One Hole Fruit Tree Planting

Being a residential lot dweller, I try to utilize my available spaces for gardening.

I was interested in “one hole plantings” they I ram across first in a Dave Wilson YouTube video. Just in case some aren’t familiar, the idea is to plant multiple trees close together and treat/train them as though they are one tree.

It saves space, helps with pollinators when needed, and stagers the harvest season depending on the varieties chosen.

I’m my case I’ve just planted 3 European plums: Geneva Mirabelle, Parfume de September, and Purple Gage. I spaced them in an equilateral triangle of 24 inches apart. Each will be trained/pruned to grow in their own 120 degrees of space. The Purple Gage was positioned in the most favorable sun exposure as I was told it is the least vigorous rootstock.

See photos.

I also wanted to add my 2¢ on the nursery I purchased these plumes from: Raintree Nursery. They were unbelievably helpful in me determining my varieties for my area and answered all of my questions within a day or so. I also had an issue with placing a late order which put my delivery into mid-May. Just planted them yesterday.

The UPS shipment from the west coast took 10 days. I was sure the trees would show up having broken dormancy and perhaps even dessicating from the heat. It spent from lunch Friday until lunch Monday in New Orleans in 90 degree days waiting on delivery.

They showed up in great shape… All live wood and a great caliper. Should leaf out in a few weeks.

Thought I’d share this style planting for those interested.

See photos.


My understanding is that it can be problematic. For starters they will compete with each other, fighting for sunlight and devoting more of their energy to try and outgrow the shade. You may get variety of fruit but chances are you’ll get less fruit than if it was a single tree with enough root space. Then there is the fact that if one of them contracts a fungal/viral infection chances are the other two will get it right away.


Great for the nursery that sells trees but not so much for the homeowner, IMO. I have lots of space but am impatient to test new varieties, so plant two peaches tightly together sometimes, but you need to make sure they don’t lean away from each other and eventually fall over. Two branches per tree in opposite direction is not an ideal configuration which is what is required to stop the the trees from growing away from each other- say, one tree with branches heading N and S, and the other E and W. With 3 or 4 trees this isn’t really possible.

By far, the best way to have multiple varieties in little space is to use strong root stocks (which tend to create stronger and healthier trees) and learn how to do a simple splice graft, which even an idiot like me could learn in 2 minutes.

Wait for your single variety tree to grow for at least a year before grafting it and create your combo tree by grafting onto a watersprout emanating from a scaffold at a point fairly close to the trunk. Use the original branch to tie the graft to more horizontal position the 2nd year of its growth- or 3rd if it grows slowly the first season. Remove the original branch once the graft establishes adequate dominance.


The point of the style of planting is to treat the planting as one tree, so of course you get 3 smaller trees this way. This isn’t an issue with me. I’m not trying to grow as many fruits as possible. I’d rather get a variety and longer harvest time. I have numerous other fruit trees with more traditional plantings on my lot. It also helps with pollination which is an issue where I live.

There will be disease pressure regardless of how I plant as I live in the humid deep south.

So I am aware and accepting of the issues of this type planting.

Regardless I will learn from it.

Thanks for your post.


The imbalance of each tree was my first concern. Years from now if there is an issue I will brace each trunk against the other trees to spread the load. I’ve certainly seen many lopsided trees that are growing just fine… The root systems adjust to support the above ground load, but obviously the tree is more susceptible branch loss, and to upending in wind and wet souls.

I did my first grafts this spring with some success so I am already doing that on other trees on my lot.

I just like the idea and aesthetic of this one hole system. Having seen the video from Dave Wilson (and others) I wanted to give it a try. They are one of the distributors of the Zaiger interspecific trees of which I have several.

Thanks for your post…

My two new jplums… AU Rosa (with AU producer graft) and Shiro.

These are about 4 ft apart.

A couple of eu plums… about 1.5 ft apart.


Here are my thoughts

Multi-variety trees

where you plant a mother tree or some other root stock and then next year graft on as many varieties as you want, ideally with each one growing on its own scaffold branch.

:+1: Pros:

  • Cheap, you just need 1 rootstock or mother tree and some scions of the variety you want to graft
  • Teaches you grafting, which opens up a lot of other possibilities and variety options
  • You can graft on much more than 3 varieties on one tree, if you’re willing to put the work into tracking and balancing them
  • You can convert an existing tree into a multi-variety tree
  • Bragging rights for growing multiple varieties on one tree
  • Visually appealing if you have blooms of different colors on one tree

:-1: Cons:

  • Significantly longer to get fruit, one year to let rootstock get established, and then another year for grafts to take and grow out
  • Need to consider what variety is compatible with what, or be willing to risk compatibility issues
  • If the tree or rootstock dies you lose all the varieties
  • Can be a bit harder to keep track of what variety is where and keep things balanced

