10 Best Drought-Tolerant Fruits

close-up of a, opened pomegranate fruit with pomegranate seeds in a bowls next to it

You don’t have to live in a dewy oasis to grow your own delicious, fresh fruits. A dry landscape may seem like a recipe for withered, dying plants, but many of our favorite fruits are native to Latin America and the Mediterranean region, which means they’re perfectly adapted to hot, dry summers. 

We’ve compiled a list of the 10 best fruits for your drought-prone yard or low-water xeriscape. Once established, they need little to no supplemental watering, so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. 

For an extra burst of flavor, we’ve included taste profiles for each fruit, so you can choose the perfect one for your palate and cooking needs.

1. Asian persimmon (Diospyros kaki)

With striking golden, orange, and red fall foliage and fragrant pink and white spring flowers, the Asian persimmon is a delightful landscape addition even before you consider its luscious orange fruits. 

A medium-sized deciduous tree native to Eastern Asia and India, the persimmon thrives in sunny, warm weather and is an excellent choice for privacy hedges or front yard ornamentation. It blooms in spring, and 3- to 4-inch fruits ripen in late fall. You can harvest your fruits to eat or leave them on the tree for winter interest. 

Note: Be patient with your baby persimmon. Persimmons are slow growers and normally take four to six years to start bearing fruit. Once they do, they’ll produce a harvest each year. 

Persimmon characteristics:

  • Plant type: Tree
  • Hardiness zones: 7-9
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Loamy and well-draining, acidic
  • Duration: Deciduous
  • Mature height: 20-30 feet

Persimmon flavor:

Persimmons have a tangy, honey-like flavor with notes of cinnamon. With a silky smooth texture, they can be sliced and eaten raw, or prepared for: 

  • Citrusy salads
  • Dessert bread and muffins
  • Pudding and custard
  • Jam and jelly

2. Dragon fruit (Hylocereus undatus, H. polyrhizus, and other Hylocereus species)

Also known as pitaya, dragon fruits are some of the most drought-tolerant — and stunning — fruits you can grow. With enormous night-blooming white flowers and hot pink fruits, they’re showstopping cacti that have recently gained international popularity as healthy, delicious summer snacks.

Plant your dragon fruit with some landscaping support (like a trellis) in a sunny but not overly exposed area. A moderate amount of sunlight will produce healthy, large fruits, but too much sun may burn (insolate) the stem. Dragon fruits are typically harvested in midsummer to mid-fall, about 30 days after flowers have bloomed. 

Dragon fruit characteristics:

  • Plant type: Cactus
  • Hardiness zones: 9-11 (must be protected from frost if planted in Zone 9)
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil: Sandy and well-draining, slightly acidic
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 10-20 feet

Dragon fruit flavor:

Dragon fruits are lightly sweet and refreshing (they taste like a mix between a pear and a kiwi) and are usually eaten fresh. However, they’re also delicious in:

  • Ice cream and sorbet
  • Smoothies
  • Salads
  • Salsas
  • Cookies and pastries

3. Fig (Ficus carica)

Other than its name, there’s not much common about the common fig. With juicy sweet fruits that ripen in late summer (with the potential for a second harvest in fall), a fig tree is a perfect addition to sun-drenched areas of your lawn. Its large, attractive leaves accent small fruits that turn deep purple at harvest time. 

Most fig trees available at garden centers are self-pollinating, so you won’t have to worry about buying multiple fig trees or hoping that tiny fig wasps will flutter along and pollinate your flowers. 

Note: Figs aren’t as drought-tolerant as other trees on this list, as they require 1 inch of water per week (from natural rainfall or irrigation) during hot summer months. However, they are extremely popular with homeowners in the South and West who either get consistent summer rainfall or are willing to give plants some TLC in exchange for juicy, plump fruits. 

