USDA zone 4 apple trees consist of various cold hardy varieties. Truth be told, apple trees are generally hardy, being able to endure most conditions, including extremely cold temperatures and wind.
The states in zone four experience some of the coldest temperatures. Some of the common characteristics include four distinct seasons and sharp temperature variations. Snowfall is generally heavy, although the snow is usually low moisture and fluffy.
Whether you have a large open yard to grow your favorite trees in or are working with limited space, you should definitely find some excellent apple trees that will thrive in zone 4, including columnar apples.
8 Cold Hardy Apple Tree Varieties For USDA Zone 4
1. Wolf River Apples (Malus ‘Wolf River’)
This American cultivar originates from the shores of the Wolf River in Wisconsin.
Interestingly, wolf river apples hail from the Alexander variety, which was brought to the area from Quebec, Canada, during the late 1800s. The wolf river variety is known for being disease-resistant and very cold-hardy.
The relatively large apples have an incredibly beautiful yellowish-green color with a magenta blush. The creamy white flesh is sweet yet tart, and there is no shortage of size; these bad babies can be nearly one pound each. The white flowers are showy and fragrant.
Wolf river apples are delicious when eaten raw, but they shine pretty brightly in the culinary department. They’re excellent for sauces, apple butter, pies, and baked apple desserts. Home cooks and chefs appreciate that this apple variety holds its shape quite well.
This antique variety is exceptionally cold-hardy, disease resistant, and highly adaptable to the environment. You’ll want to plant them in full sun because areas of the tree left in the shade will be bald, and that’s sad.
Wolf River apple trees are highly productive, leaving growers a bountiful harvest from late September to early October. Its spreading growth habit makes the tree incredibly sturdy and hardy.
Not only are wolf river apple trees cold-hardy, but they’re also heat tolerant. They grow well in a wide range of soil types and environments. With good resistance to fire blight, apple scab, and powdery mildew, I see many reasons it’s worth growing.
Other Common Names: Old-time Apple
Growing Zones: 3-9
Average Size At Maturity: Semi-dwarf 12 to 18 ft tall with a 10 to 15 foot spread, Standard size reaches 18 to 25 ft high with a 15 to 18 foot spread
Fruiting/Flowering Time: Flowers bloom anywhere from early spring to late summer, and fruits are ready to harvest around mid-September through early October
Available at: Nature Hills
Honeycrisp apples are an extremely popular variety throughout the US. That’s primarily due to their crisp, crunchy exterior and the delectable juicy fruit. Honeycrisp provides an excellent balance between tart and sweet.
Honeycrisp apple trees generally reach heights of about 8 to 10 ft, making them medium-sized trees perfect for just about any yard. That said, their smaller size makes them a bit easier to manage.
Like the wolf river variety, Honeycrisp apple trees are disease resistant, so there’s no need to use harsh sprays or chemicals. If you’re worried about the cold temperatures, don’t be, as Honeycrisp trees thrive in temperatures as low as -30℉.
Once the trees are established, they’re heavy producers and can bear fruit in the first year. However, you’ll want to have more than one tree or variety for pollination. The more trees you have, the more bountiful the harvest can be.
Other Common Names: Honeycrunch, Honey Crisp, Honeycrisp Dwarf
Growing Zones: 4-8
Average Size At Maturity: 8-10 ft tall with an 8-10 ft spread
Fruiting/Flowering Time: September / April
Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees
Golden delicious apples have always been on my top 5 favorites list. It’s an heirloom variety that was discovered around 1890.
These yellow-green apples are firm and crisp, with a balanced sweet and tart flavor profile. I am not alone when I say they’re delicious when eaten fresh, but they also have an excellent taste and texture for baking.
Every spring, the apple trees will produce white flowers kissed by a touch of pink. Golden delicious trees thrive in full sun, so you’ll want to ensure they’re planted in a location that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight daily.
Golden delicious apple trees are self-fertile, so you don’t need to worry about pollination. However, suppose you like them as much as I do. In that case, you may want to plant a few, not to mention adding an additional pollinator can increase the size of the bounty collected. Gala, Fuji, Granny smith, Winesap, Pink lady, and McIntosh apples are great choices.
Other Common Names: Yellow Delicious
Growing Zones: 4-9
Average Size At Maturity: 8-15 ft tall with an 8-15 ft spread
Fruiting/Flowering Time: September – October / Mid to late spring
Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees
Fuji apples have a sweet yet tart flavor. It’s a favorite in many homes for eating fresh. These apples have a crisp, firm texture, and they’re juicy too.
The taste is excellent, and they’re a great size for a snack apple. These juicy fruits are a perfect choice for apple juice and cider. Because Fuji apples hold their shape well, they’re often used in baking.
Some excellent options for pollinators are gala, golden delicious, Lodi, Jonathan, and red delicious apple trees. You can purchase Fuji apple trees in standard, semi-dwarf, and dwarf sizes.
Fuji apple trees grow at a medium rate, with an increase in the height of about 13 to 24” yearly. They prefer full sun, with at least six hours of unfiltered, direct sunlight daily. This early-harvest apple variety grows well in moist, well-drained soil. Unfortunately, it is not a drought-tolerant variety.
