How Far Apart to Plant Fruit Trees [7+ Fruit Tree Spacing Tips]

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Whether you’ve got a small backyard food garden or several acres of real estate to play with, the temptation is always to cram in as many edible crops as possible!

But when it comes to fruit trees, how many can you fit in your yard?

To figure this out, we need to know how far apart we can plant fruit trees! The fruit tree transplanting range will depend on several factors, so it is best to have your plan figured out before springing for a load of new trees!

Luckily, there are some clever and creative ways we can fit more fruit trees into our yards. Let’s take a look at how to plant a fruit orchard. We’ll look at all the space requirements of standard, dwarf, and semi-dwarf varieties of nine different fruit trees, then share some tips to help you plan and grow your very own orchard!

Read More – The 9 Best Fruit Trees for Zone 4 Fruit Gardens

How Many Feet Apart Should You Plant Fruit Trees?

fruit trees growing in cold snowy climate
If you’re planting fruit trees in cold New England climates, you may be able to get away with giving your fruit trees slightly less room as they have shorter growing seasons. In southern and warmer regions – the fruit trees may stretch out more and demand more space. Plan accordingly!

The distance between fruit trees depends on the type and rootstock of each tree!

Standard rootstock fruit trees grow up to 18 to 25 feet tall/wide.

The distance between standard fruit trees depends on the type of tree. Apples will need planting at least 30 feet apart, while pear trees can be a bit closer at 20 feet apart.

This is starting to get a little confusing, so let’s look at the specifics for each type of fruit tree:

How Far Apart Should You Plant Peach Trees?

The exception to the rule of standard rootstock spacing is peach and nectarine trees.

Peach and nectarine trees grow to about 12 to 15 feet, so you should space them out by at least 15 feet. Ideally, each tree should have about 18 to 20 feet of growing space.

How Far Apart Should You Plant Apple Trees?

Apples need a lot of space to reach their fullest potential.

You should generally plant larger varieties of apple trees about 20 to 30 feet apart. Still, semi-dwarf apple trees grow well with only 15 feet of space, and dwarf apples grow just fine with about 8 feet of space.

How Far Apart Should You Plant Pear Trees?

fruit tree pears closeup
Pear trees grow surprisingly large – especially compared to other fruit trees. They also produce a ton of fruit! Try giving your pear trees plenty of space to develop – offer around 18 to 20 feet per pear tree.

Pear trees are a bit pickier than most other fruit trees when it comes to spacing. While pear trees get larger when they have plenty of space, if you want pollinators to cross-pollinate your trees, you’ll need to keep them close together.

You should give pear trees between 16 and 20 feet of growing space when planting them. Try not to space your pear trees more than 24 feet away from each other, as too much extra space may limit the amount of pollination going on between your trees.

How Far Apart Should You Plant Citrus Trees?

You should plant citrus trees 15 to 30 feet apart. However, smaller citrus trees, such as dwarf varieties, may only need 10 feet of root space to grow to their full potential.

Authorities at the University of California recommend planting standard rootstock citrus trees such as oranges, lemons, and limes at least 15 feet from other trees and structures. However, most other experts suggest that 18 to 20 feet is best, as it ensures that your trees can get as large and fruitful as possible.

The only exception to this rule is grapefruit, as these trees get quite large over time!

Give your full-size grapefruit tree varieties about 20 to 30 feet of growing space, then offer dwarf grapefruits about 12 to 15 feet of room.

How Far Apart Should You Plant Semi-Dwarf Trees?

Semi-dwarf rootstock fruit trees reach a more manageable 12 to 15 feet in height and width, which means that you can plant them just 15 feet apart from each other. So, if you’re looking to fit more trees into a smaller space, a semi-dwarf rootstock is a more sensible option.

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How Far Apart Should Small Fruit Trees Be Planted?

If you’re short of space, there are some other ingenious ways to fit more fruit trees into a small space:

Dwarf Fruit Trees

Dwarf fruit trees graft onto a rootstock! The graft limits its size to 8 to 10 feet tall. Their limited height means they are small enough to be planted in large pots without taking up too much space in your yard.

Brighter Blooms - Dwarf Fuji Apple Trees (5-6 ft.)

Dwarf apple trees are a fantastic choice if you're pinched for space. The best part is that you can get almost any apple in dwarf form, including Fuji!

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06/07/2024 12:31 am GMT

Multi-variety Fruit Trees

Some specialist plant nurseries sell fruit trees where more than one variety gets grafted onto the same rootstock. So, just one small tree might bear several different types of fruit – incredibly ingenious space-saving!

Cordon Fruit Trees

Cordon trees are dwarf trees grown as a single stem, with all the fruit borne directly adjacent to this stem. Their growing style means you can plant many fruit trees in a line, as little as 2-3 feet apart! You won’t get a large yield from each tree, but you do have the option to plant many more different varieties of trees with this method.

Fruiting Hedgerows

Hedges don’t just have to be for keeping livestock in! Planting a fruiting hedgerow can give you an abundance of fruit throughout the summer and fall! You can also count on providing shelter and excellent wildlife habitat.