Fig characteristics:

  • Plant type: Small tree
  • Hardiness zones: 7a-10b
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil: Rich and well-draining, acidic to neutral
  • Duration: Deciduous
  • Mature height: 10-30 feet

Fig flavor:

Figs are rich, sweet, and honey-like, so they pair well with cheeses and savory dishes. Use your figs to make:

  • Savory tarts
  • Jam, chutney, or jelly
  • Fig and brie sandwiches
  • Cakes and pies

4. Jujube (Ziziphus jujuba)

For over 4,000 years, jujube has been cultivated in China, and there’s a reason it’s stayed so popular. Jujubes (commonly known as Chinese dates) produce an abundance of small egg-shaped fruits that taste similar to sweet-tart apples. 

Both cold- and heat-tolerant, jujubes are hardy, pest-resistant growers that will give your landscape that added curb appeal. Their bark boasts attractive zig-zag patterns and branches cascade downward for a weeping willow-like appearance. Fragrant yellow flowers bloom from late spring into summer, and fruits mature from bright green to a deep red in late summer for harvest. Young jujube branches have thorns, so use caution when picking fruits off the tree. 

Jujube characteristics:

  • Plant type: Small tree
  • Hardiness zones: 6-11
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Sandy and well-draining, neutral pH
  • Duration: Deciduous
  • Mature height: 12-15 feet

Jujube flavor: 

Jujubes are chewy and sweet with a tang. They’re often enjoyed raw or dried as an afternoon snack, but they also can be used in:

  • Tea (jujube and ginger tea is especially popular)
  • Cakes and pies
  • Candies and syrups
  • Meat and vegetable roasts

5. Kei apple (Dovyalis caffra)

Kei apples are robust shrubs that thrive on the Kei River in South Africa. Because of their drought resistance and ability to grow in poor soils, they’re a popular option for U.S. landscapes in the southwest, California, and Florida.

Kei apples are small (1-2 inches) tart treasures, but you’ll have to do some work to get to them: Kei apple branches have long spines, which help prevent unwanted wildlife but mean that harvesting requires gloves and long sleeves.

Fruits mature about 90 days after flowers open. You’ll know it’s time to harvest them when they change color from dark green to bright yellow or orange (usually from August to October). Kei apples are not self-pollinating, so you’ll need to plant a male and female kei apple tree to produce fruit. 

Kei apple characteristics:

  • Plant type: Large shrub or small tree
  • Hardiness zones: 9-11
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil: Sandy to loamy clay, well-draining (can grow in nutrient-poor soil)
  • Duration: Evergreen
  • Mature height: 12-15 feet

Kei apple flavor:

Kei apples tend to be too acidic to eat by themselves, so they’re often cut in half, sprinkled with sugar, and left out for a few hours before being served as a dessert. They also can be used for: 

  • Cupcakes and shortbreads
  • Sauces and syrups
  • Jams, jellies, and chutney

6. Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica)

A rapid-growing evergreen with apricot-like fruits, loquat is an ideal tree for year-round appeal. With fruits that ripen in mid-spring (instead of summer and fall, like most fruit trees), it’ll welcome the season with a bounty of sweet, homegrown treats.

Also known as the Japanese plum or medler, loquat thrives in tropical climates where temperatures do not fall below 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Its lovely leathery leaves offer plenty of winter interest, and its fragrant, creamy white flowers attract hummingbirds and bees for a gorgeous backyard show through fall and winter. 

Plant your loquat in a sunny area as a privacy hedge or front yard accent, or make it the star of your winter garden or children’s garden. Pale yellow fruits can be easily picked from the tree, and they offer a host of health benefits. They’re rich in fiber; vitamins A, B6, and B9; potassium; and iron.

Note: Avoid eating loquat seeds, as consuming a large amount can be toxic. 

