Plant these desert-hardy trees and enjoy garden-fresh fruit in the Southwest.
In hot, dry regions of the Southwest, growing fruit trees such as cherries is next to impossible, and growing stone fruits such as apricots and cherries is difficult at best. However, two fruit trees with ancient origins thrive in our desert milieu: pomegranates (Punica granatum) and figs (Ficus carica).
The benchmark pomegranate is a variety named 'Wonderful'. It lives in all soil types, produces orange-red flowers, and has bright green glossy foliage. The 'Wonderful' pomegranate is so handsome that some gardeners plant the tree purely as a small ornamental and leave the fruit to the birds. The 'Wonderful' pomegranate's softball-size fruit contains thousands of sweet-tart rubylike fruit and seeds. The fruit, which is called an aril, is great sprinkled on salads or juiced. Recent studies have proved that the rich red fruit has more antioxidants than red wine.
When it comes to figs, 'Black Mission' is the clear favorite in Southwest gardens. A large tree, 'Black Mission' produces fruit with a purple-black skin and strawberry-color flesh. Like all figs, it can be espaliered in small gardens for aesthetic effect. And also like most figs, the 'Black Mission' fig bears two crops, one in early summer and one in early fall. Mature trees range between 15 and 20 feet high and wide, so leave ample room for growth.