June 20, 2024

19 Apple Tree Varieties That’ll Knock Your Socks Off

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Are you looking for the right apple tree for your backyard or mini orchard? Read our guide to help you find the perfect one for your climate.

A collage of photos showing different types of apples and apple trees.

If you’ve planted an apple tree and wondered why it never produced more than a few beautiful blossoms, you’re in good company.

Many of us will head out to the garden centers in springtime, purchase our favorite type of apple tree, and rush home to plant it.

We tend to these new plantings with love and attention, and we even understand that it could take a few years before we see a single fruit.

Three years go by, and nothing. Then four. Then five. And then six. And now we’re wondering what we did wrong.

A single apple tree with ripe fruit in a small residential orchard.A single apple tree with ripe fruit in a small residential orchard.

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The solution is at once complex and simple, but don’t worry. Keep on reading, and by the end you’ll be well-prepared to choose and plant that apple tree, and then harvest its fruit.

Here’s an overview of what’s ahead:

The Best Apple Varieties

  • The Important Bits
    • Growing Zones
    • Chill Hours
    • Flowering Groups
    • Height
    • Recommended Uses
    • I’m Feeling a Bit Lost
  • Flowering Group 1
    • Early Harvest
    • Gravenstein
  • Flowering Group 2
    • Lodi
    • McIntosh
  • Flowering Group 3
    • Arkansas Black
    • Fuji
    • Granny Smith
    • Jonagold
    • Macoun
    • Pink Lady
    • Red Jonathan
    • Wealthy
  • Flowering Group 4
    • Empire
    • Gala
    • Honeycrisp
    • Red Delicious
    • Stayman Winesap
  • Flowering Group 5
    • Northern Spy
    • Red Rome
  • Snack Time’s Over!

Read on for the best apple varieties for your growing zone, information on how they get along, and more.

The Important Bits

I’ve broken up the main highlights on how to grow an abundant harvest successfully below, to give you a better idea of what each key element of information actually means.

As you’re reading, you’ll get a primer on what to expect when growing apple trees; at times, it may seem a bit overwhelming.

Vertical image of a cluster of many red apples on a tree with green leaves.Vertical image of a cluster of many red apples on a tree with green leaves.

Stick to it, and I’ll summarize at the end (see the boxed out section below)!

Growing Zones

Apple trees tend to thrive in areas with nice, cold winters. Most won’t grow anywhere warmer than zone 8, but there are a few exceptions, as you’ll see below.

Chill Hours

Cool periods are so important to apple trees that they actually need hundreds of “chill hours” every year to break dormancy, and regulate growth.

You can’t cheat this system; these trees need a specific range of cool weather hours (in the range of 32-45°F) to survive and prosper.

A pale yellow apple with a blush of pink on the top where the sun is shining on it, growing on a dark brown branch with large green leaves.A pale yellow apple with a blush of pink on the top where the sun is shining on it, growing on a dark brown branch with large green leaves.

Determining your exact amount of chill hours can be tricky business, so a good estimate is usually the way to go. You could either calculate this number yourself by examining your average winter weather (typically from September to April) and finding a rough estimate of how many days fit this temperature range, or you can go by this map.

Another option is to use this fancy calculator and enter your zip code. The calculator can take a few minutes to get you the information you need, so a bit of patience is required.

Multiple methods are used to calculate chill hours, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Use these numbers as estimates for your own garden.

Flowering Groups

Apple trees bloom at different periods of the year, and because most require cross-pollination between at least two types of apple, you’ll need to select trees that bloom during the same period.

Vertical image of red apples growing on a branch of a tree with green leaves, with a patchy brown and green lawn.Vertical image of red apples growing on a branch of a tree with green leaves, with a patchy brown and green lawn.
You don’t need an orchard, but planting at least two trees is a requirement for fruit production.

Unsurprisingly, these flowering periods are broken into groups:

  • Group 1: Pollinated by Groups 1, 2
  • Group 2: Pollinated by Groups 1, 2, 3
  • Group 3: Pollinated by Groups 2, 3, 4
  • Group 4: Pollinated by Groups 3, 4, 5
  • Group 5: Pollinated by Groups 4, 5, 6
  • Group 6: Pollinated by Groups 5, 6, 7
  • Group 7: Pollinated by Group 6

Some apples will self-pollinate, meaning they don’t strictly need another apple tree to produce fruit (thought this will generally help you to get a bigger harvest, in all cases).

