Apple tree hardiness zone

Zone 5 Apple Trees – Growing Apples In Zone 5 Gardens

Even though George Washington chopped down a cherry tree, it’s apple pie that became the American icon. And the best way to make one is with fresh, ripe, delicious fruit from your own garden orchard. You may think that your zone 5 region is a little chilly for fruit trees, but finding apple trees for zone 5 is a snap. Read on for tips about great apple trees that grow in zone 5.

Growing Apples in Zone 5

If you live in USDA zone 5, winter temperatures dip below zero most winters. But you’ll find lots of apple trees growing in this zone, a region that includes the Great Lakes and the northwestern interior of the nation.

In fact, many of the classic apple varieties thrive in USDA zones 5-9. From a list of those varieties, you should choose apple trees for zone 5 based

on other important tree features. These include fruit characteristics, bloom time and pollen compatibility.

You’ll also want to think about chill hours. Each apple variety has a different number of chill hours – number of days the temperatures are between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit (0 to 7 C.). Check the tags on the seedlings to figure out the chill hour information.

Zone 5 Apple Trees

Classic apple varieties like Honeycrisp and Pink Lady are among those apple trees that grow in zone 5. Honeycrisp is known for producing delicious fruit in USDA zones 3-8, while Pink Lady, crisp and sweet, is everybody’s favorite in zones 5-9.

Two other, lesser known varieties that do well as zone 5 apple trees are Akane and Ashmead’s Kernel. Akane apples are small but snap with flavor in USDA zones 5-9. Ashmead’s Kernel is definitely one of the best apple trees for zone 5. However, if you are looking for gorgeous fruit, look elsewhere, as this tree produces apples as ugly as you’ve ever seen. The flavor is superior, however, whether eaten off the tree or bakes.

If you need a few more variety suggestions for growing apples in zone 5, you can try:

  • Pristine
  • Dayton
  • Shay
  • Melrose
  • Jonagold
  • Gravenstein
  • William’s Pride
  • Belmac
  • Wolf River

When you are selecting apple trees for zone 5, consider pollination. The majority of apple varieties are not self-pollinating and they don’t pollinate any blossoms of the same apple variety. This means that you’ll probably need at least two different varieties of zone 5 apple trees. Plant them reasonably close to each other to encourage bees to pollinate. Plant them in sites that get full sun and offer well-draining soil.

For those of us that love to garden – nothing can beat the quick return of bountiful harvests from the planting of tomatoes, peppers, corn and more each year.

However, not to be forgotten are the years and years of fruit harvests that can be provided from a single planting of a few fruit trees to your yard or landscape.

Nothing beats the taste of fresh picked cherries!

There is something that is so satisfying about getting to plant a fruit tree – it somehow signifies that you are putting down roots of a more permanent nature.

Fruit trees can be a valuable addition for those that are trying to be more responsible for growing their own food – and requires much less maintenance than an annual garden.

Plant Fruit Trees – Fall Planting

A newly planted apple tree at the farm .

Although you can plant fruit trees into your landscape at any point of the growing season – fall is really the best time to plant.

The advantages to planting your trees in the fall are many. For one, the cooler temperatures are much less stressful on the trees and require far less watering than planting trees in the spring and taking them through the hot summer months.

Fall planting allows just enough time for the roots of a tree to become established – getting them accustomed to the soil and preparing them for fast growth the following spring.

Choosing Your Trees:

Whether you would like to grow your own cherry, pear, or apple trees – take care when you select your fruit trees.

Make sure you select varieties that are hardy and tolerant to your growing zone. In addition, most fruit trees require a second pollinator to insure that the trees will bear fruit.

Freshly peeled apples being prepared for making fresh apple butter

For example – let’s say you like the Fuji apple variety. If you plant a single Fuji apple tree – you may be sad to find out you will never enjoy the tasty apples that so many of us love.

That’s because the Fuji is a self sterile variety – and requires a second pollinator to fruit. So in order to have Fuji apples – you will need to plant a partner tree such as Gala or Granny Smith variety as well.

It may sound a bit daunting at first between selecting tolerant and partner friendly varieties – but almost all nurseries have easy to read pollination charts that can walk you through the process.

And of course – don’t be afraid to ask questions – most nurseries worth their salt will have someone on staff that can guide you through the process.


Planting a fruit tree is actually a very simple process.

As with your garden – mixing in compost in your planting hole is a great way to plant fruit trees correctly!

Get More Out of Gardening with Quality Garden Tools and Garden Supplies at Plow & Hearth!

