People don't often associate our Las Vegas desert climate with lush fruit trees, but there are a variety of fruit trees that not only survive here, but do well and even thrive in Southern Nevada - including exotics that wont grow in other parts of the United States.
Las Vegas is in USDA Hardiness Zone 9, and Sunset Climate Zone 11. Planters and growers should also be mindful of Microclimates and special conditions on an individual property.
Here is a list of some of our favorite fruit trees for the Las Vegas Valley.
Pomegranate (Punica granatum)
Pomegranate is a fruit bearing, deciduous shrub cultivated in the Middle East since ancient times, was first brought to America by Spanish Colonists, and are now cultivated widely across the globe. Growing as tall as 30 feet, they can live for hundreds of years! They are hardy, drought tolerant, moderately frost tolerant (10*F), and do well in a wide range of soils. They respond well to all kinds of pruning, and with their flowers and characteristic twisted bark, they can make a decorative addition to any landscape or garden. It's fruit has a long history in cuisine and folk medicine, and represents a strong cultural symbol for many people. Here in Las Vegas, fruit is ripe and harvested in the fall. For easy peeling, break apart fruit in a bowl of water, the seeds will sink and the rinds will float. This is truly one of the lowest maintenance and most prolific fruit trees you can plant in Southern Nevada.
Fig (Ficus carica)
Hailing from the Middle East, the edible fig was one of the first plants cultivated by humans. They grow to be 30 feet tall, with dense canopies. They are seasonally drought tolerant and do well in poor soils. Fig trees can produce two crops of fruit each year, a minor "Breba" crop in spring, and a main crop in late summer or fall.
Dates (Phoenix dactylifera)
A palm that is seen commonly in landscaping across the Las Vegas Valley, people are often surprised to find out these are the same edible dates. In fact, many of these palms are sold to landscapers by date farms after they have gotten too tall for them to efficiently harvest from. These trees actually produce large amounts of fruit, and tree companies are often hired to trim the dates out to prevent the mess. Kind of a shame to see so much food going to waste.
*Note - Canary Date Palms (Phoenix canariensis) - also known as pineapple palms, another tree commonly seen around Las Vegas, does produce dates that are technically edible, but they have less flesh and don't taste as good. They're sap is used commercially to make palm syrup.
This is a genus of many species, typically identified by the characteristics of the fruit (ex. black, red, white, etc.). A very fast growing tree, they can reach hights of 80ft, and make great shade trees as well. Heavy producers, fresh mulberry is a real treat because it does not save or travel well. Excess fruit can be preserved to use in jams, pies, teas, and wines!
Citrus trees can be a bit of a hit or miss in Las Vegas. Even varieties known for doing well here can have mixed results depending on the individual planting location and the micro climates of a property.
Lemon (Citrus Limon) - Probably the easiest citrus tree to grow in Southern Nevada. Suggested Varieties - Eureka, Meyer, and Pink Lemon
Grapefruit (Citrus Paradisi) - Another citrus tree we see do well around the Valley. Suggested Varieties - Marsh Seedless, Rio Red, and Oro Blanco
Lime (Citrus Aurantiifolia) - Typically the most tender Citrus, they are still a potential option. Make sure the tree's location is protected from wind.
Kumquat (Citrus Japonica)- Heavy producers of small fruit that can be eaten rind and all
Oranges (Citrus Sinensis) - Not necessarily known for doing well in our climate, but we have seen them work
Calamondin (Citrus Microcarpa) - Often grown for it's looks, it does produce small sour orange fruit. Originally introduced in America as "Acid Orange"
Pummelo (Citrus Maxima) - ancestor to the grapefruit, and largest member of the citrus family.
Tangerine/Mandarin (Citrus Reticulata) - good producers in the desert. Heat loving and cold tolerant
Tangelo (Citrus Tangelo) - A cross between Tangerine and Grapefruit
Plums (Prunus Prunus)
One of the oldest fruit trees cultivated by man, research indicates plum trees originally come from Iran. A plum tree can grow as tall as 40ft. They're beautiful spring flowers make great decorative additions to a landscape. Plums make great fruit trees for the desert. Suggested Varieties: Santa Rosa and Beauty - both are self pollinating, and are needed to pollinate other varieties.
*Note - Purple Leaf Plum Trees are typically grown for there flower blossoms and colorful foliage, but they do produce a small edible fruit, though it is very bitter.
Apricots (Prunus Armeniaca)
Another ancient tree, apricots were cultivated independently in multiple locations through the Middle East and Asia. An apricot tree can grow as tall as 40ft. Our favorite early producer. They are a little frost sensitive, but apricot trees love the heat and sunshine.
