It is possible to buy young fruit trees and raise them to produce lots of fruit. However, many gardeners wonder if they can start getting a fruit harvest sooner by buying more established trees.
So, can you buy mature fruit trees? Yes, you can buy mature fruit trees from nurseries or garden centers, either online or in person. Older, more mature fruit trees are able to bear fruit sooner than younger trees. However, it is more difficult to train mature trees to grow the way you want by pruning and staking.
Of course, there are other considerations when buying mature fruit trees, such as
- where the fruit trees came from
- what climate the fruit trees will be growing in
- whether the fruit trees are potted or bare root (not in a container)
Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of buying mature fruit trees, what to look out for, and where you can buy them.
Can You Buy Mature Fruit Trees?
Yes, you can buy mature fruit trees that are several years old, either online or in person. There are numerous garden centers and nurseries that sell fruit trees of various types (regular and dwarf, young and old, tropical and cold hardy).
Young fruit trees are sometimes called “whips”, since they are tall and thin, looking more like rope than trees. Mature fruit trees have several advantages over whips, but there are also some drawbacks as well.
A mature fruit tree is taller than a whip, with a thicker trunk and branches and a more extensive root system. An older fruit tree already has lots of energy stored up to grow and produce fruit.
An established fruit tree also has the structure (branches and roots) to quickly produce even more energy. This means that you can get fruit much sooner (perhaps years earlier) from a mature fruit tree.
One disadvantage of a mature fruit tree is that its branch structure is already largely determined. After a few years, it is much harder to train a fruit tree to grow the way you want by using pruning and staking (espalier).
Another disadvantage of a mature fruit tree is that it is more difficult to move and replant. The larger root system means that you must dig deeper to make a space for it to grow.
The larger root system is also makes it easier to damage the tree during transport (when you pick it up or when it is shipped to you) or when you transplant it into the ground.
One more thing to consider: if mature fruit trees were grown in a warm climate, it may be difficult for them to adapt to a colder climate if you live in a northern area.
What Are Bare-Root Fruit Trees?
A bare-root fruit tree is one that is not growing in soil inside a container. Instead, a bare-root fruit tree has been removed from the ground or a container, and had the soil removed from the roots.
A bare-root tree is much lighter to move than a potted fruit tree, since there is less soil to move (wet soil in a large container can add a lot of weight!)
There is a good chance that you can grow bare-root fruit trees without damage, as long as you buy and transplant them while they are still dormant.
Can You Transplant Mature Fruit Trees?
Yes, you can transplant mature fruit trees. The best time to transplant a mature fruit tree is when it is still dormant.
A fruit tree is dormant between the fall (when the leaves fall off the tree) and the spring (when the buds on the tree break open).
If you pay attention to sales, you may be able to buy a fruit tree from a nursery in the fall. Then, you can transplant it into your yard before the ground freezes, while the tree is still dormant.
Otherwise, you will probably get your fruit tree in the winter, and plant it in early spring, after the ground thaws but before the tree starts to bud.
Remember that a fruit tree may take some time to recover and adapt after transplant. Do not subject the tree to extreme conditions (too much or too little water or fertilizer) after transplant.
What To Look For When Buying a Fruit Tree
Ideally, you can get a look at the trees you are buying before you purchase them. If not, check your trees after you receive them.
If any fruit tree is unacceptable, ask for an exchange or refund and send it back. Look for the following warning signs to avoid buying an unacceptable tree:
- Fruit tree has damaged roots, trunk, or branches – this can occur due to disease, rough handling during shipping, inclement weather (wind or hail), or animals (for example, deer scraping antlers against the tree trunk or branches).
- Fruit tree has broken dormancy – you can tell that a fruit tree has broken dormancy if buds have begun to appear and open on the branches.
- Fruit tree is root bound – if buying a fruit tree in a container, it may become root bound if it stays in the same pot for too long. After a while, the roots start expanding outwards in search of more nutrients and water in the soil. When they hit the edges of the container, they circle around. Ultimately, this limits the growth of the fruit tree, and makes it more difficult to transplant without damaging the root system.
Buy trees that look healthy without any signs of disease. Ask about buying from new stock, rather than leftovers from the previous year or season.
In addition, make sure that your trees are labelled properly. You don’t want to get an apple tree instead of a pear tree. You also don’t want to buy a tree that will grow too large for the location you planned to grow it!
Finally, you should plan on ordering your fruit trees by December to get trees that are ready to plant by February.
How Much Is A Mature Fruit Tree?
A young tree can go for as little as $10, while a mature tree can sell for $100 or more. The price of a mature fruit tree will depend on the type of fruit, the age or size of the tree, and the merchant you are buying from.
For example, the Nursery at Ty Ty lists both Bing Cherry trees and Dwarf North Star Cherry trees ranging from a price of $22.75 (2 to 3 feet tall) up to $99.75 (7 to 8 feet tall). You can learn all about dwarf fruit trees in my article here.
On the other hand, Fast Growing Trees lists Honeycrisp Apple trees starting at $39.95 (2 to 3 feet tall) up to $139.95 (6 to 7 feet tall). They list Granny Smith Apple trees starting at $79.95 (5 to 6 feet tall) up to $99.95 (6 to 7 feet tall).
Keep in mind that there are also shipping charges for many online purchases. These charges can really add up, especially when transporting large fruit trees that can be 6 to 7 feet tall or more. They can also vary significantly depending on the company you order from, and where you are located.
