America’s Favorite Apple Trees to Grow at Home

Apples are one of the most beloved fruits in America, with the average person consuming around 28 pounds per year. While most apples are purchased from grocery stores, more and more people are discovering the joys of growing their own apple trees at home. Here are some of America’s favorite apple tree varieties for the home garden:

Red Delicious

The Red Delicious apple was discovered as a chance seedling on a farm in Peru, Iowa, in the 1870s. It quickly gained popularity for its attractive appearance and sweet taste, becoming a staple in American grocery stores and home gardens.

The fruit is mediRed Delicious Appleum to large in size, with a tall, conical shape that is distinctly tapered towards the base. The skin is a deep, vibrant red color that can range from striped to almost solid red, depending on the specific strain. One of the most recognizable features of the Red Delicious is the five small bumps or “knobs” on the bottom of the fruit.

In terms of flavor, Red Delicious apples are known for being very sweet, with only a slight hint of tartness. The flesh is crisp and juicy, with a light yellow color. While often eaten fresh out of hand, Red Delicious apples can also be used for baking, particularly in sweeter recipes like pies and cobblers.

Red Delicious apple trees are adaptable and can be grown successfully in USDA hardiness zones 5-8, which covers a large portion of the United States. They are hardy trees that can tolerate cold winters and some heat, making them a reliable choice for many home gardens.

To ensure good fruit production, Red Delicious trees require cross-pollination from another compatible apple variety blooming at the same time. Some good pollinators for Red Delicious include Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Gala, and Fuji. Planting two or more compatible varieties within 50 feet of each other will encourage cross-pollination by bees and other pollinators.

Red Delicious trees are known for their biennial bearing habit, meaning they tend to produce a heavy crop one year followed by a lighter crop the next. Thinning the fruit in heavy bearing years can help even out production and improve fruit size and quality.

In most areas, you can expect to harvest Red Delicious apples from mid-September to mid-October. The apples will be ready to pick when they have turned fully red and the seeds inside have turned brown. Ripe apples should easily detach from the tree when gently twisted.

With proper care, including regular pruning, fertilization, and pest management, a Red Delicious apple tree can provide bountiful harvests for many years. Whether enjoyed as a fresh snack or baked into a sweet dessert, this classic American apple is sure to be a favorite with the whole family.

Honeycrisp

Honeycrisp AppleHoneycrisp apples were developed by the University of Minnesota’s apple breeding program in the 1960s and released in 1991. They have rapidly become one of the most popular apple varieties due to their exceptionally crisp, juicy texture and well-balanced sweet-tart flavor. Many consider Honeycrisp the best apple for fresh eating.

The apples are characterized by a distinctive mottled red over yellow background color. They tend to be large in size, with some growing as big as a baby’s head. Honeycrisp apples have a honey-sweet flavor when picked early, but develop an even richer, more aromatic profile when allowed to fully ripen later in the season.

One unique trait of Honeycrisp is that their flavor can actually improve for 7-10 days after being removed from cold storage. This means Honeycrisps purchased from the store are often at their peak flavor and texture. However, Honeycrisps do tend to bruise more easily than other varieties and are often sold in protective packaging rather than loose.

In terms of growing Honeycrisp trees, they are very cold hardy, suitable for USDA zones 3-6. In fact, Honeycrisp is one of the most winter-hardy apple varieties, showing little damage even in temperatures as low as -40°F. However, Honeycrisp does require a significant amount of winter chill, needing 800-1000 chill hours to break dormancy and produce flowers and fruit.

Honeycrisp trees bloom mid to late season and are not self-fertile, so another apple variety that blooms at the same time is needed nearby for cross-pollination. The trees have some resistance to common apple diseases like scab and fireblight.

On dwarf rootstock, Honeycrisp trees will grow to about 8-10 feet tall and begin bearing fruit within 2-4 years. Standard size trees can reach 25 feet tall. Across most regions, Honeycrisp apples are harvested in August and September. In Washington state, the harvest begins in late August and lasts for about a month.

Commercial Honeycrisp growers will actually pick the apples multiple times from the same trees, as apples exposed to more sunlight will color and ripen sooner. Determining the optimal picking time involves monitoring background color, testing firmness and brix (sugar levels), and the number of days since full bloom.

To maintain Honeycrisp’s prized crunch, the apples must be handled delicately during harvest. Stems are clipped short to avoid puncturing other apples, and the apples are often placed by hand into storage bins rather than dumped out of picking bags. This gentle handling minimizes bruising.

