Southwest Virginia (7a) recommendations

I’m new to the forum and thought I’d introduce myself and shamelessly hint around for advice and suggestions.

I live in southwest Virginia (in the mountains), zone 7a (used to be labeled 6b), with 1000+ chill hours, and “latest frost ~ early May, earliest frost ~ mid Oct.”

I’ve ignored all the logical advice (I haven’t had my soil tested, etc, haven’t done a drainage study, etc), but I have planted a few things.

Last year I planted (2023):
Blueberries (2 of each) [2 plants have died, I can’t remember which ones, no duplicates]

Grapes (a few have died, and I have to check my garden map to determine which ones)
Black Beauty Muscadine (dead, I think)
Janet Muscadine (dead, I think)
Katuah Muscadine (planted in the fall)
Katuah Scuppernong (planted in the fall)

Blackberries (Tripple Crown, Apache Thornless, & Pine Ark Freedom)
Rasberries (Jewel Black & Carolina Everbearing)
Giardi Dwarf Mulberry (since died and replaced)
Hinnomake Red Gooseberry (died and replaced)
Jeanne Gooseberry
Fig from a cutting from South Carolina (dies back to ground in winter, needs protection to have time to grow and ripen)
Dunstan Chestnuts

This spring (2024) I planted:

Concord (2nd favorite)
Niagara (my favorite)
Seedless Mars
Seedless Lakemont
Venus Seedless
Marquis Seedless
Einset Seedless
Reliance Seedless
Seedless Concord
Seedless Nimrod
Seedless Canadice
And a few in pots, waiting to replace the dead ones once I completely give up on their budding-
Alahua Muscadine

Scarlett Prince
Red Haven
August Lady
Tropic Snow (white)
Carolina Bell (white)
Stark Saturn (white)

Bruce plum
Alderman plum
Morris plum (dead?)
Burbank (dead?)
Native plum

Spring Satin Plummet
Native persimmon
Li Jujube
Prolific Kiwi (dead, I think)
Chicago Hardy fig
Olympian fig

“Hardy Mulberry” (cross)
‘Dwarf everbearing’
Giardi Dwarf (replaced last year’s dead tree)


As I mentioned, I know I’ve done a lot of things wrong. I went crazy at the stores this spring (if I found it local, I bought it). If the plants were potted I sat them on my porch for several weeks (since they had already leafed out and we still expected cold weather). Several bare root plants (that I planted) that had leafed out died back due to cold (kiwi sprouts died, grapes seemed to have resprouted).

My plan is to aggressively prune (“backyard orchard culture” as discussed on the Dave Wilson nursery page) to make it easier to manage (and I don’t need 200 lbs of fruit all at once). I’m a lazy gardener so I’d like to pick fruits that are ‘easier’ to manage. And like every dreamer, I want fruit that tastes great, and varieties that extend the season, and aren’t easy to get in the store.

I have room for at least 10 more trees, but I think I should be more careful picking those last few trees (and of course I’m sure I’ll be replacing some trees that I killed due to poor initial care). I love the idea of some of the stone fruit hybrids listed on the Dave Wilson website (apriums, plumcots, etc. The fun part is finding local (or even ‘closer’) suppliers for appropriate varieties. [I intend to order for fall planting or maybe spring 2025.]

I know I should get a few apples and maybe pears, but at my last place the deer killed so many trees that it turned me off from them (and store apples are still pretty good to me). Blueberries did really well at my last place, so that’s why I started with them.

Pest pressure: So far . . .we have plenty of rabbits, but the damage has been minimal. And so far the deer have left us alone (maybe my dogs help a bit). Unfortunately my chickens love to scratch through the mulch (I need to fence off my orchard areas). I think the Japanese Beatles may be an issue.

So feel free to share any advice or suggestions (especially varieties to try, suitable for the southern Appalachian mountains, 7b). I’d really love a “ripening chart” for varieties for similar area. Dave Wilson has a chart but Southern California is quite a bit different (I’ve found a few for the northeast- USA).

Again, thanks for any comments, and I’ve enjoyed reading up on other threads.

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Hello and welcome. I started with many Dave Wilson trees as well and some have starting to produce. My biggest issue thus far is deer pressure and hard freezes.