Multi-tree planting

where you are planting 2-3 trees within 2 feet or so of each other

:+1: Pros:

  • Much faster to fruit, 1 year longer than planting individual trees, if that
  • Significantly easier to accomplish, just dig one big hole, plant the trees and you’re done
  • Easier to keep balanced because each variety is on its own tree
  • Redundancy, disease and pests may kill one tree but the others might live on

:-1: Cons:

  • Orders of magnitude more expensive than grafting
  • You’re limited to the varieties offered by nurseries
  • You’re limited to just 3 varieties that can be planted in one hole before balancing becomes very difficult
  • Less visually appealing, can look cluttered
  • Might be marginally less productive than growing a single tree or multi-variety tree

I don’t like the idea of multiple trees per hole.
It seems like they individually never have a chance to reach their full potential. Due to competition, light , root room ,imbalanced pruning, etc.
my experience is limited to planting a second tree in a hole where i thought a previous one had died .but both lived.
Usually, eventually cutting one out .time better spent somewhere else.
Where both were left , neither seemed happy.
The guild concept in permaculture is different, choosing “different plants “that live well together. And all can be happy in their space .

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I understand what you are saying, but for my setting I wanted to give it a go.

As far as potential for a given tree goes, left alone a fruit tree does not maximize fruit production on its own very well. Too many vertical branches, competition for sun and decreased air flow from dense foliage. A tree too tall to harvest without a ladder.

Even on dwarfing rootstock winter and summer pruning are needed for a backyard tree.

As an example I have a Zaiger Flavor Grenade Pluot. Planted it bare root a year ago spring. The first summer in the ground here it grew to 4-5 feet on the new buds to over 8 feet tall overall…I winter pruned them back more than half this late winter.

It’s only May now so about 2.5 months into the growing season here. Each of those topped branches now has 3-6 new laterals with the longest on each already at 3 feet in length. I’ll have to prune again in summer to shape and maintain the height of the tree for my needs and the space.

I expect for some trees to not make it or never fruit. I’ll just dig them up and try something else. I have enough going on that it won’t crush me and I’ll learn from each failure probably more so than the successes.

If these were the only fruit trees I was planting in my yard then that would perhaps be a different story.

So I don’t want nature to do what it wants with my fruit trees. That’s too much for me to handle, especially at my age now.

Having said all that I’m OK with the compromise, whether it’s just one tree or this one hole idea. I have many other single tree plantings in my yard. I’ve also done some grafting this year as it’s really interesting.

Great in depth summary. Agree with all your points.

I have several (10) individually planted fruit trees. I grafted onto several more this year for the first time. One tree I grafted 12 varieties onto although some didn’t take and others took and grew well only to suddenly fail. Good learnings there. I have one multiple variety nursery grafted tree as well. Now I am trying this one hole planting.

I’m also playing with a few espalier forms… One with individual plum whips (Belgian fence) and hopefully another few lateral cordon Asian pears using bud grafting into rootstock.

So I’m experimenting and experiencing all those types of fruit tree growing techniques as I enjoy it all. Things don’t work out, that’s fine. Even handling things you do have control over doesn’t guarantee success. Beyond mounding for better drainage (south Louisiana, >60 inches of rain a year and daily rainfall sometimes over 5 inches a few times a year), I’ve even planted in 36" galvanized metal fire rings to control the root crown moisture from flooding.

So every environment and every tree variety has its issues. With the summer heat and humidity this is not a good environment overall for disease and pest pressure…and I am sure is the reason there are no commercial stone or pomme fruit orchards within many hundreds of miles of me (only some citrus south of me).


I was once at a NAFEX meeting in Santa Cruz and a couple of DW sales people came to share pluots and a presentation that resembled one of those late night adds for some gadget that slices and dices and guarantees you box seats in heaven.

I don’t know any experienced orchardists that endorse the method- although two to a hole might make sense for E. plums. Might help insure crosspollination.

But then, I don’t know very many experienced orchardists who have tried it. I think a single tree with room to spare tends to be a much more attractive shape than when they are crowded- but that’s subjective.

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I read and saw those videos years ago. This is the first year I have one tree around another tree. If you have one bigger tree over a dwarf tree it makes sense to me as that is the way things grow in nature. I am trying if for that reason. I have put standard trees in with dwarf trees and am hoping the standard trees will rise above the dwarf trees. I don’t expect the dwarf trees to produce as much without sun but I would assume there would be a decent amount of production like you would expect in a forest.

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I understand what you are saying, but I’d never call myself an orchardist. My goal isn’t to produce maximum volume of fruit for market. I can certainly see why any larger scale grower would have no interest in one hole planting.

But I’m just a growing hobbiest on a 75’ x 150’ suburban lot.