With their fantastic crunch, balanced sweet-tart flavor, and long storage life, Honeycrisp apples have become a favorite for both commercial orchards and home growers alike. While they do require some special handling and specific climate conditions, Honeycrisp trees can reward growers with bountiful crops of these honey-sweet, super crisp apples.

Gala

Gala Apple TreeGala apples were first discovered in New Zealand in the 1930s, as a chance cross between Golden Delicious and Kidd’s Orange Red apples. They were introduced to the United States in the 1970s and have since become a staple variety in both grocery stores and home gardens.

Gala apples are known for their attractive appearance, with a yellow-orange background covered in red stripes that can range from bright to deep red, depending on the specific strain. They are typically medium in size and round to slightly oval in shape.

In terms of flavor, Galas are prized for their delightful sweetness, with very little tartness or acidity. The flesh is firm, crisp, and juicy, with a fine-grained texture that makes them perfect for snacking. Galas are also excellent for baking, as their sweetness and texture hold up well in pies, tarts, and other desserts.

Gala apple trees are adaptable and can be grown in a wide range of climates, from USDA hardiness zones 4-10. This makes them suitable for most areas of the United States, from cool northern regions to warmer southern states. Gala trees are also somewhat heat tolerant, able to withstand temperatures up to 90°F without significant damage to the fruit.

One of the advantages of growing Gala apples is their relatively low chill requirement. Gala trees only need 400-600 chill hours (hours below 45°F) during the winter to break dormancy and produce flowers and fruit. This makes them a good choice for milder climates where other apple varieties may not receive enough winter chill.

Gala trees are partially self-fertile, meaning they can produce some fruit on their own. However, for the best yields and fruit quality, it’s recommended to plant another compatible apple variety nearby for cross-pollination. Good pollinators for Gala include Honeycrisp, Fuji, and Red Delicious.

On dwarf rootstock, Gala trees will grow to about 8-10 feet tall and wide, making them a good size for smaller gardens or even large containers. Semi-dwarf and standard size trees can reach 12-18 feet tall and wide. Dwarf trees will typically begin bearing fruit within 2-4 years, while larger trees may take 4-6 years.

Gala apples have a relatively long harvest season, with fruit typically ripening from late July to early September, depending on the location and specific strain. The apples will be ready to pick when they have reached full color and the seeds inside have turned brown. Ripe Galas should easily detach from the tree when gently twisted.

One of the benefits of Gala apples is their excellent storage life. With proper care, Galas can be stored for up to 6 months in a cool, humid environment like a refrigerator or root cellar. This means you can enjoy your homegrown Galas well into the winter months.

Whether you’re looking for a sweet, crisp apple for fresh eating or a reliable variety for baking, Gala apples are an excellent choice. With their adaptability, low chill requirements, and long storage life, Gala trees are well-suited for home gardens in a wide range of climates.

Fuji

Fuji Apple TreeFuji apples were first developed in Japan in the 1930s, as a cross between two classic American apple varieties – Red Delicious and Virginia Ralls Janet. They were introduced to the United States in the 1960s and have since skyrocketed in popularity, now ranking as one of the top apple varieties grown and consumed in the country.

Fuji apples are known for their attractive appearance, with a pinkish-red skin that’s often striped or speckled over a yellow-green background. They are typically medium to large in size and round in shape.

One of the standout characteristics of Fuji apples is their delightful sweetness. They have a higher sugar content than most other apple varieties, with a Brix (sugar) level of 15-18, making them one of the sweetest apples you can find. This natural sweetness is balanced by a subtle, refreshing tartness and a crisp, juicy texture that provides a satisfying crunch with each bite.

Fuji apples are fantastic for fresh eating, as their sweet flavor and crisp texture make them a perfect snacking apple. They’re also excellent for baking, as they hold their shape well and their sweetness can help reduce the amount of added sugar needed in recipes. Fujis are great for pies, tarts, cobblers, and other baked goods.

When it comes to growing Fuji apple trees, they are well-adapted to milder climates, thriving in USDA hardiness zones 6-9. This means they can be grown successfully in many parts of the United States, from the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions to the Pacific Northwest and parts of the Southwest.

One of the advantages of growing Fuji apples is their relatively low chill requirement. Fuji trees only need around 400-500 chill hours (hours below 45°F) during the winter to break dormancy and produce flowers and fruit. This makes them a good choice for areas with milder winters where other apple varieties with higher chill requirements may struggle.

