15 Types of Apple Trees to Grow

Apple varieties

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There are 2,500 varieties of apples grown in the United States, and 7,500 in the world. This huge selection can make it a bit overwhelming to determine what kind of apple tree you want to plant. Going through a checklist of criteria helps to make your choice. 

The first requirement is that you have a sunny spot to plant your apple trees (you always need two for pollination, more about that below). All apple trees without exception need full sun

Taste

The quality of the fruit—taste, color, and to a certain extent the size—ranks high on the list of criteria. Also, think about whether you’d like a baking or snacking apple, or an all-purpose apple that is good for baking and snacking, which is often the best option for home gardeners with limited space.

Growing Zone and Chill Days

Finding the right apple tree for your climate is crucial. Some varieties are especially suitable for cold climates and others for warm climates. All apple trees require a certain number of “chill hours” every year—temperatures between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s the reason why most apple trees don’t grow above USDA zone 8. Be aware that the number of chill hours varies greatly depending on the source, it is not consistent and there is no standard so before purchasing a tree, make sure to check the number of chill hours the nursery lists for the tree, providing first-hand and usually the most reliable information about that particular apple tree. 

Pollination

With very few exceptions, you need two apple trees of different varieties, or an ornamental crabapple tree, to produce fruit. Also, and this is very important, the two varieties need to bloom during the same time so pollination can take place. When you purchase a tree, the nursery should tell you which type of second apple tree is required. 

Some varieties are labeled as partially self-pollinating but to ensure a good crop, a second apple tree is almost always recommended. 

Harvest Time

Harvest time is another important criterion. The first apple varieties ripen as early as mid-summer the late varieties in October. If you are taking a vacation every year around Labor Day, pick an apple tree with a late harvest. 

Susceptibility to Pests and Diseases

Apple trees, as are all fruit trees, are notoriously prone to pests and disease. Look for a variety that offers a certain degree of resistance or at least reduced susceptibility to serious diseases such as fire blight and apple scab

Rootstock Types and Height

The height of an apple tree depends on the type of rootstock, and that also determines how many years it takes for the tree to produce apples. The size of the tree determines the planting distance (dwarf types need to be spaced 8 to 10 feet apart). The type of rootstock does not have any impact on the fruit size and quality. 

There are six different types of rootstocks for apples:

  • Dwarfing (M9): 6 to 8 ft. tall, 2 to 3 years until fruit bearing
  • Semi-dwarfing (M.26) 8 to 10 ft. tall, 2 to 3 years until fruit bearing
  • Very dwarfing (M27) 4 to 6 ft. tall, 2 years until fruit bearing
  • Semi-vigorous (MM106): 10 to 13 ft. tall, 3 to 4 years until fruit bearing
  • Vigorous (MM111), 13 to 15 ft. tall, 4 to 5 years until fruit bearing
  • Very vigorous (M25): More than 15 ft. tall, 5 to 6 years until fruit bearing 

For most home gardens, dwarfing types are best whereas orchards often grow semi-vigorous types. Many apple varieties are available in at least one or two different sizes. 

Fun Fact

The original apple tree (Malus domestica) is native to Asia, but all apple trees grown today are cultivars. Most apple cultivars are propagated by clonal grafting onto rootstock. The idea of Johnny Appleseed planting an apple tree is a myth. An apple tree grown from seed would not be anything like the tree it came from, and the fruit would be rather unpalatable—unlike the varieties listed above, and the many other delicious apple varieties available today. 

Here are 15 varieties of apple trees suitable to be grown in home gardens. Harvest dates vary considerably with weather and location.

  • 01 of 15

    Anna

    This apple variety is favorite in southern locations because it has low chilling requirements and does well in climates with mild winters. The large apples are light green-yellow and have a faint red blush. The flesh is sweet, slightly tart, and crisp.

    Some nurseries sell the tree as self-fertile, however, to ensure a good crop, it is recommended to plant the tree within 50 feet of a Dorsett Golden for pollination.

    • Harvest: June and July
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 6-9 (USDA)
    • Chill hours: 200-300
  • 02 of 15

    Braeburn

    Braeburn apples

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    This late-season variety, which originated in New Zealand, has medium to large, oval fruit with cream-colored flesh that is crisp and juicy.

    • Harvest: October
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-8 (USDA)
    • Chill hours: 700
  • 03 of 15

    Cortland

    Cortland apple

    Sherry Galey / Getty Images

    One of the parents of the Cortland is the McIntosh apple, which gave this variety its bright red color, It has crisp white, juicy flesh with a sweet-tart flavor. The special feature of this cold-hardy apple variety is that the flesh does not turn brown as easily when cut.

    • Harvest: September
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-6 (USDA)
    • Chill hours: 800-1000
  • 04 of 15

    Cox Orange Pippin

    Cox Orange Pippin apples

    Arco Images / De Cuveland Justus / Getty Images

    The famous British apple has a yellow skin with an orange-red blush. While its flavor is complex and excellent, the tree does not have good overall disease resistance.

