How To Read A Fruit Tree Nursery Tag

By Christyne Imhoff

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TreePeople has been distributing fruit trees since 1984, focusing on areas of LA County known as . These areas have limited access to grocery stores selling fresh fruits and vegetables and include South LA, Southeast LA and the Northeast San Fernando Valley. Home-grown fruit makes a positive difference in the lives and health of people, so distributing fruit trees to communities throughout Los Angeles has always been an important part of TreePeople’s work.

When choosing fruit trees for your own home, there are certain terms that are specific to fruit trees and are used on the tree identification tag. It is helpful to read and understand the terms before purchasing your tree. For example, some trees require another tree to help it or require a certain amount of in order to produce fruit.

Here are some common words you may see on a fruit tree tag:


Most fruit trees have a special name in addition to the type of fruit they produce. For example, Gala apple. That special name (‘Gala’) is called a cultivar, which stands for .

Chill Hours

During winter, deciduous fruit trees need a certain amount of hours below 45 degrees F to cause the tree to begin growth again — called . If the tree doesn’t receive the amount of chill hours it requires, it can result in low fruit production.

In Southern California, trees are selected with “Low Chill” requirements. That generally means 300 hours or less in the Los Angeles basin and areas near the coast; and 400 to 500 hours for inland (Valley) areas.

Cross Pollination

Some trees require the pollen from another tree to pollinate their flowers — called — or they won’t produce fruit.

Other trees are , and can produce fruit on their own. If you only have room for a few trees, choose self-fertile trees to maximize your options.

Harvest Time

Harvest time describes when the fruit on a tree will be ripe. Ripening times are usually called , , or . When choosing different fruit trees, consider choosing trees with different harvest times to ensure fruit throughout the year.


fruit trees mature around 8 to 10 feet tall and wide. They produce an abundance of full-sized fruit, but don’t grow to the height and width of a standard fruit tree. require a large amount of room to grow. Dwarf or fruit trees are a great option for when you have limited space.

Hopefully, this takes some of the guesswork out of reading a fruit tree tag, and ensuring the right tree for your yard, and years of abundant fruit!

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TreePeople is Los Angeles’ largest environmental nonprofit movement. We inspire, engage and support people to take responsibility for the urban environment.

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