15 Apple Tree Varieties to Consider Growing

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Red or green? Sweet or tart? Crisp and firm or soft and yielding?

If you’re in the market to plant an apple tree, choosing what kind to grow in your yard isn’t an easy decision. With 30,000 different varieties grown worldwide and over 2500 popular ones in the United States, it’s easy to see why it’s a difficult decision.

To help narrow your selection slightly, let’s talk about some of the best apple tree varieties you should consider growing. This list includes some well-known types as well as some names you’ve probably never heard of.

While some people may bypass the idea of planting something they can buy from the store, keep in mind homegrown fruit will always taste far superior.

This guide reviews apple tree varieties to consider growing.

1. Honeycrisp

Growing Zones: 3 to 8
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Pollination: Self-pollinating
Harvest Time: September
Skin: Yellow with speckled reddish-pink blush
Flesh: White
Texture: Very firm
Taste: Balance of tart and honey-sweet
Uses: Fresh eating

Developed by researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Horticultural Research Program, Honeycrisp is one of the most popular varieties grown today. Trees are extremely cold hardy, and the fruit doesn’t drop immediately upon ripening, lengthening the harvest. In addition, the honey-sweet fruit is thin-skinned with larger cells than other types, so they are incredibly juicy — making them fantastic as a snack or in a pie.

Honey crips apples have a speckled reddish-pink color

2. Fuji

Growing Zones: 6 to 9
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Pollination: Needs a pollinator
Harvest Time: October
Skin: Yellow-green with dappled pink blush
Flesh: Creamy white
Texture: Firm
Taste: Predominantly sweet
Uses: Fresh eating, applesauce, baking

The large fruit produced on a Fuji tree is prized in the United States for its flavor, making them famous for eating fresh, turning into applesauce, or baking into your favorite desserts. Full of juice, the skin has a good crunch, and the flesh is crisp and sweet. A late mid-season type, Fujis ripen in mid-October after other harvests are finishing.

3. Granny Smith

Growing Zones: 6 to 9
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Pollination: Needs a pollinator
Harvest Time: October
Skin: Light green
Flesh: Greenish-white
Texture: Firm
Taste: Very tart
Uses: Fresh eating, baking

Known for its mouth-puckering tartness, Granny Smith apples are a favorite for eating as a snack or baking into pies. The greenish-white flesh is juicy and crisp, holding up well when cooked. A high acid content keeps the flesh from browning quickly after the fruit is cut. After picking, Granny Smith can withstand up to six months in cold storage.

Granny smith are the ever popular green, tart apples that are great fresh or used in baking.

4. Red Delicious

Growing Zones: 4 to 7
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Pollination: Needs a pollinator
Harvest Time: Late September to mid-October
Skin: Deep red
Flesh: White
Texture: Moderately soft
Taste: Sweet
Uses: Fresh eating, fruit salads

Without a doubt, Red Delicious is the most widely grown variety worldwide, and homegrown fruits are far and above the quality of anything you can purchase in the store. These deep red apples are great for snacking and the perfect size for lunchboxes. The white flesh is crisp with a mild, sweet flavor. Fruits store well, maintaining their crispness.

5. Golden Delicious

Growing Zones: 5 to 10
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Pollination: Self-pollinating
Harvest Time: September
Skin: Golden yellow with red blush
Flesh: White
Texture: Firm
Taste: Sweet
Uses: Fresh eating, baking

The Golden Delicious apple is known as one of the easiest and most dependable type of tree you can grow. Fully-ripened fruits are deliciously sweet and juicy, with thin skin and crisp flesh. Trees ripen in mid-September as the fruit turn from pale green to their characteristic yellow with tinges of red. Golden Delicious cultivars are available in standard and semi-dwarf specimens.

6. McIntosh

Growing Zones: 4 to 11
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Pollination: Requires a pollinator
Harvest Time: September
Skin: Bright red with green and white areas
Flesh: Bright white
Texture: Tender
Taste: Tart with a slight pear-like flavor
Uses: Baking

A famous heirloom variety, McIntosh apple trees are cold hardy and adapted to various climates. Heavy crops of small to medium-sized red fruits ripen in mid-September, making them an early-season crop. The tender white flesh has a sweet-tart taste, cooking down to a soft consistency perfect for baking into pies and crisps.

Mcintosh apples are bright red with green and white areas.

7. Gala

Growing Zones: 4 to 10
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Pollination: Self-pollinating
Harvest Time: October
Skin: Bright red with yellow-green background
Flesh: Slight yellow to creamy white
Texture: Firm
Taste: Slightly tart with hint of vanilla
Uses: Fresh eating, applesauce, baking

Imported from New Zealand, Gala apple trees produce delicious, firm-fleshed fruit with a sweet, tangy snap carrying hints of vanilla. They are considered a go-to for eating fresh and have a lovely floral fragrance. Specimens bear fruit at a younger variety than other types, and the easy-care, low-maintenance varieties are dependably productive.

