RHS Growing Guides

How to grow nectarines

Our detailed growing guide will help you with each step in successfully growing Nectarines.

  1. Getting Started
  2. Choosing
  3. Planting
  4. Plant Care
  5. Pruning and Training
  6. Harvesting
  7. Problems

Getting Started

Getting Started
Section 1 of 7

Nectarines need lots of warmth and sunshine to fruit well in the UK
Planted in a sunny, sheltered spot, ideally trained against a warm wall, a nectarine tree will reward you with pretty spring blossom followed by a crop of sweet, juicy, smooth-skinned fruits in summer. Compact varieties can also be grown in containers on a sunny, sheltered patio.

Nectarines (Prunus persica var. nectarina) are a type of peach (Prunus persica) with smooth rather than velvety skin. They are both grown in the same way, although nectarines usually need warmer conditions to ripen in the UK. Trees should be planted against a south- or south-west-facing wall, trained as a fan, or grown in a container on a sunny patio. Nectarines can also be grown in an unheated greenhouse or polytunnel, especially in cooler regions.

For more about nectarines and peaches, see our fascinating facts about peaches.

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There are many nectarine varieties to choose from, producing fruits of different sizes, flavours and levels of sweetness. The fruits ripen to various shades of red, orange and yellow on the outside, with golden or white flesh inside. They can be either ‘free-stone’ or ‘cling-stone’. Depending on the variety, the crop will ripen at different times from July to September, with certain varieties fruiting more reliably in the UK climate. All nectarines are self-fertile, so you only need one tree for a good crop. Most varieties are grafted onto a rootstock – usually ‘St Julian A’, which limits their size, making them suitable for even small gardens. There are also dwarf varieties bred specifically for container growing, such as ‘Nectarella’ – these slow-growing trees only reach about 1.5m (5ft) tall and need little pruning.

If you visit any of the RHS gardens, you’ll find many fruit trees grown in various ways, including nectarines and peaches, so you can easily compare different varieties and pick up useful growing tips.

Related RHS Guides
Choosing fruit trees

What and where to buy 

Nectarine trees are available all year round in pots, from garden centres and online plant retailers. They may also be sold bare-root (without soil) or root-wrapped (in soil but without a pot) from late autumn to early spring, from online fruit retailers. Bare-root trees are often cheaper than those in pots.

As nectarine trees crop best when grown as fans, you may prefer to buy a partially trained two- or three-year-old fan. These are more expensive than younger untrained trees and are usually only available from specialist fruit retailers.

Recommended Varieties

Showing 3 out of 4 varieties


Nectarine trees are usually bought as young trees, either in a container or without one (bare-root or root-wrapped). While it is possible to grow them from the stones of shop-bought fruit, the resulting trees may not be suitable for the UK climate. If you want a tree that will fruit reliably in the UK, it’s worth investing in a good quality grafted tree, of your chosen variety, from a reputable UK supplier.

Nectarine trees are best planted against a south- or south-west-facing wall or fence, where they can be trained as a fan, soaking up the heat and getting as much sun as possible to ripen the fruit. As nectarines flower early in spring, it’s vital to choose a planting site that isn’t prone to heavy or late frosts, which can damage the blossom. See our guide to positioning fruit trees. Nectarines like deep, fertile, moisture-retentive but well-drained soil. Avoid poorly drained conditions, which can cause the roots to rot. Nectarines will struggle in light or shallow soil. See our guide to assessing your soil type.  

Dwarf varieties can be planted in large containers, positioned on a sunny, sheltered patio or courtyard, ideally beside a sunny wall. They can also be grown in an unheated greenhouse, for all or part of the year when in a container. 

The best time to plant nectarine trees is while they’re dormant, between November and March. Prepare your tree by giving it a good watering if it’s in a container or by standing it in a bucket of water for half an hour if it’s a bare-root tree. Planting is easy – see our guides below for full instructions.

Planting against a wall  

To get the best crop, nectarines should be trained against a sunny wall, but the soil at the base of walls is often poor and dry, so it’s important to prepare the planting site particularly well. Dig lots of well-rotted manure or garden compost into the whole area, then plant the tree at least 30cm (1ft) away from the wall, angled slightly towards it. Fan-trained nectarines can eventually reach a width of about 3.6m (12ft), so make sure there is plenty of room either side. You’ll also need to attach horizontal wires to the wall to support the fan of branches – see Pruning and Training, below.

​Planting in containers 

Nectarines can be grown in large containers, at least 45cm (18in) across, filled with peat-free soil-based compost. They will need regular watering and feeding to keep them healthy and fruiting well. Nectarines in containers also need annual pruning to keep them compact, unless you buy a naturally dwarf variety such as ‘Nectarella’. These compact, slow-growing trees need little or no pruning and will reach only about 1.5m (5ft) tall after ten years.


Plant Care

Nectarine trees, especially those in containers, need regular and consistent watering and feeding, and most need pruning. Protect the blossom from frost to ensure a good crop.


