s why we’ve collected this list of fruit trees that are drought tolerant. We’ve got all the vital details about what the trees look like, the fruit they produce, and what kind of environment they need to thrive.
Zones: 6 through 9
Che trees also go by the names Chinese mulberry, cudrang, Mandarin melon berry, silkworm thorn, and storehouse bush. These trees aren’t common in the US but are often grown in China as a source of food and medicine. Che is a low maintenance tree that doesn’t require a lot of time and energy from the gardener.
It’s an especially good choice if birds tend to nibble on your harvests, as gardeners say the birds leave their che fruits alone. The fruits are marble-sized and red, with a textured skin that makes them resemble overgrown raspberries. They are subtly sweet, with flavor notes like fig, melon, and mulberry.
Che trees can be grown in soil of all types as long as it is not too wet. Full sun is usually best, as the trees thrive in 80 percent to 100 percent sunshine. One gardener recommended trees grafted onto Osage orange, which don’t normally grow higher than 15 feet tall.
Zones: 8 through 10
Figs are trees that spread out, with gorgeous foliage and delicious fruit. The fruits are delicious fresh, dried, or used in preserves and have a flavor and texture that really can’t be compared to anything else. You have probably tasted them in Fig Newtons.
Fig trees can get up to 30 feet tall, with a spread of 10 to 20 feet. They do well in full sun or partial shade. Soil for fig trees should be rich in organic material and moist, while providing good drainage. The trees need protection under 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
Zones: 6 through 9
Alternative names for the jujube tree include ber, Chinese date, dunks, Indian cherry, Indian jujube, Indian plum, Korean date, Malay jujube, or masau. The fig-sized fruits taste a bit like apple, with a tangy bite. Jujube trees have droopy branches, though they can grow up to 40 feet tall. The branches are droopy and the trees are a bit spiny.
Jujube trees are easy to grow and should be planted in full sun. Soil should be average and moderately moist with good drainage. You can plant jujube trees in alkaline soil.
Zones: 8 through 10
Loquat trees are also referred to as Japanese medlar or Japanese plum trees. The round or pear-shaped fruits are juicy and have one or more seeds. They are a little sweet and a little tart, with a citrus-like flavor. Before the fruits appear, there are white flowers with five petals and a sweet smell.
Grow loquats in fertile loamy soil that is moist but has good drainage. They do best in full sun to partial shade. Loquats sometimes grow in an upright tree formation and sometimes have a more spreading growth habit, like a shrub. The trees can reach 10 to 25 feet tall, with the same spread.
Zones: 9 through 12
Mamoncillo fruits, also called Spanish lime, taste like a mixture of lime and lychee. The fruits are tangy and sweet, with a large seed inside. Because of how the flesh clings to the seed, Emily Han at The Kitchn recommended sucking on the fruit like it’s a hard candy as the best way to eat it.
Although the tree is called Spanish lime, it is not really related to the citrus family and is instead a member of the soapberry family. (These trees also go by the names of chenette, gnep, guinep, guaya, limoncello, kenepa, knippa, and quenette.) You can keep a mamoncillo tree pruned to around seven feet or let it grow. They have a maximum height of 40 to 80 feet tall. The tiny flowers appear on flowering spikes at the end of branches and are pale green and fragrant.
If your region gets above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll want to plant mamoncillo trees in partial shade and give them a bit of extra water. Mamoncillo is tolerant of drought, but not when it occurs in conjunction with high temperatures. Soil should have good drainage and can be low in organic material or high in it. The pH level should be acidic to slightly alkaline (5.6 to 7.8).
Zones: 10 through 11
Mango trees flower in winter, with white blossoms dotting the dense canopy of the tree from December to March. The fruit appears three to five months after the flowers. Mangos have apricot-colored or yellow flesh and are normally an oval shape. The mangos your tree bears will be sweet with a tropical flavor.
Young mango trees will need regular watering, but the established trees can easily weather drought conditions. They can be grown directly in the ground but are often grown in containers.
