Order apple trees in fall for spring planting

  • Published: Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Fall is prime time for harvesting juicy, crunchy fresh apples at their peak of perfection.

“While munching on those tasty fall treats, make sure to peruse the nursery catalogs and place an order for apple trees to plant in your own yard,” says Michele Warmund, University of Missouri Extension horticulturist.

“Placing an order now will ensure the delivery of the more popular, disease-resistant cultivars for planting next spring,” Warmund says. By February or March, most of the apple tree inventory will have been sold, leaving the less desirable stock available for purchase.

“Planting disease-resistant cultivars is a recommended control strategy used to limit fungicide use,” she says. Some apple cultivars have been bred for resistance to four main diseases: apple scab, cedar apple rust, fire blight and powdery mildew. Powdery mildew is typically the least serious disease of the four.

Besides disease resistance, there are several other factors to consider when selecting any fruit tree for planting.

“Chose a cultivar that is available on a rootstock that produces trees that will fit the allotted space for at least two trees, since most cultivars require cross-pollination for adequate fruit set,” Warmund says. Cultivars on dwarfing rootstocks, such as M.9, G.11, G.16 and G.41, will be smaller than those on a semi-dwarfing rootstock like M.7 or MM.111.

Also, select an apple cultivar that doesn’t ripen in the summer months, when warm weather causes ripened fruit to be soft. “Many of the more recent introductions can be picked in September or later, when nighttime temperatures are generally cooler,” she says. This results in better fruit color and firmness.

Lastly, choose a cultivar with a flavor that matches your preference for sweetness, tartness, sugar/acid balance, flavor and texture, Warmund says.

Liberty is currently the most widely planted scab-resistant apple cultivar in Missouri. This cultivar produces medium-sized fruit with a mildly tart flavor. Liberty is favored due to its resistance to apple scab, fire blight, cedar apple rust and powdery mildew.

CrimsonCrisp trees produce medium-sized, dark red apples with a firm, crisp texture and a mildly acidic flavor. Its fruit ripens a few days earlier than Liberty and can be stored for at least four months in refrigeration. This cultivar is resistant to apple scab and somewhat susceptible to cedar apple rust and powdery mildew.

Crimson Gold is another scab-resistant cultivar that ripens at the same time as CrimsonCrisp. However, Crimson Gold apples have a peel color of reddish-orange blush with a yellow background and fine-textured flesh with a sweet-acidic flavor.

Bonita has a pinkish-red peel with a yellow background. Apples have a sweet-tart flavor and interesting aromatic notes. Bonita fruit can be used for fresh consumption, cooking or baking.

RubyRush is a selection of a GoldRush x Enterprise cross that has resistance to apple scab, fire blight and cedar apple rust. Trees grow vigorously but can be prone to biennial bearing if young, developing fruit are not properly thinned early in the growing season.

Galarina trees grow vigorously with an upright-spreading growth habit. This cultivar also has resistance to apple scab and powdery mildew. Apples are small to medium-sized with orange-red peel and a sweet flavor resembling Gala.

Smeralda trees have a compact growth habit and produce tart green apples that resemble Granny Smith and ripen in late September in Missouri.

Story trees are scab-resistant but susceptible to powdery mildew. The red-blushed fruit are very sweet with low acidity.

Querina is another introduction with Jonathan parentage. Trees are scab-resistant but susceptible to cedar apple rust. The dark red, medium-sized fruit have a sweet-tart flavor and ripen in October.

Winecrisp trees are resistant to apple scab and fire blight but susceptible to cedar apple rust. The apple peel is dark red but can have a dull, rough surface. Fruit have a sweet-tart, spicy flavor that is enhanced by refrigeration.

Enterprise is an older but reliable cultivar that ripens in late October. It is immune to scab, resistant to fire blight and cedar apple rust and moderately resistant to mildew. The fruit are medium to large in size with tart flesh, but the red peel tends to be thick.

Goldrush is another older cultivar that is immune to apple scab and moderately resistant to powdery mildew and fire blight but susceptible to cedar apple rust. The fruit ripens late in the season after Enterprise. It has medium to large yellow fruit with a sweet-acidic flavor that tends to mellow when cold-stored.

For more information, see the MU Extension guides “Apple Cultivars and Their Uses” at extension.missouri.edu/g6022 and “Home Fruit Production: Apples” at extension.missouri.edu/g6021.

Writer: Michele Warmund

Media Contact

Michele Warmund
573/882-9632

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