For example, the Nursery at TyTy charges a minimum of $17.67 for shipping, depending on state and order size. A purchase of over $400 will cost at least $50 for shipping!
However, some retailers will offer a discount or free shipping with a purchase in excess of a certain amount. Do your homework and look at the total cost of your purchase, including shipping and any bulk discounts or other special offers!
Where to Buy Mature Fruit Trees
There are many places you can buy mature fruit trees online, including:
- The Nursery at Ty Ty – this nursery based in Georgia has tons of fruit trees, including apple, cherry, fig, kiwi, peach, pear, persimmon, and plum. You may not be able to grow some of their selections in colder climates, but I’m sure you can find something you like that will survive in your yard. They also have grape vines, nut trees, and berry bushes, amongst other things. You can check out fruit trees from the Nursery at Ty Ty here.
- Fast Growing Trees – their main nursery is in Fort Mill, South Carolina. They have lots to offer, including apple, cherry, fig, peach, pear, pomegranate, and plum trees. They also have lots of flowering and evergreen trees if you need some privacy or landscaping for your yard or garden. You can check out fruit trees from Fast Growing Trees here.
- Stark Brothers – this company based in Missouri began in the 1800’s by grafting apple trees and shipping them by rail. They have fruit trees for any climate: apple, apricot, banana, cherry, citrus, fig, mulberry, nectarine, and pawpaws, among others. They also carry nut trees, berry bushes, and plants for landscaping. You can check out fruit trees from Stark Brothers here.
- Willis Orchard Company – this company is based in Cartersville, Georgia. They have many of the standard fruit trees you would expect, such as apples, pears, and cherries. However, they also carry some less obvious fruit trees, including Asian Pear, Crabapple, Jujube, Quince, and dwarf fruit trees. You can check out fruit trees from Willis Orchard Company here.
No matter whom you choose to buy from, make sure that you only order trees that can survive in your USDA Hardiness Zone! Most orchards and nurseries will have websites that can help you to figure this out. A good place to start is the USDA Zone Hardiness Map, to find out what Zone you are in.
Caring For Mature Fruit Trees
Mature fruit trees need care just like any other plants. In particular, they need a location with enough sunlight, usually 8 or more hours per day. So, don’t plant them too close to your house, garage, or shed!
Also, fruit trees need to be able to spread their roots down to a depth of about 3 feet. So, make sure that there is nothing to impede their progress (such as rocks, septic systems, or anything else for that matter!)
Some other areas to keep in mind when caring for fruit trees are fertilizing, watering, pruning, and fruit thinning. Let’s start with a few words on fertilizing.
Fertilizing For Mature Fruit Trees
Fruit trees should be fertilized in the spring. Don’t put fertilizer too close to the trunk of the tree, and don’t concentrate it all in one area. You can add compost, worked into the soil, to add some nutrients and improve drainage.
You can also add mulch, spread on top of the soil, to retain moisture and insulate against temperature changes. Just make sure not to mulch too close to your trees, and do not pile it up against their trunks, which can cause rot and diseases!
To supplement nutrients, you may also want to use a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10. According to the Oregon State University Extension, you should use 1/8 of a pound of such fertilizer for each year of age of the tree. For example, a four-year-old fruit tree would need about ½ pound (4 times 1/8) of fertilizer.
Watering For Mature Fruit Trees
Trees will need less water as they grow older and more mature, due to their more extensive root systems and ability to withstand dry conditions.
You can water mature fruit trees less frequently than young trees. Give mature fruit trees a deep watering, so that the top 2 to 3 feet of soil are wet.
You may only need to irrigate your fruit trees every 2 to 3 weeks, depending on the weather. For more information, check out this article on growing fruit trees from the Oregon State University Extension.
Pruning for Mature Fruit Trees
Pruning fruit trees helps to keep branches closer to ground, which makes harvesting easier. It also removes old wood to make room for new growth.
Prune your fruit trees when they are dormant (in late winter, usually between December and March). Younger trees will not need much pruning – in fact, too much pruning will encourage excessive shoot growth, which will lead to poor quality fruit.
Any fruit trees up to 10 years of age should be pruned lightly. Older, more mature fruit trees should be pruned more aggressively, since they will produce better quality fruit after pruning.
Although young fruit trees should not be pruned too much, you can train them to have a certain desired shape (espalier).
Fruit Thinning For Mature Fruit Trees
When a tree produces excessive flowers and too many of them are pollinated, the resulting amount of fruit can strain the health of the tree.
The limbs can break due to the weight of the fruit, or the entire tree can tip over (I have seen this at an apple orchard – it’s sad!)
Also, the tree can exhaust its energy reserves in one year, leading to very poor fruit production the following year (sometimes known as biennial bearing).
To avoid these problems, you can thin the fruit on your mature fruit trees by simply picking off some of the fruit before it is ripe. You can feed the immature fruit to chickens or compost it instead.
When thinning, try to leave a uniform spacing between the remaining fruit on the tree. For peaches, leave at least 8 inches (20 centimeters) between fruit. For plums, leave at least 4 inches (10 centimeters) between fruit.
Pears and apples produce clusters of fruit, so to thin their fruit, you can leave one fruit per cluster.
For more information, check out this article on thinning fruit from the University of Maine Extension.
By now, you know where to look to buy mature fruit trees. You also know what to look out for, to reduce the chances that you get a sick or underperforming tree.
If you live in a colder area (like I do), check out my article on how to protect trees and shrubs from heavy snow.
I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information.
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