Many trees need a different cultivar in close proximity to pollinate fruit through a process called “cross pollination”.

And don’t forget apples that are “triploid,” a biological term that translates to, “needs two separate pollinators to produce fruit.” These trees are best left to those with enough room to grow at least a few trees on their property.

Lastly, crabapple trees can pollinate regular apples, but only if they are in bloom during the same period.

Find more tips on apple tree pollination here.

Height

Pretty simple here! This is an average expected height for your trees to reach.

Most will have a spread, or width, that is similar to their height. Make sure you’ve got room for the trees to grow and spread out!

Each of these 19 varieties includes some recommendations or special notes. Maybe it’s a good use for the fruit, or growing considerations. Each one is different, and you’re gonna have to check out each tree to find what they are.

I’m Feeling a Bit Lost

Don’t fret! All of this information boils down to the following key points:

  1. You’re going to have to plant more than one tree if you want it to produce fruit (or plant near a neighbor’s tree).
  2. Make sure the tree you’re planting can grow in your USDA climate zone.
  3. Your tree needs to be planted with others that flower at identical or overlapping times.
  4. Your trees need to planted within 50 feet of one another to cross-pollinate.
  5. Different cultivars offer different uses, such as eating out of hand, cooking and baking, or making cider.

Flowering Group 1

1. Early Harvest

Talk about an ‘Early Harvest!’ These apples are firm and crisp, and produce fruit very early.

Four early harvest apples hanging on a tree branch.Four early harvest apples hanging on a tree branch.

The fruit lasts for weeks in the refrigerator, but like most apples, they taste best when fresh.

‘Early Harvest’ also does well when pollinated with white-flowering crabapples.

  • Growing Zones: 3 to 8
  • Chill Hours: 800 to 1000
  • Pollinates with Flowering Groups: 1, 2
  • Height: 20 to 25 feet (dwarf varieties available)

Recommended Uses and Special Notes: When picked young the fruit is excellent for baking. This tree blooms earlier than many other apple cultivars, so consider adding some white-flowering crabapples to your landscape to aid in pollination.

2. Gravenstein

If you like your apples tart (and I sure do), this might be the one you’ve been waiting to pucker up with.

A square image of a cluster of 'Gravenstein' apples growing on a branch with green leaves, in bright sunshine.A square image of a cluster of \'Gravenstein\' apples growing on a branch with green leaves, in bright sunshine.

Gravenstein

A native to Denmark, the Gravenstein is an excellent apple for making into sauces and cider. The fruit tends to ripen unevenly, so frequent picking is recommended.

  • Growing Zones: 2 to 9
  • Chill Hours: 700
  • Pollinates with Flowering Groups: 1, 2
  • Height: 15 to 20 feet

Recommended Uses and Special Notes: Triploid! Great for cooking and is hardy to cold weather. Blooms earlier than most.

This cultivar is available from Nature Hills Nursery.

Flowering Group 2

3. Lodi

Oh, lordy, I love a ‘Lodi’ apple. I’ve admittedly never had one of these unless it was from an orchard, but they’re pretty darn good to snack into.

Yellow green lodi apple growing on a branch.Yellow green lodi apple growing on a branch.

They tend to produce their fruit earlier than many other cultivars, even in Flowering Group 2, so that’s a plus for when you want to start chowing down on homegrown fruit earlier than the fall.

  • Growing Zones: 3 to 8
  • Chill Hours: 800 to 1000
  • Pollinates with Flowering Groups: 1, 2, 3
  • Height: 10 to 25 feet

Recommended Uses and Special Notes: Triploid! Excellent for applesauce and early season pies. The fruit freezes better than it survives being refrigerated. Can handle a wider array of soils than other types.

4. McIntosh

I grew up on a dying orchard dominated by McIntosh trees, so these are my favorites.

A square image of a cluster of five red and green 'McIntosh' apploes growing on a tree.A square image of a cluster of five red and green \'McIntosh\' apploes growing on a tree.

‘McIntosh

Juicy, tart, and with just the right amount of crunch, the ‘McIntosh is perfect for snacking straight from the tree. Or, you could use them to make a pie like my aunts used to do.

They are also beautiful as an ornamental and… you know what? If you can grow a McIntosh, grow it! You won’t regret planting this hardy tree with its tasty fruit!

