All About Growing Apples

Apples take a little effort to grow at home, but picking their tasty fruit in your own yard is a wonderful reward.

Standard apple trees grow quite large, so many gardeners opt for more manageable dwarf or semi-dwarf trees that easily fit into home landscapes. Gardeners with narrow yet sunny spaces can train dwarf varieties to grow in compact yet highly productive espaliers.

Columnar-type apple trees are another small-space option. Sold under trade names such as Sentinel or Urban Apple, columnar varieties form their fruit along a single main trunk and spur-like branches. They can be planted close together in the ground (5 feet apart is plenty) or in large pots or whiskey barrels. (In colder areas, be sure to provide winter protection for potted trees.)

Choose from early-, mid- and late-ripening cultivars for fruit production from late summer through autumn. Many nurseries offer plants with multiple apple varieties grafted onto a single plant. Check with local nurseries to learn which types grow best in your region.



Common name: Apple

Botanical name: Malus spp.

Plant type: Deciduous tree

Zones: 3 to 8

Height: 8 to 30 feet

Family: Rosaceae


Growing conditions
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Sandy loam to clay loam with moderate fertility
  • Moisture: Best fruit production occurs with evenly moist soil; avoid overly wet sites.

Care

  • Mulch: 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch
  • Pruning: Remove all suckers and watersprouts annually; prune as needed to develop evenly spaced branches and to thin the canopy.
  • Fertilizer: Apply compost or balanced fertilizer each spring.

Propagation

  • Grafting


Pests and diseases

  • Apple maggot, codling moth, plum curculio, aphids, borers
  • Apple scab, fireblight, cedar-apple rust

Cultivars

  • There are over 7,000 known apple cultivars in the world!
  • ‘Ashmead’s Kernel’ is a golden russeted heirloom apple dating back to the 1700s.
  • ‘Honeycrisp’ has very crisp, juicy fruit that keeps for months in refrigeration.
  • ‘Liberty’ has good resistance to apple scab.
  • ‘McIntosh’ has red striped fruit that have a unique aroma and flavor.
  • Pink Lady has crisp, sweet-tart, pink-blushed fruit.
  • Scarlet Sentinel and Tasty Red are red columnar varieties.

Garden notes

  • Apples require cross-pollination to fruit, so plant two different cultivars that bloom at the same time near each other. Flowering crabapples work just fine for cross-pollination with eating apples.
  • To prevent apple-maggot damage without using pesticides, slip small paper or plastic bags—or nylon barriers—over just-developing apples. Close them tightly around blossom stems, using staples or ties.


All in the family

  • Apple is a member of the rose family (Rosaceae), a large family of woody and herbaceous plants.
  • Other valuable fruit plants in this family include raspberries, cherries, plums, peaches and strawberries.
  • Malus sieversii, native to Kazakhstan, is thought to be the species from which eating apples first originated.

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