Easiest fruit trees to grow in NoVa?

What are the easiest types (e.g., plums, pears) and varieties thereof of fruit trees to grow in the Northern Virginia (metro DC) area, excluding figs and paw paws?

Any input would be appreciated.

(BTW, sometime I’ll write a post about what I do have - such as two Carmine Jewel cherries - and how they’ve done so far.)

I made a guide to easy fruit for Baltimore a few years ago, it should be similar for you:

Since writing this I would say leave out the pomegranates, they are easy but getting reliable production may be difficult – just about the time my bushes started to produce they froze back to the ground.

I would say persimmons is the #1 fruit for you, and after that jujube and mulberry. Also if you don’t mind vines, kiwis are super easy.

Pears can be somewhat easy but stinkbugs in recent years have made them more difficult than they used to be. Peaches plums cherries apples are all harder.

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Thanks for the info!

Among the more common types that people eat (e.g., apples, cherries, peaches, pears, plums), which would be less difficult and which would be more so?

I would guess that pears (assuming an appropriate variety was chosen) would be among the least difficult, while apricots and sweet cherries would among the most difficult.

Thoughts, anyone?

exactly. Pears and apples, after that, the hassle curve rises sharply.

Not sure about the other fruits, but you should be in a great apple growing area!

Just south of you is Fredrick County Virginia (Winchester), and just north of you is Adams County Pennsylvania. One of the largest apple growers in the US is located in the Winchester (Fredrick County) area.

What grower would that be blue?

Thanks for the input.

I’m actually in the DC metro area (South Alexandria, specifically), which means my summer weather is significantly hotter and more humid than Winchester and no doubt Adams County, too. Consequently I’m likely to run into some of the same issues as Scott with certain types of apples lacking flavor and suffering from watercore due to excessive heat. The Weather Channel Online lists the average hi / lo temps for this area as 89 / 71 in July, 87 / 70 in August, and 80 / 63 in September. With rainfall averaging over 3 inches / month across that time span, it gets pretty humid.

How much of a step up is it from pears and apples to plums for someone in my area?

Also, sour (pie) cherries are significantly more likely to succeed here than sweet cherries, correct?

As to the fruit tree types that aren’t likely to do well around here, it’s primarily that they just won’t bear decent fruit, as opposed just limping along or outright dying (other than for fireblight strikes), correct?


Fruit Hill in Winchester, Va - the brand name is Whitehouse - over 3000 acres. Just south in Shenandoah County, Va is Bowman - I believe their brand is “Old Virginia” and the fresh pack brand is “Turkey Knob” - 2500 acres. Just north in what is referred to as the Pennsylvania Fruit Belt is Knouse (Musselman brand). I thought they grew about 2000 acres of apples, but they did not make the list of the largest growers in the US below.

It’s about an hour from me. I was thinking they were (Whitehouse) primarily contracting out the growing. It sure looks that way as the orchards are all scattered about. They looked to me like different growers.

I’m not sure how the data is collected, but I expect the totals include contract growers.

I believe Bowman was bought by a French company, but the water tower on I-81 was marked Bowman the last time I passed. They have several orchards in the 200-400 acre size in the Timberville area, including a fairly new high density orchard - nothing but apples on a trellis as far as you can see in any direction!

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I have been using the NEWA models from Cornell to check on scab and fireblight and while I had the site open I pulled some temperature data from last August for airports close to those locations we were discussing.

I used the Dulles airport as a proxy for your location. It was the closest I could find. I had to use Staunton for Winchester and I used the Baltimore airport for Baltimore.

All of this data is collected by professional weather monitoring equipment from the three airports. I only looked at August from last year, but the results surprised me.

Location Ave temp High temp Low temp Hours RH > 90%
Dulles 74.7 92 55 89
Staunton 74.3 94 53 152
Baltimore 75.1 94 57 114


Thanks for looking that up. As it turns out, we’re a good bit different from Dulles.

Our averages here are significantly higher than Dulles. Dulles is on the west side of the Metro area and has much less of an urban heat island effect going on than we do here. Although it’s not a huge difference, Dulles is at a non-trivially higher elevation than my area (we’re not much above sea level). The biggest difference in summer temperatures between here and Dulles is in our overnight lows, these being quite a bit higher than at Dulles. (Dew points are also similarly higher.) Daily highs aren’t as different, I would think.

Reagan National is MUCH closer to my location and the figures for Reagan are much more representative of what’s typical for my area.

Tim Hensley at Old VA Apples comes to mind when I think about Northern VA apples. I know of him from his YouTube channel. His website has some descriptions of apples native to the region.


He’s actually in Bristol, VA on the border with Tennessee. Bristol is at significant altitude (around 2000 feet, IIRC) and thus is substantially cooler than the Alexandria, VA area (especially the overnight lows).

