Growing apples in your garden or backyard can be extremely rewarding, and with adequate knowledge and preparation, it can also be a fun and simple process. Now, you may be wondering, how long does it take to grow an apple tree?
This post will answer that question by looking at different apple tree varieties and how quickly they grow, the impact of sun, soil, and water, and challenges related to fruiting.
How Long Does It Take For An Apple Tree To Mature And Bear Fruit?
The number of years it takes for an apple tree to mature and bear fruit depends on which variety of apple tree you have planted.
Standard apple trees, or full-size trees, can start producing fruit 4 to 8 years after being planted. Dwarf apple trees may begin to produce fruit within two years of being planted. It can take anywhere from 5 to 10 years for an apple tree to bear fruit when growing a tree from seeds.
Growing conditions also have a significant impact on the overall health of your fruit trees when you grow an apple tree.
Dwarf Apple Trees vs. Full Size: Which Grows & Fruits Faster?
Knowing the difference between dwarf trees, semi-dwarf trees, and full-sized trees will better inform your choices when you start shopping for your plants. The size of your fruit tree is often determined by the type of rootstock on which it is grown.
For those of you who are unsure what this means, a rootstock is a piece of plant taken from underground from which new growth can be produced.
When growing fruit trees from a rootstock, a section of a plant, in this case, an apple tree, will be grafted onto a particular type of rootstock with the intention of growing it to certain specifications. This includes its size, soil tolerance, and disease tolerance.
Often, when you buy fruit trees from nurseries, they will have two tags attached. One will inform you of the tree’s species and specifications, and the other will detail the plant’s rootstock.
When you grow an apple tree from rootstock it usually comes in one of three different sizes, namely, dwarf, semi-dwarf, and standard. They all grow to different heights and mature and fruit at different rates.
Dwarf and Semi-Dwarf Apple Trees
Dwarf and semi-dwarf trees will reach maturity and bear fruit within 2 to 4 years of being planted. At worst, you will need to wait for five years to see fruit. When full-grown, dwarf trees are between 6 and 12 feet tall, whereas semi-dwarf trees are around 20 feet tall.
A dwarf apple tree is an excellent choice for home gardeners. They grow quickly and reward you in abundance for proper care. Their fruits are standard apple size, and one tree produces enough harvest for a small family.
Standard or Full-Size Trees
Standard trees are sizeable, usually measuring in at about 30 feet tall. Their canopies are equally large and can easily reach diameters of 25 to 30 feet.
A standard apple tree can take a bit longer to grow and bear fruit than dwarf trees do. Be prepared to wait between 4 and 8 years to see maturity, although the wait will be well worth it given their abundant fruit production. Well-cared-for mature trees will produce a substantial and delicious crop.
When you grow an apple tree from an apple seedling it takes many years to become a fruit-bearing tree. When planting a tree from seeds, you may have to wait between 5 and 10 years.
Interestingly, apple tree seedlings’ eventual size is not determined by the tree they came from. Dwarf tree apple seeds can and likely will produce full-sized trees because rootstock, not breeding, dwarfed the original tree’s stature.
Different Varieties and How Quickly They Grow
There are hundreds of different apple cultivars worldwide, which can make choosing the right tree for your garden overwhelming. There are many factors to consider when selecting apple trees, the first and foremost being how to choose the correct plant for your particular environment.
The speed at which apple trees grow might also be important in your decision-making process, as some varieties produce earlier in their lives than others. When choosing to grow an apple tree, remember that apples need cross-pollination to bear fruit, so you need to have a partner plant nearby.
One of the most instantly recognizable types of apple is the Red Delicious apple. These iconic fruits are the most popular apple grown in the United States because they are sturdy and hardy and reach maturity quickly, fruiting within 7 to 10 years of planting. Dwarf varieties fruit in 3 to 4 years. Another delicious alternative with a similar growth speed is the Golden Delicious apple.
