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The Jonagold Apple Tree

The Jonagold apple tree (Malus Jonagold) is an apple cultivar originating from a cross of the Jonathan and Golden Delicious varieties. Jonagold apples are growing in popularity the world over because of their taste and size. These trees produce apples of a yellowish-green color. The texture is sometimes described as crisp yet fluffy with an aromatic sweet-sour flavor. 

Jonagold apples.
Jonagold apples.

Having proved itself to be a solid choice for apple growers, this tree and its fruit are becoming ever more common. The Jonagold apple tree has become one of the top fifteen apple cultivars in the United States and is the most popular apple cultivar in Belgium. It has a number of significant descendant cultivars including the Jonagored (a bud sport mutation), Excel Jonagold, and Shinano Sweet.

History of the Jonagold Tree

The Jonagold originated as an experiment at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in Geneva, New York. Dr. A.J. Heinicke created the Jonagold as part of a large-scale apple-breeding program housed at the University. The final cultivar was developed in 1953 from a cross of the reddish Jonathan apple and the famous Golden Delicious. From there, the Jonagold quickly spread across the commercial apple industry and to smaller growers across the country. 

While much newer than many alternative apple cultivars, the Jonagold has already outstripped a number of them in national popularity. The large size, appealing look and exquisite flavor combined to make the Jonagold apple tree an apple lover’s dream. While they are growing in popularity with commercial growers to this day, their intolerance to heat has slowed their spread to warmer parts of the continental U.S.

Jonagold Tree and Fruit Characteristics

The Jonagold apple tree is a deciduous plant that makes a wonderful addition to the landscape. This showy fruit tree can be planted as a shrub border or a decorative specimen. These trees tend not to grow well or produce significant fruit on their own roots, so they need to be grafted onto other root stock. Fruits cluster together in tight bunches on smooth, almost wiry branches. Leaves are rounded with a pointed tip and a glossy light green. 

Jonagold apple trees in orchard.
Jonagold apple trees.

The Jonagold apple takes features from both its parent cultivars, the Jonathan and Golden Delicious apples. The fruit’s skin is yellow-green with red blush, concealing a crisp, creamy white flesh. Occasionally the fruit may even be fully red or green. The sour-tart flavor of the Jonathan is combined with the sweet flavor of the Golden Delicious to form a taste unique among apple varieties.

Planting Zones

Jonagold apple trees will grow in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 8, though they perform best from 5 through 8. These plants enjoy a cool climate that doesn’t overheat them. It withstands frost well but does not tolerate drought.

Be sure to plant your Jonagold in mid-autumn for best results. Your hole should be dug twice as wide as your Jonagold’s root ball. Make sure that the hole is just slightly shallower than the root ball itself and keep the tree vertical while you secure it with soil. Pack it tightly being careful to eliminate any significant air holes. Water a few times as you refill soil to help it settle evenly, then saturate once finished.

To learn more about how to grow your Jonagold apple tree, check out this link. 

Size and Spacing

Jonagold apple trees can be either dwarf or semi-dwarf cultivars depending on the grower’s preference and specifications. Dwarf Jonagold trees only grow to about 3 meters (10 feet) tall and wide, while semi-dwarf cultivars can grow up to 5 meters (15 feet) tall and wide. Make sure to give each Jonagold tree enough room to spread to its expected size with room to spare. Most growers put one tree size (3 to 5 meters) between their Jonagolds. As long as you will be able to walk between your fully-grown trees, your Jonagolds should have adequate space.

Pollination

The Jonagold is a triploid and produces sterile pollen. This means that Jonagold apple trees cannot be pollinated by themselves or other Jonagolds. Instead, a second apple cultivar with the same bloom period is necessary for pollinating a Jonagold. The cultivars typically used include Golden or Red Delicious and Gala. And, because Jonagold pollen is sterile, it also can’t pollinate any other apple varieties. 

Blooming apple tree in spring time.

Tree Care

Caring for a Jonagold apple tree is not too different from caring for other apple cultivars. There are a number of traits that carry over from the parent stock, so anyone familiar with Golden Delicious or Jonathan varieties will notice some crossover.

Sunlight

Jonagold apple trees will grow well in either full or partial sun, but prefers to have more sun if it can. Avoid areas with poorer air flow like woods, fences, and hill bottoms. Planting on a slope is a perfect solution since it provides good drainage, ample sunlight, and sufficient air flow. 

Pruning your tree also helps make the most of the sunlight your tree gets. Proper pruning helps not only air flow but maximizes sunlight exposure throughout the canopy. This is even more important if you plant in an area with partial sun, since you want to efficiently distribute that light.

Watering

Jonagold apple trees prefer well-drained soil that is rich and loamy. When you water, saturate the ground weekly. Be sure to let the soil dry between waterings and wait a bit longer if necessary. These trees do not like standing water. 