Loquat characteristics:

  • Plant type: Tree
  • Hardiness zones: 8-10
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil: Loamy with good drainage
  • Duration: Evergreen
  • Mature height: 15-25 feet

Loquat flavor:

Loquats are citrusy and sweet, tasting like a cross between an apple, apricot, and pineapple. Ripe loquats have a juicy, peach-like texture. You can enjoy them straight from the tree, or use them to make:

  • Crumbles and pies
  • Marmalade and chutney
  • Jam and jelly
  • Pan-fried chicken
  • Wine

7. Pineapple guava (Acca sellowiana)

With glossy evergreen leaves and white flowers that taste like marshmallows, you may already be sold on the pineapple guava, but its delicious pineapple-flavored fruit seals the deal. 

Also known as feijoa, pineapple guava is a beautiful, dense shrub that blooms in spring and attracts songbirds. It’s excellent as a privacy hedge or in an edible garden. Your kids will love picking fresh guava in late summer before school starts! 

You’ll know your guava is ripe when fruits begin to smell minty and have some give when you squeeze them. You can wait for ripe, reddish-brown fruits to fall off the plant, or pick them earlier and let them ripen on your kitchen counter. 

Pineapple guava characteristics:

  • Plant type: Shrub
  • Hardiness zones: 8-10
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil: Sandy or clay with good drainage; prefers slightly acidic soil
  • Duration: Evergreen
  • Mature height: 10-15 feet

Pineapple guava flavor:

Pineapple guavas have a flowery, sweet taste similar to that of a strawberry, with the slightly crunchy texture of a pear. They’re delicious fresh (just cut them in half and enjoy), or you can use them to make:

  • Sweet bread
  • Smoothies and juice
  • Cookies, muffins, and cakes
  • Jam and syrup

8. Prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica)

Prickly pear cacti won’t prickle at high heat and drought conditions. A study from the University of Nevada shows that prickly pears produce the most fruit while using up to 80% less water than some traditional crops. That means more delicious, antioxidant-rich treats without the strain on your water bill. 

Known as tuna in Latin America, prickly pears produce egg-shaped pink berries that ripen in late summer to early winter. Research shows that prickly pears, which are high in vitamins and carotenoids, may help prevent and treat diabetes, ulcers, and liver disease

Both the pads (nopales) and fruits of this succulent are edible, but handle each with caution: Hair-like thorns called “glochids” must be burned off before you can safely enjoy your prickly pears. After burning the fruits, you can peel them and enjoy them raw, or freeze and juice them.

Prickly pear characteristics:

  • Plant type: Cactus
  • Hardiness zones: 9-12
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Sandy and well-draining
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 4-10 feet

Prickly pear flavor:

Prickly pears have a sweet, light taste that resembles watermelon with a hint of bubble gum, which intensifies the flavor without overwhelming your palate. Add prickly pears to:

  • Smoothies and sorbet
  • Refreshing drinks like mojitos and margaritas
  • Syrup and jelly
  • Candies like gumdrops
  • Autumn salads

Prickly pear pads are delicious grilled or scrambled with eggs.

9. Pomegranate (Punica granatum)

Bursting with potassium and vitamin C, pomegranates are tangy, juicy superfruits perfect for afternoon snacking and refreshing drinks. With its showy, trumpet-shaped flowers that bloom all summer long, your pomegranate tree will be the talk of the neighborhood. 

Plant your pomegranate tree as a front lawn accent or grow multiple trees to create a beautiful privacy hedge. Since hummingbirds adore pomegranate flowers, add a tree to your pollinator garden.

Harvest your pomegranates in fall, once they have turned deep red. A good way to tell your pomegranates are ready? Tap on them. If they make a metallic sound, they’re ripe for the picking.

Pomegranate characteristics:

  • Plant type: Small tree or large shrub
  • Hardiness zones: 8-10 
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil: Clay, loamy, sandy; well-draining
  • Duration: Deciduous
  • Mature height: 10-12 feet

Pomegranate flavor:

Each pomegranate fruit is chock-full of tangy, sweet-tart seeds (botanically known as “arils”). Munch on fresh or frozen pomegranate seeds, or use pomegranates to make:

10. Wine grape (Vitis vinifera)

When pushed to the limits, wine grapes (AKA common grapes) stand strong during droughts. Research shows that grapes grown in Napa, CA, and Bordeaux, France, never reached their lethal water-potential threshold throughout a decade of observation. So, you won’t have to worry about replacing your vines after a particularly dry summer.