For me citation (plum-apricot interspecifics), m111 (apple), betulifolia (asian pear) have been growing well.

BTW, stonefruit may not be easy to manage.

Thanks for the reply. A few other comments/questions:

  1. I intended to mention that I have clay soils (in case that affected peoples recommendations)

  2. Whitewashing? Out west (and in the tropics) it seems to be important. Is it very helpful on the east coast? (Do many east coast 7a people whitewash their trees/vines?)

  3. Is there an easy way to get an idea of someone’s growing zones when I’m reading threads? [While all opinions may be valuable, I’d focus more on growers in areas similar to mine].

Again, thanks for any comments or advice.

  1. Yes, there seems to be a lot of clay soil in mountains and piedmont regions. My soil is heavy clay, I may not have more than few inches of loamy soil before hitting clay.
  2. I don’t paint anything on trees, your miles may vary. I don’t have rodent problems (many outdoor cats) and I don’t have winter sunscald issues at my specific location.
  3. Many people put their location in their profile. You can click on their profile picture for a popup.

Hello neighbor, I’m in Northeast Tennessee so we’re probably fairly close. That’s a nice selection of fruit you have there. My growing area is surrounded by mature forest and is on the north side of the hill so sunlight is a bit of a challenge. (Is possibly why) sunscald has never been an issue so I’ve not had to paint anything, at least not for that reason.

Doing very well for me: Apples, Peaches, Blueberries, Blackberries, Raspberries, Tart Cherry. Ones that are still young but I suspect are going to do fine: Mulberry, Persimmon, Pear. I had 3 nice pear trees going until a buck broke them off at the ground. (Seedless) grapes I’ve had no luck with whatsoever. Have one fig coming up now, another didn’t survive the winter. No fruits/nuts yet but I also have Currants, Chinquapin, English/Carpathian Walnut, Hazelnut, Butternut, etc. Well have had some hazels but they’re so small as to not be worth fooling with. Hope to get some larger ones which will survive here.

Native black walnut and pawpaw are abundant around here.

Apples are what I have the most of and they do well but pest pressure is intense. I have 100 or so apples in plastic zip-top bags now. As well as 150 or so peaches in mesh “organza” bags. Have been bagging for the past 3 or 4 years with great success. Still plenty of pests eating the leaves as well as bacterial, fungal issues to contend with. 90% humidity is certainly a thing in this neck of the woods!

Good luck!

Welcome to the forum Kevin!

In the East coast the backyard orchard culture needs to be adapted a bit, we had many debates about that here some years ago. In pruning make sure to thin a lot, there should be lots of open space. If things get too dense you will get diseases.

(Also one hint about posting, don’t indent for paragraphs as it thinks it is code and the post is hard to read. I removed the indents on your post.)

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No apples?

Thanks everyone.

Scott, I’ll try to remember about the indenting (it’s a hard habit to break). I’ll also try to find the threads on east coast backyard orchard culture.

Sockworth, thanks for the info about finding location info in people’s profiles. Also, thanks for the rootstock recommendations. Initially I thought citation was a cultivar until I read a bit about it. [Unfortunately I have no idea what rootstock I have since my nursery tags didn’t mention it. I hope to be more selective and order my few remaining trees.]

Wdingus, thanks for the feedback on what is doing well for you. I’ve never bagged fruit, but I’m guessing I’ll eventually need to. I assume that’s primarily for the bugs and birds (?). Do the bags last multiple seasons for you?

Mashdar, I’ll probably eventually plant some apples. 2 issues for me with apples- 1) at my last place the deer killed many of my apple trees largely due to rubbing their antlers on the young trees (and that unfairly made me biased against apples), & 2) store bought apples are pretty good to me and I can get them year round. So bang for my buck, I think I’ll get more enjoyment out of other trees (either more unique varieties or ones that the quality is clearly better than grocery store fruit)
[For instance- I love niagara grapes but they are rarely in the grocery store. So I’ve planted about 4 niagara vines. Also, store peaches can be pretty rough, so I planted several peaches].
But I will probably plant a few apple trees. I like the idea of multiple varieties grafted onto 1 tree, so I may go that route. More importantly I’d like to get some varieties that are hard to find in the store (Arkansas Black, etc). But I do want to try varieties that are as disease resistant as possible.

