Mad About Berries

How To Grow Apples

Apples are one of the most popular and versatile fruits globally, known for their delicious taste, crisp texture, and numerous health benefits. With over 7,500 varieties, apples come in a range of colors, flavors, and sizes, making them an excellent addition to any home garden.

Growing apple trees can be a rewarding experience, providing a sense of accomplishment and a generous harvest of delectable fruit for years to come.

Published: May 2, 2023.


Are Apples Berries?

Apples are not berries; they belong to a different category of fruit called pomes.

Pomes, such as apples and pears, are characterized by a fleshy outer layer called the hypanthium that surrounds a central core containing seeds. The outer layer is derived from the receptacle, while the core is formed from the ovary.

Pomes are members of the Rosaceae family, which also includes other fruits like cherries, plums, and apricots.

While both apples and berries are classified as fruits, they belong to distinct categories based on their botanical structure and development.

Apples Growing Conditions

To ensure your apple trees thrive, it is crucial to provide them with the proper growing conditions. Apple trees flourish in well-drained, fertile soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. Before planting, it is advisable to perform a soil test to determine its pH and amend it accordingly with lime or sulfur to achieve the optimal range.

Additionally, by incorporating organic matter such as worm castings, compost, or well-rotted manure, one can improve soil fertility and structure, improving aeration, drainage, and water and nutrients retention.

Sunlight is another vital factor for apple trees, as they require a minimum of six hours of direct sun per day for optimal growth and fruit production.

Make sure to choose a planting site that receives ample sunlight throughout the day.

In terms of water requirements, apple trees need consistent moisture, particularly during the first few years of establishment. A deep watering once a week, providing 1-2 inches of water, is generally sufficient to maintain adequate soil moisture.

apples 1

When To Plant Apple Trees

The ideal time to plant apple trees is during the dormant season, typically between late autumn and early spring, depending on your region's climate.

Planting during this period allows the trees to establish their root systems before the growing season begins. Additionally, it is essential to consider the chilling hours required by the specific variety you have chosen.

Chilling hours refer to the number of hours below 45°F (7°C) needed to break dormancy and initiate growth. Most apple varieties require between 500 and 1,000 chilling hours, so it is crucial to select a variety suitable for your region's climate.

How To Plant Apple Trees

When planting an apple tree, start by digging a hole twice as wide and as deep as the root ball.

Gently loosen the roots and place the tree in the hole, ensuring that the graft union (the bulge where the rootstock and scion meet) is 2-4 inches above the soil line.

This prevents the scion from rooting and maintains the desired characteristics of the grafted variety. Fill the hole with soil, firming it gently around the roots to eliminate air pockets.

Water the tree thoroughly after planting and apply a layer of mulch around the base to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.

apple flowers

How And When To Prune Apple Trees

Pruning apple trees is essential for maintaining their overall health, encouraging fruit production, and shaping their structure.

The best time to prune apple trees is during the dormant season, commonly late winter or early spring, before new growth begins.

Pruning during dormancy reduces the risk of disease transmission and allows for better visibility of the tree's structure.

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to prune apple trees:

  • Remove dead, diseased, or damaged branches: Start by cutting away any branches that are dead, diseased, or damaged. Make clean cuts using sharp pruning shears or a pruning saw, and avoid leaving any stubs.
  • Eliminate competing leaders: For a central leader system, identify the main trunk or central leader, and remove any competing vertical branches that might compete with it. This will help maintain the tree's desired structure and balance.
  • Remove suckers and water sprouts: Suckers are vigorous shoots that grow from the base of the tree or the rootstock, while water sprouts are rapidly growing vertical shoots on the tree's branches. Both can divert energy from fruit production and should be removed.
  • Thin out crowded branches: Proper air circulation and sunlight penetration are vital for fruit production and disease prevention. Remove any crossing, rubbing, or inward-growing branches to create an open structure that allows for better air circulation and light exposure.
  • Shorten lateral branches: Prune lateral branches to encourage fruiting spurs and promote a more compact growth habit. Cut back lateral branches by about one-third, making the cut just above an outward-facing bud.
  • Prune to maintain shape and size: Depending on your desired tree shape, such as a central leader or an open-center structure, prune and trim branches to maintain the overall form and size of the tree.
  • Clean your tools: To prevent the spread of diseases, clean and disinfect your pruning tools between cuts, especially when removing diseased branches. You can use a solution of 10% bleach or rubbing alcohol for this purpose.

Remember that young apple trees require more formative pruning to establish their structure, while mature trees need maintenance pruning to remove dead or diseased wood and promote fruit production.

Regular pruning will help maintain a healthy, productive apple tree that provides bountiful harvests for years to come.

apples 2

How Long Does Apple Tree Take To Grow

The time it takes for an apple tree to grow and produce fruit depends on several factors, including the variety of the tree, the rootstock it is grafted onto, and the growing conditions. Generally, apple trees can be classified into three categories based on their maturity rate: dwarf, semi-dwarf, and standard.