8. Pink Lady

Growing Zones: 6 to 9
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Pollination: Requires a pollinator
Harvest Time: October, November
Skin: Yellow with orangey fuschia-pink blush
Flesh: Slightly yellowed, creamy white
Texture: Firm
Taste: Slightly tart with hints of citrus and melon
Uses: Fresh eating, juice, baking

Pink Lady apples are not only delicious, but they are stunningly beautiful with a fuschia blush over striking yellow skin. The medium-large fruits are firm and highly aromatic. Yellow-tinted white flesh is crisp and juicy, carrying notes of melon and citrus. Each bite of fruit has a slight zing from a subtle dash of tartness that makes Pink Lady great for snacking.

Pink lady is slightly tart and has hints of citrus.

9. Red Jonathan

Growing Zones: 4 to 9
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Pollination: Self-pollinating
Harvest Time: September, October
Skin: Bright red
Flesh: White
Texture: Firm
Taste: Sweet
Uses: Baking, cider

A parent of many other cultivars, Red Jonathan apple trees are a highly-sought after heritage type. Trees are on the smaller size, so they fit nicely into cramped spaces where large specimens can’t work. The bright red fruit and juice and sweet with just a bit of zing, making them great to eat right after being picked or put into desserts.

10. Braeburn

Growing Zones: 4 to 10
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Pollination: Self-pollinating
Harvest Time: Mid-October
Skin: Yellow-green with dark red blush
Flesh: Creamy white
Texture: Firm
Taste: Sweet-tart
Uses: Cooking, baking

The self-pollinating Braeburn apple tree yields crisp, juicy grade-A fruits, perfect for baking your favorite desserts. They have a sweet flavor with a tart edginess to offer a one-of-a-kind taste. Braeburn specimens are ready for harvest in mid-October. Medium to large fruits are abundant and store well for up to six months in cold storage conditions.

11. Empire

Growing Zones: 4 to 9
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Pollination: Partially self-pollinating
Harvest Time: September
Skin: Rich red
Flesh: White
Texture: Firm
Taste: Super sweet
Uses: Fresh eating, fruit salads, baking

A combination of two of the world’s most popular varieties, Empire displays the best traits of both red delicious and McIntosh. The easy-to-grow tree produces fruits that taste super sweet, with a crisp snap that yields firm flesh. Trees reach no more than 15-feet in height, so they are ideal for compact spaces and small yards.

12. Cox’s Orange Pippin

Growing Zones: 4 to 9
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Pollination: Needs a pollinator
Harvest Time: October
Skin: Yellow with orange-red blush
Flesh: Creamy white
Texture: Firm
Taste: Sweet, slightly tart with hints of orange and mango
Uses: Cooking, cider

One of the lesser-known varieties on the list, Cox’s Orange Pippin, is one of the finest dessert apples with its complex, rich flavor and crisp texture. The flavor pairs wonderfully with both sweet and savory dishes. Mature trees are mid-sized and make excellent ornamental specimens. It fares best in coastal climates or areas with cool summers.

13. Winesap

Growing Zones: 5 to 8
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Pollination: Requires a pollinator
Harvest Time: September to October
Skin: Yellow with red blush
Flesh: Yellow with red tinges
Texture: Moderately crisp
Taste: Spritely, tart, acidic
Uses: fresh eating, juicing, baking

Winesap is an heirloom cultivar dating back to the 1700s. In the 19th century, this type was an important commercial crop in Virginia and continues to be popular with growers. Tolerant of different soil conditions, it is available in standard, semi-dwarf, and dwarf sizes. Trees are also moderately disease resistant, and fruit easily stores for six months under cold storage conditions.

14. Northern Spy

Growing Zones: 4 to 9
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Pollination: Needs a pollinator
Harvest Time: November
Skin: Yellow-green background with red flush
Flesh: White
Texture: Firm
Taste: Sweet-tart
Uses: Fresh eating, cooking

The Northern Spy is well-suited for colder climates, producing large fruits with a strong aroma and delicious flavor. Trees bloom late in the spring, leading to a late-season ripening in November. Fruits have thin skin and firm flesh. Known as a valuable dessert apple, the Northern Spy is great for baking or eating fresh after picking.

Northern spy apples are great fruits to consider growing if you like sweet-tart flavors

15. Wealthy

Growing Zones: 4 to 7
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Pollination: Self-pollinating
Harvest Time: September
Skin: Yellow-green with red blush
Flesh: White with streaks of red
Texture: Soft
Taste: Tart and sweet, hints of honey, raspberry, and strawberry
Uses: Baking, canning

The Wealthy apple variety was one of the first high-quality types grown commercially and is now popular with hobby orchardists and homeowners in the colder Northern climates. Self-fertile trees are easy to care for, helping to pollinate other specimens. The crispy, juicy flesh is a good balance of sweet and tart — perfect for making applesauce, pies, and crumbles.

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About the author: Carley Miller is a horticultural expert at TheGreenPinky. She previously owned a landscaping business for 25 years and worked at a local garden center for 10 years.

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