Dig your planting hole about two to three times the diameter – and about 1 1/2 times the depth of the container that your tree came in.

Once your hole is dug – mix back in equal amounts of compost and soil to the bottom of the hole, filling it up enough so that the top of the tree’s root ball sits about and inch or so above the top of the hole.

At this point, water the root ball generously (a few gallons) – and then fill in around the rest of the hole with equal amounts of compost and soil.

When your tree is completely planted – you want the base of the trunk to be just above ground level – allowing for good drainage.

Apply a 2 to 3″ layer of mulch (shredded hardwood mulch, straw, or shredded leaves work well) to help the tree retain moisture and protect the root ball from winter. That’s it!

Can anything be better than a fresh fruit pie?!

You will want to water your trees for the remainder of fall – applying a few gallons around the root zone when mother nature doesn’t provide her own. If your tree is large enough – you may also want to stake it to provide protection from winter winds.

As for spacing – on average most dwarf trees should be planted about 8 to 10 feet apart – and at least 12 feet between rows. For semi-dwarfs 10 to 12 feet apart and 14 to 16 feet between rows, and for full size trees, your best bet is to read the label to make sure you leave adequate growth for specific trees.

With a little work this fall – you can be enjoying your favorite fruits for years to come!

Happy Gardening! – Jim and Mary

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How And Why To Plant Fruit Trees In The Fall Tagged on: apple trees cherry trees fruit trees how to plant fruit trees how to plant trees pear trees planting fruit trees

It’s apple season! I made my first batch of apple butter from home grown apples over the weekend. The sweet smell of baked apple, spicy ginger, cloves and cinnamon reminded me that apples are the perfect backyard fruit.

Fall is a great time to plant apple trees in USDA Hardiness zones 5-10. Here are a few tips to help you choose the right apple trees to plant this fall.

5 tips to plant apple trees this fall

  1. Cold- hardy varieties. When planting apples in fall it is a good idea to choose cold-hardy varieties. Last fall I added Cortland Apple Trees to my young fruit orchard. My trees made great strides in spring and are looking healthy and strong after a summer of growth.
  2. Pollination requirements. Most apple trees require at least two cultivars for cross-pollination. Planting multiple varieties of apple trees is recommended. For best results plant trees less than 100 feet apart.
  3. Pick the right size tree for your space. Standard trees can grow to be 25’ tall and 20’ wide. Semi- dwarf can be 15’ tall and wide, and dwarf 10’ tall and wide.
  4. Fruiting schedule. The earliest apples are ready to harvest in early summer. Late apple varieties are ready to pick in late fall. I included multiple apple varieties in my orchard to provide me with a steady supply of apples all season long.
  5. Protection from wildlife. Pests love fruit as much as humans. Fencing, netting and other barriers deter large pests. Trunk guards offer ground level protection, and mulch insulates roots over winter.

How to plant apple trees

  1. Choose a site with plenty of space, full sunlight and good soil.
  2. Soak new trees in water for a couple hours before planting.
  3. Dig a hole that is deep and wide enough for roots to spread out.
  4. Shovel soil into a large container. Mix in nutritious compost, fertilizer or other amendments for a rich loamy backfill that will optimize root establishment.
  5. Plant tree. Backfill with amended soil. Tamp down to minimize air pockets.
  6. Water thoroughly.
  7. Add a layer of mulch 1 foot around the tree trunk.

How to care for apple trees

Cut apple trees to a max height of 28” after planting.

Prune apple trees in very early spring. The goal of pruning is to develop strong limbs and achieve a good shape. Honor the strong central leader by pruning off any vertical growing limbs. Make clean cuts to remove all but four lateral branches plus the central leader.

Stake developing trees as needed.

In years that follow, prune your apple trees into a vase shape. Allow the central leader to develop to full height. If fruit is developing poorly or too heavily, thin limbs when your tree is fruiting.

Pests and disease

Commercial growers use organic and non-organic fruit tree sprays to guard against pests and disease and achieve picture perfect apples. Home growers may choose not to spray. I do not spray my trees and suffer some fruit losses each season as a consequence. My apples are often splotchy and discolored, but taste just as good! If you choose to spray, follow the fruit tree spray manufacturer’s professional program as directed.


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Low Chill Hour Apples – Tips On Growing Zone 8 Apple Trees

Apples are far and away the most popular fruit in America and beyond. This means it’s the goal of many a gardener to have an apple tree of their own. Unfortunately, apple trees aren’t adapted to all climates. Like many fruiting trees, apples need a certain number of “chill hours” in order to set fruit. Zone 8 is right on the edge of places where apples can conceivably grow. Keep reading to learn more about growing apples in hot climates and how to select apples for zone 8.

