Peaches are some of the most loved summer fruits. They are borne from small deciduous trees that are quite cold hardy. The Chinese natives were first cultivated in Asia in ancient times and have been slowly bred and selected to the point where they produce the large luscious fruits that we see in markets today. Orchards exist in many temperate parts of the world with milder winters.
In spring, the boughs of peach trees become covered with many white, rose or pink fragrant five-petaled flowers. In more northerly climates these can appear before the end of the last frost date, which makes them susceptible to frost damage. The flowers are pollinated by bees and give rise to downy, sweet-fleshed stone fruits that appear from early summer to early fall, depending on the selection.
Peaches are commonly white or yellow fleshed and have skin in hues of white, yellow, pink and red. The fruits are further characterized as freestone or cling. Freestone peaches have flesh that separates from the pit and cling have flesh that clings to the pit. A few sterile ornamental cultivars are grown only for their flowers. The long, curved, glossy leaves appear after the flowers and sometimes have purple-red hues.
To do their best peach trees need full sun and fertile well-drained soil. They are deciduous and require a period of winter dormancy to properly flower and produce fruit. The trees should be pruned annually while dormant. Most cultivars are self-fruitful, which means they are self-fertile and bear fruit on their own.
Most peaches are grafted. Those on dwarfing rootstock are ideal for small yards. Smaller specimens can also be espaliered against a wall or fence.