How to Grow Gravenstein Apple Trees

Gravenstein apple tree branches with red and yellow apples hanging

The Spruce / K. Dave

In This Article

Considered to be one of the best "all-around" apple varieties, the red gravenstein apple has a sweet yet tart flavor. It's a popular choice for both cooking and baking -- they are great for apple sauce, dried fruits, and apple cider, and also taste delicious in pies and jams.

One of the more popular apple tree varieties, the gravenstein has been cultivated since the 17th century. It originated in Denmark in the early 1600s (it was proclaimed the "national apple") and brought to the United States with German settlers in the 1820's. Orchards were first established at Fort Ross in California.

Today its apples are known for their versatility and depth of flavor. The trees are primarily grown commercially in regions such as Sonoma, California, but they are easy enough for anyone to grow on their property, provided you can offer them ample sunlight and plenty of water.

Gravenstein apples have a distinctive tangy yet sweet flavor and their flesh is white and honey-scented. The apples range from round to oblong, with flattened bottoms. When ripe, they appear yellowish-green and have blushing on their base and crown.

Botanical Name Malus gravenstein
Common Name Gravenstein apple tree
Plant Type Fruit tree
Mature Size 12-15 feet
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Loamy
Soil pH 6-7
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Yellow green (apples)
Hardiness Zones 2-9
Native Area Denmark

Gravenstein Apple Tree Care

The gravenstein apple tree will take two to five years to bear fruit. Its fruit will appear in the summer months (typically July and August). The medium to large gravenstein apple are crisp, juicy, and finely grained, with a smooth texture. The trees are picked in July and August. Once harvested, the fruit will only remain fresh for two to three weeks.

There are several diseases that can impact apple trees, and gravenstein apple trees are susceptible to blight, apple scab, and powdery mildew. They are also prone to moth damage, but sticky traps can successfully keep pests away from your fruit.

Gravenstein apple tree with red and yellow apples hanging on branches closeup

The Spruce / K. Dave

Gravenstein apple tree with red apples in branches against blue sky

The Spruce / K. Dave

Red and yellow gravenstein apples piled on each other

The Spruce / K. Dave


The gravenstein apple tree will grow best in full sun. Be sure to plant your tree in a location where it will have access to at least six hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight on a daily basis.


Gravenstein apple trees will grow in soil that's moderately fertile, damp, and loamy. They will thrive in light, sandy-loam soil where its roots can dig deep.


The gravenstein apple tree should have access to average moisture while it establishes. After that point, they will continue to produce without much irrigation.

However, you should try to avoid letting the soil dry too much, particularly in the summer months. Moisture in the air along the coast can contribute to the tree’s growth, even in regions that are plagued by drought-like conditions.

Temperature and Humidity

The gravenstein apple grows well in temperate regions, such as California, but can also tolerate colder temperatures


When it comes to fertilizing apple trees, nitrogen-rich fertilizer can be raked evenly into the soil around the base (just be sure to keep it about two feet out and six inches away from the trunk).

The fertilization process can be repeated after three months and should be applied in a three-foot circle around the tree after its two years old.

Other Varieties of Apple Trees

Gravenstein apple trees require pollination with any self-fertile variety of apple tree; some common choices include gala, fuji, empire, or red and yellow delicious. Below are some other apple tree varieties.

  • Golden Delicious
  • Cortland
  • Ginger Gold
  • Liberty
  • Paulared
  • Granny Smith
  • Northern Spy
  • Rome
  • Early Apple Harvest
  • Haralred
  • State Fair
  • Freedom
  • Beacon
  • Enterprise
  • Haralred
  • Macoun
  • Cortland
  • Gala
  • Honeycrisp
  • Red Free


When it comes to pruning fruit trees, your goal is to maximize growth on lateral branches, rather than the leaders. Lateral branches will have higher fruit yields than central upright branches. Consider pruning your gravenstein apple tree late in the winter or early in the spring. It's best to aim for just before the growth starts in the spring so cuts won't be left unprotected against the coldest winter temperatures.

Pruning is important for apple trees because it will allow growers to choose a basic structure for the tree, and in the case of the gravenstein tree, it can help create a sturdy scaffold to support the weight of the heavy fruits.

Article Sources
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  1. "Malus X Domestica". Portland.Gov,

  2. Beckerman, Janna. "Disease Susceptibility Of Common Apple Cultivars". Purdue University Extension, 2021,