21 Drought and Heat Tolerant Fruit Trees and Shrubs
Unless you live in a place that gets frequent rain (like a rainforest or Seattle), chances are you will need to water your fruit trees on a regular basis, even more so in the heat of the summer.
Drought and heat tolerant fruit trees and shrubs can be a way around that for those who want to be less reliant on irrigation.
One thing to keep in mind is that drought tolerance does not mean complete absence of water at all times. Water is essential to all plant life and is generally needed to get them off to a good start.
These trees and shrubs can survive droughts once established, but they typically need regular watering when they are planted initially. This is because the root systems they rely on to absorb and store water are not yet as extensive.
With young plants, don’t just put them in the ground and walk away. If you can, try to pick a time of the year and weather that would be less stressful for them. It’s not impossible to plant during a heat wave but that would require a level of care that most home growers are unlikely to commit to.
Another thing to keep in mind is that fruit production will be more limited when trees and shrubs experience drought conditions. While they are likely to make it through a drought, don’t expect an abundance of fruits.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s jump right in and get started with our list.
Pomegranate Tree: Grow Zones
Pomegranates are recommended for USDA hardiness zones 8 – 10. This indicates they are only moderately cold tolerant.
Pomegranates are native to Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia. That geography is indicative of the fact that they can tolerate heat and dry conditions in the summer as well as moderate cold conditions in the winter, down to freezing temperatures.
At the same time, they are not tropical plants either. A tropical cultivar from South East Asia exists but it’s more or less ornamental as the quality of the fruit is not as good as what you get with the traditional cultivars.
Pomegranates are deciduous, which means they drop their leaves during the winter. Most cultivars require a small amount of chill hours during that time to bear fruit the next year.
Pomegranate Tree: Watering Needs
While pomegranates require regular watering initially, they can survive without supplemental watering once established.
You definitely wouldn’t want to overwater as that can quickly cause root rot in pomegranates. Be sure to plant in soil with good drainage.
Established pomegranate shrubs can be watered just once a week even in the heat of the summer and still produce abundant fruit.
Pomegranate Tree: Size at Maturity
Pomegranates naturally grow as shrubs but can be pruned as trees. At maturity they reach an average height between 10 to 15 ft. They may grow even taller depending on the cultivar but can generally be kept smaller with pruning.
Fig Tree: Grow Zones
Fig trees generally do well in USDA zones 8 – 10. Some varieties are also said to survive in colder climates like zones 7 and even 6 but those conditions are usually not favorable for the tree’s development.
Figs are the quintessential Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fruit tree. That is the region they are native to and reflects their optimal environment. They can take the heat of the summer but also require mildly cold winters.
Most fig trees are naturally deciduous and require a small amount of chill hours during the winter in order to set fruit the next season.
That said, the amount of chill is relatively minor, on the order of 100 to 300 hours. If you planted your fig tree in the appropriate grow zone, you should have no problem meeting this requirement.
Fig Tree: Watering Needs
You should aim to give fig trees a deep watering at least once a week during the summer. In areas with milder summers, you may even get by with watering on a biweekly basis.
Harvest season for fig trees is usually in the fall. Be sure to keep up the watering in late summer and early fall while it’s still hot and the tree is carrying fruit. Otherwise if the tree goes without water for an extended period, it will try to conserve energy and drop its fruits.
Fig Tree: Size at Maturity
Many fig tree varieties can easily grow to 20 to 30ft tall and just as wide at maturity.
They also tend to develop a notoriously extensive root system (similar to other trees in the ficus family). The root system contributes to their water intake and helps them survive droughts but it can also become invasive.
However, you can easily prune your fig trees to keep them much shorter, under 10ft even. If you cannot be bothered with pruning, there are also dwarf varieties you could explore (for example, the ‘Little Miss Figgy’ cultivar, growing just 4 to 8 ft tall).
Olive Tree: Grow Zones
Olive trees are closely associated with the Mediterranean and the Middle East, which they are native to.
It’s no coincidence that countries like Spain, Italy and Greece are major olive oil producers.
However, olive tree are also somewhat cold tolerant. In Europe they can even be grown as far North as England, though fruit production is affected.