  • Dwarf apple trees: These trees are grafted onto dwarfing rootstocks, which limit their overall size. Dwarf apple trees typically reach a height of 8-10 feet and begin to produce fruit within 2-4 years after planting.
  • Semi-dwarf apple trees: Grafted onto semi-dwarf rootstocks, these trees grow to a height of 12-16 feet. Semi-dwarf apple trees usually start bearing fruit within 3-5 years after planting.
  • Standard apple trees: These trees are grafted onto rootstocks that allow them to grow to their full potential, reaching heights of 20-30 feet or more. Standard apple trees generally take 5-8 years to begin producing fruit.

It is essential to note that these timelines are approximate, as factors such as soil fertility, climate, and tree care can influence the growth rate and fruit production of apple trees.

Regular pruning, fertilization, and proper pest and disease management can promote healthy growth and earlier fruit production in apple trees.

apples 3

How To Grow Apples In Pots And Containers

Growing apples in pots and containers is a great option for gardeners with limited space or those who want to grow fruit trees on patios, balconies, or terraces. To successfully grow apples in containers, consider the following steps and suitable varieties:

  • Choose suitable varieties: Opt for dwarf or mini-dwarf apple tree varieties, which have been specifically bred for small spaces and container growing. Some suitable varieties include 'Gala,' 'Golden Delicious,' 'Granny Smith,' 'Cox's Orange Pippin,' and 'Pixie Crunch.' Additionally, look for self-pollinating or self-fertile varieties to ensure fruit production without the need for a pollination partner.
  • Select the right container: Choose a container that is at least 18-24 inches in diameter and depth, with drainage holes to prevent waterlogging. A larger container will provide more room for root growth, resulting in a healthier and more productive tree.
  • Use high-quality potting mix: Fill the container with a well-draining, high-quality potting mix, enriched with compost or well-rotted manure to provide nutrients for the tree. Do not use garden soil, as it tends to compact and does not provide adequate drainage for container plants.
  • Planting: Plant the apple tree in the container at the same depth it was in the nursery pot, ensuring the graft union is 2-4 inches above the soil line. Water the tree thoroughly after planting, and add a layer of mulch around the base to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.
  • Care and maintenance: Place the container in a location that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. Regularly water the tree, ensuring the soil remains consistently moist but not waterlogged. Fertilize the tree with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer formulated for fruit trees, following the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Pruning and training: Prune and train the apple tree to maintain its shape and encourage healthy growth. Container-grown apple trees benefit from a central leader or espalier training system to manage their size and promote fruit production.
  • Winter protection: In colder climates, protect the apple tree during winter by either moving the container to a sheltered location, such as an unheated garage or shed, or insulating the container with bubble wrap or burlap.

By choosing suitable varieties and providing proper care, you can successfully grow apple trees in pots and containers, enjoying the satisfaction of harvesting your own fruit even in limited spaces.

apples 4

Apple Tree Pests and Diseases

Apple trees, like any other fruit tree, can be susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases that can affect their health and productivity. Here are some of the most common apple tree pests and diseases:


  • Apple Maggot: Apple maggots are small flies that lay eggs inside the fruit, causing it to become misshapen and inedible. To manage apple maggots, use sticky traps and bag individual fruits to protect them from infestation.
  • Codling Moth: The larvae of the codling moth feed on the fruit's interior, causing significant damage. Pheromone traps and regular fruit inspection can help control codling moth populations.
  • Aphids: These tiny insects feed on the sap of apple tree leaves and can cause curling, yellowing, and distorted growth. Insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils, and natural predators like ladybugs can help manage aphid infestations.
  • Mites: Spider mites and European red mites can cause leaf damage and reduced fruit production. Horticultural oils, miticides, and predatory mites can be used to control mite populations.


  • Apple Scab: This fungal disease causes dark, scab-like lesions on leaves and fruit. To prevent apple scab, plant resistant varieties, practice good sanitation, and use fungicides when necessary.
  • Fire Blight: A bacterial disease that affects various parts of the apple tree, causing wilted leaves, oozing cankers, and blackened shoots. Prune affected branches, apply copper sprays, and promote overall tree health to manage fire blight.
  • Powdery Mildew: This fungal disease appears as a white, powdery growth on leaves, shoots, and sometimes fruit. Improve air circulation, prune infected branches, and apply fungicides to control powdery mildew.
  • Cedar-Apple Rust: This fungal disease causes yellow-orange spots on leaves and fruit, leading to premature leaf drop and reduced fruit quality. Plant resistant varieties, remove nearby host plants (such as Eastern red cedar), and apply fungicides to manage cedar-apple rust.

By monitoring your apple trees regularly and implementing proper cultural practices, such as pruning, sanitation, and appropriate water management, you can prevent many of these pests and diseases or manage them effectively if they do appear.

Few Final Words

apples 5

Growing apples can be a gratifying and fruitful endeavor for both novice and experienced gardeners alike.

By carefully considering the growing conditions, selecting the appropriate planting time, and employing proper planting techniques, you can establish a thriving apple tree that will yield bountiful harvests for years to come.

As your tree matures and begins to bear fruit, you'll enjoy the satisfaction of savoring homegrown apples and sharing the fruits of your labor with friends and family.

Go to Top