What are the Best Fruit Trees to Grow in Illinois?
Finding the best fruit trees to grow in Illinois was not as easy as I thought. Some require extensive care, others are prone to pests, and lots are just not simple & quick enough to grow.
That’s why I created a list of the 10 Best Fruit Trees to Grow in Illinois!
This ultimate guide will give you the best fruit trees to grow, why you should grow them, and even how to grow them.
Read THIS Before Growing Fruit Trees in Illinois
Knowing what hardiness zone Illinois is in is critical to understanding the best fruits that can be grown.
It can be the difference between your fruit orchard thriving and providing a bountiful yield or producing nothing and maybe even dying.
Illinois is mostly considered Hardiness Zone 5, while some of the lower-level regions are Hardiness Zone 6.
10 Best Fruit Trees to Grow in Illinois
#1. Apple Tree
Popular Varieties: Honeycrisp, Red Delicious, Granny
Why Grow Apple Trees in Illinois?
- Apple Trees thrive in Illinois’s cold spring and cooler fall months. Unlike other fruits, flowers and fruit can grow even when there is snow or frost late into the spring.
Easy to Grow:
- Apple trees may be the easiest fruit to grow. You do not need to fertilize it, don’t need to water it, can be planted in any soil, and needs very little pruning if any.
Perfect for ANY Yard:
- Apple Trees are perfect for any gardener’s yard. If you have a lot of space you can plant numerous apple trees. If you have a little space you can plant your apple trees in pots. And regardless of the climate or soil in Illinois, you can plant them just about anywhere in your yard.
- Out of all the fruit trees on this list, apple trees have one of the heaviest harvest. Between late August through November you can pick more apples then you’ll be able to eat.
THESE Could Harm Your Apple Trees
- Deer, Rabbits, & Squirrels LOVE Lettuce. If left unprotected these pests will eat your fruit before it can even fully grow.
- Out of all the fruit trees on this list, insects are most likely to attact apple trees. Whether it’s Japanese Beetles or Aphids, you will constantly have to spray and care for your apple tree to prevent insect infestation
- Again, out of all the fruit trees on this list, Apple Trees are most prone to disease. Blight & mold are just two of the diseases that can attack, harm, and sometimes kill your fruit trees in the spring or summer.
Learn How To Grow Apple Trees HERE
#2. Pear Tree
Popular Varieties: Barlett, Kieffer, Anjou, Bosc
Why Grow Pear Trees in Illinois?
- Pear Trees is another hardy fruit when it comes to cold in Illinois. Pears are a perfect compliment to apple trees, blooming earlier and bearing fruit earlier in the summer.
- Pear Trees is not only a great tree that is cold-hardy but also does amazing in droughts, high heat, and humidity. This makes it perfect to plant anywhere in your yard, regardless of the amount of sunlight it receives.
Perfect in Pots:
- If there is any fruit that can be grown in gardening pots in Illinois, it’s Pear Trees. This is one of the most adaptive fruits, making it perfect for beginner gardeners in Illinois.
THESE Could Harm Your Pear Trees
- Like many other fruits, insects like aphids will attack and infest your pear trees. Unlike Apple Trees that can recover quickly, Pear Trees typically won’t.
- While pear trees do great in heat and cold, they can struggle with wet conditions. If the ground becomes too wet over winter and spring then there is a chance that root rot will happen, harming or killing your tree.
Learn How To Grow Pear Trees HERE
#3. Plum Tree
Popular Varieties: Damson, Fench, Friar, Japanese
Why Grow Plum in Illinois?
Thrives in heat:
- While most fruit trees tolerate heat, plum trees thrive in it. This early summer fruit-producing tree will grow quickly with more plums when it has a warmer winter and spring.
Insect & Disease Proof:
- Plums are extremely hardy. Unlike every other fruit tree on this list, plum trees are resistant against almost all insects and every disease, making it the perfect fruit tree to grow in Illinois.
Perfect for Small Spaces:
- Apple, Pear, & Cherry Trees grow quite large. If you don’t have a big backyard this can pose a problem. But you don’t have to worry about this with plum trees, as they won’t grow more than 8 to 10 feet high and 6-8 feet wide.
