What's best for white washing peach tree trunks?

I want to keep the sun off of the trunks of young trees (peach, plum, avocado), but I especially want to try to prevent borers from getting at the peach and plum trees.

I’ve mostly seen suggestions to use white latex paint, diluted 50%, but I’ve also come across the traditional use of lime. For lime I’ve read to use “slow” lime, but then from another source I’ve read “hydrated lime” which apparently is “fast” lime.

Also, since I have some white latex primer paint available but I’ve seen no mention of using primer, I wonder if it would work without harming the thin bark on young trees.

My impression is that lime might be best for helping to prevent borers. But fast or slow lime? Any thoughts about all this…or about using primer.

jbclem 9b Topanga


I didn’t know that borers were a big issue in S. CA. When I lived there I only saw them on some very old plum trees in Decker Canyon. It was the first time I ever applied poison to fruit trees. In retrospect, I would guess that the borers were more a symptom of the old age of the trees than something requiring treatment. Spray didn’t bring them back to vigor.

Back then peaches were very rare and J.plums, figs, apricots, pomegranates, J. persimmons and citrus were mostly what was grown in the area. On the plum trees I planted in Topanga I never had any problems and the trees were thriving last I was there, over 40 years after I planted them- never painted or sprayed.

If you use paint, the above research indicates that it is more effective when applied undiluted and that it works well here in the east coast. Scott has different ideas on this subject and will likely chime in. I’m curious if other S. CA growers have had problems with borers. When I lived there no one sprayed their trees and harvests and tree health were reliable.

John, do you have evidence of borers? I have never seen borers on any of my fruit trees here in N. San Diego county. Other types of tree borers, but none on my fruit trees. If you do have borers be sure to treat accordingly, as well as painting your trunks. For us, really the very best thing to use is cheap, flat latex white paint cut in half with water. That’s all you need, and it is to protect against sunburn. But, if you do have evidence of borers, I would follow Alan’s advice of full strength paint.

I’ve never seen a borer, but I’ve lost a plum tree, and parts of plum and peach trees after seeing small holes that seemed to progress up the trunk(s). Sometimes there is some sap(?) or some exudate at a hole. The two young peach trees that have this problem seemed to start dying at the top first…and so far continue to grow below the parts I cut off.

The worst of the two peaches (Eva’s Pride) has been cut from 6’ to 2’ and I’m pretty sure it’s a goner. I have a very nice May Price peach waiting to replace it but I’m worried the soil will be infested with borers (larvae, eggs, worms???) and I’m not sure what to do about that other than replace the soil.

Are there any other California pests that bore holes in peach/plum trees and kill them over a 3-8 year period?

btw, since I have a couple of quarts of Latex primer paint, does anyone know if primer, especially used undiluted, could damage the trunk of a young tree?


I am using Zinsser primer undiluted on all my trees for two years. All my trees are young. The primer is quite thick and it sticks well. I do not see any damage. The primer I think is better then latex paint, because it does not form the film monolayer as latex paint. As for borers I do not know. As the tree grows, and the trunk gets thicker, the cracks will appear in the paint. The paint needs to be reapplied in the middle of the summer to cover the trunk again. The lesser borers will still find upper brunches which are not covered with paint.

I have to wonder if the borers are not the result of stress. Some types of borers are drawn to stressed trees because they are defenseless and I’ve never lost a vigorous growing peach tree to borers although they will attack a healthy tree. Between rapid growth and great reserves of sticky sap the tree usually survives and thrives. Have you been able to give them as much water as they need? With the drought I can see how that would be a problem.

About three years ago I finally figured out that I wasn’t giving my young Topanga fruit trees enough water to survive the stress of long hot summers. That could explain borers, as you say, and hopefully there will be no more…although it’s hard to avoid heat stress unless you’re watering all the time. In hot weather I watch the trees and leaves closely and try to water at the first sign that they are loosing their perkiness.

Today I started painting tree trunks with white primer. I’m clearing the dirt 1-2 inches below the surface and painting at least one inch of trunk below ground level. It’s also giving me a chance to get a close look for borer holes…so far so good. And I’m painting up to the first branches and including their crotches.

Once the trees show signs of water stress by wilting in the mid-day they have usually gone well beyond the point of having adequate water to keep their stomata open for vigorous growth. If decent rain finally returns this season a 4" layer of of partially rotten wood chips under the canopy will help provide a reservoir that will likely assure vigorous growth through spring. Trees would likely only need to be watered every couple of weeks after that. Combine it with some loose alfalfa hay and it will be the perfect medium for max growth.

Does the Feed Bin still exist at the base of the canyon? I used to get alfalfa shake for free from them. I doubt that deal still exists.

Interior flat white latex paint is usually recommended, so I’m sure the primer will be fine. Many suggest mixing in drywall joint compound for increased borer protection. I haven’t done this yet, but I can see where it may be beneficial.
I don’t think any of it is a big deal really other than using white or some light color and I think it being latex is probably a good idea as well.
I’ve used the Zinnser Bullseye 1-2-3 that Antmary speaks of and it is a great product. It’s like getting 2 gals of quality paint for less than the price of one. A few years ago Ace ran it for $9.99 per gal. It’s not exactly flat though, in fact, it even tells you no additional finish coats are not necessary. I think it too would be fine, and like Mary says, I’m sure a gallon would cover A LOT of trees.

My understanding is that any latex paint is fine for fruit trees as long as it doesn’t contain anything to prevent mold, mildew or other living organisms.

