Home gardeners find definite advantages to growing dwarf peach trees. Since many genetic dwarfs only reach 6 feet tall, compared to standard varieties that may be 25 feet high and as wide, ladders are unnecessary for pruning and harvesting. If pests or diseases strike, signs are likely detected earlier. Dwarf trees produce well, because more can be planted in a small area, and they fruit sooner. All peaches perform best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 to 9. Due to the zone recommendation, mail order is your best source. Two trees may not be required but can't hurt.
How Dwarfs Developed Drastically shortened internodes -- the space between buds -- on a dwarf peach cause the diminutive size of the tree. Two or three times as many buds form in the same distance on these trees as on a standard peach. Then, at least one leaf grows under each bud, accounting for dwarfs' dense foliage. The first miniature peach trees were natural mutations of seedlings, according to Mother Earth News. Beginning in the mid-20th century, breeders grew millions of trees in test fields to discover the rare seedlings that exhibited compact character. The testers hand-pollinated these seedlings with pollen from the top varieties. The present dwarf varieties evolved from years of breeding to blend genes for good taste, pleasing color and disease resistance with genes for miniature dimensions.
Popular Dwarf Varieties Different cultivars of dwarf peaches (Prunus persica) fare better in certain climates, even if your home is in an acceptable USDA zone for peaches. Consulting your county extension office before planting is advised. While standard-size trees bear their first peaches in about three years, dwarfs set fruit in only one or two years. Varieties that reach harvest in early summer include "El Dorado," a rich-flavored, medium-sized peach; "Golden Gem," a large, red-pitted peach, known for excellent flavor; and "Southern Sweet," another flavorful medium fruit with yellow and red skin. Among those maturing in mid-summer are "Bonanza II," a large, aromatic peach with deep yellow to orange flesh; "Southern Flame," with similar characteristics to the previous variety; and "Southern Rose," a medium fruit with yellow skin and red blush. "Garden Gold," a large, red-pitted fruit, is one of the few late-season dwarf peaches.
Importance of Pruning Dwarfs Peach trees can be pruned more severely than other fruit trees, especially those with foliage as thick as the dwarfs'. Yearly pruning should eliminate weak branches that might break when fruit-laden and those growing in the wrong direction. Do your pruning during the dormant season from late fall through the winter. Thinning the developing fruits is also important. Though it may test your willpower, remove all the little immature fruits in the first year to allow the root system to become established. After the first year, thin the young fruits to only one every 3 or 4 inches on the branches. Failure to do this could result in grape-sized peaches that are too crowded to ripen properly.
Container Growing Because of their size, dwarf peaches can thrive in large containers. Choose a pot at least 18 inches in diameter (and preferably 36 inches or more). The plant will be able to grow and bear fruit for years without transplanting. "Honey Babe," a small, sweet, mid-summer variety, and "Pix Zee," a large, flavorful, early peach, grow well in containers. The late-bearing "Garden Gold" is another good container variety. Dwarf trees planted in the ground outproduce container-grown peaches. But if you only have a deck, porch or rooftop patio, you can enjoy seasonal blooms and edible fruit in your urban setting.