  • Growing Zones: 4 to 7
  • Chill Hours: 900
  • Pollinates with Flowering Groups: 1, 2, 3
  • Height: 15 to 20 feet

Recommended Uses and Special Notes: Cold hardy, provides a bountiful and early harvest each year. Pollinators love a McIntosh.

Four to five foot ‘McIntosh’ trees in #3 Containers are available from Nature Hills Nursery.

Flowering Group 3

5. Arkansas Black

If there was a contest for “Coolest Apple Name” it would surely be awarded to the Arkansas Black. Fortunately, the tree is also a hardy and vigorous grower.

A close up square image of an 'Arkansas Black' apple growing on the tree pictured on a soft focus background.A close up square image of an \'Arkansas Black\' apple growing on the tree pictured on a soft focus background.

Arkansas Black

The almost-black skin and golden flesh is perfect for cooking, but the tough fruit can be a bit much to easily snack on.

  • Growing Zones: 4 to 8
  • Chill Hours: 800 to 900
  • Pollinates with Flowering Groups: 2, 3, 4
  • Height: 12 to 16 feet

Recommended Uses and Special Notes: Triploid! Fruit harvest is large but late in the season. Stores well for extended periods. Great for use in wintertime pancakes.

‘Arkansas Black’ trees are available from Fast Growing Trees.

6. Fuji

A Japanese cultivar bred from American stock, the Fuji is always a favorite for fresh eating.

A square image of hanging 'Fuji' apples growing on a branch with green leaves.A square image of hanging \'Fuji\' apples growing on a branch with green leaves.

Fuji

The fruit tastes delicious when used for juicing and cider.

  • Growing Zones: 6 to 9
  • Chill Hours: 200 to 400
  • Pollinates with Flowering Groups: 2, 3, 4
  • Height: 10 to 15 feet

Recommended Uses and Special Notes: Does not tolerate drought. Best harvested in early September. Can be stored for up to six months if refrigerated.

Four to five foot ‘Fuji’ trees are available from Nature Hill Nursery.

7. Granny Smith

My number two favorite apple, the ‘Granny Smith’ is a tree with strong limbs and an equally strong flavor.

A square image of three whole and one halved 'Granny Smith' apple, isolated on a black background.A square image of three whole and one halved \'Granny Smith\' apple, isolated on a black background.

‘Granny Smith’

The fruit is best harvested in October, but because this tree thrives in warmer climates than most cultivars, it makes picking a pleasant experience.

  • Growing Zones: 6 to 9
  • Chill Hours: 400
  • Pollinates with Flowering Groups: 2, 3, 4
  • Height: 18 to 20 feet

Recommended Uses and Special Notes: Self-fertile! Great for raw snacking and in baked treats like scones (find the recipe for these and other delicious uses for your harvest on our sister site, Foodal.) Responds very well to regular, careful pruning.

Four to five foot ‘Granny Smith’ trees are available from Nature Hills Nursery.

8. Jonagold

A name that isn’t easy to forget, the Jonagold offers a balanced flavor and lovely appearance. The attractive fruit is delicious when eaten raw, and those lovely white flowers are easy to appreciate.

A close up square image of 'Jonagold' apples growing on the tree, ripe and ready for harvest.A close up square image of \'Jonagold\' apples growing on the tree, ripe and ready for harvest.

Jonagold

  • Growing Zones: 5 to 8
  • Chill Hours: 700 to 800
  • Pollinates with Flowering Groups: 2, 3, 4
  • Height: 12 to 15 feet

Recommended Uses and Special Notes: Triploid! Offers a balanced flavor but needs a balanced growing area as well, with soils that are well-drained, slightly acidic, and of average fertility. Susceptible to root rot in poorly drained areas.

‘Jonagold’ is available from Fast Growing Trees.

9. Macoun

With a fun-to-say name, the Macoun is another cultivar that rivals the tastiness of the McIntosh, with fruit that is very sweet.

A close up top-down shot of a speckled red 'Macoun' apple, on top of orange fall leaves.A close up top-down shot of a speckled red \'Macoun\' apple, on top of orange fall leaves.

Macoun

It can be a little more picky than other cultivars in terms of ideal growing conditions, and prefers especially deep and well-draining soil. But the fruit it provides makes up for its pickiness.