His website does list heat tolerant apples, among other useful information.

Ah. I didn’t bother to look the location up. Sorry about that…

Each type has its own issues, but yes the problem is generally that you will either not get fruit or it will be barely edible. Generally apples and pears if you have a good variety will bear tons of fruit, but they could be all disfigured by curculio or eaten by codling moth. Apples generally do worse than pears on this. But, recently stinkbugs have come along and really go after pears if not treated. So, I really don’t find pears much easier anymore; they do get less moth damage but they get more stinkbug damage. Both apples and pears can get really bad fireblight, but most often it will not kill the whole tree. Stone fruits (peach/plum/apricot/cherry) will usually get curculio damage which will cause the whole crop to go bad. And, on top of that you have brown rot which once it settles in will do the same. Plus as an added bonus we have peachtree borer and aphids plus all the bad diseases: bacterial spot, black knot, canker, etc. Most of these will not destroy the whole tree but if they get out of hand they can: fireblight, canker, peachtree borer, black knot, and bacterial spot have all killed trees in my orchard.

Re: varieties of apples, about half or more varieties do fine in our climate. I grow a lot of foreign/antique apples and they are more likely to be rotters.

Yes, sour cherries are easier than sweet cherries.

Re apples vs (Japanese) plums, if you are not going to spray I would not bother with either. If you are going to spray, apples are not all that much different than a reliable plum like Satsuma. For both you need to hit the curculio hard or you will get few fruits. Apples will get codling moth damage while plums will get oriental fruit moth. The plums are more prone to rot but get an early ripening one and there won’t be a lot of difference compared to rots on apples. You need something like 4-6 sprays per year depending on what you are willing to spray. I would say J plums are easier than E plums, peaches, or sweet cherries. Apricots are similar to plums in our climate, they ripen early so fewer disease issues.

I don’t know how much room you have but if space is limited I would skip the apples. If you are a short drive from some great orchards let them grow the apples and try things that are harder to get. Apples are cheap, keep a good while and are usually really good. I personally can’t grow as good of an apple as the NC mountain growers where we buy form, this is not the case with my other fruit.

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Scott entirely nailed it. PC is easily the most destructive pest here…nothing else even comes remotely close save for perhaps BMSB, but they aren’t always an issue (moreso perhaps for you and Scott)…PC is most definitely always around and always a problem…and a big one at that. IMO…they simply must be sprayed for if you want market quality stuff. Bagging might be an option, kaolin clay is another, but neither has the good effect of real spray from what I’ve seen.

That’s actually not correct, at least as I understand or interpret the question. If one was willing to invest the time and money into massive spraying and good horticultural practices most all climate acceptable fruit would bear perfectly here. It’s the insect and disease pressure that is the issue, at least generally speaking. There is nowhere on Earth that is perfect for everything as I’m sure you know.
Please take my word for it…for now…just forget Apricots. They are easily the biggest sources of disappointment of all tree fruits. Their issues are endless for us ( slightly better for you than me, but still awful).

I for one disagree strongly with tiger, I most definitely would not skip the apples. You are in an area that has produced lots of apples in past history…you are not in an area that has produced much else in the way of tree fruit. There is a reason for that.
Apples are not cheap, Honeycrisp is still netting $3 - $4 per pound for grade A apples…you can pull off Honeycrisp way easier than you can apricots or peaches or sweet cherries…for sure. Apples and pears don’t get snuffed out easily by frosts or even late freezes like stone fruits do. They behave in our locale.
I think Japanese plums would be an easy score also provided you spray for PC. Japanese plums are to die for imo, in fact, all plums are for that matter.

Where we are (and it’s not at all unusual) absolutely nothing of real value will come easy without a spray program of some type. It just won’t…that’s the reality of it all. If you want nice stuff…you have to spray the nasty stuff, OR spray less nasty stuff and do a WHOLE lot more work for less product of usually lower quality.

IF your plan is not to spray (I’m not sure if it is or not), I personally would suggest you save your money and buy your fruit. Save yourself the headache.

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What problems have you had with apricots? They are probably my most reliable stone fruit. I have not lost a crop ever, and the rot is not as bad since they are early. Of course I could be eating crow this weekend as its going to be close the their freeze point, but its been a dozen years straight cropping for me, and @muchtolearn is in a similar location.

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Wow…no kidding?

Well, I have had every issue one possibly could have with a stone fruit plus the inevitable freeze that got them nearly every year. I realize that the freeze issue is much less for you guys. Like another poster mentioned yesterday, I also had them fade away to death for reasons inexplicable to me.
I’ve thought a lot about giving them another go. I also had them before GW and this site came along and probably had less than suitable varieties.
I do think it’s well known that they are a difficult tree fruit though.
If I decide to do them again, I’ll be hitting you up for some varietal suggestions.

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