Plant mango trees in full sun where the soil is loamy and moist, with good drainage. Mature trees reach heights of up to 100 feet tall, with a spread of 30 feet.
Zones: 4 through 8
Mulberry trees are easy to grow and grow quickly. However, they are a bit messy with their blackberry-like fruits. Watch out for seedless cultivars of mulberry trees that will not bear fruit. The unripe fruits and the leaves of mulberry trees contain a latex that is mildly toxic to humans, so be careful about growing mulberry trees where children play unsupervised.
There are lots of hybrids to choose from as well as black mulberry (Morus nigra), white mulberry (Morus alba), and red mulberry (Morus rubra). Morus alba “Kingan” is an especially drought tolerant variety. However, white mulberry is considered invasive in the Midwest and certain other locations, where it should not be grown as the way birds spread the seeds is uncontrollable.
Mulberry trees can reach 30 to 60 feet tall and 20 to 40 feet wide. However, it isn’t just their above-ground height that you should take into account. Their roots grow quickly, and there are lots of them. Plan ahead by placing your mulberry tree away from your house’s foundation, your garage, or your driveway. You should also keep your mulberry tree away from utility pipes and sewage lines.
Zones: 4 through 9
Persimmon trees are known for the squat little pumpkin-orange fruits they produce, which are sweet when ripe and bitingly sour when underripe. The persimmon flavor is something like honey and has a texture similar to custard. Diospyros kaki is the most common type of persimmon and is also called Asian persimmon or Japanese persimmon.
The persimmon tree is a bit slower to grow than some other fruit trees, and you’ll have to wait seven to 10 years for the tree to start putting out fruit. However, you can still appreciate their blue-green foliage that blazes with color in autumn.
Persimmon trees can be grown in full sun, though they can be planted where they will get some afternoon shade in warm areas. Ideally, they should be grown in loamy soil, though they will tolerate other types as long as the soil is not salty and as long as it provides good drainage. The best pH range for growing persimmons is between 6.5 and 7.5. Mature persimmon trees grow to between 35 and 50 feet tall.
Zones: 8 through 10
The pineapple guava plant is also known by the name feijoa. You’ll love pineapple guava not only for its fruit but for its unique edible flowers, which feature pink and white petals around an explosion of thin red stamens. After the flowers come round, blue green or gray green fruit. The green pulp inside is described as tasting like a mixture of banana, guava, kiwi, and pineapple.
Pineapple guava trees are easy to grow and resistant to infestation or disease. For best results, grow in full sun. Add a bit of afternoon shade if your area has especially hot summers. Pineapple guava grows best in rich soil that offers good drainage and has a slightly acidic to neutral pH level. They will also tolerate salt in the air and the soil, making them a good bet in coastal environments.
Very hot temperatures aren’t good for pineapple guava trees, and you may notice some problems if the temperature gets above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Though the established trees are drought tolerant, if conditions continue you may notice a drop in fruit production. Mature trees grow to between 10 and 15 feet tall, with the same spread.
You’re probably already familiar with the fruit of the pomegranate tree, but if not you’re in for a treat. Break open the spherical cranberry-colored fruit to reveal jewel-like seeds surrounded in tart pulp. Each little droplet is delicious and completely edible—you can consume the seeds right along with the fruit.
Pomegranate trees range widely in size, from dwarf varieties that top out at three feet tall to standard-sized trees that can reach 20 to 30 feet tall. In addition to producing delicious fruit, the trees are beautiful, with the contrast between the deep green foliage and the pomegranates. They also burst into bloom, with red tubular blossoms that entice pollinators like hummingbirds to visit the garden.
Pomegranate trees can thrive in the sunniest parts of your garden that can cause sunscald in other plants. They thrive in warmth and sunshine, though they will tolerate partial shade if needed. Ideally, you should grow pomegranate trees in acidic, loamy soil, though they can do well in just about any soil type, including alkaline or poor soil.
Now you’ve heard our recommendations for the best fruit trees that are drought tolerant. Pick a few that will fit well in your garden to raise, and you’ll have beautiful trees and delicious fruit no matter what the weather is like.