If you are planning to add some apple trees to your landscape, now is the time to start planning for them. Texas A&M recommends that bare-rooted apple trees be planted during the period between January 1st and February 15th and that containerized plants be planted between January 1st and March 31st.
In this post, I have listed some of the varieties that are good choices for North Texas and/or zone 8, in terms of climate and in terms of taste. These lists include both heirloom and newer cultivars.
Everyone has a different opinion as to which are the best tasting apples. And my favorite apple may be your least favorite, depending upon our varying tastes and whether we prefer a sweet taste, an acidic taste, or a combination of the two. When I was trying to decide upon the types of apple trees to plant in our garden, I purchased 10 or more different varieties from several grocery stores, and I put them to a blind taste test to all the members of my family. The highest rated ones were planted . . . after I made sure that they would perform well in the South.
Texas A&M's Tried & True - But No Guarantees on Taste Except Where Noted
Texas A&M opines that the following varieties are suitable for growing in Texas. I have emboldened the varieties that I also personally believe have a good taste.
Gala "Originated in 1965. Cross between Golden Delicious x Cox's Orange. Red striping on golden skin gives a red orange color. Crisp, dense, aromatic flesh. Excellent quality. Stores well. Large, vigorous tree. Requires about 140-160 days from bloom to harvest. Requires at least 600 hours of chilling." *
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Gala
Fuji "Developed in Japan. Introduced in 1962. Cross between Ralls Janet x Delicious. Bloom well. Hard to thin. High quality apple with a poor appearance. Medium sized fruit with a tall, rectangular shape. A yellow-green skin with orange to red stripes. Crisp, juicy, white flesh with good texture. Requires about 140-160 days from bloom to harvest. Ripens mid-summer. Stores well. Vigorous, productive, somewhat bushy tree. Needs some annual detailed pruning. Needs pollinator. Susceptible to Bitter rot and red mites. Heat resistant. Requires 400-600 hours of chilling." *
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Fuji
Granny Smith "Originated in 1868 from some discarded apples which Mrs. Thomas Smith of Eastwood Ryde, Paramatta Rive, New South Wales, Australia brought from Tasmania. Medium to large, waxy, grassy-green fruit. Firm and bruise resistant. Hardy, crisp, juicy, white flesh. Fairly sweet with a somewhat tart taste. Excellent quality eating and cooking apple. Keeps good texture during baking, never gets mushy. Excellent shelf life. Very vigorous, annual bearing. Good productivity. Self-fertile. Requires about 170-210 days from bloom to harvest. Holds well in heat. Requires about 500-600 hours of chilling. Hardy in zones 5-8." *
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Granny Smith
Anna "Medium-size low chill apple for South Texas only. Has a slight red blush, crisp, good-flavored fruit. Noted for heavy production." *
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Anna
Braeburn "Red, highly flavored with an even sugar to acid balance. A heavy cropper that will usually need thinning to maintain yearly cropping." *
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Braeburn
Mutsu (Crispin) "Developed in Japan in 1948. Golden Delicious x Indo. Large, round, yellow fruit. Crunchier flesh; more juice and tartness. Distinctive, delicate, spicy flavor. Good dessert and processing apple. Excellent for applesauce and cider. Large, spreading, vigorous tree; reliable. Resistant to powdery mildew. Susceptible to scab, blister spot, and bitter rot. Requires 500-600 hours of chilling. Hardy in zones 4-8." *
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Mutsu
Pink Lady(Cripps Pink) "A cross between Golden Delicious and Lady Williams from the Western Australian apple-breeding program. Oblong, green fruit turns yellow at maturity and is overlaid with pink or light red. Fine-grained, white flesh. Thin skin, bruises easily. Hard to train. Ripens in October. Blind wood problems. Chilling requirements similar to Granny Smith (500-600)." *
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Pink Lady
Mollie's Delicious "Introduced in 1966. Summer apple not to be confused with Red Delicious strains. Attractive, large fruit with unique, slightly conic shape. Light yellow background about half covered with a red blush. High quality flesh. Good flavor. Stores for about 10 weeks in refrigeration. Vigorous, productive tree. Fruit tends to set in clusters, requiring 2-3 pickings. Excellent pollinator. Some disease resistance. Requires 400-500 hours of chilling. Best in zones 6-8." *
Imperial Gala "Medium sized, oval to round reddish orange fruit. Extremely firm, very juicy, sweet, mildly aromatic, yellow flesh. Vigorous tree with long, pliant branching." *
Royal Gala "Developed in New Zealand. Matures to a bright overall red color rather than the orange red blush of Gala. Medium size, conical to round fruit. Bold red stripes over yellow background. Firm, juicy, fine textured, yellow-white flesh. Sweet, slightly tart flavor. Compact growth habit, prolific bearer. Requires heavy thinning to maintain fruit size and prevent biennial bearing." *
Smoothie "A Golden Delicious type apple with a clear skin. They have a very tender complexion, a little dew on the fruit in the morning and they are covered with russet. This visually makes them an undesired fruit, but if given a chance, taste good." *
Red Delicious "Skin color varies from red to red and green stripes. Crisp, sweet, and mild flavored. Stores well. Colors poorly in the heat. **
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Red Delicious
(Personally, I do not care for the Red Delicious that I have had in the past. Here is an interesting article on the history of the Red Delicious.
