Colorado peaches - root stock?


We’re looking to plant two peach trees near Denver 6a (though I’d call 5), and am not so educated on root stocks. One local nursery owner who knows fruit fairly well suggested standards will be the most drought tolerant and resilient to the relatively harsh and changing Colorado weather conditions. However, I’m hoping to have more easily maintainable and harvestable trees.

Previously we had 2 peach trees… an Elberta, and I think maybe a New Haven for about 3-4 years before selling that home… they had not produced yet. 3-4 years after planting, these trees were maybe 10’ across and I want to say they were maybe 8-10’ high at the end of summer (pruned winter). I don’t know what root stock they were on.

I’d like to keep trees to a similar size with pruning, and also understand our harsher conditions may naturally produce a smaller tree than the traditional root stock size.

Should I be aiming for a semi-dwarf tree, to be able to keep them to the size stated in Colorado, or is that really a dwarf root stock?

Do certain root stocks produce a more cold-hardy tree?

Are there specific root stock recommendations for peaches my climate, assuming I do not want a massive tree, but do want a tree that can sustain?


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Some people have been grafting Peach onto American Plum,(Prunus americana)with success and the tree will go to zone 3.There may be a few places,possibly Fedco Seed,that uses this as a root stock.
Height control can be done in the Summer,so getting a standard,semi or dwarf shouldn’t be too


Pruning Peach Trees

Check out this link. Basically, trees can and should be easily kept within your desired size.


In the US common rootstock used for peaches - Halford, Bailey, Lovell, Nemaguard, Guardian, Citation, St Julian. Nemaguard is not cold hard, there is conflicting information on Guardian. Bailey is considered slightly more cold hardy than Lovell or Halford. Citation and St Julian are plum rootstock and are not noted to be cold hardy. Bailey has the best rep, Virginia does not see the extreme temps you will experience so I cannot comment from my personal experience. If you want trees on Bailey rootstock you should find them at ACN Nursery,

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Peaches can grow pretty well in the Denver region. Elberta and Red Haven both do well. I just planted a peach tree this spring, it’s a Red Haven on Lovell. That’s a standard size tree that I plan to control with pruning. I planted an Elberta on dwarf stock that I bought at Lowe’s at my first house about 16 years ago and it was a great tree that is still alive to this day. At my wife’s house (when we were still dating) I planted another Elberta on semi-dwarf from Lowes that turned out to be a white fleshed nectarine(I can’t recommend Nects here, everything under the sun eats or damages them). I then planted a Dwarf Bonanza and a semidwarf Elberta from local nursery. The Bonanza just wasn’t a good peach but the tree is very pretty. The semi-dwarf Elberta got bacterial canker within 2-3 years and struggled from that point on. Then we had a freak polar air blast in September about 7 years where the temperature went from 70 to -12F in about 24 hours. It killed the vast majority of peach and cherry trees in Denver Metro area. I must have done well with site selection when I planted that dwarf Elberta because it made it!
I have met a handful of people in the last few years here with peach trees that they just grew from a pit, most are so-so. My neighbors pit grown tree made insipid peaches it’s first harvest but last year they were very good. That tree is a multitrunked unruly beast. She has no idea how to prune it and doesn’t follow offered advice.
So, basically I think you can probably go any way you want. They say that standards fair the dryness here the best, but if irrigated it doesn’t seem to matter. The biggest challenge really is just getting a tree that isn’t a standard if that’s what you want. Bacterial canker, early season aphids, and blossom killing frosts are our biggest challenges. Oh, and peach tree borers too!!!

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Other trees you can go semi dwarf or dwarf well irrigated with rootstocks but peaches you want on lovell, bailey or seedling rootstock like cis4elk says and txpanhandle says you can prune to control size. The main thing you want are things that can handle snap frosts. All my peaches on lovell rootstock made it through the snap frost cis4elk described.

Thanks, everyone - this is really great information, and it is also great to see some other Colorado persons sharing information! Very helpful!

I did a fair bit of learning about pruning on my prior peaches, and got to pruning them quite aggressively. It sounds like standard root stock, pruned to almost dwarf size, is not far out of the norms. It is entirely possibly my prior peaches were also standard.

In climates like mine, do you all tend to plant the trees in a spot that receives the most sun, or a spot where the ground remains pretty cold until late spring? I feel like planting my prior peaches near a fence with southern exposure led them to bloom early, and thus get hit by frost.

In my current yard, there is more shade than sun (an acre with 30+ 40’+ trees interdispersed). Curious from those in Colorado what type of sun your peaches get?

As to the cis4elk’s reference to that bitter cold snap, here is some interesting reading about how fruit plants in colorado fared. For some plants, they mention root stocks, but not for peach.


I was under the impression that St. Julian A was cold hardy. I found several websites that state this. From Dave Wilson Nursey, " St. Julian “A”

Semi-dwarf rootstock for cold areas with fluctuating spring temperatures due to inconsistent spring weather conditions. Preferred over Citation in north coastal mountains and Oregon." Maybe it would be an option in Colorado?

Another Denver(5b) grower here; long time viewer, first time poster. I wanted give my experience with my two peach trees.

Long before finding this site and going down the rabbit hole I bought two peach trees, an Elberta on Nemaguard and Contender on an unknown rootstock (from it’s height it is some sort of standard). Both are probably about 7-8 years old and both have given some decent crops the last three years - no late spring frosts. When I read that Nemaguard isn’t cold-hardy I was worried but so far it has not been an issue for that tree.