Can You Grow Apples in Zone 8?

It is possible to grow apples in hot climates like zone 8, although the variety is considerably more limited than it is in cooler areas. In order to set fruit, apple trees need a certain number of “chill hours,” or hours during which the temperature is below 45 F. (7 C.)

As a rule, many apple varieties need between 500 and 1,000 chill hours. This is simply more than is realistic in a zone 8 climate. Luckily, there are a few varieties that have been specially bred to produce fruit with significantly fewer chill hours, usually between 250 and 300. This does allow apple cultivation in much warmer climates, but there is something of a tradeoff.

Because these trees need so few chill hours, they are ready to blossom much earlier in the spring than their cold-loving cousins. Since they bloom earlier, they are much more susceptible to the odd late frost that can wipe out a season’s worth of blossoms. Growing low chill hour apples can be a delicate balancing act.

Low Chill Hour Apples for Zone 8

Some of the best zone 8 apple trees are:

  • Anna
  • Beverly Hills
  • Dorsett Golden
  • Gala
  • Gordon
  • Tropical Beauty
  • Tropic Sweet

Another set of good apples for zone 8 include:

  • Ein Shemer
  • Elah
  • Maayan
  • Michal
  • Shlomit

Cultivated in Israel, they are used to hot desert conditions and require minimal chilling.

I have to admit, when somebody says, “Imagine a tree,” I envision an apple tree, and when they say “Think about a fruit,” my mind jumps to apples right away. It only makes sense that I think growing apple trees is a gardening high art.

Part of that love and appeal comes from being raised on an old apple orchard. Back then I mostly climbed the trees, ate the fruit, and sadly, watched as the last survivors slowly succumbed to old age.

McIntosh apples, freshly harvested.

Nowadays I get to plant new trees often and tend to those that are producing fruit regularly. Regular research and learning gives me an even better grasp on what it takes to grow an apple tree, and that’s just what we’re going to take a look at today.

Growing apple trees may seem daunting, but it’s a rewarding investment. Let’s get started.

What These Trees Need

Right up front: lots of sun and lots of drainage!

Like most fruit-producing plants, apples want as much sun as they can get to grow their best. They’ll need at least six hours of sun each day, preferably in a location where they are spared the worst of the summertime late-afternoon sun.

Apple trees need full-sun conditions to thrive.

Apple trees will do their best when they are planted in well-drained soil that doesn’t get too wet. They should never be planted in low-lying or wet patches; that’s a job for willows and bald cypress!

An ideal location would be a northern or eastern slope, with the apple tree planted near the top in a sunny location. You’ve got your sunshine and your drainage, and that’s a pretty good start.

A Bit of Room to Grow

You’ll find two types of apple trees: the dwarf variety and the full-size variety.

Dwarf apple trees tend to grow to a height of about four to eight feet, while the full-size trees grow significantly larger, up to about twenty or thirty feet tall. There are advantages and disadvantages to either size.

Apple trees need full-sun conditions to thrive.

Dwarf trees are smaller and more contained. Many are ideal for espalier-style growing.

Their fruit production is typically small, but they take up far less room in the backyard than larger cultivars. You can also fit more trees in one area, providing a wider array of tastes and longer periods of fruit availability. They’re easier to harvest from too.

Unfortunately, dwarf trees tend to have weaker root systems. They’re more susceptible to being blown over during strong storms, and can even topple over under a heavy fruit crop. Be sure to grow these dwarf trees against a fence or with adequate support.

The full-size trees don’t have the same issues with their roots, but they are larger and thus demand more space. In exchange for a significant yield, you’ll need to use ladders and pole clips to prune these trees, and a fruit picker like this one available from Amazon to harvest most of the apples.

Ohuhu 13-foot Fruit Picker with Lightweight Aluminum Telescoping Pole

Comparatively, dwarf apple trees are ideal for a casual gardener or somebody who isn’t inclined to do extensive pruning. Full-size trees are for the more serious grower, or the one with the space and inclination to work on these larger plants.

How Far Apart Do They Need to Be?

Good question. Every tree has different spacing needs, but in general, dwarf trees should be planted four to eight feet apart. Full-size trees need distances of fifteen to eighteen feet in between to provide enough space to grow.

The more room to branch out and maintain airflow, the better.

In order to pollinate each other, plant no more than 50 feet apart.

It Takes Two to Make a Thing Grow Right

Ah, who doesn’t enjoy a nice ’80s hip-hop reference?

