Growing Shade Tolerant Fruit Trees in Australia

Who says you can’t grow fruit trees in the shade?

Throughout Australia, fruit trees are considered one of the most popular choices for a home garden.

Although most fruit trees do need full sun, there are several that will flourish in partial shade.

We cover them all in our guide below.

Why do fruit trees need sun?

Fruit trees need light and warmth to grow and produce quality fruit.

They need the sun primarily to carry out photosynthesis, which allows the tree to produce energy in the form of sugar.

The amount of sunlight a tree receives directly affects the flavour and quality of the fruit it produces.

Sunlight also helps ripen fruit by converting starches into sugar as well as colouring fruits like peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, apples and pears.

If your garden is shaded by buildings or trees, you will have a limited selection of fruiting plants that will survive there.

However, some trees are more tolerant than others to low light conditions if they receive at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight daily.

What will happen to fruit trees without enough sun?

Fruit trees without enough sun will not thrive. They won’t get the energy they need to grow well.

They won’t be healthy and productive, and they won’t have the strength to bear fruit.

In addition, they’ll have a hard time enduring extreme weather conditions. Fruit trees grown in full sun are more likely to survive hot summer days and cold winter nights than their shady counterparts.

They’ll also be susceptible to disease and pests.

Understand your growing area

Before you can know which fruit trees are going to do well in your chosen plot, it’s important to get a grip on what your growing conditions are.

Just because a plot has trees around it doesn’t necessarily mean that the area is always in the shade. Observe your growing area at different times during the day.

Likewise, use a compass (or your phone) to assess what direction your growing area faces. It might not be exactly as you presumed.

Naturally, north-facing areas are best and will receive sunlight for more than 12 hours per day in the Australian summer, making this location ideal for growing fruit trees.

On the other hand, growing areas facing due south will receive sunlight for only a few hours per day, even in summer. While not ideal, there are still some species of shade-tolerant fruit trees that can be grown under these conditions.

Trees growing on a south facing slope will be more susceptible to frost damage, so you should keep an eye out for those varieties that are least at risk from frost damage.

Tips for growing fruit in shady areas

If you’re determined to grow fruit in a shaded spot, here are some tips:

  • Expect less fruit. It’s possible to get good yields from shade-tolerant varieties, but you generally won’t get as much as if they were in a sunnier spot.
  • Plant fruit trees or bushes at a wider spacing than normal so they don’t cast shade on each other.
  • Make use of reflective surfaces. Place silver or white coloured walls or structures around your trees to reflect more light back into the tree canopy and onto your fruits.
  • Light pruning may help open up the tree canopy to allow more light through to the fruit.
  • If space is very limited, consider using dwarfing rootstocks so that the trees don’t get too large.

Fruit that can grow in partial shade

Currants

The red currant and black currant are perfect for those who have shade or partial shade in the garden.

Both of these varieties grow best in well-drained soil that is slightly acidic.

They also thrive in cooler climates and prefer a little shelter from the wind.

The red currant produces fruit during summer, while the black currant produces fruit in summer through to autumn.

Gooseberries

Gooseberries are an unusual fruit, with a very sour taste.

They need a sunny position, with shelter from strong winds.

They do tolerate partial shade but will produce more fruit in full sun.

Cherries

Cherries are easily propagated by seed or cuttings. They are drought-tolerant, disease-resistant, and suitable for container planting.

Even if you have a shaded garden, this tree is a great choice because of its appearance.

The white flowers of the cherry create an attractive look in spring and summer.

This shade-tolerant fruit tree has good foliage that turns red in autumn.

Miracle Fruit

You can grow miracle fruit in Australia if you live in a subtropical to tropical climate, like that found in Queensland.

Miracle fruit thrives in semi-shade or filtered sunlight, and will still produce fruit if it is given protection from strong winds.

Mulberries

Mulberry trees are among the most shade tolerant fruit trees, but they require a lot of water to produce fruit.

Mulberries may fall from the tree once ripe, or can just be picked straight from the branches.

Strawberries

Strawberries are great for gardeners who are tight on space, as they can be planted in pots, hanging baskets or in the garden.

They do best in full sun but will tolerate partial shade and can also be grown indoors or outdoors in a well-lit room.

Strawberries have very shallow roots and grow quickly during the warmer months, producing fruit within weeks of planting.

Strawberries can be grown all year round but don’t like extremely hot conditions – they’ll go dormant during this time.

The best time to plant strawberries is when you would normally plant tomatoes – which is late spring to early summer.

Passionfruit

Passionfruit vines are vigorous growers, so they need plenty of space to spread out.

They’re ideal for growing over an archway or pergola, or even up a large tree trunk if you want them to grow up into the canopy.

The passionfruit prefers full sun, but it is somewhat tolerant of shade conditions, especially in warmer climates.

Peaches

Peaches will require at least 6 hours of sunlight a day to produce fruit, but they can still thrive in partial shade.

They’ll need full sun when the buds start forming and during the growth period before maturity.

If your peach trees get sufficient light, they should be able to bear fruit for several months during the summer.

However, it’s important that peach trees not be exposed to intense heat or droughts, so keep them hydrated if you live in an area with high temperatures.