THESE Could Harm Your Plums Trees
- Deer, Rabbits, & Squirrels come out of winter and become hungry in spring. One of the first plants they eat is plums. Whether protected or unprotected pests pose a risk to growing plums in Illinois.
- Like pear trees, plum trees don’t do well with wet conditions. It is recommended to plant this type of tree in an area of your yard with well-draining soil and long periods of direct sunlight.
The biggest tip for having success growing plum trees is to prune them. Plum trees will take 5-6 years to bear fruit, but pruning your tree will promote tree growth and more plums.
#4. Peach Tree
Popular Varieties: Redhaven, Reliance, White, Sunhaven
Why Grow Peaches in Illinois?
Thrives in the heat:
- The hotter, the better. Unlike apple, cherry, pear, and plum trees that tolerate heat, peach trees will actually do better the hotter it gets. That means the hot and humid summers are perfect for peach trees bearing more fruit.
Great for Vertical Gardening:
- Most fruit trees grow high and wide, but very few just grow high. Peach trees are the only type of fruit tree that has varieties that can grow 10 to 15 feet high and only 2 to 3 feet wide.
- Out of all the fruit trees on this list, the Peach Tree is the quickest growing fruit tree. Not only this, but most Peach Trees will actually bear fruit within 1 to 2 years after planting.
THESE Could Harm Your Peach Tree
- Peach Trees do not tolerate cold weather well. While some varieties can survive Illinois’s cold weather, most will die if the winter temperatures drop consistently below 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Like many other fruit trees, Peaches are prone to diseases such as blight, mold, etc. Not only will this happen during early spring during wet conditions, but can also continue throughout summer and even fall.
For best success growing Peach Trees, you should plant them next to other trees in the same family like nectarines and apricots. Keep them in a well-draining and full-sun area of your yard.
Popular Varieties: Chicago, Turkey, Brown
Why Grow Fig in Illinois?
- The fig tree is the only fruit tree on this list that is truly pest-resistant. Deers hate fig-trees, rabbits can’t reach the fruit, and squirrels and chipmunks find easier food elsewhere.
Perfect for Indoors & Outdoors:
- No other fruit on this list can be grown indoors and outdoors. Fig Trees can thrive outside, but most gardeners will grow them in a pot where they leave them outside during the summer months and bring them inside after the first frost of the year.
Easy to Grow:
- Once you plant your fig tree there is nothing else you need to do. You don’t have to worry about insects or disease, only need to water it once a week, and you even don’t have to worry about pruning it for figs to grow.
THESE Could Harm Your Figs
- While some types of fig trees can survive and do well in Illinois winters, most will become stunted and not produce fruit or may even die.
- If you keep your fig trees in pots droughts will stunt and kill your tree. This is because fig trees in pots will dry out quicker than in the ground.
Learn How to Prune Fig Trees HERE.
Popular Varieties: Bing, Van, Montmorency
Why Grow Cherry Trees in Illinois?
Thrives in the heat & cold:
- Cucumbers are another hardy fruit. Some varieties can be grown in cold weather and some can be grown in warmer weather.
Lots & Lots of Harvest:
- Cherries produce the largest harvest out of all the fruit trees on this list. While cherry trees don’t grow as tall as other trees they can sometimes yield up to 50 pounds of fruit in a season.
- If you want a fruit tree that acts as a cross-pollinator then look no further than the cherry tree. It does great with crabapples and apple trees to name a few.
THESE Could Harm Your Cherry Trees
- These pests will generally not harm your actual cherry tree. What they will do though is immediately eat cherries if you do not protect them with netting.
Cold & Wet Conditions:
- Cherry Trees also will quickly die if conditions are too wet or if the winters get too cold, making this one of the most difficult trees to care for every year.
To have the most success growing cherry trees you should constantly prune, mulch, spray for disease and insects, and protect them against garden pests.
#7. Nectarine Tree
Popular Varieties: Sungo, Fantasia, Redgold
Why Grow Nectarines in Illinois?
- Like its cousin the peach tree, Nectarines love the heat. They grow bigger and produce more and tastier nectarines the hotter it is.
Perfect for Vertical Gardening:
- Just like peaches Nectarine trees don’t grow wide. This makes it perfect for urban gardeners or anyone who has little space for fruit trees.