Choose an area of your lawn that’s sunny and shielded from high winds, and support your grapevines on a climbing structure like a trellis. Follow a regular pruning schedule to keep your vines tidy and healthy.

Native to the Mediterranean and Asia, wine grapes ripen in fall. Spring flowers and leaves are also edible and can be used in salads. Boil grape leaves to make delicious dolmas

Pro Tip: Spread compost around the base of your vines to give roots a nutrient boost.

Wine grape characteristics:

  • Plant type: Vine
  • Hardiness zones: 6-10
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Clay, loamy, sandy; well-draining
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: Depends on the climbing structure you choose (vines can grow to about 85 feet tall)

Wine grape flavor:

Wine grapes are juicy and sweet with a tang. Some especially drought-tolerant cultivars include: “Barbera,” “Cardinal,” “Emerald Riesling,” “Flame Seedless,” “Merlot,” “Muscat of Alexandria,” “Pinot Chardonnay,” “Red Malaga,” “Sauvignon Blanc,” and “Zinfandel.”

Use wine grapes to make:

FAQ about drought-tolerant fruits

1. How long does it take for fruit trees to establish? 

Note that all the plants on our list are drought-tolerant once established. Even the hardiest growers will need to be watered once or twice a week until their root system has developed (which can take one or two years). 

Here’s approximately how often to water your drought-tolerant fruit trees until they’re established. 

1-2 weeks after planting: water once a day
3-12 weeks after planting: water every 2-3 days
12 weeks until root establishment after planting: water once a week

2. Are there other drought-tolerant fruits?

Absolutely! While plants on our list are especially excellent at resisting drought, there are plenty of other fruit species that can thrive in dry climates. They just need more supplemental water during the growing season.

Here are drought-tolerant fruits that require a bit more water
Red or white mulberry
Goji berry
Strawberry guava
Strawberry tree

3. What fruit trees should I avoid when planning a drought-resistant landscape?

Some fruits need a consistently moist environment, which means if you live in the desert or want to design a xeriscape, they probably aren’t the best fit for your landscape (or your water bill).

Fruits to avoid include:

4. How else can I conserve water around my lawn?

When it comes to keeping soil moist and roots healthy, organic mulch is always an excellent option. Spread mulch around your fruit trees to give them a nutrient boost and reduce their watering needs. 

For more efficient watering, consider replacing your sprinklers with a drip system, which delivers water directly to roots to reduce the potential for evaporation. Consider adding more drought-tolerant plants — like trees, vegetables, and perennials — to further reduce your carbon footprint. 

Check out our “What is Xeriscaping” article to learn about the seven key ways to lower your landscape’s irrigation needs.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor

Planting drought-tolerant fruits means you won’t have to spend the summer watering all your plants. However, digging trees into the ground can take some heavy lifting, especially if you’ve chosen mature trees that are ready to produce fruit. 

Call 811 before you dig (you don’t want to break a power line!), test your soil to know which trees will thrive in your lawn, and use caution when handling equipment.

If you’d rather savor the weekend with family than spend it planting trees, hire a team of local lawn care pros to install your drought-tolerant plants for you. They’ll prepare your site and start plants out strong so you can enjoy juicy, homegrown fruits without all the sweat. 

Main Photo Credit: lovini | Pixabay

Maille Smith

Maille-Rose Smith is a freelance writer and actor based in New York. She graduated from the University of Virginia. She enjoys watching theatre, reading mysteries, and listening to psychology podcasts. She is an orchid enthusiast and always has a basil plant growing in her kitchen.