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10 Best Fruit Trees for Southern California Backyard Growers

Southern California encompasses climates varying from the subtropical to cold winter zones in areas with higher elevations.

USDA zones 5a-11a are included in the southern portion of CA, giving homeowners a wealth of different fruit trees to choose from.

When deciding what to plant, choosing varieties suited to your area will give you the best chance of success.

Plant the kind of fruit that you and your family like to eat, or perhaps fruit that will grow in your area but you don’t have easy access to.

10 Fruit Trees To Grow In Southern California

1. Fig (Ficus carica)

Fig
Image by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr

Fig trees will grow throughout the state of California but are best suited to the south in areas with a Mediterranean climate. Figs are easy to grow and require little care. They can even produce a harvest in areas with poor soil without any added fertilizer.

However, they will produce more abundantly when fertilized, especially in dry inland areas of SoCal. This can be done in early spring when the trees break into leaf and then later when the fruit begins to form.

Whilst figs are drought tolerant as they are Mediterranean and West Asian natives, they’ll produce better with supplemental summer irrigation. Because of their size, figs are best suited to larger areas, although they can be grown in containers successfully.

The fig also features in our article on the best dwarf fruit trees for California.

Other Common Names: Common fig

Growing Zones: 8-10

Average Size at Maturity: 10-30 ft tall and 10-30 ft wide

Varieties Suitable for Southern California: Black Mission, Excel, Long Verde, Panache, Pasquale, Tena

Flowering Season: Early to mid-spring. Flowers are hidden from view

2. Pomegranate (Punica granatum)

Pomegranate
Image by Flemming Munch via Flickr

Pomegranates are another native of the dry areas of Western Asia, and Southern Asia, so are well suited to the southern California climate. Pomegranates are easy to grow and require little care and water to produce beautifully tasty and ornamental blossoms and fruit.

The seeds are coated in delicious sweet or tart juicy flesh called arils. Pomegranates grow best in full sun and can take the harsh SoCal elements with ease.

Pomegranates are deciduous but in warmer winter areas may remain evergreen. They are disease and pest-resistant, requiring little care other than some light pruning. Pomegranates store well, so one tree can keep you well-stocked when it comes to your supply of fruit.

Pomegranates are adaptable to a wide range of soil types and will grow best in the hot and dry inland valleys of SoCal.

Other Common Names: Granada

Growing Zones: 7-10

Average Size at Maturity: 15-20 ft tall 12-20 ft wide

Varieties Suitable for Southern California: Eversweet, Parfianka, Ambrosia, Wonderful

Flowering Season: Spring

3. Guava (Psidium guajava)

Guava
Image by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr

Growers in coastal southern California may be able to enjoy their own homegrown guavas. Guava trees have wide and short trunks and are usually single or sometimes multi-trunked.

They have an interesting light peeling bark and leathery foliage, that provides ornamental value on top of their fruit production.

Guava trees produce 1” white flowers and yield small, round or pear-shaped fruit which may be red, pink, yellow, or white inside. The taste varies from sweet, to sour to acidic depending on the variety.

Guava trees need full sun and good drainage for optimum fruit production. As guavas are tropical to subtropical species, they’ll appreciate shelter from cold winds, even in warm winter areas.

Other Common Names: Guyava, Kuawa

Growing Zones: 9-12

Average Size at Maturity: 15-25 ft tall and 15-25 ft wide

Varieties Suitable for Southern California: Mexican Cream, Red Strawberry, Giant Vietnamese/Bangkok, Hawaiian Red/Pink/Tropical, Hawaiian White, Thai Maroon, Pear Guava, Yellow Strawberry

Flowering Season: Early spring

4. Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica)

Loquat
Image by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr

Loquats have long been grown as ornamentals in CA, especially in southern, coastal areas. Loquats are adapted to subtropical and mild climates.

In areas where the climate is too warm, cool, or moist, loquats are often grown for the ornamental value of their dark green leathery tropical-looking leaves.

Loquats are adaptable to a wide range of soil types and climates but aren’t commercially grown in CA. Loquats produce fragrant flowers when other deciduous trees are settling down for the winter and are also one of the first trees to bear fruit in the spring.

According to the University of Florida, Loquat trees are very cold hardy and will withstand temperatures down to 8-10 Fahrenheit, but flowers and fruit are killed by temperatures below 27 Fahrenheit.

Other Common Names: Japanese Medlar, Japanese Plum, Nispero

Growing Zones: 8-10

Average Size at Maturity: 15-30 ft tall and 15-30 ft wide

Varieties Suitable for Southern California: Big Jim, Early Red, Gold Nugget, Vista White, Mogi, Mrs. Cooksey, Strawberry, Wolfe, Tanaka, Advance, Benlehr

Flowering Season: Late fall/early winter

5. Mango (Mangifera indica)

Mango
Image by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr

Mangos are best grown in the foothills of Southern California, away from the ocean where they receive the most heat. Some cold-hardy varieties can survive the cooler climates north of Santa Barbara, as well as in protected coves of the Central Valley.

Mangos need full sun and well-drained soil for best production. Mangos have deep tap roots up to 20 ft deep so need deep soil. Mangos need almost no pruning and are alternate bearing, meaning they’ll produce heavy harvest on alternate years.

Other Common Names: Mango

Growing Zones: 10b-11

Average Size at Maturity: 20-32 ft tall and 20-32 ft wide

Varieties Suitable for Southern California: Cooper, Edgehill, Piña, Costa Rica, Manila, Reliable, Edward, Kent, Tommy Atkins, Valencia Pride, Keitt

Flowering Season: Late winter to early spring

6. Avocado (Persea americana)

Avocado
Image by RVCTA Imágenes via Flickr

Avocado has soared in global popularity in recent decades. If you live in SoCal, you can grow this much sought-after fruit in your yard. Avocado trees don’t require any chilling hours to produce fruit.