  • Growing Zones: 4 to 7
  • Chill Hours: 600
  • Pollinates with Flowering Groups: 2, 3, 4
  • Height: 15 to 20 feet

Recommended Uses and Special Notes: Perfect for fresh eating and for purees and sauces. This type does not do well in storage and should be utilized when fresh. The growing habit is upright and requires diligent, aggressive pruning.

‘Macoun’ apple trees are available from Nature Hills Nursery.

10. Pink Lady

With a name like Pink Lady, you can be sure that this apple is a looker. It’s a classic in the grocery store and a great mid-season variety to enjoy straight from the tree.

A square image of four red and yellow 'Pink Lady' apples on a maroon plate, on top of a hay bale.A square image of four red and yellow \'Pink Lady\' apples on a maroon plate, on top of a hay bale.

Pink Lady

The trees themselves are quite lovely, and the flavor of the fruit packs a subtle tart punch.

Hold off on eating one of these after you pick it for about a month to experience the flavor at its peak.

  • Growing Zones: 6 to 9
  • Chill Hours: 200 to 400
  • Pollinates with Flowering Groups: 2, 3, 4
  • Height: 12 to 20 feet

Recommended Uses and Special Notes: Self-fruitful and a popular choice for regions of the American Southwest that are otherwise devoid of apple species.

‘Pink Lady’ trees are available from Nature Hills Nursery.

11. Red Jonathan

An old-timey tree, the Red Jonathan possesses a uniquely sharp taste.

A close up square image of a 'Red Jonathan' apple tree with ripe fruits ready to harvest.A close up square image of a \'Red Jonathan\' apple tree with ripe fruits ready to harvest.

Red Jonathan

It is excellent for long-term storage with medium-sized apples that are perfect for snacking, and is quite the looker while in bloom.

  • Growing Zones: 4 to 8
  • Chill Hours: 700 to 800
  • Pollinates with Flowering Groups: 2, 3, 4
  • Height: 15 to 20 feet

‘Red Jonathan’ trees are available from Perfect Plants Nursery.

12. Wealthy

Quite the looker, the Wealthy possesses stunning blooms and has a flavor reminiscent of strawberries.

A close up square image of 'Wealthy' apples with a pink blush, growing on a branch with green leaves.A close up square image of \'Wealthy\' apples with a pink blush, growing on a branch with green leaves.

Wealthy

It is resistant to most apple illnesses, and best of all, the fruit drops on maturity. Talk about easy!

  • Growing Zones: 4 to 7
  • Chill Hours: 1000
  • Pollinates With Flowering Groups: 2, 3, 4
  • Height: 12 to 15 feet

Recommended Uses and Special Notes: Great for any culinary purpose. Long bloom period and very juicy fruit.

Wealthy trees are available from Nature Hills.

Flowering Group 4

13. Empire

The Empire is not my favorite variety – but it may be yours!

A square image of an 'Empire' apple tree, growing in a green lawn with a blue sky in the background.A square image of an \'Empire\' apple tree, growing in a green lawn with a blue sky in the background.

Empire

It’s hard to find a better looking fruit out there, and the modest height of this cultivar makes it an ideal solution for smaller properties.

Some folks claim that the Empire outdoes the McIntosh in sheer delectability (but I just can’t agree with that)!

  • Growing Zones: 4 to 9
  • Chill Hours: 800
  • Pollinates with Flowering Groups: 3, 4, 5
  • Height: About 15 feet

Recommended Uses and Special Notes: To avoid growing a hundred tiny apples, you’ll want to regularly thin your Empire crop to maximize the size of your fruit.

‘Empire’ trees are available from Nature Hills.

14. Gala

Originating from New Zealand (the land down under the Land Down Under – remember that Men at Work song?), the Gala is easy to grow and offers a sweet taste.

A close up square image of 'Gala' apples growing on a tree.A close up square image of \'Gala\' apples growing on a tree.

Gala

The fruit can be stored for months at a time, and is ideal for snacking and cooking. The tree grows easily and is less picky than others.

  • Growing Zones: 5 to 8
  • Chill Hours: 500
  • Pollinates with Flowering Groups: 3, 4, 5
  • Height: 12 to 16 feet

Recommended Uses and Special Notes: Self-fertile… but this is not recommended. The Gala strongly benefits from cross-pollination. Regular pruning promotes better fruit spurs. Best harvested near the end of August or early September, depending on where you live.

‘Gala’ trees are available from Nature Hills Nursery.

15. Honeycrisp

Crunchy, sweet, and a delight to look at, the Honeycrisp has excellent storage life. But better than that, it may be planted in a wide range of climates and grows vigorously.