Nectarine trees usually need to be watered throughout the growing season, and especially once the fruits appear, to prevent fruitlets being shed before they ripen:

  • Newly planted nectarines should be watered regularly for at least the first year, until well settled in 
  • Fan-trained nectarines generally require additional watering through spring and summer, as the wall or fence often reduces the amount of rainfall they receive  
  • Trees growing in containers dry out much more quickly than those in the ground, and even in rainy weather may receive surprisingly little water due to the small surface area of compost. They will probably need watering almost daily throughout the growing season, especially in hot weather and if kept in a greenhouse or other sheltered spot

Be careful not to overwater during ripening though – excess or inconsistent watering, or wet weather, can cause fruits to split. It’s also important never to leave potted nectarine trees standing in water, especially in winter, as the roots are likely to rot. Raise the container onto ‘pot feet’ or bricks to keep the drainage holes clear and avoid waterlogged compost.


In mid-spring, apply a mulch of well-rotted manure or garden compost around the base of nectarine trees growing in the ground. This will help to stop the soil drying out, while also deterring weeds and providing nutrients.


In late winter, apply a high potassium general fertiliser, such as Vitax Q4 or blood, fish and bonemeal, to boost fruiting. Scatter two handfuls per square metre/yard around the base of the tree.

Give trees in containers a high potassium liquid feed every couple of weeks through spring and summer. Also repot them every few years in spring, into a slightly larger container, using peat-free soil-based potting compost. 

Protecting from frost 

Nectarine trees are generally hardy, but their blossom opens very early in spring, so is susceptible to frost damage, which can reduce the crop. So protect the flowers overnight if frost is forecast, with an old bedsheet, re-used old fleece or plastic-free alternatives such as sheep’s wool fleece or hessian supported on canes. Remember to remove this to allow pollinators to access the flowers. Alternatively, potted nectarines can be kept into a greenhouse, porch or other sheltered location while in blossom to avoid frosts.

Nectarines are also susceptible to leaf curl disease, but covering small trees through winter and spring can help to prevent infection. See our video guide to protecting peaches for advice on how to do this. 

Related RHS Guides
Protecting fruit from frost

Improving the crop 

Nectarines flower very early in spring, when few pollinating insects are around, so it’s best to pollinate them by hand. Do this over several sunny afternoons by taking a small paintbrush and dabbing it gently into the centre of every flower in turn. 

When the young fruits appear, they will need thinning to improve the size of the remaining fruits. Do this when the fruits are the size of hazelnuts by cutting selected fruitlets in half with secateurs – they will then drop off without damage to the shoots that carry them. Start with any awkwardly positioned, mis-shapen or noticeably smaller fruits. Aim for evenly spaced fruitlets about 15cm (6in) apart.

As the fruits develop, they will need protection from birds and squirrels. Ideally, grow peaches in a fruit cage; otherwise cover trees with re-used old fleece or netting, or move potted plants into a greenhouse. 


Pruning and Training

Most nectarines should be pruned annually to keep them in good shape, healthy and productive, although some naturally compact varieties, such as ‘Nectarella’, need little or no pruning. Nectarine fruits are produced almost entirely on shoots made the previous year, so pruning aims to replace old fruited wood with new, young wood.

Timing is important – as with all stone fruits, nectarines should only be pruned in spring or summer, to minimise the risk of infection from silver leaf disease and bacterial canker:

  • Newly planted nectarine trees should be pruned after the buds open in early spring 
  • Established nectarine trees should be pruned in summer, after fruiting. Fan-trained trees should also be pruned in spring  

Nectarine trees are best grown as fans against a sunny wall or fence, so they produce a good crop that ripens well. Fans have a short trunk topped with a flat fan of radiating branches. They take up little ground space and are usually kept at a manageable size of about 1.8m (6ft) tall (the height of a fence panel) and up to 3.5m (12ft) across. Fans make an attractive garden feature and are also useful if space is limited. These compact trees are easier to hand-pollinate and harvest than larger free-standing trees, and protecting them from frost, peach leaf curl and birds is also easier (see Problems, below). However, they do need careful pruning and training – see our guides below. 



Nectarine fruits are ready for harvesting once they are fully coloured and the flesh near the stalk feels soft. To pick, cup the fruit in the palm of your hand and gently lift – it should come away easily from the tree. Check ripening fruits regularly, as they won’t all be ready at the same time, and protect them from birds and squirrels.

Nectarines are best eaten as soon as possible after picking, ideally straight from the tree when still warm from the sun. If picked before they’re fully ripe, they will ripen indoors, but the flavour won’t match up to fruits ripened on the tree. That’s why home-grown nectarines are so much better than those you buy in the shops.



Guide Start
Section 7 of 7

Nectarine trees need a very warm, sheltered location and lots of sunshine to fruit well and ripen fully outdoors in the UK. Fruiting problems may include: 

  • Lack of fruit may be due to frost during flowering and/or poor pollination, so protect blossom from frost and cold winds, and hand-pollinate with a small paintbrush. Also see our guide to improving fruit production

  • Failure to ripen may be caused by cool weather and lack of sun. Training trees against a sunny wall will help to ripen the fruits. In colder regions, consider growing in a greenhouse or polytunnel

  • Poor fruit development or fruit being shed may be due to insufficient or inconsistent watering

  • Split fruit may be caused by overwatering or wet weather during ripening

  • Loss of ripening fruit – protect fruit from birds and squirrels by covering trees with netting or re-used old fleece before the fruits start to colour up, by growing trees in a fruit cage or by keeping potted plants indoors once the fruits start to swell

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