Most apple trees can’t produce fruit on their own and require cross-pollination from another tree. The trick to this is, not all trees will work.

So which ones can you select? There’s a handy interactive chart available at Fast Growing Trees that can be of aid, but I’ll save you the trouble and include a short list of what pollinates what here.

You’ll need at least two individual plants to pollinate each other, and they need to be in bloom at the same time.

Apples are divided into seven flowering groups based on when they bloom. Some examples of cultivars in the various flowering groups are listed below, but this is by no means a comprehensive list.

For a tree to pollinate another, they must be in bloom at the same time. This is an important factor for picking which plants you’ll place in your yard.

Additionally there are species known as “triploids.” These trees have three chromosomes and require two additional pollen sources to provide fruit. Planting a triploid plant requires at least three trees to be planted together to provide pollen for the triploid.

Or, consider one of the self-fruiting species. These trees can pollinate a triploid by themselves.

In general, other fruit-bearing trees that produce flowers at the same time as your apple trees are viable for cross-pollination. It’s always best to cross-pollinate within the same genus, but this could also include crabapples and pears, since they are all pome fruits.

Pretty Good, Not Great Soil

Sure, they need ample sun and good drainage, but at least apple trees don’t need rich soil! They tend to do their best in moderate-quality soil, nothing too poor or too rich.

When they are first planted, apple trees don’t need any fertilizing. In fact they don’t need anything by way of nutritional supplementation until they’ve been established for between two and four years. The actual number here depends on the cultivar you’ve chosen, and when your tree starts to produce fruit.

Apples aren’t picky about the soil they grow in.

After the tree starts producing fruit in the springtime, you’ll want to provide it with a nitrogen-heavy fertilizer. This is because apples start to gobble up nitrogen in large amounts after fruit production begins.

I’ve had the most experience using Jobe’s Organic Fruit and Citrus Fertilizer and feel comfortable recommending it. Follow the directions on the back for application rates, but remember, we aren’t fertilizing our trees the first year they’re in the ground.

Jobe’s Organics Fruit & Citrus Fertilizer with Biozome

When using fertilizer, I abide by the “just enough” rule. Avoid the temptation to overfeed your plants and fertilize sparingly on an as-needed basis.

It’s highly recommended that you do not fertilize your apple trees after the fourth of July, because any new growth after that date is prone to damage later in the season.

What’s the Drip Line?

The drip line is where the highest density of feeder roots can be found. These are the soft, white roots that seek out nutrients to feed your plant.

The best visual for imagining where the drip line is located is to look at the tree as if it is an umbrella. Everywhere the water drips down from the edges of the umbrella, or tree, is where you can imagine the drip line.

Fertilizing too close to the trunk is ineffectual. Always fertilize in the drip line!

It’s safe to apply a bit of compost sprinkled around the drip line of your apple tree each year in the spring, followed by that nitrogen boost after fruit production begins.

Choosing the Best Option

Your geographic location will dictate what apple trees you are looking to buy. Two types of apple trees exist: hardy, which grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 5, and long season, which grow in zones 5 to 8.

You’ll also need to check the “chill hours” for trees you’re considering, and map this against your average climate. Chill hours are the period time per year that an apple tree needs to be in temperatures ranging from 32 to 45°F.

Due to this requirement, you’ll probably have a tough time attempting to grow apples in the extreme south.

Choosing a variety of apple tree that is resistant to pests and diseases is vital to the long-term health of your garden, and it’s also important when it comes to producing fruit.

Jonagold, I Choose You!

Just as important as what will grow where, you’ll need to decide what type of apple you want to harvest. Most often this choice depends on whether you want fruit to eat, or fruit to cook with.

Wondering which is for you? will help you choose the best variety for your purposes!

What About Cider?

Remember the story of Johnny Appleseed? His real name was John Chapman, and he introduced apples across wast swaths of America by spreading their seed, thinking grafting hurt the host plant. As a result, what he planted sometimes grew into new sweet and delicious varieties, but they were often tart “cider apples,” fruit that’s difficult to eat and downright unpalatable out of hand.

Cider apples are great for cider and sometimes cooking, but not so good for eating.

Since apples don’t grow true to seed, only grafted saplings will produce the cultivar you’re looking for one hundred percent of the time. We’ve come full circle today, with specific cider-friendly cultivars available on the market. Several grafted varieties can be purchased to add to your home orchard.

Proper Planting Practices

Planting is the first step we can take to ensuring we’ve got healthy, happy trees. Almost all apple trees are at their best when planted in the spring. But spring can be a tricky season to get a handle on.