Five red and yellow 'Honeycrisp' apples growing on a tree branch with green leaves, and a blue sky in the background.Five red and yellow \'Honeycrisp\' apples growing on a tree branch with green leaves, and a blue sky in the background.

Honeycrisp

Its taste is spectacular, reason enough for me to add one to my own yard.

  • Growing Zones: 3 to 7
  • Chill Hours: 800 to 1000
  • Pollinates with Flowering Groups: 3, 4, 5
  • Height: 14 to 15 feet

Recommended Uses and Special Notes: Self-fertile! The central leader tends to require a bit of support as the tree gets on in size and age.

Honeycrisp trees are available from Nature Hills.

Read more about caring for Honeycrisp trees here.

16. Red Delicious

Some people love the Red Delicious. Having said that, I’m always reminded of my school lunchroom. It’s safe to say I’ll never be able to appreciate this apple, but it does have its advocates!

A close up of a 'Red Delicious' apple growing in on the tree pictured on a soft focus background.A close up of a \'Red Delicious\' apple growing in on the tree pictured on a soft focus background.

Red Delicious

The tree grows quickly and the fruit stores for up to six months. That’s probably why it’s a mainstay in cafeterias everywhere.

  • Growing Zones: 5 to 8
  • Chill Hours: 700 to 800
  • Pollinates with Flowering Groups: 3, 4, 5
  • Height: 20 to 25 feet

Recommended Uses and Special Notes: Great for desserts. Requires regular watering, and fruit is best harvested at the end of September.

‘Red Delicious’ trees are available from Planting Tree.

17. Winesap

Producing a good-sized crop, the Winesap grows in an appealing oval shape and sports pink flowers when in bloom.

A garden scene of a basket underneath an apple tree filled with freshly harvested fruit.A garden scene of a basket underneath an apple tree filled with freshly harvested fruit.

Winesap

The sweet and tart flavor of the fruit is reminiscent of wine, which makes it perfect for apple cider donuts or served alongside a glass of red.

  • Growing Zones: 5 to 8
  • Chill Hours: 800
  • Pollinates with Flowering Groups: 3, 4, 5
  • Height: 20 to 25 feet

Recommended Uses and Special Notes: Requires regular watering. Excellent choice for making applesauce and provides a crop size to get you all you’ll need.

Winesap trees are available from Fast Growing Trees.

Flowering Group 5

18. Northern Spy

While it may take some time to become established, the Northern Spy is an excellent apple with admirable hardiness against the cold.

A close up square image of yellow, red, and blush 'Northern Spy' apples.A close up square image of yellow, red, and blush \'Northern Spy\' apples.

It can hold its leaves well into December, and requires plenty of pruning to encourage good structure. A classic tree that requires ample work to truly enjoy!

  • Growing Zones: 3 to 7
  • Chill Hours: 1000
  • Pollinates with Flowering Groups: 4, 5, 6
  • Height: 25 feet

Recommended Uses and Special Notes: Store fruit in cool conditions to enjoy in the springtime.

19. Red Rome

The Red Rome has a distinctive droopy appearance which translates to “it’s gonna need some support.”

The tree is not especially fast growing, but because it grows later in the season, it is less susceptible to hard freezes.

The flesh of the fruit is almost hard, so it’s great for baking but less ideal for raw eating.

  • Growing Zones: 4 to 8
  • Chill Hours: 700
  • Pollinates with Flowering Group(s): 4, 5, 6
  • Height: 10 to 14 feet

Recommended Uses and Special Notes: Great for adding to homemade barbecue sauce. Harvest in late October, and the fruit stores well when refrigerated.

Snack Time’s Over

Now we’ve got a nice collection of apple trees to consider for our homes and gardens!

Make sure you’re planting trees that’ll grow in your zone, and also share a neighboring flowering group. And of course, make sure you’re picking the right apple for your needs.

A close up horizontal image of three blush red and green apples growing on a branch with green leaves.A close up horizontal image of three blush red and green apples growing on a branch with green leaves.

Please leave your comments, questions, suggestions, and requests in the comments – they’re always appreciated!

And for more information on how to grow and care for apple trees, check out some of our other guides:

  • How to Protect Apple Trees in the Winter
  • How to Identify, Treat, and Prevent Common Apple Diseases
  • When and How to Harvest Apples

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