Since the U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones run from 1 through 13, zone 8 sits somewhere in the middle of the heap. It includes the Washington and Oregon coastal regions as well as a swath of the South, including mid-Texas and the very northern edge of Florida. In these areas, winter temperatures can drop to between 10 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
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This zone is ideal from growing a wide variety of fruit trees, ranging from common, popular fruit like apples, peaches, and cherries, to more exotic fruit trees like figs and persimmons.
Growing Fruit in Zone 8
If you want to start a home orchard in USDA zone 8, selecting zone-appropriate trees is a big step. But it's not the only step. You also have to be sure that the trees get enough sunshine and proper soil.
Most fruit trees, including apples, peaches, cherries, figs, and persimmons, require at least six full hours of direct sun to produce sweet crops. Fruit trees also require soil with excellent drainage. Working organic compost into the soil before planting can increase drainage and also provide needed nutrients. If you select a planting location on a slope, the trees have the advantage of warm air rising.
Apples, Cherries, and Peaches
Apple trees (Malus domestica) are the most popular type of fruit tree for American home orchards. Many species of apple trees need summer heat but require a cold spell to set fruit. It's important to pay attention to chilling requirements since some apples need more than zone 8 regions provide. Apple tree cultivars that thrive in zone 8 include 'Fuji,' 'Gala,' 'Granny Smith,' 'Wine Sap,' and 'Golden Delicious.' Remember that to get apples, you need at least two trees since the plants are not self-pollinating.
Sadly, for gardeners in zone 8, sweet cherry trees (Prunus avium) do not do well in any zone higher than 5. On the other hand, sour cherry trees (Prunus cerasus) — used for cooking — thrive in zone 8. The sour cherry tree 'Montmorency' is one of them, and fruits are ready for harvest in late summer.
Peach trees (Prunus persica) are self-pollinating so you'll only need one tree to get fruit. These trees have shorter chilling requirements than apples, and most common peach varieties do well in zone 8. Peach trees won't yield fruit, however, without significant summer sun. Some appropriate cultivars include 'TropicSnow,' 'ValleGrande,' 'EarliGrande' and 'TropicBeauty,' all offering a late summer or early fall harvest.
Figs and Persimmons
Most types of fig trees (Ficus carica) thrive in the warm summers and cool winters of USDA zone 8 regions, including the popular common fig. They are both cold hardy and heat tolerant. Only one fig tree is required to produce fruit.
Native persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) are common in zone 8, and it's also possible to grow varieties of the attractive Japanese persimmons (D. kaki), with red or orange fruit. Most must be eaten only after they soften, although a few cultivars, including 'Fuyu,' can be eaten while the fruit are still firm. These trees are compact and can be planted 10 feet apart.