Spring is in the Goldilocks zone. The ground shouldn’t be frozen and cold weather should not be expected in the forecast, and yet it also can’t be too hot out. Not too hot, not too cold.

Truper 54-Inch Tru Pro Forged Eye Hoe with 7-Inch Head, Ash Handle

First things first, we remove a patch of grass around the intended planting area. Ideally, this will be a four-foot circle of removed turf and sod. My all-time favorite tool to accomplish this is a grub hoe, like this one that’s available from Amazon. It makes jobs like removing turf a breeze.

The hole you dig should have a diameter at least six inches larger than the pot size, and it should reach down to a depth of between eighteen inches and two feet. We don’t need to add any fertilizer or amendments to the soil unless it’s in really poor shape.

Grub hoes are perfect for removing sod and digging holes.

If you purchased a container-grown tree, you’ll want to remove the container and loosen the root ball. Don’t be afraid of slicing through some roots – you aren’t hurting the tree if you do this.

The roots of a container grown tree tend to grow in a circle around the bottom of the container. By slicing through the roots and loosening things up, we encourage roots to grow down in the direction they’re supposed to be going. It’s okay to really loosen up the root ball.

Although not an apple tree, this is a good look at a rootbound plant. Break these apart so that roots grow down and not in a circle.

If you purchased a bare root tree, then you don’t need to do this.

Plant the tree in the hole so that it’s about an inch or so above grade, fill the hole back in with soil, and pack it in firmly. The planting area around the tree should be slightly mounded, but don’t worry – this will settle eventually and become flat with the the ground.

It’s safe planting practices to never bury the trunk of any tree. That applies to mulching as well; don’t pile mulch up around the trunk.

Avoid pruning or fertilizing young trees. In the majority of cases, you can get away without pruning or fertilizing the tree until it begins producing fruit.

Time for a Bit of a Haircut

Whether it’s for fruit production or just a nice looking tree, apples require some regular pruning.

Springtime is the best time of year to prune an apple tree, preferably before it starts to set leaves. The basics of pruning apply when working on apples, but there are other specific points to take into account:

First, I like to make a distinction between structural pruning and maintenance pruning when I hit apple trees.

Structural Pruning

The trees need strong limbs to grow fruit on, so the first thing to eliminate when structurally pruning are weak limbs. The best limb for growing fruit is positioned at a 45° angle from the trunk, or the “ten and two” angles we’re familiar with when keeping our hands on the steering wheel.

Structural pruning requires larger cuts using loppers or saws.

Eliminate weak and dead limbs. The longer a branch produces fruit in terms of years, the more likely it is that this portion will eventually need to be removed. The same goes for any damaged, diseased, or dying wood: cut it off!

Maintenance Pruning

This takes a bit more confidence in your pruning skills.

Right off the bat, you’ll want to remove water shoots. These are the thin, whiplike growths that shoot straight upward. Cut these off aggressively, right to the branch.

Smaller branches are easily handled by pruners.

Next up are crossing branches. Have you ever noticed how some branches get turned around and start growing back towards the trunk instead of away from it? Sometimes you’ll have two branches crossing over each other. We want to remove competing branches, and open the tree up for good airflow and better fruit production.

By taking care of these competing branches, we encourage more fruit production on the existing limbs.

Ensuring a Good Harvest

After the fruits begin to develop, you’re going to want to thin them out on the branches. This seems counterintuitive to having a larger harvest, and you may find yourself wondering, “Why the heck am I removing soon-to-be apples?”

Well, imagine the expenditure that goes into producing fruit. A tree can only produce a finite amount of energy for its fruit production. If that energy is spread out over five hundred apples, you’ll get a lot of poorly developed, lackluster fruits.

However, if we remove the weakest fruits, the ones that are smaller and cracked and using up valuable resources, we’ll have a crop of, say, two hundred apples – but they’re all going to be large, healthy, good-tasting fruits.

It’s the same idea behind thinning out your seeds and deadheading spent flower blooms, just on a different playing field.

Once the fruit starts developing and you’re removing the weaker, smaller, or cracked fruits, aim to keep about four inches between each remaining apple. This helps to guarantee adequate airflow and a healthier crop of produce.

How to Pick Your Own

Now that the fruit is just about ready for picking, do you know what to look for to determine whether it’s time to harvest? We want to inspect the color of the fruit, the ease of removing the fruit from the branch, and the color of the seeds inside of the fruit.