Olive trees thrive in USDA hardiness zones 9 and 10 but can also survive in zone 8.
Olive Tree: Watering Needs
Established olive trees need to be watered only occasionally and enjoy a deep watering once a month.
In the first year or two, you’ll want to make sure to water the tree at least once a week.
Be sure to plant the free in well-draining soil. Olive trees do not like to be water logged.
Olive Tree: Size at Maturity
Many olive tree cultivars, including the most common Spanish and Greek ones used for oil production, will grow 15 to 20 ft tall at maturity.
There are also some smaller dwarf cultivars (most famously the ‘Little Ollie’ cultivar) but keep in mind that dwarf olives may have intentionally been developed to be non-fertile and this won’t bear fruit.
Some newer fruit-bearing cultivars such as Arbosana are naturally semi-dwarf and worth looking into.
Either way you can also prune olive trees to keep them to a more manageable height.
Olive trees have a tendency to grow multiple trunks, more like shrubs than trees, and if you let them grow this way, their vertical growth will be more limited as their energy is directed in multiple directions.
4. Date Palm
Date Palm: Grow Zones
There are of course numerous palm tree varieties but the one grown for its edible fruit is the True Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera) associated with tropical and subtropical environments and indigenous to the Middle East and India.
They are recommended for USDA zones 9 – 11. In the United States, that includes much of the Southwest and Southeastern states.
Date palms thrive in California and Florida. As you might expect, they won’t survive in the Midwest or Northern states unfortunately.
Date Palm: Watering Needs
Date palms are natural desert plants and once established they can survive for long periods without water.
In order for the fruit to develop optimally, they typically require dry hot conditions.
During the summer, you may only need to water deeply once a week but let the soil dry out between waterings.
Be sure to plant in well draining soil; otherwise, fruit production is likely to take a hit.
Date Palm: Size at Maturity
Date palms can grow about 70ft tall at maturity but can even reach 120ft in optimal conditions.
Their roots extend far out vertically and horizontally, so that is something you’d have to take into account when planting them. You’ll need sufficient space.
Note that the plant going by the name Pygmy Date Palm or Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii) is distantly related but not really a dwarf version of the True Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera). Notably, the Pygmy Date Palm, although quite ornamental, does not produce edible fruit of the same flavor.
Almond Tree: Grow Zones
Almonds require hot summers but also moderately cold winters.
In fact, like many other deciduous trees, they require a small amount of chill, on the order of 200 to 300 hours.
They are native to Central Asia and the Northern Middle East but in recent years California has become a major producer too.
There are many almond cultivars. Most trees can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 7 to 11.
While they can take the cold, optimal fruit production requires dry, hot summers, which is why they are typically not grown commercially in warm climates with high humidity.
Almond Tree: Watering Needs
Established almond trees are extremely drought tolerant.
That being said, they have also developed a bit of a reputation for water-intensive cultivation.
To be fair, their monthly water needs for fruit production are moderate but they also have a very long growing season.
The almond harvest is typically in the fall. If the tree does not get enough water in the months before that, fruit production will suffer.
Of course, there are many other fruit trees that have late harvests (for example various apple cultivars), but almonds stand out because they also need to be grown in a dry and hot climate at the same time, all of which exacerbates the need for irrigation at least for commercial cultivation.
Almond Tree: Size at Maturity
Many of the commercially grown almond cultivars can reach heights of 30ft at maturity.
However, the most popular cultivar for home growers is the All-In-One Almond, which can be ket under 15ft.
There is also a dwarf variety called Garden Prince, which can be kept between 8 and 12 ft but it less popular than All-In-One.
Loquat Tree: Grow Zones
Loquat trees do best in subtropical climates. They are originally native to Southern China.
The trees are hardy between USDA zones 8 – 10. In the United States that includes many Southern and Western states.
They can certainly take cold temperatures below that in more temperate climates but in order to bear fruit, subtropical conditions are preferred.
Loquat Tree: Watering Needs
Loquat trees require weekly watering for optimal fruit production.
Newly planted trees may require more frequent watering, especially during the hot summer season.
As they are evergreeen trees, loquat trees also need regular during the winter unless there is rain.
Loquat Tree: Size at Maturity
Loquat trees can grow to 25 to 30ft at maturity. However, you can easily prune the tree to keep it under 15ft tall.
