Fruit Trees Aren’t Just for the Pros, Learn for Yourself!

by DAVID AUSTIN, UF/IFAS Extension Highlands County

There’s nothing more refreshing than enjoying the shade of a tree while eating some fresh fruit on a hot summer day in Florida. The best way to do that is to ensure you have some nice fruit trees in your yard. Central Florida is a great place to try your hand at many varieties of fruit trees. Many fruit tree varieties grow well in our warm semi-tropical environment, from the hardy mulberry to the delicious mango. 

Learn From the Experts

UF/IFAS Master Gardener Volunteers are holding a class on July 20 on Fruit Trees for Your Home Garden. The class is from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. at Sebring’s Bert J. Harris Jr. Agricultural Center inside the Sam Polston Auditorium. Master Gardener Volunteer Rob Maulella will instruct the class on what to grow and how to grow it. He grows many of the trees he’ll be teaching about in his Sebring yard. The price is $10 when paid in advance at the office, $12.51 online, and $15 at the door. 

A Few Favorites

I mentioned mulberries above. They are one of my favorite fruits. A deciduous tree, mulberries will lose their leaves for a few months in the winter and spring out with new leaves in February. No sooner than the leaves pop out, the small green beginnings of what will be tasty dark purple berries will begin to form. Over the next couple of months, they will ripen, and if the squirrels and catbirds don’t eat them, you should have plenty to make cobblers, jelly, or eat fresh on your morning cereal. 

Guacamole Anyone?

Avocados are another favorite of mine, with the cultivar “Oro Negro” being the top on my list. Literally translating as black gold, this mid-sized avocado with rough black skin is excellent for guacamole or sliced and eaten fresh. A bonus is that it is cold-hardy compared to many other cultivars. There are many choices; surely, there is one for any taste. 

Florida and Citrus

Citrus makes a comeback for homeowners with two particularly attractive varieties. Sugar Bell™, a University of Florida-bred tangelo, is smaller than a honeybell tangelo but just as tasty and easy to peel. This homeowner variety is tolerant to citrus greening, the bacterial disease known to the researchers as Huanglongbing (HLB) and will surely become a favorite fruit tree in your yard. SunDragon USDA is another citrus that has excellent tolerance against HLB and makes an excellent juice tree. If you like lemons, you’re in luck; they, too, seem to be holding their own against HLB, although they are a little less cold-tolerant.

So why not plant a fruit tree in your yard and enjoy a bit of shade and a fresh slice of fruit? For more information, call (863) 402-6540 for directions to register or stop by the office at the Agriculture Center. 

To register online, go to: or scan the QR code:

Accessibility Toolbar