Apples tend to ripen from the outside of the tree towards the center, and from top of the tree to bottom. The amount of sun the fruits receive determines how fast they’ll become ripe for picking. If you start noticing a few apples that fell to the ground, start checking your fruit!

Color of the Fruit

It’s best to wait for all of the green to fade from the skin of an apple before harvesting, unless you like the fruit to be a bit more tart.

Some trees have tart-tasting fruit when the apples aren’t entirely ripe. (Personally, I like that in a fruit, but I also belong in Rawhide. This is not everybody’s cup of tea.)

Ease of Picking

Reach up and grab hold of a fruit. If you can’t remove it with a gentle pull, then it’s not ready to be harvested. Try a few other fruits to make sure you didn’t find a stubborn stem.


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Product photos via Jobe’s Organics, Ohhuhu, Truper, Enviro Pro, Anpatio, and Olson Products Inc. Uncredited photos: . With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

About Matt Suwak

Matt Suwak was reared by the bear and the bobcat and the coyote of rural Pennsylvania. This upbringing keeps him permanently affixed to the outdoors where most of his personal time is invested in gardening, bird watching, and hiking. He presently resides in Philadelphia and works under the sun as a landscaper and gardener, and by moonlight as a writer. An incessant questioning of “Why?” affords him countless opportunities to ponder the (in)significance of the great and the small. He considers folksy adages priceless treasures and is fueled almost entirely by beer and hot sauce.

Does it taste good?

When flavour matters!

100 years ago scientist at experimental farms all over North America started breeding programs for hardy fruit trees and small fruit that would thrive in the harsh winters of Canada and the Northern USA. It takes as much as 40 years to test cultivars for hardiness and taste. For every fruit that gets accepted thousands more are rejected due to poor yields, lack of flavour or texture, or lack of hardiness.

Once a cultivar passes the experimental stages, it takes even longer to make it a commercial option that can be cultivated for farms and home gardens. Today we get to enjoy the fruit of those labours. Thank you to the hardy orchardists in Minnesota, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and throughout the colder regions of North America for your hard work.

Will it grow and make fruit where I live?

First a word about “hardiness zones.” Hardiness zones tell you what the coldest expected temperatures are in a region. This isn’t the average winter temperature but rather the extreme of cold that your area experiences. It doesn’t give you information about the length of the growing season, the number of frost free days you can expect or even whether there is enough frost free season to mature a crop. It also doesn’t offer any information about summer heat units that are required to ripen a crop. You may need to live in a place for a while and keep records in order to gain this information.

Typically a plant that is hardy to zone 3 can take winter temperatures as low as -40°F/-40°C. A plant that is hardy to zone 2 can take -50°F/-45°C. Zone 4 is winter temperatures between -20°/-30°C and -30°F/-35°C. While you may be able to grow plants that are classified as a zone higher than you have, in a test year you may lose your plants. Typically if you are growing plants that are rated for a zone higher than what you have, you will need to offer extra winter protection to those plants, to get them through the winter.

Can you give the plant what it needs?

When making a decision about what varieties of fruit and nuts to invest in, you need to have more information than just the plant hardiness zone for your area.

  • What is the height and breadth of the mature plant?
  • Can you provide it with enough sun and water for its needs?
  • How long do they take to begin bearing fruit?
  • When does the tree blossom – early spring, mid season, or late? If you are in an area that gets frost right till June, an early spring blossoming may not have any pollinators out when you need them.
  • At what time is the mature fruit ripe? Can it take a frost? Some fruit actually improves after a frost.

Fruit trees often fruit on the wood grown the year before. Winter die back will kill the fruiting wood and result in crop losses, therefore it is wise to choose fruit varieties that are rated for your hardiness zone.

The second criterion when choosing a fruit tree for your land is does the fruit taste good? Will it serve the purpose you need it for, whether fresh eating, preserving, canning, or drying? Often fruit that is hardy doesn’t have the taste or texture to make it desirable. When you read about a berry plant and it says, “ornamental berries” this means that they are bitter, astringent, dry, mealy, or small and onerous to pick. Many wild berries are considered “ornamental” or “survival use only”. While named cultivars of the same species may have choice berries.

Fruit Trees for your zone 3 garden

Apples (Malus Spp) are the first tree people think of when they want to plant a fruit tree in their yard. There are thousands of different varieties of apples grown in North America, with a few choice cultivars that are hardy in zone 4. While grafting tender cultivars like Golden Delicious on hardy root stock can improve the survivability of the apple tree itself, fruiting wood of more tender cultivars can be damaged in test winters. On the other hand, apple cultivars with proven hardiness are now available to the home gardener and orchardist. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, these are a few of the best tasting apples available for colder areas.

