HOME FRUIT GROWING-- Tree Fruit Growth Stages

Not only are the stone and pome fruits different inside, they develop differently from each other, but similarly within each grouping.  So, for instance, the apples and pears share similar stages from bloom to fruit.  These stages may be seen as “phenological’, as they respond to and vary with season and climate.  Some of the key stages of stone and pome fruits, and their terms, are good to know since you’ll hear or see them in relation to plant culture, and in particular to watching for insects and diseases. 

One example of watching these stages is important to northern tree fruit growers.  As flower buds develop further, they are more susceptible to cold from late spring frosts.  While apple buds in the silver tip stage aren’t damaged until temperatures drop to 16°F, they begin to be damaged at 28°F in the pink stage, with most killed at 25°F in the pink stage.

Professionals and commercial growers get into more depth, with up to 9 divisions and over 50 subdivisions of development that they monitor.  For the home fruit orchard, the following main stages for apples and peaches, as examples of pome and stone fruits, should be sufficient.  Other fruits in each group are similar. A good visual guide for each main fruit can be found online from Cornell University .  





What happens

Silver tip

Bud swell

Buds swell and turn fuzzy silver from emerging leaves

Green tip

Bud burst

Green leaves begin to emerge from tips of buds

Half-inch green

half-inch green

Specific amount of leaves are now visible, folding backwards as they emerge, resembling the other name for this stage in apples—“mouse ears”

Tight cluster


Young apple leaves are now emerged and folded backward, revealing a tight flower cluster; buds are more sensitive to cold now



Flower buds have grown sufficiently to reveal the petal color

Open cluster


Apple flower buds are now distinctly separate

King bloom

First bloom

The center or “King” bloom of apples opens first, before the several buds surrounding it; it usually produces the best fruit; first bloom opens in peaches

Full bloom

Full bloom

80% or more of the flowers are open

Petal fall

Petal fall

Petals are raining down from the tree, carpeting the ground; when all the petals are off peach trees, the fruit is “in the shuck”


Shuck split

When the enlarging peach fruit splits the shuck—the dried remaining floral parts around the forming fruit


Pit hardening

You can’t see this but must cut the peach in half to see if the pit has become hardened

Fruit set

Fruit set

Young fruit begin to be seen; growers then measure various stages as they develop for apples, less for peaches; when apples are about 1/4- to 1/2-inch across is the best time to thin for best fruit development


Red color

Peaches begin to change from yellow to red



This varies with the cultivar, season, and number of fruit on the tree; for peaches this is divided into first harvest, then general harvest for multiple pickings