Again, thanks to everyone for your comments and feedback.

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Birds usually take all my Montmorency cherries, I may try using scare tape on them this year. Haven’t really had a problem with birds and other fruits so far though. Zip-top bags are cheap, so new ones each year typically. The organza bags I have some at least 3 years old, still in pretty good shape. They’re also fairly cheap and when this turned out to be (so far, fingers crossed) a good peach year I quickly ordered 100 more.

Bagging is just a way to achieve “no spray” as far as fruit-destroying insect pests. There are still other pests which must be dealt with, at least in my location and presumably yours as well. Organic or Synthetic spray regimens are the more common approach. We just tend to get rain often enough around here it makes spraying difficult and quantity of fruit is still low enough that it’s physically possible to bag most of 'em. Probably won’t be as much in the future when I have more trees reach maturity.


if it grows well for Edible Landscaping in Afton VA I assume it would do well for you.

Possible additions to look into: Jujubes (honey jar, Sugar cane, Black Sea) , Goumi (tilamook/carmine), Kaki Persimmon (Miss Kim, great wall), cold hardy figs (Florea, Marseilles Black VS, Ronde De Bordeaux, LaRadek’s EBT, Adriatic JH, Improved celeste, Malta Black, and Takoma Violet), Cornus Mas, Honeydrops Mulberry, Paw Paw (KSU Chappell, Shenandoah), Clove Currants, Japanese Heartnuts.

Can’t wait to read about your progress along your fruit growing journey!

Had to put cages around all of my fruit trees to fend off antlers. Just four foot high one foot round (cheap tractor supply fence). Deer will rub them all. Stone fruit are going to be the hardest to get a good crop from. Brown rot and PC are hard to contend with.

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If anyone is still reading this thread, a few questions:


  1. I’ve watched many of the Dave Wilson (Tom Spellman) videos. One minor question I have is about early pruning (1st or second year, summer pruning). I (think I) understand the initial cuts/purpose (to establish good future scaffolds). In the videos, he also advises pruning during the first year, to cut back some of the vegatative growth. I would have guessed that the earlier we get to full size (whatever I choose that to be, so around 7 feet for me) the better, then start limiting the overall size. So I probably have misunderstood something. I’m ready to be educated :wink:
  2. Most non BYOC pruning advice advises to prune during the winter (often late winter) to minimize disease. The videos never discussed the greater risk of disease (due to warm weather pruning). No need to worry??

Separate issue: I have a whip Red Haven peach (bought at a store, packaged bare root, originally from DeGroot nursery) that appears to only be budding from below the graft union. [Full disclosure, I think it is budding below the graft union, but I’m not 100% sure of the graft union.]. The buds are about 2-3 " from the base. Luckily I have another Red Haven (I couldn’t remember which varieties I had already found) so the loss is no big deal. I can’t tell from the label (or from DeGroot’s website) what rootstock they use. My current plan is to let it grow, and once it gets big enough use it for grafting practice. The biggest downside that I can see is that if I do eventually decide to remove it, removing a larger tree will be harder. I assume if I du use it for grafting I should treat it like a tree I intend to keep (encourage the development of good scaffolds, etc) and then start grafting next year (?)

Thanks for any comments and thanks for the interesting reads perusing through old threads.


Don’t expect too much from the cherries. I’m in Richmond and had terrible cracking and mildew on the cracks, plus shothole that would defoliate the whole tree.

You might make the gooseberries and currants work. Mine basically defoliate in July/Aug, and the stress kills them all but the black currants eventually.

The blueberries do well enough.

My peaches are recent so I can’t help much there. I get some kind of early spring leaf disease that doesn’t seem like peach leaf curl, so you may need to spray for that. I still haven’t quite figures out what though.

Apricots are possible but you run into frequent bloom time issues with freezes unless you are willing to cover the tree, and maybe even then.

I had great success with plums in my location, and personally I think apples are a bitch due to the hang time.

I highly recommend focusing mostly on low spray, no spray fruits.