Lodi apple fruit is another great option that can be grown across most of America. They produce fruit quite early in the season, making them an absolute delight for eager gardeners. As a bonus, they are tolerant of many different types of soil. At standard size, they fruit within 6 to 10 years.
The Gravenstein apple tree is a must-have for apple growers in a hurry. Among the largest apple trees, they can produce large quantities of apples within 2 to 5 years of planting and grow well in almost all hardiness zones. A slightly fussier apple tree temperature-wise is the Fuji apple tree. However, it also reaches maturity quickly and can start to bear fruit at 3 to 4 years.
If you’re looking to grow an apple tree that is a little more exotic but grows fast, consider the Arkansas Black. These fairy-tale trees reach maturity at around five years and are considered one of the more ornamental varieties.
Does Soil Affect Apple Tree Growth?
While most types of apple trees can grow in many different types of soil, poor soil will yield poor harvests. Their optimum growing environment is sandy soils and loams that are well-draining, slightly acidic, and fertile. Soggy soil can result in inadequate aeration, stunting root growth, and fungal infections. This may inhibit the production of healthy apples.
The presence of organic matter like compost in an apple tree’s soil allows for good root systems to develop. Before planting, adding a little lime to turned soil helps to raise pH levels. Achieving an acidity level of between 5.8 and 7.0 is preferable for tree and fruit development. It’s important to know your soil.
While soil can affect apple tree growth, how you plant them is equally important, so do some research beforehand.
How Do Sun and Water Factor In?
Like most fruit trees, apple trees love plenty of sunlight and need at least 6 to 8 hours of sun per day during their growing season. Ideally, apple trees should be planted in bright, direct sunlight, but in sheltered spots, away from the threat of frost pockets in early spring.
While they like warmer climates in summer, apples need a certain number of chill hours to set fruit, so they also fare well in cooler climates and cold weather. In late winter, when the risk of frost is high, measures can be taken to protect your apple trees, like mulching or covering them. Drastic temperature fluctuations can negatively affect your fruit yield.
Regarding water, apple trees should be watered relatively often and thoroughly, provided they live in well-drained soil. Once every 7 to 10 days should suffice, but you can regulate this depending on the rainfall in your area.
When planting juvenile apple trees, first give them a deep soaking to eradicate any air pockets in the soil. Younger trees need careful irrigation, so keep an eye on their soil. Mature fruit trees are less fussy.
When you grow an apple tree it is most important to not overwater it. This can lead to soggy roots and deprive the tree of oxygen.
Full Grown But No Fruit, What Gives?
There are a few reasons why apple trees fail to bear juicy fruit.
Firstly, they may be living in less-than-ideal growing conditions and are not receiving adequate light, water, or chill hours. Take a look at the overall appearance of your tree. If it is lackluster, you may want to consider transplanting it.
Secondly, apple trees can suffer from a lack of pollination. If pollen is not transferred between apple trees, they cannot fruit. As apples produce fruit through cross-pollination, two different apple varieties need to be planted in your garden. Crabapples can serve as a source of pollination for apple trees. An abundance of bees, too, will go a long way to keeping your apple trees happy.
Thirdly, frost damage may also account for poor fruit production when you grow an apple tree. Late spring frosts are especially damaging to apple tree blooms, and damage to the tree’s beautiful flowers can prevent them from developing into ripe fruits.
Finally, over-pruning and overfertilizing fruit trees can also harm them. When this occurs, apple trees expend too much of their energy or growing leaves and branches, and too little on producing fresh fruit. Regular pruning is beneficial but within reason. Check out Pruning Apple Trees: The Home Grower’s Complete Guide for great pruning practices.
Apple trees have a reputation for being tricky to grow, but they are actually a real pleasure to spend your time on. There are few other fruit trees that grow so quickly and reward so greatly. After all, who doesn’t love fresh apples? Comment below and let us know your thoughts.