When I planted both trees I put them on the eastern side of a 6’ fence. I didn’t do it on purpose at the time but in retrospect I’m sort of glad that I did. The ground there stays significantly cooler into the spring and I believe it has done a good job in delaying bloom for both. As of today only the Elberta is showing the first signs of bud swell, which is great considering the 15 degree night we had last night.

I hope that might help. Also, a shout-out to RichardRoundTree and all the Colorado posters on here; it’s been a huge help to hear from people who are experiencing success along the Front Range.


Thanks for all the information. I don’t have that many spots that get good sun, and those that are not full sun, typically have trees on both the east and west… so I may be stuck planting in a location that warms the ground earlier than desired.

I checked my pear tree and apple tree today, and both have buds opening already… so given the 15 degrees of the last 2 days, those aren’t looking good.

It sounds like Halford, Bailey, Lovell are the go-to root stock, with Baily being a little more cold hardy.


@JustPeachy sent this article to me a couple weeks ago. It might interest you because the researcher (Minas) works for Colorado State Unv.

He recommends Guardian and K86 as the most cold hardy rootstocks. For my part, Guardian has worked well for me, but I’ve not had good luck with any plum rootstocks under peach trees, so I would avoid K86.


That is a pretty cool use of technology to help advance fruit production. The real-time analysis sounds like a big step forward. When I looked at the data, it didn’t seem like there was a huge distinction between those tested, but it seems any way to have an edge is valuable.

Thanks for sharing!! That is some specific useful information on Guardian.

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If I go Red Haven or Contender on Halford, Bailey, Lovell, or Guardian, what size can I expect to reasonably keep the tree (height and width) with normal annual pruning? Just doing a little planning of what can fit where.

Unfortunately, that is a question you will never get a specific answer to.

When I laid out my peach orchard, I read and sought opinions on tree density and spacing. The answers were all over the place. Even noted peach specialist at the time, Jerry Frecon wasn’t able to give me a straight answer.

The reason is that people make just about any tree density work for them. Peach trees set fruit on one year old wood, so as long as you get some new wood every year, you should have peaches.

However, if the peaches are too close together, it can be more difficult to keep them from shading each other out. Shading is bad. Also it becomes more of a fight to keep a peach tree contained, if they are too close together.

I give my peach trees somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 sq.ft. per tree, but that is admittedly a very low density. However it works for me. One could easily double the density 200 sq.ft. per tree without running into problems. Many folks here on the forum plant them tighter than that.

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Ok, I get it. I wish I knew what root stock my prior trees were on. The Elberta came from Dave Wilson Nursery, and today they have it on Semi-Dwarf and Standard. I had spaced my prior trees 12 or 14’ apart, so maybe I go with similar spacing here. My challenge is if I provide the ‘excess’ space, then I lose sunny space, of which there isn’t much.

Many thanks for the valuable input you’ve provided me! Now, I’ll just go for it.

I read the below on the UC Davis website. What are considered heavy soils? Our soil is approximately 60% sand, 20% silt, 20% clay (Sandy Clay Loam) 7.1. To me, it’s heavy, but isn’t all soil? The soil It does drain quite well, but also quite a sloppy sticky mess when wet.

Lovell ( Prunus persica ) is a peach rootstock that produces a standard size tree with early fruit set and consistent crop. It is compatible with most plum cultivars. Lovell does not tolerate heavy soils (Vossen and Silver, no date) and is susceptibility to root-knot nematode, but is partly resistant to bacterial canker (Lownsbery et al. 1977).

Hi Rossn,

I live in Virginia where we have heavy clay soil. I do not know the composition but I am guessing 90% clay. Sometimes in the dry summer months the ground can be hard like bricks.

Lovell does as well as Bailey or Halford in the heavy soil. I have quite a few trees on Guardian but they are to new to have an opinion yet. I also have trees on peach seedlings and they do just as well if not better.

The issue with Peach root stocks in heavy soil is usually the drainage. Heavy soil usually equates to poor drainage which is not good for peaches (peaches do not like wet feet). Some people recommend planting peaches in raised beds or mounds which I do most of the time because the soil is so hard and the drainage poor.

I think the UC article likely meant that Lovell is not good for heavy soil due to drainage issues but that is a guess. All peach rootstock that I am aware of have the drainage/wet feet issue, some plum rootstocks that can be used with peaches supposedly are better in poorly drained soil but nobody in the forums seems to have any success with them.

Hope this helps,


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Thanks, Spud.

Soil stays damp here, but I would not say high water content, by any means - so I suspect I am fine on the moisture aspect.

A soil test can be pretty enlightening. I though I had clay, as my soil is hard as rocks in the hard months. Turns out only 21%, but that wasn’t my perception based on how sticky, gummy it gets when wet. Just some food for thought, though I am sure you know your area.

My dad and I have peaches from Vaughn Nursery on Guardian here in Iowa. They all survived just fine the 2018-2019 winter when we had -30F. All look good and will produce a full crop this year (if we squint and cross our fingers real hard for no more freezes this spring).

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I’m always amazed when any peach tree can survive -30. Truly incredible you will actually get fruit as well. I’ve forgotten which varieties you are growing. Which ones went ahead and bloomed after -30?