More persimmons… americans, asians, hybrids…
Consider silk hope, oscar mulberry.
I have gerardi as well.
I am in southern middle TN.

Good luck !!!


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TheGrog, thanks for the comments. I have a few gooseberries but I’ve not had good luck with several of the bare root plants I’ve planted (budded a bit, and then died). My Jeanne is doing well, so hopefully I’ll get some good fruit from it. I may keep trying. Hopefully I’ll copy your success with plums.

TNHunter, I am hoping to expand my ‘low spray, no spray’ fruit. I have 3 varieties of Mulberries so far (but not the one you mentioned). Most of the nurseries I’ve looked at don’t seem to have many named mulberry cultivars. I would like more persimmons (only 2 natives so far).

Thanks for the comments.

I am not too far away and in a pretty similar climate. Depending on the map I could now be labeled as 7a - but I was a chilly 6b so I think I’m still 6b. I also went from zero to very many fruit trees but for quite a different reason than you did. I bought a house that already had the fruit trees.

This one is pretty easy because you can just dig a hole and put some water in 2x and see how fast it drains. Peaches and brambles especially hate wet roots so don’t plant them in places with poor drainage or plant them on a mound.

I don’t know if you’re on a slope or how much space you have, but slope can be your friend to drain cold air for your more sensitive fruits.

I am excited that you are trying so many things and I hope to hear that some of them work out where you are! If they work there, they will likely work for me too.

However, I have noticed my “local” suppliers often have no idea what they’re selling, give terrible advice, and sell completely inappropriate plants. I feel you’re better off selecting what you want and if you can’t find it at the store, then ordering it or grafting.

I also think that edible landscaping is a good resource and isn’t your run of the mill local nursery.

I have avoided adding things that are marginal for me (apricots, plums, cherries, grapes and fig) even though I would like to try them in the future. I did cave and put in some chicago hardy fig which are likely to do okay if I coddle them.

I feel like cherries are a special mystery here in VA. Everyone says that they know someone who has an amazing sweet cherry tree that is totally productive. But no one has actually ever seen the tree in real life.

Here is a ripening chart for a big nursery in PA. Maturity Chart - Adams County Nursery, Inc.

My stuff seems to be 1-2 weeks off of ACN (in both directions). You are likely pretty close in timing to me. I seem to be about 1-2 weeks ahead of @clarkinks and 1-2 weeks behind @scottfsmith so I sort of time myself from their old posts.

I didn’t get a choice about the size or establishment of my trees but there are people making a sort of BYOC work on the east coast. Look at old threads and see how folks are doing it. It’s not exactly the same as DWN because of our humidity, disease and pest pressure.

I pretty much knew I’d have to commit to spraying to make some things work (peaches!) - and I wanted to grow those things. The work you will put into pruning and weeding will easily keep you occupied if you go for smaller trees and lower spray fruits.

Also, not sure exactly what your situation is. I am in the middle of nowhere and deer + raccoons + squirrel will take out trees and all your fruit. Seems to be less of a problem for people surrounded by cropland or houses. But if you’ve got places for the critters to hide they’ll come find your fruit trees.

All my young trees and brambles are caged or fenced. For the older producing trees I’m going to have to try some squirrel baffles or something.

Look at the advice that Olpea gives about peaches. They don’t do well with late fall or winter pruning in colder climate. For other fruits I have not noticed much of a difference when I prune. I have a normal fulltime job and end up pruning random times of year, whenever I can, sometimes in the dark with a headlamp.

I think the idea with the removal of vegetative growth in the first year is to direct the growing to your future scaffolds. If you read old pruning threads you’ll hear a lot of different ideas about scaffold selection and when and how. But so much depends on your goals and situation.

I would prefer a slightly taller tree b/c of my deer + squirrel+ raccoon issue and I have the space to make it happen. I also do not need to choose my scaffolds early and can wait a bit longer to pick. People doing the BYOC seem to be in the exact opposite situation from me.

Please post a pic and we can diagnose!

Hope some of this helps!



