7 Best USDA Zone 6 Apple Trees to Plant Today

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Written By Lakeisha Ethans

Heritage Gardener with Grafting Expertise

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Home » USDA Zone 6 » 7 Best USDA Zone 6 Apple Trees to Plant Today

There’s nothing more satisfying than picking apples from the apple tree you planted in your own garden. If you’ve already considered your USDA planting zone, you’ll want to know what type of apple trees would thrive in your garden.

USDA Zone 6 covers states with a temperate climate, where hot summers and cold winters are the norm. Minimum average temperatures in this zone are between 0°F and -10°F.

With that in mind, here are some fantastic zone 6 apple trees that will make your apple picking dreams come true!

7 USDA Zone 6 Apple Trees to Grow in Your Yard

1. McIntosh Apple Tree (Malus ‘McIntosh’)

McIntosh Apple Tree
Image by Pain Chaud via Flickr

Discovered by John McIntosh in the 1800s while tending to his property in Canada, McIntosh apples took the world by storm shortly after. By the 20th century, they were the most preferred apples in NY and KY gardens.

These small to medium-sized apples are sweet and tangy in taste, wrapped in yellow-green skin with a red blush. The color and flavor of McIntosh apples will change depending on the time of the year you grow, the amount of sunlight it receives, and the time of the year you harvest.

Harvesting them earlier in the season will leave you with delicious, crispy, and tangy apples with high acidity content. Harvesting them later in the season will produce soft, tender, and sweet-tasting fruits.

McIntosh Apple trees are easy to grow. They usually require minimal fertilizer or pesticide, making them an excellent, hardy choice for the colder states. You can prune them when they’re dormant, and for ease of access, maintenance, and harvest, keep your apple tree under 10 feet. These trees thrive in large spaces, full sun, and moist, well-drained soil.

Other Common Names: McIntosh Red, Mac tree

Growing Zones: 3-10

Average Size at Maturity: 15-20 ft tall, 8-10 ft wide

Fruiting/Flowering Season: The McIntosh Apple tree flowers in early to mid-May. The fruit then ripens by mid to late September.

Available at: Nature Hills & Fast-Growing-Trees

2. Honeycrisp Apple Tree (Malus pumila ‘Honeycrisp’)

Honeycrisp Apple Tree
Image by Rivard via Flickr

Did you know that this delicious apple was almost wiped out of existence? Had it not been for David Bedford, we’d never know the distinct taste of this crisp fruit. Bedford replanted this beauty and saved it from extinction after 19 years of testing. It was only in 1991 that this apple tree was released for sale.

Today you’ll find them growing abundantly in KY, GA, and MN gardens, and for a good reason. One of America’s most popular and fast-growing trees to grow, the Honeycrisp produces fruit that balances sweetness and tartness. Once established, these trees are heavy producers and can produce fruit from their first year.

It is incredibly drought-tolerant and can produce fine fruit in temperatures as low as -30 degrees. In addition, Honeycrisp apple trees are disease-resistant and won’t need any complex chemicals or sprays. A larger garden would be suitable for this tree, but if you’re tight on space, consider picking the dwarf version. Honeycrisp is self-fertile, but pair it with Granny Smith, McIntosh, and Gala apple trees to encourage more fruits.

Other Common Names: Honeycrunch (in Europe)

Growing Zones: 3-8

Average Size at Maturity: 18-25 ft tall, 15-18 ft wide

Fruiting/Flowering Season: Blossoms should appear on the Honeycrisp tree in April, and the fruit will ripen by September.

Available at: Nature Hills & Fast-Growing-Trees

3. Honeygold Apple Tree (Malus pumila ‘Honeygold’)

Honeygold Apple Tree
Image by Jiaqian AirplaneFan via Creative Commons

Developed by Minnesota University as an ideal option for northern states in 1970, the Honeygold is a cross between the tart Haralson apple and the ever-popular sweet Golden Delicious. Taking the best elements of both apples, the Honeygold is sweeter and crisper. Boasting a vibrant golden-yellow skin with a reddish-bronze blush, these apples can grow in temperatures as low as -50 degrees Fahrenheit!

