By Blair Thomas
If you’re a home gardener who is interested in fruit trees, make sure you pick a species that will do well in the Illinois climate.
First, choose a tree fruit variety that is grafted on dwarfing, semi-dwarf or seedling rootstocks because these require less space to grow.
Next, consider which part of the state you live in. Crops such as peaches, nectarines and sweet cherries won’t withstand the extreme winter conditions of Northern Illinois, but they typically perform well in the central and southern parts of the state. Apricots also struggle in Northern Illinois because they bloom early in the spring, making them susceptible to frost. The best tree fruits for the northern part of the state are apples, pears, sour cherries and plums.
After you select your crop, think about where it will be planted. All fruit trees prefer sunlight. Some may grow in partial shade, but the quality of your fruits won’t be as high. To avoid as much potential frost damage as possible, plant your tree in well-drained soil on higher terrain so cool air will settle on lower grounds. Soil pH ranging from 5.6 to 7.0 is best for fruit crops.
To learn more about caring for your fruit trees, and to see a full list of fruit crops that will grow in Illinois, visit the University of Illinois Extension Service website or talk to an agent in your county.