As an aside, my next door neighbor has a pine tree and oak tree that grew literally touching at the base. Neither tree seems to mind one bit and they are huge a$$ trees now. Not a great comparison, but life finds a way, though not always pretty.

See photos


I think folks may be trying to steer newcomers from exotic setups that are suboptimal for most. As folks already said, you’re likely needing more maintenance and will deal with many issues that can be avoided by just planting a more traditional method of 1 per hole.

But it’s very much your tree, your money, your time, your yard, so have a blast. I do think it looks neat, it will be fun to watch the three grow together.


The difference is that when trees are apart one will be hit first, which serves as an early warning for the others. That way you may treat the sick one so it can get better and treat the healthy ones so they don’t get sick. Bad insects will also have an easier time at hitting all of them at a time; again often there can be a singular tree that gets affected first which gives you time to help the others before damage happens.

Thanks for the reply.

Exactly. I’m not flying blind. I’ve lived on my lot and in my house for 27 years. I’ve planted and removed every single plant and tree on my lot many times over except for a huge oak.

Sometimes because they failed. Sometimes because they didn’t fruit. Sometimes because they no longer fit the space. Sometimes because my interest changed. Sometimes because I learned something new or found something new.

I’m OK with change. I’m OK with failure.

Case in point. I’ve always dreamed of growing cherries. I went to a fruit tree conservatory in Kent, England years ago and it was cherry harvest season ( We walked beneath large netted cherry trees and ate as we pleased. They had over 200 varieties of cherries there! Not to me the hundreds and hundreds of other fruit tree varieties.

So no one grows cherries within hundreds of miles from me.

Problem #1: chill hours
Solution: Zaiger Genetics. Now several low chill cherries are available.

Problem #2: climate /humidity. I don’t live in southern California I live in southern Louisiana with all the humidity.
Solution: perhaps none.

I’ve read nothing anywhere saying anyone has succeeded in producing cherries in my climate. On the contrary I’ve read right here in this forum that folks in the Houston area have not succeeded. Now I’d imagine the sample size for folks who have even tried growing cherries in the deep south is very, very small.

So why not try? This year I planted one Lapins, one Crimson Royal, one Minnie Royal, and two Royal Lee (one looks to be struggling from the receipt of the tree so I bought another from another nursery).

Will these trees live? Will they live for more than a few years? Will they ever fruit? Will I lose them to a hurricane? Maybe any and all of those scenarios.

I’d be happy even if I get blooms from some of them in spring.

So I’m adventurous. I’m trying with the best choices I cab make for a tree everyone would dissuade me from trying to grow.

If these trees fail I have a nice prepared spot for a other tree to replace them.


I have had those 2 eu plums planted 1.5 ft apart for 5 years now.

I have not realized any extra maintenance at all.
Pruning… the two… growing side by side like that was definately no more difficult than if they had been planted 15 ft apart.

I would expect to get less total fruit that way… but still plenty of fruit and 2 varieties in that space rather than one.

Pollination should work great that way.

Now here is something you might consider a plus ???

In my 2 in 1 eu plum planting… the one on the left Rosy Guage… got black knot twice… previous years… and then some kind of wilt this year… and has died.

The tree on the right is doing great looking very healthy… and it is a self pollinator. Mt Royal.

So yes bummer a tree died… but instead of starting over and waiting another 5 years… i still have a nice eu plum in that spot.

Now that i am into grafting… i can graft on other varieties.


Great job. Do you have any photos of both trees in fruit before you lost one?

These are my first EU plums… Usually here they sell a few Japanese varieties.

I am intrigued by the whole Mirabelle plum history and like that they have interesting non-red/purple colors…thus my choice of Geneva and Parfume de September. The purple Gage was because the green was put of stock when I ordered.

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For those mentioning root competition, I assume that’s not going to be a problem, as long as all the rootstocks planted in the same hole are all graft-compatible with each other. They should form natural root grafts fairly quickly and then share nutrients (and any viral pathogens), becoming essentially a single root mass as they grow together.

I wonder if this could be used as a trick to overcome soil problems, where you use different rootstocks that are each tolerant of separate problems (e.g., one for root rot tolerance, one for salinity, etc), with the hope that by their powers combined, they can defeat all the separate issues. Though it might make more sense to in-graft the separate rootstocks into a single-trunk multi-graft tree if that’s your objective.



That’s an interesting point. Now that you mention it I have heard of this happening below ground. I have not, however, seen it mentioned by anyone in searching about this type planting.

Well regardless I won’t easily be able to tell if the roots decide to party below ground.

I’m my case all three are on St Julien A, so I won’t get any benefit from preferential resistance from one tree to the next. If one has an issue in it’s environment, they all will have the same issue.

I like the idea of the root masses becoming one organism though.