The Honeygold apple tree produces bountiful harvests during the coldest weather. The apples will ripen by mid-late September and last through to November. Your Honeygold can be pruned through the winter, with most home gardeners keeping them around 10-15 ft in size. This variety is not suitable for planting in soil that is too wet, so avoid putting them in an area of your garden that may be prone to flooding or standing water.

That said, this apple variety isn’t self-fertile. Pair your Honeygold with other Zone 6 fruit trees like Fuji, Granny Smith, McIntosh, or Honeycrisp varieties to achieve fruiting. Although your Honeygold tree prefers mulch, ensure the mulch doesn’t touch the tree trunk’s base.

Other Common Names: ‘Honeygold’

Growing Zones: 3-7 

Average Size at Maturity: 14-18 ft tall, 12-15 ft wide

Fruiting/Flowering Season: This variety’s fruit ripens in late October, with blooms appearing from April.

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees

4. Zestar Apple Tree (Malus x domestica ‘Minnewashta’)

Zestar Apple Tree
Image by Pete Markham via Flickr

Another Minnesota University variety, the Zestar apple has an appealing crisp texture and zesty flavor with a hint of brown sugar. Developed to satisfy the demand for an early-ripening apple, the Zestar fruit is ready to harvest from late August to early September. It doesn’t have the soft texture that many early-ripening apples have.

Adorning the gardens of OH and MN, Zestar apples are delicious round fruits with a sweet and tart aftertaste. In spring, deep-pink buds adorn trees that gradually bloom into beautiful white blossoms. In fall, these trees turn heads as rosy-red and creamy-yellow bushed apples replace the beautiful white flowers and decorate the tree’s deep green foliage.

Although the Zestar was cultivated for colder weather states, it needs around six hours of sunlight daily and thrives in well-draining soils. Since it ripens earlier, you’ll need to prune this tree early winter, when it’s dormant. As much as humans love Zestar, so do birds, unfortunately. Its tempting red fruits are the apple of the bird’s eye! Finally, Zestar is self-fertile and doesn’t require a pollinating partner to bear fruits.

Other Common Names: Minnewashta

Growing Zones: 3-7 

Average Size at Maturity: 20-25 ft tall, 12-15 ft wide

Fruiting/Flowering Season: Zestar apple trees bloom in spring and start fruiting in the fall. You can harvest them in late August through September

Available at: Nature Hills

5. Melrose Apple Tree (Malus domestica ‘Melrose’)

melrose apples
Image via Nature Hills

If you want an apple variety with a long history, the Melrose is an intriguing option. Developed during World War II by Freeman S. Howlett in Wooster, OH, Melrose apples are a cross between Red Delicious and Jonathan varieties.

They have a firm texture with yellowish-green burnished skin, sometimes streaked with red. With sweet-tart flavor and creamy-white flesh, the Melrose is an ideal choice for snacking, pies, sauces, salads, and other fruit-based desserts.

One of the best elements about Melrose apples is their longevity. Though they bloom much later in the season, their fruit is delicious if eaten straight off the tree, but tastes better when stored over the coming months. This is because despite being off the branch, the fruit keeps ripening. This means you can have the tastiest Melrose apple well into the New Year!

Melrose trees like space and sunlight and thrive in moist soil. You can prune this tree in late winter or early spring when it’s dormant. Although Melrose is self-fertile, pairing it with McIntosh, Fuji, or Granny Smith varieties will boost fruit production.

Other Common Names: Melrose white

Growing Zones: 5-9 

Average Size at Maturity: 12-15 ft tall, 12-15 ft wide

Fruiting/Flowering Season: This tree flowers in spring and is ready for harvest in October.