Goodland Apple

The Goodland Apple will reach a height of 15 feet with a spread of 12 feet. It is red over pale yellow with some striping. The fruit is 7 to 8 cm, medium to large apple. It is a crisp, juicy apple with medium sweetness. Fruit ripens in mid August to September. Good for fresh eating, apple sauce, and fruit leather. It stores well. Hardy to zone 3, it bears fruit 3 years after planting.

Norkent Apple

The Norkent apple has the appearance of the Golden Delicious, with a red blush. It has the distinct apple-pear taste of the Golden Delicious. Good for fresh eating and as a cooking apple. Norkent dries well. Its medium to large fruit ripens in early September. The fruit shouldn’t be picked early, as the flavours develop as the apple ripens on the tree. With the Norkent apple you’ll get fruit a year earlier than other apple cultivars. This is an annual bearing tree. Hardy to zone 2, it bears fruit 3 years after planting.

Harcourt Apple

Harcourt is a University of Alberta introduction. It is a large red apple with a juicy, sweet-tart, taste. The fruit ripens in mid-September. It is good for fresh eating, baking, cider, and juice. It stores well. Hardy to zone 3

Dutchess of Oldenberg

Dutchess is a heritage apple and one of the few apples that will grow true from seed. It is hardy to zone 3. It was once the premier apple of commercial orchards in England. It ripens in early September. Dutchess apples are medium size, with a sweet-tart taste that makes it good for fresh eating, for sauce, and for cooking. It is not a long keeping apple and should be stored no more than 6 weeks. Hardy to zone 3, it bears fruit 5 years after planting. Dutchess is one of my favorite heritage apple trees and worth searching for.

Dutchess of Oldenburg grafted on Russian Dwarf Rootstock.

Sweet Sixteen

Sweet Sixteen has a very unique taste that is reminiscent of cherries with spice and vanilla cream. The fruit is medium size, crisp, and juicy. It is good for fresh eating and for cooking. Harvest in mid September. Sweet sixteen takes a little longer to bear fruit than other cultivars, often 5 years after planting. Hardy to zone 3b, and worth looking for.

Sweet 16 on hardy Russian root stock. Very complex and sweet flavour.

All apple trees need a pollinator that blooms at the same time. Crab apples tend to bloom longer than regular apple trees. A crab apple can meet your pollination needs. I grow the Dolgo crab apple, which are hardy to zone 3 – 7. Its tart fruit is large and can be eaten fresh, used in jam, preserves, or apple sauce. It adds a pink tinge to apple sauce and a deep burgundy colour to fruit leather.

Dolgo crab in mid September and ready to harvest


Prunus trees need a pollinator with a similar genetic background. Typical pollinators include Nanking Cherry, Sand Cherry, and Choke Cherry. The bark from the pollinator is useful for treating unproductive coughs and the fruit is usually good for jams and jellies, as well as feeding wildlife.

Cherry Trees for zone 3

“Sour” cherries are the type most adaptable for cold climates. They flower a little later than sweet cherries and so aren’t as damaged by late frosts. Though, the term “sour” refers to type of tree rather than the taste of the fruit, many of these cultivars have fruit that is sweeter than “sweet” cherries, when fully ripe.

Cupid Cherry

Cupid Cherry is a sweet cherry with a shrub habit. It grows only 6 to 8 feet in height on its own root system. The sweet, dark red fruit is 3 to 4 cm and 6.5 grams. This is from the “Romance Series” released in 2004 by the University of Saskatchewan. The tree is self-pollinating but you’ll need either two Cupid Cherries or a second cherry from the Romance Series for pollination. Cupid had the largest cherries of the Romance group. They are deep burgundy when ripe in mid-August. Hardy to zone 2a.

The other cherries in the Romance group include Crimson Passion, Juliet, Romeo, and Valentine. All are hardy to zone 2. All are self-rooted and have a bush habit. The favors are good. The trees are picked more like a Saskatoon bush rather than a cherry tree, allowing for mechanical picking. Of these Juliet, Romeo, and Valentine are sweet and productive. While Crimson passion is a moderate fruiting shrub with larger, sweeter cherries. All these Romance cherries are self-rooted, so damage from winter dieback is minimized. These fruit shrubs are self-pollinating but for best results at least two trees should be planted.

Evans Cherry

Evans cherry is a sour cherry with small bright red fruit. The tree grows to 12 feet on its own rootstock. The tart cherries are good for juice, drying, and cooking. The cherries ripen in late July. The cherries are on the tart side, with yellow rather than red flesh. Hardy to zone 3. Self-pollinating.