Peaches/Nectarines (Prunus Persica)
Though they are often characterized separately for commercial purposes, the peach and nectarine are actually the same species. Native to northwest China, evidence indicates they were domesticated as early as 6000 BCE, and quickly made their way across Asia to Japan, India, and westward to Persia. Alexander the Great was said to have brought them to southern Europe in 300 BCE, and Spanish colonist brought cultivars to the Americas in the 16th century. Growing as tall as 23ft tall and wide, these trees are relatively short lived at 7-15 years, but are also one of the first trees in the orchard to start producing fruit, typically in their 3rd year. Peach trees are known for their beautiful blossoms in the early spring. The peach tree, it's fruit, foliage, and flowers have strong symbolic traditions for many cultures across the world.
Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica)
Native to south central China. This tree is naturalized globally and cultivated not just for it's fruit, but the leaves are used to make tea, and the wood is used for high end furniture. They also make great ornamental trees or shrubs. Loquat trees can grow to 30 ft tall. Unusual for most fruit trees, loquat flowers blossom in Autumn or Winter, and the fruit ripens from early Spring to early Summer.
Fan Palms (Washatonia)
One of the most common trees in the Las Vegas area, it is a little known fact that the black berries they produce are edible. It's the black flesh on the outside of the seed you eat. Both Mexican and California fan palms produce fruit, but the California fan palms taste better, and have more flesh on the seed. Very sweet, the flavor could be described somewhere between prunes and butterscotch. See our article on fan palms: https://www.greenmantreeservice.com/post/palm-season-is-coming
Quince (Cydonia oblonga)
A cousin to pears and apples, Quince trees are grown for their fruit, characteristic pink blossoms, and other decorative qualities. Quince originally comes from Western Asia and the middle East, but has been successfully cultivated in many climates across the globe. Know for being hardy, drought tolerant, and low maintenance. Quince is popular in Bonsai. The fruit from most cultivars is often too hard and sour to be eaten raw, so it is cooked and prepared to make jams, confections, drinks, pastes, wines, ciders, and other products.
Olive (Olea europaea)
The Olive tree comes originally from the Mediterranean Region, and is now cultivated world wide. Most species can reach heights of 50ft. Olive trees and their fruit have a strong symbolic history for many cultures. Olives are very long lived, with one reported specimen still producing fruit at 1600 years old! Also known for their decorative properties, olives respond well to all kinds of pruning. Olives are picked throughout the fall into winter, at different stages of ripeness. Fresh olives are too bitter to eat off the tree, they first need to be cured or fermented.
Jujubee (Ziziphus jujuba)
Due to their extensive cultivation, scientists can't pinpoint where this tree first originated, but was first domesticated in South Asia by about 9000BCE. The trees can reach 40ft tall. The fruit is small with a tasted and consistency similar to apple, and has a wide range of culinary and medicinal uses among different cultures.
Apples (Malus pumila)
Sadly, apples are not known for doing well in the desert. The trees require winter chill, and the fruit does not stand up well to the heat or sun. They're are a few varieties that will make it in Las Vegas, and produce fruit, but the fruit isn't very attractive or particularly tasty. Though it is worth noting the beauty and decorative value of apple blossoms.
Cherries (Prunus avium)
Cherry trees will survive in Southern Nevada, but like apples, are not known for doing well. The trees require chill hours, and do not tolerate heat or drought. Cherry blossoms are well known for their beauty.
There are several varieties of nut trees that do decently well in the Las Vegas area.
Pistachio (Pistacia vera)
From Central Asia and the Middle East. Pistachio trees grow to around 30ft tall, and are very tolerant of drought and salty soils. Pistachio trees are long lived. You will need 2 trees, a male and female, to produce fruit.
Almond (Prunus Dulcis)
Almond trees are cousins to peaches and other stone fruits. Native to the Middle East, it's cultivation spread very quickly. The almond was praised by early farmers for growing "true to seed". These fruit trees also start producing a crop relatively early, at about 3 years. Almond blossoms are noted for they're beauty, and the nuts have many culinary uses.
Pecan (Carya illinoinensis)
Native to Mexico and the Southern United States, Pecans make an great choice for nut trees in the Mojave Desert. Pecan trees grow to be large trees, at 130 ft in the right conditions, so be mindful where you plant them - but it does also make them valuable as big shade trees, privacy screen tree, and wind blocks. Ripe fruit will fall to the ground.
Yes, you can eat acorns, you just have to prepare them first. Most species have acorns that are high in tannins, which are unsafe for us in high amounts, but those tannins can leached out through soaking or boiling. Flavor and nutritional content vary by species, but they are generally very nutritious and packed with antioxidants, and even have medicinal qualities. Oak trees have provided staple food for many people. Oak trees are very hardy and long lived trees.