This method means you can have heftier trees, such as apples and pears, interplanted with berries and other fruits! It might not be the easiest to prune, but it will be buzzing with happy pollinators when the spring blossom bursts into life!

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Fruit Tree Spacing Quick Reference Chart

Want an easy reference guide to help you space all of your fruit trees? Well, consider it done!

Here’s a handy chart with the space requirements for standard, semi-dwarf, and dwarf varieties of the most common fruit trees:

Fruit Tree TypeStandard Tree Size Space RequirementsSemi-Dwarf Space RequirementsDwarf Space Requirements
Apple20 to 30 feet15 to 18 feet8 to 10 feet
Lemon15 to 20 feet10 to 15 feet6 to 10 feet
Lime15 to 20 feet10 to 15 feet6 to 10 feet
Orange15 to 20 feet10 to 15 feet6 to 10 feet
Grapefruit20 to 30 feet12 to 15 feet10 to 15 feet
Peach15 to 20 feet12 to 15 feet8 to 10 feet
Nectarine20 to 25 feet15 to 18 feet8 to 10 feet
Pear16 to 20 feet12 to 15 feet8 to 10 feet
Cherry35 to 40 feet15 to 18 feet8 to 10 feet

What Happens If You Plant Fruit Trees Too Close Together?

citrus fruit tree rows
You may find that many citrus orchards plant their citrus trees in relatively tight formations! Most homesteaders and farmers I know prefer to give their citrus trees at least 15 feet of space – though some may be slightly more or less depending upon the orchard’s layout and citrus cultivar.

When trees grow too close together, they will compete for water, oxygen, and other nutrients. If your trees are too tightly bound, you may need advanced irrigation, and your trees likely won’t be as fruitful.

As every tree grows, its canopy will expand. Despite this expansion, your fruit trees must have enough air, light, and water if you want them to grow a bountiful fruit crop!

The thick fruit tree canopy may reduce light and air around the base and branches of the tree. Overly crowded tree canopies can cause fungal diseases and will also reduce the overall crop of each tree.

There’s another problem with planting fruit trees too close together! When it comes to harvest time, you won’t be able to access the fruit!

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Can You Plant Different Fruit Trees Next to Each Other?

honey bee enjoying pollen flower
Apple trees usually attract more honey bees than you can handle! But – if you’re launching a garden and fruit tree from scratch, I always recommend a healthy layer of wildflowers in addition to your baby tree to help attract as many honeybees and pollinators as possible!

As long as they are suitable for your climate, you can plant any type of fruit tree next to others. It is often beneficial to interplant varying species of trees, as this can reduce the likelihood of disease and may also invite helpful pollinators.

When planning your fruit trees, remember that some types of fruit will need one or more varieties for pollination. For example, pears and apples often benefit from a partner in pollination.

This companion fruit tree doesn’t need to be the exact same cultivar. As another example, you can plant a crabapple tree or dwarf apple next to a standard-sized Honeycrisp for pollination purposes.

Others, such as avocado trees and kiwi vines, may require a male and a female to pollinate.

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More Pro Tips for a Perfectly Spaced Orchard

Whether it’s your first time growing fruit trees or you’re here to brush up on your tree-spacing basics, you might benefit from some of the lessons we’ve learned over the years.

Here’s what we wish we would have known when we started growing fruit trees:

Add Space For a Walkway

If you have a densely planted area full of trees, don’t forget to add a few extra feet to make room for yourself!

Generally, two to three feet extra is all you’ll need to pick your fruit – or just go for a lovely stroll down in your private orchard.

Consider Underground Obstacles

Oh, man. I wish I had really thought this one through when I first started planting fruit trees around my house.

Fruit trees, like other trees, need plenty of root space. If you don’t give them that space, your fruit tree and whatever obstacle that’s in its way will fight against each other until one of them wins.

In my personal experience, my cherry tree won the battle against my septic tank. It was a truly traumatic experience.

When planting fruit trees, think about your home’s foundation, your septic tank, power lines, and plumbing as you decide on the perfect spot. Consider all of these obstacles in your spacing plan. Otherwise, you may end up with a costly repair to undertake.

Protect Your Young Trees From Hungry Wildlife

There’s one more tip that I need to share.

Watch out for hungry bunnies!

Rabbits and deer love to nibble on baby fruit trees. I’m not saying to harm the rabbits or deer. But – keep your eyes open and shoo them away if needed!

You can also get a tree scarf for your young developing fruit tree.

Once your baby tree develops for a few seasons, it’ll grow much heftier and thicker. Before long, bunnies and deer won’t be able to harm it in the least!

Fruit Tree Spacing Without Stress

So, ultimately here are the key takeaways:

  • Every fruit tree type has different spacing requirements. Still, on average, most standard fruit trees need 20 feet of space to grow healthily.
  • You can plant any type of fruit tree next to another as long as you mind each tree’s spacing needs.
  • Plan ahead. Think of underground obstacles, harvesting space, and hungry wildlife before you plant your saplings.

Thanks so much for reading this fruit tree spacing guide – and let us know if you have questions, feedback, or fruit tree growing tips!

More on Growing Fruit Trees:

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06/08/2024 11:29 am GMT

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