Carmine Jewel Cherry

Carmine Jewel Cherry is a shrub that grows 8 feet with dark purple, small cherries that have small pits and a tart-sweet flavour. The cherry is good for fresh eating and is considered one of the best pie cherries. The productive tree ripens its fruit in late July to early August. Hardy to zone 2. Self pollinating.

Plum trees for zone 3

Plums are also of the prunus family, like cherries. But most plums require another tree of the same ancestry for pollination. Japanese plums require a Nanking cherry or another Japanese plum for pollination, for instance.

Brookgold Japanese Plum

Hardy to zone 3, Brookgold is a seedling of Japanese plum. The small fruit is gold and freestone. Good for both fresh eating and preserves. The tree grows to 12 feet in height with a spread of 12 feet. It blooms early for ripe fruit in August. Pollinate with other Japanese plums or Nanking cherry.

Toka Plum

Toka is a vigorous Japanese-American hybrid plum. It has red fruit a little bigger than a cherry, and full of fragrance. It is sweet and flavourful. The tree yields moderately well. It’s is a strong pollinator for other plums. It has abundant flowers in spring and pleasing red foliage in the fall garden. Hardy to zone 3.

Waneta Plum

Waneta is the largest of the Japanese hybrid plums. It has been considered the finest American plum for over 100 years. The clingstone fruit is medium large with red skin and yellow flesh. It has a sweet flavour, suitable for fresh eating and preserves. The tree grows to 12 feet with a spread of 20 feet. Hardy to zone 3.

Apricot Trees for zone 3

Casino™ grows to 15 feet with a 15 foot spread. A hardy apricot with freestone flesh, with a pink blush, Casino™ ripens in mid summer. It is good for canning and for jam. Self-pollinating but yields will be improved with a Nanking Cherry nearby. Hardy to zone 3.

Westcot Apricot

Like Casino™, Westcot is of the Manchurian/Siberian apricot group. It grows to 16 feet with a spread of 12 feet. Westcot ripens in late summer and has yellow flesh with a pink blush. The fruit is good for canning and jam. Westcot was introduced in 1982 at the Morden Research Station. Self-pollinating but yields will be improved with a Nanking Cherry nearby. Hardy to zone 3.

Pear tree for zone 3

Finding pears that are hardy to zone 3 and still taste good, has been a challenge. Many hardy cultivars are thorny or tasteless, small with a mealy texture. Nursery catalogues might say, “for preserving”. There are a few recent introductions that are worth asking about at your garden centre, if you really want to grow pears and you are in the extremes of zone 3. Check out these pear cultivars.

Early Gold Pear

Early Gold is an early maturing pear glossy green-gold fruit, slightly smaller than a barlett. The tree grows to 20 feet with a spread of 16 feet. Early Gold is suitable for fresh eating, canning, and preserves. Hardy to zone 3. Cross pollinate with another pear for consistent yields.

Golden Spice Pear

Golden spice is a thorny pear with small golden fruit that turns red when ripe, in the late fall. The fruit is suitable for preserves and canning, though not recommended for fresh eating. The tree reaches a height of 23 feet with a spread of 16 feet. Hardy to zone 3. Cross pollinate with another pear for consistent yields.

How long before I see fruit?

There are a lot of variables in fruit yields depending on growing conditions. Sweet Cherries seem to take the longest to yield, requiring up to 7 years after planting before the trees begin to bear well. Whereas, sour cherries and apricots may begin to bear fruit in 3 to 5 years. All the cherries named in this article are in the “sour cherry class”. Plum trees take 3 to 6 years to bear. Apples average 3 to 5 years to bear. Seedlings and whips grafted on hardy root stock can take 10 to 12 years before they begin to bear.

Assuming you have the correct pollinator tree for the fruit that you have, your fruit trees should be bearing some fruit within 5 years of planting. Once they start to bear, yields will increase annually. But if you don’t plant fruit trees you won’t get any fruit. So pick your cultivars, fence your orchard, and plant your trees so that you can begin harvesting amazing home grown fruit soon. Fruit you grow yourself will taste better, and be more nutritious than anything that you can buy in the store.

Preserving your orchard fruit

And while you are waiting for your trees to arrive start gathering your supplies for preserving that fruitful abundance.

How to make apple cider vinegar

Crab apple fruit leather

Pear fruit leather with herbs

How to make prunes

How to dry cherries

Your turn:

If you could only grow one fruit tree in your garden what would you choose?

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