Available at: Nature Hills

6. Wolf River Apple Tree (Malus ‘Wolf River’)

Wolf River Apple Tree
Image via Nature Hills

Decorating gardens of WI, Wolf River apples have been around since 1875. Although the tree is frost-hardy and disease resistant, it takes about seven years to bear fruit for the first time. After the first seven years, you’ll be able to harvest fruit from late September to early October. Boasting a yellowish-green skin with crimson blush, this apple’s creamy-white flesh is sweet with a slightly sour after-taste.

In Spring, this tree greets passersby with fragrant white flowers that attract butterflies and other beneficial garden insects. In Autumn, the flowers pave the way for delicious large fruits that hold their shape with cooking! The Wolf River apple is a great snack, but it’s popularly used to cook pies, baked foods, sauces, and apple butter. Some say you need just one Wolf River apple to make a pie!

You can prune this tree in late winter or early spring when it’s dormant. Summer pruning will allow you to control the size and shape of the tree’s vigorous growth and boost large-sized fruit production. The Wolf River requires full sun and thrives in moist, well-draining soils. Unfortunately, it isn’t self-fertile, so pairing it up with McIntosh, Granny Smith, and Fuji varieties will encourage fruits.

Other Common Names: ‘Wolf River’

Growing Zones: 3-9

Average Size at Maturity: 18-25 ft tall, 15-18 ft wide

Fruiting/Flowering Season: The Wolf River apple ripens in September, but if you harvest in October, you’ll get an even sweeter bounty.

Available at: Nature Hills

7. Gravenstein Apple Tree (Malus ‘Gravenstein’)

Gravenstein Apple Tree
Image by Richard Wilde via Wikipedia

Standing proud and tall in parts of CT, CA, and MA gardens, the Gravenstein came to fruition somewhere in Denmark in the early 1600s. However, it was in the 1800s when Russian settlers brought this beauty to the USA, where they were planted in orchards at Fort Ross, California. During the summer months, the Gravenstein shows off its fragrant white blooms, followed by light greenish-yellow skinned fruits with ruby-red stripes.

Its aromatic creamy-white flesh is crisp to bite and leaves you with a tangy and sweet after-taste. While these apples make great fresh-off-the-tree snacks, they’re a favorite for making apple cider, juices, pies, and sauces. The Gravenstein requires full sun and moist, well-draining nutrient-rich soils to thrive. You can prune this tree in late winter or early spring when it’s dormant.

If you’re experiencing a shy cropping year, prune the tree in summer as part of thinning to boost fruit production. Summer pruning will allow you to control the size and shape of the tree’s vigorous growth. Unfortunately, these apples do not have a long shelf life, and the tree is more prone to disease than other varieties.

The Gravenstein is not self-fertile and needs a pollinating partner to start fruiting. Pair it up with Fuji, McIntosh, or Zestar varieties for the best results. It would take the tree three to five years to start bearing fruits.

Other Common Names: Graasten, Gravs

Growing Zones: 2-9 

Average Size at Maturity: 15-18 ft tall, 12-15 ft wide

Fruiting/Flowering Season:  This early bloomer can bloom a second time later in the year with a good cross-pollinator, with the fruit ripe from September.

Available at: Nature Hills & Fast-Growing-Trees

Beautiful, Delicious, Filling

The advantage of living in the temperate climate of USDA Zone 6 is the wide variety of fruits you can grow and enjoy. From cherry varieties to delicious apples, there’s a type for everyone. From the above list, you can find those great for medium-sized gardens and those requiring bigger space to achieve their full potential.

As excited as you are to plant your first seed, remember patience is the key as some trees take longer to bear fruits. However, don’t forget to ensure you have plenty of space for some of these apple trees because while they’re nourishing, they won’t take kindly to cramped spaces.

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Lakeisha Ethans

Heritage Gardener with Grafting Expertise

Lakeisha grew up in East Africa, literally surrounded by nature which sparked her interest in learning more about trees and plants from a very young age. She belongs to a family of gardeners, so for her, gardening is a way of life, a tradition she’s proud to uphold. As a self-taught gardener, Lakeisha has successfully grafted trees to produce hybrids for gardens and landscapes. When she’s not gardening, she’s writing about her experience with nature or watching baking fails!

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