- Like the peach tree, Nectarines grow incredibly fast. Even within the first year or two, nectarines will grow on planting and potted trees.
THESE Could Harm Your Nectarine Trees
- Almost every type of Nectarine Tree struggles with the cold. If you live in the Northern part of Illinois Nectarine trees will struggle with the winter and if you live in a part of Illinois where temperatures can dip for weeks at a time below 20 degrees Fahrenheit you will need to wrap your tree in burlap to protect it from the cold.
- Nectarines can be prone to diseases in early summer. Expect blight, fungus, and rot to affect your plant early in the season near the time your tree begins to grow flowers.
One of the easiest ways to ensure success growing Nectarine Trees is to first plant your tree well after the last frost, but before it gets extremely warm. In the winter, you should wrap your tree in burlap. This will give your Nectarine tree the best chance of growing and bearing fruit.
#8. Apricot Tree
Popular Varieties: Royal, Tropic Gold, Blenheim
Why Grow Apricot Trees in Illinois?
Thrives in Droughts:
- Apricot trees are another great type of fruit tree that will thrive in Illinois’s humidity and heat. And for those summers that get little to no rain apricots trees will continue to grow and bear lots of apricots.
Great for Small Yards:
- Apricot trees don’t get very large. Outside of Fig Trees, they are the next smallest tree on this list. This makes them perfect for small yards and space, surburban fruit orchards, and urban gardens.
THESE Could Harm Your Aprciot Trees
- Almost everything can harm apricot trees, making them incredibly difficult, but not impossible to grow. Insects, disease, sometimes wind, wet conditions, and garden pests are just a few of the elements that can negatively affect your fruit tree.
- Like most nectarine and peach trees, apricot trees do poorly in the cold. In fact, they have the least likelihood of almost any fruit tree on this list of surviving Illinois’s winter if not wrapped in burlap or another heat retaining material.
The biggest way to have success planting & growing apricot trees is to consistently care for them. This is not a fruit tree that you can plant and forget about. You should constantly prune, spray, water, and protect against the elements every year.
#9. Mulberry Tree
Popular Varieties: Black, White, Red
Why Grow Mulberry Trees in Illinois?
Thrives in Almost Any Condition:
- While you may not be very familar with the Mulberry Tree, it is an excellent choice to grow in almost any condition. You can plant it with other trees, by itself in a field, among weeds, or even in a garden and it will quickly grow and bear fruit.
- The mulberry tree is so versatile because of its size that you can plant it anywhere. Whether it’s in a small space next to your house, in the corner or your garden, or even in a gardening container, the mulberry tree is perfect for all fruit tree growers.
THESE Could Harm Your Mulberry Trees
- When growing mulberry trees you will need to protect them from birds. While birds won’t harm the tree itself they have been known to quickly devour the fruit before they even ripen.
Mulberry trees will grow plenty of fruit by themselves, but to have four to five times the amount of mulberries you should plant them next to another type of mulberry tree to promote cross-pollination.
#10. Lemon Tree
Popular Varieties: Meyer, Lisbon, Ponderosa
Why Grow Lemon Trees in Illinois?
- Out of all the fruit trees on this list, lemons will thrive the most with heat. This is because they naturally have been grown in warmer weather climates. And best of all is that you need to water or care for them very little to have success.
Perfect for Pots:
- Lemon Trees can only grow in pots in Illinois. If you want a fruit tree that can easily be moved from indoors to outdoors, kept indoors all year, or even just as an ornamental tree then look no further.
THESE Could Harm Your Lemon Tree
Lemon trees are the most sensitive fruit tree on this list to cold weather. If temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit then your tree won’t grow or produce fruit. If temperatures drop below freezing your lemon tree will die.
Learn How to Grow Lemon Trees in Pots HERE
Common Growing Factors of Illinois’s Best Fruit Trees
As a reminder, the below factors are common for the Best Fruit Trees to Grow in Illinois:
- Thrives in Heat & Drought
- Thrives in Cold
- Can Grow Anywhere in your yard
- Hardy against Pests & Insects
- Require little maintenance
- Bear heavy fruit