Grapevine: Grow Zones
While grapes are commonly associated with the Mediterranean, they can actually be grown in a wild range of climates.
The recommended USDA hardiness zones extend from 4 to 10. That includes most of the continental United States and even parts of Canada. British Columbia and Southern Ontario have famous wine growing regions.
It’s important to distinguish between three major grape families.
First, there are the so-called European grapes (Vitis vinifera), which grow well in warmer Mediterranean and temperate climates like USDA zones 7 to 10. These are famously used for European wines but also as table grapes.
Then there are two families of grapes that are native to North America.
American grapes (vitis labrusca) have greater ability to withstand cold temperatures and are recommended between USDA zones 4 to 7. American grapes are rarely used for wine but they they are good for juicing or as table grapes.
Another type of grape native to North America is the Muscadine grape (vitis rotundifolia). It is adapted to warmer, humid environments common to the East coast of the United States from New Jersey to Florida and the Southeastern states more generally. These cover USDA zones 7 to 9.
As a home grower, you are more likely to buy European grapes or hybrid European-American grapevines as these are generally more popular. However, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the growing conditions for your selected cultivar because adaptability varies widely.
Grapevine: Watering Needs
Grapevines are known to have extensive root systems and are thus very drought tolerant.
However, they will need more regular watering when first getting established.
Typically, they will need weekly watering in order to set fruit.
Grapevine: Size at Maturity
Grapes are vine plants and you will need to provide them with a trellis to be trained vertically. Otherwise they will grow horizontally on the ground and easily taken over your garden space, extending as much as 100ft.
The actual size of the stem and its main branches, however, can easily be kept under 6ft, as is common practice at vineyards.
In fact, to encourage productivity, grape vines require extensive pruning during the winter when they drop their leaves and go dormant.
Various pruning techniques are recommended depending on the cultivar and you should become familiar with the method most suitable for the cultivar you are growing.
Mulberry Tree: Grow Zones
There are numerous mulberry cultivars, including some that are native to North America.
As a home grower interested in a drought-tolerant fruit tree that is adapted to warmer climates, you will want to look for the Persian Mulberry or Pakistan Mulberry. These do well in USDA zones 7 to 10.
Mulberry Tree: Watering Needs
Mulberry trees grow extensive root systems, which help them withstand major droughts. (For the same reason, they can also become quite invasive and you will want to make sure to plant them away from structures and underground pipes.)
That said, for optimal fruit production, mulberry trees benefit from regular deep watering to reach their roots.
Mulberry Tree: Size at Maturity
Mulberry trees can easily grow 15 to 30ft tall. Some may even reach 50ft when the conditions are right.
You can prune mulberry trees to keep them at a more manageable height.
9. Natal Plum
Natal Plum: Grow Zones
The Natal plum does well in USDA zones 10 – 11. The plant is originally native to South Africa. (Natal is the name of a region in South Africa.)
In the United States, the plant has become quite popular for commercial landscaping in warmer states like California as it requires little upkeep and tolerates drought and heat rather well.
Unbeknownst to many, the red berries are in fact edible.
Natal Plum: Watering Needs
Natal plums can withstand drought conditions but should ideally be watered weekly.
Natal Plum: Size at Maturity
Natal plums grow as a shrub and typically reach about 3ft in height.
10. Pineapple Guava
Pineapple Guava: Grow Zones
Pineapple guava, also known as feijoa, is not to be confused with true guavas. (As its name suggests, its flavor is reminiscent of pineapple and guava.)
This tree is native to more temperate parts of South America such as Southern Brazil and Argentina but is now also widely cultivated in other countries, most famously in New Zealand and Australia.
The recommended USDA hardiness zones for pineapple guava are 8 – 10.
Pineapple Guava: Watering Needs
Pineapple guavas require only moderate watering. You may want to water weekly to increase fruit production. Established feijoa trees are fairly drought tolerant however.
Pineapple Guava: Size at Maturity
Pineapple guava trees can reach 10 to 15 ft at maturity. Dwarf cultivars exist and even standard trees can be pruned at a shorter height.
Guava Tree: Grow Zones
Guavas are tropical trees and originally native to Mexico and Central America.