Fuji apple trees can grow quite large if left unpruned, reaching heights of up to 30 feet. However, they can be maintained at a more manageable size with regular pruning. On dwarf rootstock, Fuji trees will typically stay around 8-10 feet tall, while semi-dwarf trees may reach 12-15 feet.

You can expect your Fuji tree to begin bearing fruit within 3-5 years, depending on the rootstock and growing conditions. Fuji apples are typically harvested in September and October, with the exact timing depending on your location and the specific microclimate of your garden.

One thing to keep in mind is that Fuji trees, like most apple varieties, need another compatible apple tree nearby for cross-pollination in order to produce fruit. Good pollinators for Fuji include Gala, Honeycrisp, and Red Delicious, among others.

With their irresistible sweetness, delightful crunch, and versatility in both fresh eating and baking, it’s no wonder Fuji apples have become such a hit with apple lovers across America. And with their adaptability to milder climates and relatively low chill requirements, Fuji trees are an excellent choice for home orchards in many parts of the country.

Granny Smith

Granny Smith Apple TreeGranny Smith apples originated in Australia in the 1860s, discovered as a chance seedling by Maria Ann Smith, who became known as “Granny” Smith. The apples were introduced to the United Kingdom and the United States in the 1930s and have since become a staple variety worldwide, particularly for cooking and baking.

One of the most recognizable features of Granny Smith apples is their bright green skin, which remains green even when the apples are fully ripe. This sets them apart from many other apple varieties that change color as they mature. Granny Smiths can sometimes develop a slight pinkish blush on the skin when exposed to more sunlight, adding to their attractive appearance.

Granny Smith apples are medium to large in size and round to slightly oval in shape. The flesh is white, dense, and very firm, with a satisfying crunch when bitten into. The texture of Granny Smiths is one of the reasons they are so popular for baking, as they hold their shape well and don’t turn mushy when cooked.

In terms of flavor, Granny Smiths are known for their tart, acidic taste, which is balanced by a subtle sweetness. This tartness is what makes them so ideal for baking, as it helps to balance out the sweetness in recipes like pies, tarts, cobblers, and crisps. The tartness of Granny Smiths also makes them refreshing to eat fresh, particularly for those who prefer a less sweet apple.

Granny Smith apple trees are adaptable and can be grown successfully in a wide range of climates, from USDA hardiness zones 5-9. This means they are suitable for many parts of the United States, from cooler northern regions to warmer southern states. They are a particularly good choice for areas with milder winters, as they have a relatively low chill requirement of around 400 hours below 45°F to break dormancy and produce flowers and fruit.

One of the advantages of growing Granny Smith trees is that they are self-fertile, meaning they can produce fruit without another apple tree nearby for cross-pollination. This is convenient for those who only have space for one tree or who want to ensure a good crop even if there aren’t other apple trees in the area. However, having another compatible apple variety like Honeycrisp, Gala, or Fuji nearby can still help improve fruit set and yield.

Granny Smith trees can be grown on various rootstocks to control their size and growth habit. On dwarf rootstock, Granny Smith trees will typically stay around 8-10 feet tall and wide, making them a manageable size for smaller gardens or even large containers. Semi-dwarf and standard size trees can reach 12-18 feet tall and wide, which may be better suited for larger spaces. Dwarf trees will usually begin bearing fruit within 2-4 years, while larger trees may take 4-6 years.

In most areas, Granny Smith apples are harvested in early to mid-fall, with the exact timing depending on the specific microclimate of your garden. The apples will be ready to pick when they have reached full size and the seeds inside have turned brown. Ripe Granny Smiths should easily detach from the tree when gently twisted.

One of the benefits of Granny Smith apples is their excellent storage life. With proper care, Granny Smiths can be stored for up to 6 months in a cool, humid environment like a refrigerator or root cellar. This means you can enjoy your homegrown Granny Smiths well into the winter months, using them for fresh eating or in your favorite baked goods.

Whether you’re a baker looking for the perfect tart apple for your pies and cobblers or simply enjoy the refreshing crunch and tangy flavor of a fresh Granny Smith, this classic variety is a great choice. With their adaptability, self-fertility, and long storage life, Granny Smith trees are well-suited for home gardens in a wide range of climates, making it easy to enjoy your own homegrown Granny Smiths year after year.

Final Words

When choosing apple trees for your home orchard, consider your climate, chill hours, and how you plan to use the fruit. Planting at least two compatible varieties will ensure good cross-pollination for a bountiful harvest. With the right care, these beloved apple trees will provide you with crisp, juicy fruit for many years to come.

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