How to grow peaches in your sub-tropical Florida Garden!
Prunus persica 'Florida Prince'
It has taken 45 years of research and very hard work, but finally Florida scientists have come up with peach trees that will not only grow, but produce fruit in Florida as far south as Miami!
Developed by University of Florida researchers with cooperation from Florida growers, the Florida Prince Peach was specifically created to produce in the warmer climates of Florida. The result is a delicious and juicy early-season peach.
Here you see a peach tree growing in the Mounts Botanical Garden in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The great thing about the Florida Prince Peach is that it needs only 150 "chill hours" to produce flowers, new leaves and fruit -- that is 150 hours of temperatures at or below 45 degrees fahrenheit.
Althought the chilling hours are down, there are still some issues to be aware of when growing peaches in South Florida. The first issue is the Caribbean fruit fly which lays eggs in the developing fruit and spoils it. Because of these critters you will need to bag the peaches to keep the fruit fly out of them (like you would do to keep them out of papaya fruit). Another issue is soil chemistry. Peach trees do not like high pH (alkaline) soil (found where there is limestone or shell underlying the soil). In high pH soils, certain nutrients are chemically unavailable to peach trees which causes deficiencies of iron, zinc and others. However, micronutrient and chelated iron sprays can be applied to prevent nutrient deficiencies.
You will also want to look for grafted trees using a cultivar called Florida Guard or Nemaguard as the rootstock so the trees can tolerate the harmful nematodes that live in Florida soils.
Peach trees are hardy and fast growing and should be planted in good, rich soil that is well-drained, mulched and in a location that provides plenty of sun. If the trees remain healthy and are maintained through pruning (see this article from IFAS for pruning tips), thinning and feeding, they should begin to bear fruit in their second year. Harvesting time for mature trees can range anywhere from 80 to 95 days with harvesting beginning in early May and lasting through mid-June. Because Florida experiences a heavy rainy season during the summer months, it's very important that the peaches are harvested before the rainy season begins.
Trees should be treated three to four times a year for insect and fungus control when buds begin to appear and again during the summer months.
Botanical Name: Prunus persica "Florida Prince"
Common Name: Peach
Origin: West Asi
Leaves: Deciduous; Alternate, simple, lanceolate, serrated, 3 to 6" long, often curved along midrib, shiny dark green above, paler below.
Flowers: Pink to lavender, 1" across, solitary but often close together, appearing in early spring.
Fruits: Fuzzy drupe, 3" across, yellow and red, hard, ribbed "free" pit inside encloses the seed, very delicious and juicy, ripens in early summer.
Twigs: New growth is red and green, later turns gray-brown, buds are blunt and gray fuzzy, spur shoots present.
Bark: Dark gray, initially smooth with elongated lenticels, later splits and becomes irregularly scaly.
Form: A small tree up to 15ft with a spreading crown.
Plant in: Full Sun; Rich, well drained soil; Water regularly
Available from Top Tropicals, local retailers and other sellers online. Further reading: IFAS Florida Peaches, New Florida Peach Is Sweet News For Consumers And Growers