They are not very cold tolerant and grow best in USDA zones 9 to 10.
Guava Tree: Watering Needs
Although they are tropical, guavas can withstand long periods of drought and survive on rainfall once established.
To ensure optimal fruit production, however, you should plan on giving your guava tree a deep watering at least once a week.
Guava Tree: Size at Maturity
Guava trees can grow 15 to 20ft tall.
Jujube Tree: Grow Zones
The jujube’s native range stretches across Asia, from the Middle East, Northern India and into China and East Asia.
In North America, popular jujube cultivars such as Li and Lang originate from China, which has contributed to the perception that the plant is originally from China.
That said, jujubes are quite adaptable and can grow in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 10.
Note that jujubes are deciduous trees and require a small amount of chill, 100 to 200 hours, to bear fruit the next season. This is also why they are not really productive in completely tropical climates.
Jujube Tree: Watering Needs
Jujubes need regular watering, at least once per week, when newly planted.
However, established jujube trees can go without water for long periods and are quite drought tolerant.
Jujube Tree: Size at Maturity
Jujubes can easily grow over 20ft in height but can be kept under 10ft with pruning.
Persimmon Tree: Grow Zones
There are in fact several types of persimmons, including some that are native to the United States.
However, it is the Oriental persimmon, originally native to China and neighboring countries, which is most successful commercially and which you are most likely to find available at your local nursery, the most popular being the Fuyu cultivar.
Oriental persimmons like Fuyu are hardy between USDA zones 7 to 10.
Note that persimmons are deciduous trees and require a small amount of chill to bear fruit the following season, typically in the range of 200 hours.
Persimmon Tree: Watering Needs
Plant to give your persimmon tree a deep watering once a week.
Older, established persimmon trees may get by without supplemental watering and can withstand periods of drought.
Persimmon Tree: Size at Maturity
Persimmons can grow 30ft tall but can be kept under 12ft with pruning.
14. Dragon Fruit
Dragon Fruit Cactus: Grow Zones
Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya, has been increasing in popularity as an exotic delicacy.
It is popular in East and Southeast Asia, where it is widely cultivated, but is originally native to Central America and surrounding regions.
Although it is a cactus, it is more subtropical than tropical. Unlike some Southwestern cactus varieties, dragon fruit is less cold tolerant but can take humidity.
Dragon fruit generally does well between USDA zones 10 to 11.
Dragon Fruit: Watering Needs
Dragon fruit is a tropical cactus and its watering needs reflect that. It can take and benefit from frequent watering, twice a week even, but you need to make sure to let the soil dry between waterings. Be sure to plant dragon fruit in well draining soil for that reason. Otherwise the roots may rot.
Dragon Fruit: Size at Maturity
Dragon fruit is a climbing cactus and will need a sturdy trellis to be supported. It can grow 6 to 10ft tall.
15. Prickly Pear Cactus
Prickly Pear Cactus: Grow Zones
The prickly pear cactus is native to Mexico and surrounding regions.
In Mexican cuisine, the cactus pads (known as nopales) as well as the cactus fruit (known as tuna) are used in popular dishes. Given the large Hispanic population, these have also become more popular in the United States in recent years.
Prickly pear cactus can easily grow across wide swaths of the Western and Southwestern United States.
There are numerous types of cactus but the cultivar used for tuna and nopales does best in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10.
Prickly Pear Cactus: Watering Needs
As a cactus variety, the plant needs well draining soil. Excessive watering can introduce root rot and finish off young plants rather quickly.
Newly planted prickly pear cactus may only need to be watered once every couple of weeks. Older established plants can typically survive on rainfall alone.
Prickly Pear Cactus: Size at Maturity
The prickly pear cactus, specifically Opuntia ficus-indica can grow 15ft tall but can be kept much shorter with regular pruning and harvesting of the pads.
Pistachio Tree: Grow Zones
Pistachios can take temperatures in USDA hardiness zones between 7 to 11.
However, in order for the fruit to develop optimally, they also require hot and dry summers as well as cool winters.
Pistachios are deciduous trees requiring a good amount of chill hours. Many varieties require between 700 and 1000 chill hours.
