How Deep Should A Fruit Tree Be Planted?

Planting a fruit tree is an excellent way to enhance any yard or garden while systematically maximizing the space to yield healthy produce. It may seem overwhelming and labor-intensive at first, but we have researched how deep to plant the fruit tree. We'll also share how to pick the right variety and guide you with the proper planting and caring for a delicious yield. 

Determine the depth to plant a fruit tree by the tree's growth stage or maturity. The appropriate depth should be relative to the rootball's size, providing anchor support and stability while allowing enough room for lateral growth.

The hole size and depth are important aspects to consider when growing a tree because they significantly affect its overall development. In this article, we aim to inform you about the proper ways to plant a tree, provide care during the growth stage and maintain its health to maturity.

Couple is currently planting tree saplings in the ground, How Deep Should A Fruit Tree Be Planted?

Steps In Planting a Fruit Tree

Excavate A Hole

Dig a hole approximately twice the size and width of the rootball and equal its height or depth. Test the dimensions by setting the tree and note if the hole accommodates the root structure properly since planting too shallow or too deep directly influences root development, influencing water and nutrient uptake.

Digging the hole for planting tree

Loosen The Sides

Loosen the sides of the hole by roughing up or separating compacted soil to provide room for the addition of organic material and promote the growth of root hairs.

Ensure That The Root Collar Is Planted Above the Ground

The root collar is the area where the roots meet the trunk and should be at the soil line or slightly above it. Early plant respiration is determined by and dependent on the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide absorbed by the tree that is dictated or influenced by root depth.

Untangle The Roots

If you are simply repotting a tree and intend to plant it in the yard, detangle and loosen the roots by gently separating them using your hands. By doing this, you are allowing the roots to develop and expand into the surrounding ground. If you notice any damaged roots, prune them immediately.

Add Mulch

Fruit tree seedling planted in the ground and covered mulch

Once the tree has been planted, add a 2- to 4-inch layer of natural mulch around the tree's base. Do not let the material come in contact with the trunk because it can damage the bark considerably.

Organic matters, including wood, compost, and shredded leaves, will generally improve the overall quality of the soil while retaining moisture needed for plant development.

Preparation And Planting

Location And Spacing

Fruit trees require adequate space for them to properly thrive and develop. They will tend to compete with the soil's nutrients when planted too close to each other. Apart from that, close proximities will only increase the shade they receive, resulting in low fruit yield and reduced quality.

As a general rule, the plant's mature height determines the allowable spacing between planting. To illustrate, dwarf trees can reach a height of 6 to 8 feet. Since this is the case, you are allowed to plant your next tree 8 feet away.

The standard height of most trees is between 20 to 25 feet, while semi-dwarf trees grow 12 to 15 feet tall.


Fruit trees need to be planted and grown in well-draining, sandy, and loamy environments. Heavy clay soils affect root formation since they are always waterlogged and too dense that they restrict oxygen flow.

They generally prefer slightly acidic environments to a more neutral pH level (6.0-7.0).


When planting fruit trees, place them in locations where they can receive 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day because the amount of light exposure affects fruit yield. You should provide adequate spacing to allow the sun to penetrate.


In general, water your fruit trees deeply and thoroughly amidst the growing seasons, especially during dry spells.

While this is the case, saplings have different watering requirements than established trees. Newly-planted cultivars need to be hydrated regularly, while the latter only needs moisture when exposed to long periods of drought.

Avoid planting in areas where it pools after raining to avoid root decay.


Established trees only require minimal fertilization, particularly when all growing conditions are met. When feeding is needed, fertilizers with adequate nitrogen are the only nutrient that can be added once a year.

To encourage fruit yield, apply fertilizers with high phosphorus or phosphate content.

Selecting Fruit Trees: What To Consider

What Is Hardiness Zone In Plants?

The hardiness zone is a map devised by the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA). It is a crucial source of information regarding the average annual temperatures in 13 zones or locations throughout the United States. Each area states a 10-degree temperature difference.

It generally functions as a guide to help gardeners determine which plants and cultivars can actually thrive in the region or area they live in. Fruit trees should be planted in environments that meet their growing conditions. Hardiness zones can affect your tree's overall maturity, survival, and fruit production.

To illustrate, zone 7 spreads across 15 U.S states, including the Eastern coastal regions, Oklahoma, and the woodlands of Oregon and Washington. Temperatures in these areas range between 0 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-17 to -12 degrees Celsius).

Some fruit trees you may grow in zone 7 are various cultivars of apples, peaches, cherries, and apricots.

Chill Hours

Chill hours refer to a tree's required hours to be exposed to cold temperatures ranging between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit (0 to 7 degrees Celsius), particularly all throughout the winter months.

The cold exposure triggers a hormone that stimulates buds into developing flowers and fruits once the temperature begins to rise. The buds might not bloom without adequate chill hours, resulting in late, lesser, or no produce. Leaf development could also be affected.

For instance, apple trees that need 500 chill hours cannot bear fruits if grown in locations that only receive 300 chill hours. It is recommended to read and check the description to know the required number.

List of fruit trees that needs some chill hours:

  • Peaches (800 - 1,000)
  • Strawberries (200-400)
  • Apples (500-1,00 depending on the cultivar)
  • Figs (100-300)
  • Pears (600-1,000)
  • Cherries (500-700)

Take note that because of climate change, chill hours in some areas have started to vary.

Fruit Trees

Apple Trees

Ripe apples hanging on branch

Apple trees are relatively sensitive to the overall climate and temperature of the environment where they grow, so you must be careful when planting one. They can be classified as hardy and long-season cultivars. The former is best grown in zones 3 to 5, while the latter thrives well in zones 5 to 8.

Each apple tree variety has a specific recommended number of winter chills. For instance, Gala apples require 500 chill hours while Red Delicious cultivar needs 600 to 700 hours. If you live in warmer regions, Anna and Golden Dorsett apples are an ideal species because they only require 200 to 300 chill hours.


Ripe pears hang on a tree

Most pear cultivars can be grown in zones 4 to 8. Hardy varieties, including Loma, Patten, and Summercrisp, can thrive in areas with lower temperatures (zone 3). In warmer environments (zone 10), Keiffer, Hood, and Monterrey can be cultivated.

For better fruit production, your tree requires an ample winter chill. European pears have higher chilling requirements - between 600 to 900 chill hours, while Asian cultivars only need 300 to 600 hours.


Closeup of a peach tree brunch with ripe fruit at an orchard in Central Kentucky

In order for peach trees to thrive, you should plant cultivars that grow well in your climate. Most varieties can be cultivated in zones 4 to 9. However, they specifically prefer to be planted in zones 6 to 8.

The recommended hours of winter chill depend on the variety. It ranges from 50 to 1,000 chilling hours. If your tree does not meet the minimum requirement, fruit production decreases.


Ripe cherries on a tree

Cherry trees can be grown in various USDA hardiness zones depending on the cultivar. A majority of cherries prefer to be planted in zones 5 to 8 where they cannot be damaged by frigid conditions. A sufficient amount of winter chill (at least 700 hours) is provided and guaranteed in these areas.

If you live in areas with colder climates (zone 4), sour cherries, such as Montmorency and Morello, are the only varieties you can grow.

In Closing

Generally, fruit trees have to be given the proper growing conditions in order for them to thrive and develop. We hope this article has been helpful in giving you considerable insights regarding the overall development requirements of fruit trees. Happy planting!

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