Looking at the Kilz primer I’m using, it has a “mildew resistant film” incorporated… The Zinnser Bullseye 1-2-3 primer is formulated to resist “mold and mildew growth”. What what I"ve read that means they both incorporate mildewcides. Looking at the MSDS’s for these two products, there is no mention of mildewcides in the list of ingredients. But the Kilz MSDS only lists 50% of the ingredients(by weight). The Zinnser MSDS, about 50%, which includes up to 1% proprietary blend of nonionic sufactants. So they don’t want to talk about how much they use, which means they probably use as much as they can get away with.

So the relevant question is if this could be harmful to the tree being painted. Alan, do you remember where you saw the information you just mentioned about avoiding this. I think it may be difficult to find paint that doesn’t have mold and mildew prevention ingredients, this being a big selling point for paint these days.

BTW, the Feed Bin is still there. Marty, the owner, has a bunch of Feed Bins and now lives somewhere in the Agoura/Thousand Oaks area.

If the ingredients you are talking about are in interior paints as well it must not be a problem. This was the reason sited for not using exterior paints and most exterior paints apparently don’t carry it either so my general premise of a sweeping list of dangerous ingredients was wrong- I was speaking from memory. I do know that there are exterior paints that contain extra ingredients for these kinds of purposes that are considered dangerous to apply to fruit trees. If you do a search I’m sure you can find the information in a few minutes. I may try later today.

I’m guessing it must be Marty junior, if he’s actively running a successful chain like that. It’s nice to know when such generous people succeed in business. Of course, I was saving them the price of removing the shake.

I had heard the two things to watch out for in paint were:

Use interior flat latex (gloss and SG tend to form too complete a barrier).

No anti mold/fungal additives. Both interior and exterior paints can have these but more so for exterior. Interior paints for kitchens and bathrooms tend to have the additives.

I don’t know how important the gloss level is, but using the cheapest interior flat white seems to have worked for me.

Ditto everything Steve said.
This is just my opinion, but I think you guys are worrying too much about mildewcides etc. I think, like Steve, the interior recommendation is most likely because it has greater porosity. Unless it was some sort of paint specifically purpose designed for mildew control I wouldn’t worry about it in the least.
If you got something use it, if you have to buy it, then by all means follow the recommendation since if nothing else, the recommendation is for the cheap stuff. Interior flat white latex.

I’ve used exterior gloss white that had the mildew claims on it and it didn’t harm a thing. I also mixed in some insecticide and fungicide and it mixed right in like it belonged there.

I really am a firm believer in this trunk painting, it’s not bullet proof, Hell nothing is, but for no more than it costs, it’s well worth doing imo.

Appleseed speaks from actual experience. I don’t paint tree trunks.

I paint my trunks mid summer with cheapest interior white latex paint with joint compound added in to a mayonnaise consistency. Thanks, FedcoTrees catalog for the recipe! I think this protects from bores and perhaps voles as well, although most of my trees are caged with 18" of hardware mesh as well (dang voles).

1 Like

My god! I would never use anything like that! My purely prejudicial, knee-jerk reaction, would be that using Kilz is on a par with using rustoleum. Besides, Its too expensive.

My advice? Leaves work best. I hacked off the middle branches of my trees a few years ago in a misguided effort to prune the peach trees by the book. I dutifully painted the trunks with diluted latex paint. That saved them from dying, but not from a lot of gruesome, oozing sap from the trunk.

I live at high altitude in the southern rockies and “opening up the middle of the tree to sun” is a little ridiculous. “Opening up the canopy to the sun” is never a problem here. Ever.

I should say that when I lived in Phoenix, people would very carefully whitewash the trunks of their citus trees. Then I found out that citus trees naturally grow in a globular green ball. The lower part of the tree is most productive. The Midwesterners who populated the place couldn’t wrap their arms around the concept of a tree whose branches reach to the ground and would prune away the lower growth and then paint the trunk so as to have a tree that conformed to their Midwestern sensibilities.

I could add a jibe that that is emblematic of the colossal problems with the area, but I won’t because I am too classy for such a cheap shot.

Newly planted trees don’t tend to have much in the way of a shade giving canopy to protect the trunk. More important was the OP’s main goal of reducing the likelihood of borers entering the trunk.

Kokopelli, no amount of leaves will protect the tree from borers, but the paint might.

I read the same Fedco recipe Jesse. I figure if a well regarded fruit magnate like John Bunker believes in (by his very own observation) it’s positive attributes then I’m all-in as well. My own observations have been entirely positive also. I have read (and seen photos) of both rodent and borer damage to painted trunks, but in almost every case they were minimized by the addition of the coating (per the poster). In all of those cases the paint was applied thinly and none had incorporated joint compound, lime/sand or any fungicides or insecticides.
When I compare that to the scores of trees I’ve seen damaged by rodents or borers on unprotected trunks it makes it an easy sell given the low cost and ease of applying. I personally think the addition of sand may be as good or better than the joint compound.

Southwest injury and definitely rodent damage is probably still best accomplished in my opinion by the use of slit corrugated black drain pipe or some other method. I use both now and since I’ve done that, I’ve had zero damage. All that in a year that rabbits have been so bad as to be something from a sci-fi movie.

I went to the Fedco trees site wanting to find the recipe for mixing joint compound with latex paint, but completely failed to find it. Does anyone have a link I can use?