Mulch around trees can increase moisture retention, so use or avoid it according to your specific needs. If you use mulch, leave a six inch ring around the tree trunk to prevent moisture buildup around the tree. Try to keep pH between 6.5 and 7.0 to keep your tree growing and producing at peak capacity. 

Pruning

Jonagold apple trees are vigorous growers. They require annual pruning. It’s best to prune your tree during the spring using thinning cuts. This means you should remove whole shoots and keep top branches small. Keep the bigger limbs nearer the bottom of the tree to let the most light penetrate its canopy. 

Picking a central shoot, remove any shoots that grow a few inches below its tip. Consistently prune your tree in a triangular shape, scaffolding other branches below the central shoot. Thin branches until they have about 20 centimeters (8 inches) of space for improved fruit quality. Always removed dead or diseased wood or fruit during winter.

Learn more about pruning the Jonagold apple tree here. 

Diseases & Care 

Jonagold apples are susceptible to a number of diseases. They are highly vulnerable to cedar apple rust and fire blight. You also need to be extremely watchful for powdery mildew or scab, which can do incredible damage to your tree and harvest. Thankfully, while Jonagold apple trees are susceptible to scab and mildew attacks, their strong growth rate allows them to rebound in most cases.

Pests 

Residual herbicide can be applied in the winter to inhibit weed growth in the following spring. Treat cankers during springtime using copper. You can use an oil-insecticide mixture to combat mites, aphids, and other pests. Thankfully, the Jonagold resists most pests well. Watch out for aphids, apple canker, spider mites, moths and caterpillars, and any fungi.

Common Uses For the Jonagold

What Does the Jonagold Taste Like?

The Jonagold apple is a flavorful cultivar that is popular in fresh markets for its sweet-sour flavor and crisp, fluffy texture. Some think that these luscious apples taste like extra-tart honey. 

Cooking

Jonagold apples are popular for applesauce, cobblers, pies, and various other desserts. Their flavor serves well in a variety of dishes and mellows delicately when baked. Jonagold apples are also tasty in sausages, stuffings, apple butter, salads, and when juiced.

Eating Raw

The Jonagold apple was designed with raw in-hand eating in mind. This is obvious as soon as you bite into it. Its light, crispy, fluffy flesh is delicate on the palate and makes a perfect table apple.

Canning / Freezing / Drying

With the exception of the core, every part of the Jonagold apple is useful for cooking, preserving, and eating. Canning or freezing Jonagold apples is quite simple and the fruit preserves well, making them especially suitable for baking. Dried Jonagold apples retain their fluffiness and retain their flavor. Juices and ciders are also easy to store by freezing. 

Recipes

You can use Jonagold apples in many recipes, both savory and sweet. Try your hand at Creamy And Sweet Cinnamon Apple Salad, Apple Cabbage Coleslaw, or Apple Butter

Apple Muffins (click for the recipe).

Health Benefits of the Jonagold Apple

Jonagold apples contain mostly water and carbohydrates with almost no fat or protein content. These fruits contain roughly 50 calories, making them a low-calorie snack, and a healthy amount of dietary fiber.

Check out this link to learn more about the health benefits of the Jonagold Apple.

Where To Buy This Fruit Tree?

Jonagold apple trees usually do not grow well using their own roots. Most Jonagolds need to be grafted onto another cultivar’s rootstock. This leads to the distinction between the dwarf and semi-dwarf, as well as less common standard trees. Regardless of the specific tree type, the fruit grows the same. However, dwarf and semi-dwarf trees produce fruit at a younger age. They also tend to be easier to prune and harvest because of their smaller size.

Jonagold apple trees can be purchased from growers who specialize in apple cultivars or from commercial nurseries like Nature Hills. It can be propagated by chip budding as well as grafted onto clonal rootstock. 

Where To Buy The Fruit

Jonagold apples are quite popular and therefore relatively easy to find. The fruits ripen by mid-September. They are commonly found throughout grocery stores and farmers markets across the country in mid to late fall. Fruits can be stored for 10 months in the fridge. For best results and freshness, eat your Jonagold apples within two months of harvest.

Wrapping up the Jonagold Tree

The Jonagold apple tree is one of the most prominent apples in the United States fruit market today. Its vigorous growth, cold tolerance, and delicious-tasting fruit have made it ubiquitous across North America and Europe. They are relatively easy to propagate and care for, making them a popular choice for apple lovers in cooler climates.

This fragrant tree makes a wonderful decorative and ornamental addition to any lawn or garden. The Jonagold apple tree’s blossoms attract hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and birds of all types into its branches. This makes it the perfect addition when looking for a tree that’s appreciated by local wildlife. These trees are aesthetically pleasing with a brilliant springtime aroma.

Since it is so flexible in cooking and baking, the Jonagold apple is valued by chefs, bakers, and families around the world. Growing this cultivar for yourself means always having delicious apples on-hand for your favorite recipes or a nutritious snack.