If you're interested in expanding your food-growing capabilities with fruit trees, you'll want to make sure that you buy cultivars that are adapted to Midwest winter temperatures and soil conditions.
Not all fruits are adapted to all areas of our states.
Here are some questions about cultivars with answers from horticulturists at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. For more information, contact the ISU Hortline at 515-294-3108 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Can plums be successfully grown in Iowa and Illinois?
A: Cold hardiness is an important factor when selecting plum cultivars. Japanese plums are not reliably cold hardy in Iowa and Illinois. However, several European and hybrid plum cultivars can be successfully grown.
These include ‘Mount Royal,’ ‘Stanley,’ and ‘Damson.’
‘Mount Royal’ produces small fruit with a bluish black skin and greenish yellow flesh and can be grown throughout Iowa and Illinois.
‘Stanley’ (dark blue skin, greenish yellow flesh) and ‘Damson’ (blue skin, yellow flesh) are not reliably cold hardy in the northern parts of Iowa and Illinois, but can be successfully grown in the southern two-thirds of the states.
Several hybrid plum cultivars possess excellent cold hardiness and can be successfully grown throughout the states.
‘Alderman’ (burgundy red skin, yellow flesh), ‘Pipestone’ (red skin, golden yellow flesh), ‘Superior’ (red skin, yellow flesh), and ‘Underwood’ (dull red skin, yellow flesh) are hybrid plums introduced by the University of Minnesota. BlackIce, developed at the University of Wisconsin - River Falls, has purple-black skin and deep red flesh.
European plums are self-fruitful. A single tree will bear fruit. Hybrid plums are self-unfruitful. Two or more hybrid plum cultivars must be planted to ensure cross-pollination and fruit set. ‘Toka’ is an excellent pollinator for ‘Alderman,’ ‘Superior,’ ‘Underwood,’ BlackIce™, and other hybrid plums.
Q: Can apricots be successfully grown in Iowa and Illinois?
A: Again, cold hardiness is an important factor when selecting apricot cultivars. Many cultivars are not reliably cold hardy in Iowa and Illinois. However, a few cultivars can be successfully grown in the states. ‘Moorpark’ is reliably cold hardy in the southern two-thirds of Iowa and Illinois.
‘Moorpark’ is self-fruitful. A single tree will bear fruit. ‘Moongold’ and ‘Sungold’ (University of Minnesota introductions) possess excellent cold hardiness and can be successfully grown throughout the states. ‘Moongold’ and ‘Sungold’ are self-unfruitful. Plant at least one tree of each cultivar for cross-pollination and fruit set.
Growing apricots in Iowa and Illinois can be challenging. Apricots bloom earlier than other tree fruits and are susceptible to damage from late spring frosts. A late freeze can severely damage or destroy the flowers, resulting in little or no crop. In Iowa and Illinois, gardeners can anticipate a good crop about once every three years. Apricots are also short-lived. Trees typically survive for 10 to 15 years.
Q: Can sweet cherries be successfully grown in Iowa and Illinois?
Most sweet cherries don’t perform well in Iowa or Illinois. ‘Gold,’ BlackGold, and WhiteGold are sweet cherry cultivars that can be successfully grown in the southern two-thirds of Iowa and Illinois.
‘Gold’ has golden yellow skin. It is self-unfruitful. Another late blooming sweet cherry cultivar must be planted for pollination and fruit set. BlackGold and WhiteGold are self-fruitful, mid to late blooming cultivars from Cornell University in New York.
BlackGold has dark red skin, while WhiteGold is light yellow with a reddish blush. ‘Hedelfingen’ (self-unfruitful, red fruit), ‘Kristin’ (self-unfruitful, purplish black fruit), ‘Sam’ (self-unfruitful, dark red fruit), and ‘Van’ (self-unfruitful, reddish black fruit) are additional sweet cherry cultivars that can be grown in southeastern Iowa and southwester Illinois. Plant at least two different cultivars for cross-pollination and fruit set.
Q: Can peaches be successfully grown in Iowa and Illinois?
A: Most peach cultivars are not reliably cold hardy in Iowa and Illinois. However, ‘Reliance’ (yellow flesh, freestone), ‘Contender’ (light yellow flesh, freestone), and ‘Polly’ (white flesh, clingstone) can be grown in areas south of US Highway 30. Peaches are self-fruitful and do not require another cultivar for cross-pollination.
Growing peaches in Iowa and Illinois can be disheartening. The flower buds on peach trees can be destroyed by low winter temperatures. If the flower buds survive the winter, the flowers can be destroyed by a late frost or freeze in spring. As a result, peach trees often bear poorly. Gardeners can anticipate a good crop about once every three or four years.
Peach trees are also short-lived. Trees seldom survive more than 10 years due to damage from low winter temperatures, diseases, and insects.