Monday, March 10, 2014

Science Project: Growing Almonds and Cherries in Florida

"It's totally impossible."

"You can't do it."

"They won't work."

"(Insert pest/disease here) kills them."

"The chill hours are wrong."

"The extension says you can't."


I promised in a post last week that I'd tell you about my attempt to grow sweet cherries in Florida.

It gets better than that. I am trying cherries this year... but I'm also trying almonds as well. Here's the proof:

Yes. I spent that much on an experiment. See how much I love all of you?

Apparently, you can't grow cherries because the chill hours are wrong here... and you can't grow almonds because the humidity messes up the fruit.

On the first problem, there is hope. People are growing apples in the tropics. Check this link out.

One of the keys seems to be stripping off the leaves to induce dormancy. No problem - I'll do that.

As for almonds, here's my thought: the climate is changing.


No, I haven't. But climate is a dynamic thing.

This year we had a very strange winter. Up north, people were buried under snow and suffered brutal lows... here, it was pretty warm... though much, much wetter than usual.

My thought is this: if the winter was wet, could it be that we're shifting to a more rainy winter/dry summer climate, like much of Georgia? If so... perhaps almonds will in fact become possible here.

My goal is to get the trees going, feed them well and treat them as my honored guests... in the hope that they may start bearing and perhaps even giving me good nuts in favorable years. Just because there's no "commercial" potential doesn't mean it's impossible.

Somebody needs to try and write about it. I searched and searched for good data and have come up empty. So I'm making it now.

Let's go:

Cherry Test Varieties:



Coral Champagne

Almond Test Varieties:

Texas Mission
Ne Plus

Tree Source: 

Willis Orchards

Test Location:

North Central Florida; Latitude: 29, Longitude: -82

Plant Date:



Trees arrived bareroot on 2/25. All 4' tall or shorter. Planted in sand. Light dappled shade, Southwestern exposure. Spacing: 12'. Trees dormant at planting. Planters: David Goodman and Democritus "Jeffrey" Xenophon III.

Above: just-planted almond tree.

Above: just-planted cherry tree.

This, my friends, is how to really figure out what grows in your area. Try everything... be prepared to fail... and see what happens.

If these trees successfully produce any fruit at all, the seeds from those fruit will be planted right here in my yard... and we'll try again and again until something takes, even if the parents succumb.

(Updates and more photos will be posted in the future.)


At March 10, 2014 at 9:01 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck !


At March 10, 2014 at 9:56 AM , Blogger Jorge Duncan said...

I know you meant they arrived in Feb right? Good luck!

At March 10, 2014 at 9:58 AM , Blogger David The Good said...

Thanks for the catch. Fixed it.

At March 10, 2014 at 3:17 PM , Blogger Arisia said...

I don't know if this helps at all, but my next door neighbor used to have a cherry tree. It had sour cherries, the kind that you put in cherry pie. One year it got cold early in the fall, and then we had a warm period. The tree flowered and started growing a second crop of cherries. Of course, they didn't get too far before they froze, and that killed the tree, but the point is, the tree decided it was spring strictly based on cold temperatures followed by warm temperatures. Not length of daylight or anything. So if you get several days in a row where it gets below freezing, it might be enough to make it decide it's winter.

At March 11, 2014 at 12:02 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You may want to try the new low chill cherries Royal Lee an Minnie Royal. There are reports of them fruiting in coastal so Calif. Also check this place for apple varieties that grow in the tropics.

At March 11, 2014 at 12:19 AM , Blogger David The Good said...

Thank you. Just bought both.

At March 11, 2014 at 5:35 AM , Blogger Garden Gnome said...

I have 2 cultivars of sweet Cherries I am growing in Hernando County, Minnie Royal and Royal Lee and a Garden Prince Almond on colt rootstock. I received them last year just after Christmas and they are doing wery well, waiting to see if I get blooms this year as they should be mature enough, they are all around 8' tall and our chill hours were good.

At March 11, 2014 at 9:44 AM , Blogger David The Good said...


At March 14, 2014 at 7:56 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck with the almonds and cherries... keep an eye out for brown rot on the latter. I'm in sub-mountain north GA, and I don't know anyone who grows fruiting cherries, but the flowering ones (that produce small, astringent/bitter fruit) are common. I don't know of anyone growing almonds (and, other than me, almost nobody producing peaches in the Peach State).

At March 14, 2014 at 8:04 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

Thank you.

It would be interesting to breed the flowering varieties with the fruiting types... though they're probably different species.

At May 9, 2014 at 12:14 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

About 7 years ago I put a Hall's Hardy almond into the ground here in Tallahassee. It was a mere twig, one of the catalog specials. It is now robust and 6-8' tall, bearing a moderately heavy crop of almonds for the first time. It was covered with charming peach-type dark pink blossoms in early spring, worth it just for that. I'll be looking for the almonds to survive the squirrels and heat/humidity of our brutal summer and if a successful crop results I will be extremely happy. As for cherries, seriously doubt it will work but we can have figs, practically any citrus, yes, apples, pears, plums, blueberries, Asian or native persimmons, and so much more! all of which are also in my small in-town yard. Good luck!

At May 9, 2014 at 1:07 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

Great report - thank you. Let us know how the almonds work out at harvest time! If you can spare a few, I'd love to germinate them.

At November 4, 2014 at 12:03 PM , Blogger Miki said...

Any updates? Did the wee trees survive the summer?

At November 4, 2014 at 12:47 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

Two almonds died. Nursery's fault, though, not mine. The cherries are living. The Royal Lee and Minnie Royal from Peaceful Valley are doing the very best.

At April 5, 2015 at 11:17 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

How are the trees? David the Good and Anonymous from May 9, 2014.


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