Golden Delicious Yellow to green skin with yellow flesh and russet dots. Sweet, juicy and fine textured. Stores well. Susceptible to bitter pit, bruising, and russetting. Erratic in self-fruitfulness. **
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Golden Delicious
Holland Originated in Texas around 1923 at the home of J. W. Kincaid of Weatherford, Texas. Originally named Kincaid. The apple was once an important commercial variety in Texas. It is a productive variety which ripens early to produce a large, red, flavorful apple. ***
Jerseymac An early McIntosh type released by the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in 1971. Tart and tender. Medium size. Ripens in early August.
Dorsett Golden "Yellow, low chill apple for South Texas only. Pollinator for Anna." *
Adina "Large fruit, sweet with distinctive taste." *
Ozark Gold "Yellow, Delicious-type dessert apple. Good pollinator." *
"This apple is a cross of A1291 and Golden Delicious and was developed at the Missouri State Agricultural Experimental Station and introduced in 1970. It is similar in flavor and appearance to Golden Delicious but ripens about three weeks earlier. It bears young and shows some disease resistance but is a biennial bearer. It is a large to very large apple with bright yellow waxy skin." ***
Starkrimson Red "Red, excellent quality, Delicious-type, widely planted in this Delicious area." *
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Starkrimson
* http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/homefruit/apple/apple.html http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/hillcountry/Apples/varieties.html
** The Home Orchard, C. Ingells, P. Geisel, & M. Norton, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Publication (2007)
Additional Varieties That Should Be Considered For Taste
The following apple varieties have reputations for outstanding taste and are also suited for Texas' southern climate. You should consider growing these in zone 8.
Ashmead's Kernel A juicy, aromatic apple with a sharp flavor that is both acidic and sweet. It is believed that several weeks of storage enhance its flavor giving its high acid content time to balance with the sugars. Skin is orange or reddish bronze with golden brown russetting. It dates back to the 1700s. ****
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Ashmead's Kernel
William's Pride This variety is reputed to have unusually good flavor for an early summer apple. The flesh is granular, crisp and mildly acidic. It is typically deep red over a green background which transitions to a yellow background. It is resistant to fire blight and powdery mildew and immune to scab and cedar apple rust. This apple was developed by the Purdue/Rutgers/Illinois fruit breeding program. ****
Goldrush This variety has a spicy flavor of intense acidity and high sugar content. It is a yellow green fruit with light russetting, sometimes having an orange blush on the sunward side. It may keep for six months or more. It is immune to apple scab and somewhat resistant to fire blight and powdery mildew. It is also a result of the Purdue/Rutgers/Illinois fruit breeding program. ****
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Goldrush
Calville Blanc D'Hiver This variety dates back to the 16th century and is known for having a tart and rich taste described as effervescent. It often tastes better after storage. It has pale green skin that develops an orange color with light red dots where exposed to the sun. It can be susceptible to scab and powdery mildew. ****
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Calville Blanc
Rubinette An offspring of Cox Orange Pippen. A very good sweet and sharp balance of taste. It can be susceptible to scab and powdery mildew. ****
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Rubinette
**** The Best Apples to Buy and Grow, B. Hanson, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Inc. (2005); see also http://www.kuffelcreek.com/favorites.htm
Varieties With Reputations As The BEST Tasting
The following three varieties are reputed to be the best tasting ever. As I mentioned before, taste is a matter of opinion; however, it is remarkable how much is written about these varieties. There are several caveats to growing these trees because they are better suited to more Northern climates. Particularly, they may suffer more in our heat; they may be more susceptible to disease than the hardier varieties; and their taste qualities may not be as good as trees grown in a milder climate. Nevertheless, if you have the space and have also already planted some of the hardier varieties listed above, you may want to take the leap and plant a few of these as well:
Newtown Pippin: This apple is firm, crisp, juicy, and moderately acidic with a fresh taste. Loved by Thomas Jefferson and was a prized export to England from the United States in the 1800s. It is green in color becoming yellow to greenish-yellow with a reddish blush. It stores well. The tree is susceptible to scab and powdery mildew. Also known as Albemarle Pippin ****
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Newtown Pippin
Cox Orange Pippin: It has a crisp texture and a richly aromatic and semi-tart flavor. It became the most popular apple in England and dates back to the early 1800s. The skin has an orange red blush on a light yellow background. It is susceptible to scab. ****
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Cox Orange Pippin
Esopus Spitzenberg: This variety is rich, juicy, and more tart than sweet. Known as another one of Thomas Jefferson's favorite apples -- along with a lot of other people. Often ranks at the top of taste tests. The skin is red with speckles of yellow. This variety is susceptible to scab, mildew and canker. ****
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Esopus Spitzenberg
**** The Best Apples to Buy and Grow, B. Hanson, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Inc. (2005); see also http://www.kuffelcreek.com/favorites.htm
Other Varieties Offered By Texas Nurseries or Suggested for Southern Climates
Some of the other varieties that I have seen offered by a few Texas nurseries or which are otherwise recommended for growing in the South, are listed below. The nursery descriptions are included. I am unable to offer an opinion as to the taste qualities of these varieties other than what is written here:
Einshemer: An "Israeli variety that produces bright yellow fruits with a semi-acid, sweet flavor." +
Jonared: "Very productive Jonathon cross. Improved Hybrid." +
Stayman Winesap: "Firm, crisp fruit with tangy flavor. Good for dessert or canning" +
Flesh is "finely textured, juicy, and moderately acidic with a sprightly, wine-like flavor." Greenish-yellow undercolor with light red stripes or crimson blush. It can be stored for 2 to 3 months. Can be susceptible to fire blight. ****
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Stayman
Jonathon: "A favorite for home orchards. Moderately tart and crispy." +
Firm, crisp, juicy, and very aromatic flesh. Flavor can range from mild to tart with its acidity. Thought to be a seedling of Esopus Spitzenberg from New York. Bright yellow overlaid by bright red skin. Can be susceptible to fire blight. ****
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Jonathan
Arkansas Black: "Purplish black fruit, crisp and juicy." ++
Hard, very firm flesh, with a course, almost woody texture. Mild but balanced taste which is more sweet than acidic. Resistant to fire blight and cedar apple rust but susceptible to scab. ****
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Arkansas Black
King David: "Resembles Winesap in appearance and taste. Many uses - pies, cider, sauce or eating fresh. Found as a chance seedling in fence row in Washington Co., Arkansas in 1893. Medium size, deep red when full ripe. Hangs on tree well. Ripens about 1st Sept." ++
Very firm to hard flesh. Crisp and juicy with an old fashioned spicy, ciderlike flavor. Tough skin that softens with storage or with further ripening. Resistant to fire blight, scab, and cedar apple rust. ****
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - King David
Grimes Golden: The course flesh is crisp and tender with a spicy, sweet flavor. It has a high sugar content. Dating back to the early 1800s, it is believed to be a parent of Golden Delicious. The skin is greenish-yellow with some russetting. ****
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Grimes Golden
Idared: Juicy Moderately crisp with a mild flavor that is tart to moderately acidic. This apple is often used for cooking or cider. Red fruit on a greenish white under color. ****
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Idared