This is why pistachios do well in their native region in Central Asia and the Northern Middle East. In the United States, the Central Valley region of California is the top producer of pistachios.
Pistachio Tree: Watering Needs
Pistachios have a reputation for high water consumption to maximize fruit production.
This is due to the combination of a long growing season and the hot climate it requires.
However, the tree is also quite drought tolerant, though at the expense of productivity.
Pistachio tree: Size at Maturity
Pistachio trees can easily grow 30ft tall but can be pruned to stay at a more manageable size.
Mango Tree: Grow Zones
Mangos are tropical trees that grow well in USDA hardiness zones 10 – 11.
They may also survive in zone 9 but must be protected from frost, which they are highly vulnerable to.
Mango trees are believed to originate in South Asia, specifically the region in and around Northeast India.
These days they are widely cultivated in other parts of Asia, in particular Southeast Asia and the Philippines. In the United States, suitable areas to grow mangos include Florida and parts of California.
Mango Tree: Watering Needs
Mature mango trees can easily withstand drought conditions.
However, mangos are still tropical trees and benefit from being kept moist, especially when newly planted.
In the summer, you will want to water twice per week to ensure optimal fruit production.
Mango Tree: Size at Maturity
Mangos are extremely fast growing trees and can reach 50 to 100ft in height under the right conditions.
That said, they can be kept to a more manageable height, between 10 to 15ft, with pruning.
Dwarf varieties exist but even those can reach 20ft if left to grow in the ground without pruning.
18. Strawberry Tree
Strawberry Tree: Grow Zones
To be clear, strawberry trees are not trees that have strawberries on them. (Those grow low to the ground and not on trees.)
The fruit, however, ripens to a beautiful red color while still on the tree. It’s this resemblance that gave the tree its name.
The strawberry tree is indigenous to the Mediterranean region and parts of Western France and as far north as Ireland.
It is sensitive to extreme cold and generally does well in USDA zones 8 to 11.
In the United States, strawberry trees are increasingly common as commercial landscaping trees, especially in Western and Southern states.
They require relatively little upkeep and are fairly drought and heat tolerant.
Strawberry Tree: Watering Needs
Strawberry trees have low to moderate water needs.
Initially, you will need to water at least once per week.
Established trees can get by with occasional dee watering.
Strawberry Tree: Size at Maturity
Strawberry trees can grow up to 20 to 30ft tall. However, the rate of growth is rather slow and they can be pruned to a shorter height.
There is also a dwarf cultivar that will naturally grow only up to 8ft in height.
19. Asian Pear
Asian Pear Tree: Grow Zones
As the name suggests, Asian pear trees are native to Asia, specifically East Asian countries like China, Korea and Japan.
Similar to European pears and apples, they are accustomed to temperate climates.
Generally, Asian pear trees do well in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 9.
As they are deciduous, they also require a certain amount of chill hours, typically under 500 hours depending on the cultivar.
Asian Pear Tree: Watering Needs
Asian pear trees require regular weekly watering to produce fruit but their needs are rather moderate.
They can withstand drought and are quite heat tolerant.
Asian Pear Tree: Size at Maturity
Asian pear trees can reach 10 to 15ft tall at maturity.
20. Key Lime
Key Lime Tree: Grow Zones
Key limes were named after the Florida Keys. They are grown in Florida, parts of California and in warmer climates. They are also known as Mexican limes.
Key lime trees are one of the most drought tolerant citrus varieties. If they have a weakness, it’s their lack of cold-hardiness as they are quite sensitive to frost.
They are generally hardy in USDA zones 10 to 11.
Key Lime Tree: Watering Needs
Key lime trees require regular watering on a weekly basis.
Key Lime Tree: Size at Maturity
Key lime trees grow 12 to 14 ft tall at maturity.
21. Goji Berry
Goji Berry: Grow Zones
Goji berries are originally native to China and grow well in USDA hardiness zones 5 – 9.
Goji Berry: Watering Needs
Young goji berry shrubs need regular weekly watering.
Mature plants can get by with occasional watering.
Goji berries are very drought tolerant once they are established.
Goji Berry: Size at Maturity
Goji berries can naturally grow over 12ft tall but they are typically pruned to stay under 6ft.