Avocado trees do best with moderate heat and humidity and can be grown in just about every spot in SoCal between the mountains and the coast.

Plant your avocado tree in an area in your yard that’s sheltered from the wind, stays warm in the winter, and receives full sun.

You’ll get maximum fruit production if you plant different varieties (Type A & Type B) close by for cross-pollination, although self-fruitful varieties do exist, such as Hass.

Avocados can be grown in sandy or clay, free-draining soils. They won’t tolerate waterlogged soil for long, so avoid planting in low-lying areas or in your yard where water may accumulate.

Other Common Names: Alligator Pear

Growing Zones: 8-11

Average Size at Maturity: 30-40 ft tall and 25-35 ft wide

Varieties Suitable for Southern California: Hass, Zutano, Reed, Pinkerton, Lamb Hass, Gwen, Fuerte, Gwen, and Bacon

Flowering Season: Late winter to summer

7. Lemon (Citrus limon)

Lemon tree
Image by RVCTA Imágenes via Flickr

SoCal is one of the few areas of the country suitable for the cultivation of lemons. Lemon trees are sensitive to cold, have no chilling hours, and thrive in areas with warm and mild winters, so are suited for many areas between the desert and the ocean.

Lemon trees need a well-drained medium to survive and won’t tolerate waterlogged soil, so avoid planting in areas where winter rain may accumulate. Heavy clay soil is common around San Diego, so mixing in compost when planting a lemon tree will better help the roots get the aeration they need.

Other Common Names: Lemon

Growing Zones: 9-11

Average Size at Maturity: 15-20 ft tall and 15-20 ft wide

Varieties Suitable for Southern California: Eureka, Meyer, Lisbon, Primofiori

Flowering Season: Year-round, but most abundantly in late winter

8. Persimmon (Diospyros kaki)

Persimmon (Diospyros kaki)
Image by Satoshi KAYA via Flickr

Persimmons ripen in fall after the leaves have fallen and provide a beautiful architectural display as well as unparalleled delicious fruit. Most commercial persimmon growing is done in San Diego and Fresno.

They aren’t too fussy when it comes to the type of soil they grow in, and can tolerate very dry as well as wet conditions. However, they don’t do well with high salinity.

Most persimmons have chilling hours of around 100 hours, and some varieties do well in cooler areas too. Non-astringent persimmons are best eaten fresh whilst astringent varieties are best for drying.

Persimmons can be grown in full sun or part shade.

Other Common Names: Sharon Fruit, Kaki

Growing Zones: 4-9

Average Size at Maturity: 20-30 ft tall and 15-25 ft wide

Varieties Suitable for Southern California: Fuyu, Hachiya, Hana Fuyu, Izu

Flowering Season: Late spring/early summer

9. Jujube (Ziziphus jujube)

Jujube (Ziziphus jujube)
Image by Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr

Jujubes thrive in warm and dry conditions, so are well suited to the SoCal climate, although they aren’t commonly cultivated. They are medium-sized trees with glossy, deciduous leaves. They produce oval-shaped, single-stoned fruit that starts off green before turning brown upon maturity.

To dry the fruit they can be left on the branch. When they become wrinkled they’re ready to be picked. The taste of fresh jujubes is similar to a caramel apple.

Jujubes will grow best in full sun to partial shade. Cultivation isn’t difficult provided you have sandy, well-drained soil. They can handle lows down to -20 degrees F. (-29 C.)

Other Common Names: Chinese Date, Red Date, Chinese Jujube

Growing Zones: 6-11

Average Size at Maturity: 15-20 ft tall and 15-20 ft wide

Varieties Suitable for Southern California: Li, Sugarcane

Flowering Season: June to July

10. Cherimoya (Annona cherimola)

Cherimoya
Image by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr

The Cherimoya is a semi-evergreen native to the inter-Andean valleys of Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru. It’s a subtropical/mild-temperate climate tree that will tolerate light frosts. In CA, they lose their leaves for a brief period between February and April but are otherwise dense and fast-growing.

Cherimoyas need a light chilling period of between 50 and 100 hours. Cherimoya will grow well in the foothills of SoCal, thriving at a slight elevation and about 3-15 miles from the ocean. They may even survive in protected areas of the Central Valley Foothills but won’t tolerate the aridity of the inland desert.

Cherimoyas prefer a sunny location, marine air, and cool nights. Avoid planting in areas where heat collects such as against south-facing walls. They do best in well-drained, medium soils.

Other Common Names: Custard Apple

Growing Zones: 10-11

Average Size at Maturity: 20-30 ft tall and 20-30 ft wide

Varieties Suitable for Southern California: Bays, Big Sister, Booth, Chaffey, Ecuador, El Bumpo, Honeyhart, Knight (AKA DV, Pierce, M&N Pierce), Libby, McPherson (AKA Spain), Nata, Sabor, Whaley, White (AKA Dr. White), Pierce (AKA Knight, Escondido White, Ryerson, Thomson-Spain, & Bayott)

Flowering Season: May to October

Fruitful CA

The climate of SoCal is well suited to the cultivation of many delicious species of fruit trees that you can grow in your yard. The area between the desert and the coast is well suited for the cultivation of many subtropical species that require few chilling hours to set fruit.

Be sure to choose varieties that are suited to your local area to maximize your chances of success.

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