Mammoth Blacktwig: Crisp, firm flesh that is juicy and mildly tart. It is believed to be a Winesap seedling originating in Arkansas. Fruits become sweeter as they mature. It is red over a yellow background. It is susceptible to scab but resistant to fire blight and cedar apple rust. ****
Ralls Genet: This apple is "dense, crisp, and tender with a flavor that balances tart and sweet." It has a sweet aroma. It dates back to the 1700s from Virginia, and it is a parent of Fuji. It has greenish-yellow skin streaked with shades of pink, red, and crimson. It is a late bloomer. It can be susceptible to scab, blossom blight, and bitter rot. ****
Summer Champion: Crisp, juicy, and moderately acidic developing a balanced flavor with old time apple taste. It originates from Arkansas. This is an early season apple. The skin has pink to red stripes over a yellow green undercolor. ****
Winesap (original): Winelike flavor with acidity. Considered to be sweet, tart, and juicy. It stores well. It originated in the early 1800s in New Jersey. It typically is dark red in color. ****
To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Winesap
**** The Best Apples to Buy and Grow, B. Hanson, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Inc. (2005)
When selecting your trees, it is very important to look closely at the rootstock upon which the trees are grafted. The rootstock will dictate how large the tree will get. You do not want to plant a tree that will get too big for the space in which you are placing it. You will be very disappointed and, along with the additional work entailed, the additional pruning to keep its size in check may adversely impact fruit production. Some of the more common rootstocks are:
Dwarf tree (6-9 feet): M-9 or M-26 rootstock
Semi-dwarf tree (12-15 feet): MM-111 or M-7 rootstock
Full-sized tree (20-25 feet): seedling rootstock
While a few varieties are self-fertile, you are going to want to plant at least two varieties of apple trees to ensure proper cross-pollination and fruit set. Please note that triploid apples are essentially sterile and will not serve as a pollinizer. If you already have crab-apples, those can often serve as pollinizers.
To ensure good cross-pollination, make sure that you have two varieties that will bloom around approximately the same period of time, e.g. early bloom, mid-season bloom, late-season bloom.
Considerations When Planting
Nevertheless, when you plant your trees, I encourage you to add compost, Mycorrhizal fungi, and Actinovate to the backfill when you are planting.
In Texas, apple trees can be susceptible to a soil-borne fungal pathogen known as Cotton Root Rot (Phymatotricum omnivorum). Actinovate contains beneficial microrganisms that prevent Cotton Root Rot.
Many varieties of apples can also sometimes succumb to fire blight. The best way to avoid fire blight is to not use fertilizer with a high nitrogen content. Excessive amounts of nitrogen encourages fire blight. If fire blight does show up, cut the infected branch off as soon as you can and destroy it.
Finally, in caring for your apple trees, I have found that the occasional spraying of Garrett Juice or compost tea seems to ward off problems for me.
Ideas on Nurseries
If you are looking for an instant orchard, your choices are limited. Check now with your local nurseries to see what varieties they are or will be caring this Spring and in what sizes. I typically only see 5 gallon containers in my local nurseries.
Bob Wells Nursery will often carry 5, 10, and 15 gallon trees, so you can try that.
Willis Orchard Company sells large trees; however be forewarned that these are going to be bare-rooted plants which can sometimes demand more TLC. (I no longer recommend using this company as I have now discovered that they sent me several fruit trees that were completely different varieties. For example, they sent me standard pears instead of the asian pears I ordered!!)
Edible Landscaping also sometimes carries larger sized specimen.
If you are a more patient person and are willing to plant a smaller tree, there are a lot of options out there. Some of them include:
Nurseries Outside of Texas
Starting with your local organic grocer is a good way to explore the different flavors of heirloom apples.
You can also taste some of the less commercial heirloom varieties through these mail order companies:
If you have planted apple trees in Texas that are bearing fruit, please post a comment and share your experiences along with your favorite varieties for Texas.