    • Harvest: September
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-8 (USDA)
    • Chill hours: 800
    Continue to 5 of 15 below.
  • 05 of 15

    Dorsett Golden

    Dorsett Golden apples

    Forest and Kim Starr / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States license

    This is an apple for warm, even tropical climates—it was bred in the Bahamas in the 1950s. The medium-size apples are firm with golden-yellow skin and orange-red blush. The flesh is crisp, sweet, and tart.

    • Harvest: Mid-June to early July
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-9 (USDA)
    • Chill hours: 350
  • 06 of 15

    Ein Shemer

    Ein Shemer apples

    Forest and Kim Starr / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States license

    This low-chilling variety was bred in Israel so it fares well in warm to hot climates. The large, Golden Delicious-type fruit has a sweet, juicy flavor. The tree is sometimes sold as self-fertile but the pollen from an Anna apple nearby helps increase quality and productivity.

    • Harvest: June and July
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 8-9 (USDA)
    • Chill hours: 200-400
  • 07 of 15

    Fuji

    Fuji apples

    GomezDavid / Getty Images

    This apple variety from Japan is a low-chill, late-season apple that can grow in areas with milder winters. The flesh is firm, sweet, crisp, and juicy. The tree is resistant to powdery mildew.

    • Harvest: October
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-8 (USDA)
    • Chill hours: 200-400
  • 08 of 15

    Gala

    Gala apples

    John Burke / Getty Images

    It’s easy to identify the popular Gala apple from its heart shape and red streaks on yellow-golden skin. This warm-climate apple has white flesh and tangy-sweet flavor.

    • Harvest: August through September
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-8 (USDA)
    • Chill hours: 500
    Continue to 9 of 15 below.
  • 09 of 15

    Golden Delicious

    Golden Delicious apple

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    While this flavor of this ubiquitous, all-purpose apple might not be your favorite to eat, there is a compelling reason to plant a Golden Delicious tree: it is one of the most dependable apple varieties to pollinate other apple trees. Another plus is that it grows well in warm climates.

    • Harvest: September
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-9 (USDA)
    • Chill hours: 700
  • 10 of 15

    Granny Smith

    Granny Smith apple

    Little Hand Images / Getty Images

    The classic tart apple hails from Australia. With a short chill time, it is a good choice for warm climates.

    • Harvest: October
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-9 (USDA)
    • Chill hours: 400
  • 11 of 15

    Honeycrisp

    Honeycrisp apple

    brizmaker / Getty Images

    This exceptionally crispy and juice apple has made this a favorite apple to grow in cold climates. The late-season large fruit ripens evenly and does not have to be harvested all at once but holds well on the tree, which is ideal so you can pick as needed over a few weeks.

    • Harvest: September
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-8 (USDA)
    • Chill hours: 800-1000
  • 12 of 15

    Jonafree

    Dorsett Golden apples

    Forest and Kim Starr / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States license

    Its good resistance to apple scab and low susceptibility or immunity to other serious diseases (powdery mildew, apple rust, and fire blight) makes this a suitable cultivar for care-free growing. The glossy red fruit closely resembles Jonathan in size and shape. The fruit is mild in flavor and low in acid.

    • Harvest: September
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-8 (USDA)
    • Chill hours: 700-1000
    Continue to 13 of 15 below.
  • 13 of 15

    Jonagold

    Jonagold apple

    brizmaker / Getty Images

    This cross between Jonathan and Golden Delicious has a tangy-sweet flavor and firm flesh. It is a good cold-climate apple. Jonagold is not a good choice when a second apple tree is required for pollination because it is one of the few triploid apple varieties—trees that are receptive to pollen from other trees but they do not produce viable pollen for other trees so you cannot count on the tree to help with fruit production.

    • Harvest: September
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-8 (USDA)
    • Chill hours: 700-800
  • 14 of 15

    Pink Lady

    Pink Lady apple

    Marge Sudol / Getty Images

    The fruit of Pink Lady ripens late in the season. The crisp apples are sweet and tart at the same time, high in sugar and high in acid.

    • Harvest: October
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-8 (USDA)
    • Chill hours: 500-600

     

  • 15 of 15

    Sweet Sixteen

    This apple is as hardy as it is sweet but with a complex flavor. The yellow-skinned fruit has reddish-pink stripes. The tree is extra hardy even in the cold winters of USDA zone 3.

    • Harvest: September
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-6 (USDA)
    • Chill hours: 1100-1400

    Tip

    If you have the space, consider planting apple tree varieties for a staggered harvest by including early-season bloomers, mid-season bloomers, and late-season bloomers in your home orchard.

Article Sources
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  1. Rootstocks for Fruit. Royal Horticultural Society.

  2. Disease Susceptibility Ranking of Apples. Cornell University.