Other Common Names: Red Fuji Apples
Growing Zones: 4-8
Average Size At Maturity: Dwarf varieties grow about 10 ft tall with a 10 ft spread, Semi-dwarf reaches 12-15 ft tall with a 12 ft spread, the standard variety grows 20-25 ft tall with a 25 ft spread
Fruiting/Flowering Time: Mid-September / Mid to Late Spring
McIntosh apple trees are another all-time favorite. They’re famous for their fresh fruits, light tangy flavor, and distinct red skin. McIntosh trees produce heavily, and they ripen early in the season, meaning you will get fruit sooner than other varieties.
For me, it makes perfect sense to plant McIntosh with pollinators that are ready for harvest mid-to-late in the harvest season.
McIntosh is excellent when eaten fresh, baked, and for various recipes. McIntosh apple pies, sauces, and cider are all delicious. This variety can be grown organically since there’s no need for pesticides and chemicals. This variety is disease-resistant and isn’t bothered by too many insects.
The fact that this variety doesn’t have any severe or profound issues with diseases or pests is incredibly hardy, and they’re easy to grow makes them an optimal choice. Who needs a green thumb when growing McIntosh is this easy?
McIntosh trees aren’t self-fertile, so you’ll need another variety if you hope to harvest any fruit. Gala, Fuji, Arkansas black, Honeycrisp, and golden delicious apple trees are excellent pairing options.
Other Common Names: McIntosh Red, Mac Apples
Growing Zones: 4-7
Average Size At Maturity: 12-15 ft tall with an 8-10 ft spread
Fruiting/Flowering Time: September / Early to Mid May
Arkansas black apples are incredible to look at, a sight to behold, and a flavor that improves during storage. Actually, these dark-pigmented apples aren’t very delicious when they’re first picked, but if you store them for a little while, their flavor will improve immensely; more on that later.
Arkansas black apples aren’t truly black. Instead, they are more of a crimson to deep dark red with black hues. These apples have a thick skin that’s chewy and smooth. You’ll notice a few lenticels and their waxy sheen increases during storage.
The depth of color on these apples will vary per apple, which depends on the climate and amount of sun exposure. Arkansas black apple’s color will sometimes intensify in storage. Below the surface, the fruit’s flesh ranges from ivory to yellow with a fine-grained, moderately aqueous, and firm consistency.
After harvesting these black beauties, you’ll have to store them before eating any. This is because when they’re fresh off the tree, they’re somewhat hard and hold a sour flavor. Here’s where it gets interesting.
As the apples are stored, their flavor will mellow into a rich, sweet-tart flavor with subtle tangy undertones. Arkansas black apples have nuances of honey, vanilla, almond, cinnamon, and coriander. I’d say it’s worth the wait.
Remember that every apple will have a slightly different flavor, which makes for a pleasant surprise. Late fall through winter is when these apples are available.
Other Common Names: Black Apples, Arkansas Black
Growing Zones: 4-9
Average Size At Maturity: 12-15 ft tall with a 12-15 ft spread
Fruiting/Flowering Time: October / Mid-April to Mid-May
Blushing delight columnar trees produce beautiful red-green apples with a bursting sweet flavor. Columnar or fastigiate trees tend to be narrow, and they grow upright. These attractive upright trees can be tall or short, and they’re mainly chosen to grow in tight spaces within the landscape. Columnar trees add an upscale appeal to any home landscape.
Blushing delight trees produce fruit on spurs along their main stem. Which means you won’t need a lot of space for them to grow. Their narrow, upright growing habit makes them excellent for placing nearly anywhere on your property or apartment. The fact that they’re disease resistant is an added bonus.
The blushing delight columnar grows well in a container on a porch or patio. Still, the trees can also be planted into the ground. Whichever growing method you choose is up to you; either way, you will get an incredibly delicious harvest within the first few growing seasons.
These trees require full sun and regular watering every week. When the soil gets dry 2 to 3 inches down, your tree needs a drink. However, if your apple tree is potted, it’ll need to be watered more often.
Other Common Names: Urban apples, Crabapples
Growing Zones: 4 – 9
Average Size At Maturity: 11 ft tall with a 2-3 ft spread
Fruiting/Flowering Time: September / Spring
Fireside apple trees originate from Minnesota. It was developed in the early 1940s when everyone was tuned into Roosevelt’s “Fireside Chats,” which is likely where the tree got its name from.
Fireside apples are large and extremely hardy. The greenish-white flesh is crisp, juicy, and sweet. The flame orange striped skin over the rich yellow undercover is extraordinary. These apples store well as they’re long-keeping and retain the incredible flavor.
This apple variety shows some resistance to cedar-apple rust. They’re easy to grow and a pleasure to the eye!
Fireside apples store well for more extended periods of time in a refrigerator or root cellar. They’re delicious eaten fresh, baked, and in various dishes. This is an excellent option if you enjoy dehydrated apples as they dry well.
When looking for pollinators, you have several choices. However, Fuji, Gala, Honeycrisp, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, and Jonathan’s are excellent choices.
Other Common Names: Connel Red, Fireside
Growing Zones: 3-10
Average Size At Maturity: 15 to 18 ft tall with a 15 to 18 ft spread
Fruiting/Flowering Time: Mid-Fall / Spring
Available at: Nature Hills
Most apple trees require 500 to 1,000 chill hours with temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. USDA zone 4 experiences frigidly cold winter temperatures with warm to hot summers. Apple trees are an excellent fruit tree option for zone 4 gardeners.
When looking at all the USDA hardiness zones, zone 4 is considered a cool climate. When choosing plants, you’ll want to find varieties that fare well in below-freezing temperatures. When selecting your apple trees, choose wisely, and make sure to pick up pollinators.