The demand for locally grown fruit is red hot these days. It seems like everyone wants to enjoy the incredible taste, health benefits and experience of growing their favorite varieties. After all, there is nothing so satisfying as eating a piece of homegrown fruit, still warm from the sun.
Modern plant hybridizers have been inspired to create new varieties. Growers are likewise searching to revisit older varieties that might be more widely adaptable.
Here is a rundown of some of the best varieties. But first, let’s talk about what “Low Chill Hours” is and what they mean for your garden.
In simple terms, chill requirements are the approximate number of cold hours (below 45 degrees and above 32) that accumulate between the start of fall and late January. There are a number of different models that can be used to determine the amount of chill accumulation for your area every year.
To become familiar, check with your local Ag Extension Service to determine the average chill hours for your area.
The lower chill varieties of fruit will set fruit with less than 500 hours of accumulated chill hours or units. Today, most low chill selections are in the 250 to 500 chill hour range.
They consist of almost every fruit type and time period. Enjoy different fruit types for the entire season in the lower chill climates of Zones 9 and 10!
With greater urbanization and changing climate conditions, the need for lower chill selections is becoming more necessary. Nature Hills team of fruit tree specialists have spent time looking at varieties that are better suited to this new demand.
Some areas within these Zones are challenged by lower summer temperatures, fluctuating spring weather conditions, and fog. This can affect the ripening and sweetness of your fruit.
Always select locations that receive a full days’ worth of sun in Zone 9b and 10a. Be sure your planting site also has good air circulation.
Apples have been considered a cold climate fruit that was on the fringe in most parts of Zone 9. This old idea is now being challenged and tested.
Check out our Low Chill Apple video produced at the test orchards of the University of California Irvine at their South Coast Research Station. You'll see very exciting news about Apple selections for Zone 9b and 10a and 10b.
Surprisingly most Apples have proved to be very low chill. Some have even proven to be better suited to Zones 9b and 10, than to the hotter less humid parts of Zone 9a.
For instance, in Zone 9b, 10a and 10b Honeycrisp and the Cox Orange Pippin do not drop most of their fruit with the onset of a summer heat spike. These varieties are suited to the lower chill. They will likely benefit from the higher moisture content in the air that is typical of some parts of Zones 9b, 10a and 10b.
Some notable surprising Apple selections are:
Arkansas Black Apple – outstanding Heirloom selection, great keeper
Cox Orange Pippin – considered to be one of the finest apples in the world
Honeycrisp – popular high chill selection that grows well in areas of higher humidity
Fuji – Old home garden favorite
McIntosh – one of the most popular heirloom varieties grown
Varieties like the Anna, Dorsett Golden and Gala are all still regarded as “tried and true” low chill selections. But this new research is proving that more great-tasting Apple varieties will be productive in these lower chill areas.
Apricots have some popular low chill selections.
Blenheim Apricot – be patient, it can take 4 to 5 years to fruit in low chill climates but is well worth the wait
In recent years, the new Interspecific Hybrids like the Apriums (Plum x Apricots) are proving to be both delicious and productive, adapting well to low chill climates.
Selected by Nature Hills for tremendous flavor and production are:
Flavor Delight Aprium – adaptable self-fruitful apricot type fruit is both productive and full of great apricot flavor
Cot-N-Candy Aprium – newly released white-fleshed selection is both incredibly sweet and dependably productive in low chill climates
Cherries have never been considered low chill, until some recent introductions from the Zaiger Hybrids, a world-famous fruit hybridizer.
Nature Hills Nursery is now offering a new and exciting self-fruitful low chill cherry that has fabulous flavor and production.
Royal Crimson Cherry – first self- fruitful cherry that is rated at between 200 to 300 hours of chill.
Many Peach and Nectarine varieties are also well suited to the lower chill Zones. This includes a number of old names that have been favorite selections in Zone 10, but are now proving to be more dependable producers in the warmer Zone 9b regions.
Double Delight Nectarine – productive yellow-fleshed variety that is also has beautiful double pink flowers in the spring
Snow Queen Nectarine – white-fleshed, incredibly sweet fruit.
Red Baron Peach – yellow-fleshed, big flavor with the most beautiful dark-red, double blooms in spring
Donut Peach – White-fleshed, flat, donut-shaped fruit, incredibly popular for its taste and productivity
Santa Barbara Peach – yellow-fleshed favorite of the low chill climates
Low chill Pear varieties include the Southern Bartlett Pear, which is a dependable setting self-fruitful selection with great flavor and dependable productivity. This pear variety also has good fireblight resistance.
Many varieties of Plum do well in Zones 9 and 10. This fruit is some of the easiest fruit to grow at home, great for beginners.
Santa Rosa – best known low chill Plum
Burgundy and the Methley – well-known for their flavor and productivity
Pluerry are a Plum/Cherry cross that have stepped up the flavor expectations for a low chill fruit selection.
Candy Heart Pluerry – tests show its promise in low chill areas
Sweet Treat Pluerry – unmatched flavor and easily pollinated by Candy Heart Pluerry, Santa Rosa Plum and the Burgundy Plum
The search for new introductions also must include Pluots. These Plum/Apricot crosses have shown to be very productive in lower chill climates.
Dapple Dandy Pluot – outstanding, mid-season selection has years of productive history in Zones 9 and 10
Flavor Grenade Pluot – late season selection that just continues to sweeten as it hangs on the tree
Splash Pluot – multi-colored fruit that lights up the tree along with a sweetness as high as the sweetest grape you have ever had
Nature Hills leads the field when it comes to Fruiting Trees for Zones 9 and 10. Enjoy shopping, and be sure to give us a call with questions.