I am north of you in the Fredericksburg Virginia area. You have received some good advice. I think if you are interested in plums you should get a Shiro. It is productive. I am moving away from the stone fruits due to brown rot and the number of sprays needed. I do have spring satin and shiro. They grow well and productive but it is a constant battle.I had several Elberta peach trees they were productive but I did get rid of them. I would suggest a Montmorency cherry. It is a sour cherry but it is productive and when ripe I eat them off the tree. I wish you well and keep us updated on your progress.

BentheGirl & DAVELn17, thanks for the comments. Ben, I’ve attached pics of the Red Haven peach that I think is only sprouting from below the graft.

I do know I’ll need to spray. My ideal would be to wait until after I’ve lost a crop and then start spraying the next year. The huge flaw in that plan (besides losing a crop) is that I think there are some issues that could kill the tree. I’m not worried about losing a crop but I’d rather not lose a tree to something I could have prevented.

Ben, you asked about my location. I’m in a valley (small valley) and I have a very slight slope. I’m surrounded by national forest so I’m sure I’ll have some significant pest pressure. [Incidentally, the deer were much thicker at my previous location, in a suburb on the edge of pasture.]. I’m hoping my dogs will deter a few critters, but they certainly haven’t scared off the rabbits. I will probably work to improve my fencing as I start getting closer to fruit production. Good luck with your squirrels, that will be a hard nut to crack.

Again, thanks for the suggestions

Not an expert but I think that the peach is growing below the graft. I circled in blue where I think the graft is. I circled in green where I think the growth you were talking about is.

You can absolutely let the root stock grow out and graft to it. I decided to do that to one peach last year. Unfortunately, it was one of the only trees I didn’t spray in fall and it got leaf curl this spring!

Based on that limited experience, I’d still spray a dormant oil/copper/sulfur. You can see details in the spraying guides.

I didn’t worry about spraying for a year (A late frost froze even my large trees out). I focused on pruning, protecting trees, clearing grass and brush. I wish I’d done one spray of oil/copper/sulfur in spring . I think it would have prevented some problems.

I can’t think of anything that would kill a tree so easily from not spraying, maybe fireblight? but you have no apples or pears. Maybe some really bad borers? I feel like most of the 1st year trees I read about dying are due to winter injury or girdling by rabbit or deer or vole.

That’s awesome! I have forest next to me, but only because my neighbors like it that way. I do know some pests overwinter in nearby forests so be on the lookout. Also, if there are red cedars you are likely to get cedar apple rust on any pears or apples (so maybe another reason not to plant them).

The deer laugh at my dog. The rabbits run away then come right back when the dog turns around. The racoons hiss at my dog and i get scared of them fighting. My dog chases squirrels and can’t catch them. It’s okay because I love her anyways.

I’m just going to build a better fence - but with so much to do it seems like there’s not enough time for everything!

Since you say rabbit are an issue, I’d just put up some small chicken or 2"x4" wire fence around each tree. It makes weeding and tending them a pain. However, I’ve come back to a tiny stump where my tree or plant was. Others have had the trees girdled at the base by rabbits. If you have too much mulch or grass or leaves around the base, it can invite animals as well, so keep it clear.

@kkirkt … i have had good luck getting nice fruit trees (mulberries) from Lucille at Whitmans Farms. Also goosberry, Crandall clove currants.

I got silk hope from her last spring and oscar this spring. 1 gal potted trees 30.00 bucks.

Also on Persimmons…
A few years ago I discovered that I had wild persimmons and lots of them… that just pop up and grow in my fields.

Those are a few I found this week.

I find them in the spring or early summer and mark them with some flagging… and give them a load of wood chips… and by season end they turn into this.

Perfect persimmon rootstock.

I graft them the next spring.

I have …

Americans… Prok, Barbaras Blush, H63A, H118, Mohler, Rich Tooie

Hybrids… Zima Khurma, JT02, Kasandra, Nakitas Gift, Journey

Asians. IkKJiro, Cardinal, Saijo

I bought IKKjiro and Cardinal… the rest I grafted to my own wild rootstock.

You might search your property and see if you happen to have wild persimmon rootstock. They grow like weeds here in southern TN.

If not… back in the spring Burnt Ridge had persimmon rootstock for like 8.50 each.

There will be lots of folks here trading swapping persimmon scions this winter.

Good Luck to you !!!