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  1. Apples are believed to be the oldest cultivated tree in the world. They originated in Kazakhstan and central Asia.  The University of Saskatchewan has been breeding apples since the 1920's for enhanced cold hardiness, fruit quality and storage life.
  2. Apples are self-incompatible so they require another tree of a different variety to provide the pollen and get fruit.  In urban areas, there are usually enough apples and crabapples in neighbour’s yards to be sufficient pollinators.  In rural areas, a second tree may be needed.  An alternative is to buy a tree with multiple varieties grafted onto it, that way the tree will pollinate itself. 
  3. Apples tend to flower and produce leaves mid to late May. The flowers are typically white but can also be pink.
  4. Apples come in a variety of colours and sizes from small crab apples to eating apples.  Apples can ripen anytime from late August to early October, depending on the cultivar.  Home gardeners on the prairies and far north need to pay attention to the ripening dates as some years the fall is not long enough to harvest an apple that ripens in October. 
  5. Apples can take 4 to 5 years to produce fruit.
  1. Apples are native to Kazakhstan. Its capital city called Alma Ata means “full of apples”.
  2. Kazakhstan has forests of apple trees but few of the apples look or taste the same because apples have so much genetic diversity. Many varieties of wild apples are unpalatable. However, some are sweet and tasty and are the basis for the cultivated apples we eat today.
  3. The sweet named varieties of apple trees are not propagated by seeds. They are genetic clones which are propagated by cuttings or tissue culture in a lab.
  4. Apples were brought to Nova Scotia by French settlers.
  5. The cultivated apples we buy in the store are grown from trees which are genetic clones.
  6. Nine species of crab apples are native to North America and were an important food source for many Indigenous peoples as evidenced by their discovery as a part of forest gardens and the many different names given to apples in indigenous languages.


‘The Debaucherous Legacy of Johnny Appleseed’. Science History Institute, 18 Oct. 2022

Apples are high in vitamins A, C, and fibre. Check here for detailed information from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

The Canadian Food Guide recommends that roughly half of the food on your plate should be fruits and vegetables.

Canada Food Guide: What's On Your Plate?

Selecting your tree


Prairie-hardy apple varieties are grafted on to a root stock and this is what determines the height of the tree.  Apples grafted onto Ottawa #3 rootstock will attain a mature height will be about 3 - 3.6 m (10'-12') whereas if Siberian crab-apple rootstock is used the mature height will be about 6 - 9 m (20'-30') feet.  

Most apple and crab apple trees tend to broad trees which grow to about 2/3 to 3/4 wide as they are tall. 

Site selection tips

Check the expected mature size of your tree. Apples do best in full sun, so choose your site carefully. 

Check with your local utility company for the location of underground utilities. Avoid locations with overhead power lines too.

Apples and crabapples may drop fruit. Plant your tree further back from decks, patios, driveways or sidewalks to avoid problems.

For more site selection tips read: Tips for choosing a location for trees and shrubs

There are a wide variety of apples available for purchase in greenhouses and nurseries accross the prairies.  This chart lists the apple and crab apple varieties recommended by the University of Saskatchewan fruit program. 

U of S apples (marked on the chart) are available at greenhouses throughout the prairies or from distributors on this list: Distributors of USask fruit program plants


Cultivar Apple colour Apple size (diameter) Type of apple Ripening time Taste Texture Other
Adanac Red and green striped 5 cm apple early a tad tart but good slightly course texture stores up to 12 weeks
Norland red blush over greenish yellow 6.5 cm apple  early slightly tart but good overall flavour slightly course falls when ripe
Rescue yellow grenn with a deep red blush 3.5 cm crab apple early tart but sweet crisp texture stores for 3 weeks, goes mealy fast
Fall Red dull red over a yellow green base 7 cm apple mid a bit tart but good flavour overall crisp and very firm stores up to 10 weeks
September Ruby bright red with green ribbing 6.5 cm apple mid a bit tart but a great eating apple crisp stores up to 16 weeks
Norkent light green streaked with red 6 - 7 cm apple mid juicy, sweet and aromatic crisp with a slightly tough skin do not pick early, needs time to develop full flavour
Goodland creamy green washed with red 5 - 8 cm apple mid fairly sweet fine textured and crisp hardiness issues in some locations
Battleford pale green striped with red 7 cm apple mid slightly tart course and crisp

stores up to 4 weeks

Carlos Queen green with a slight blush 7.5 cm apple mid fairly sweet fine bruises easily
Westland green yellow overlaid with dull red 7 - 9 cm apple mid juicy and fairly sweet crisp texture excellent for cooking

Prairie Sensation

(U of S)

green with a reddish wash 7.5 cm apple mid sweet with a great flavour firm, crisp and juicy requires very little fruit thinning

Misty Rose

(U of S)

green with a deep red overlay 6.6 - 8 cm apple mid sweet and good  firm, crisp and juicy falls quickly after it is ripe
Dolgo purple red with a heavy bloom 1.5 cm crab apple mid not good for fresh eating course texture excellent for making jelly

Harlason also called HaralRed

brown red colour 6 cm apple late slightly tart but good firm and slightly touch, benefits from storage stores very well, great for cooking as fairly resistant to browning

Autumn Delight

(U of S)

dark red over green underlay 6 - 7 cm apple late very juicy and sweet firm and crisp can be picked after frost, increases the sweetness


(U of S)

cherry red 7 - 8 cm apple late similar to MacIntosh crisp a columnar tree, good for small urban yards

Most ornamental crabapples have nice flowers and bear edible fruit. Some cultivars have very small fruit that tends to persist on the tree. If you don't want to use the fruit for making juice or jelly, the fruit is a good food source for birds. A partial list of flowering crab apples for the prairies is:

  • Thunderchild flowering crab apple (Malus 'Thunderchild')
  • Rudoph flowering crab (Malus 'Rudolph')
  • Pink Spires flowering crab (Malus 'Pink Spires')
  • Courageous flowering crab (Malus 'DurLawrence')
  • Dreamweaver flowering crab (Malus 'Dreamweaver')
  • Emerald spire flowering crab (Malus 'Jefgreen') 

Certain ornamental crabapples have been bred for double flowers and do not to produce fruit. Fruit drop is not a problem with these cultivars, but because double-flowering crabs do not produce pollen, they cannot pollinate other apple varieties and are also not a food source for bees and other pollinators.

  • Snow Queen crab apple (Malus 'Snow Queen')
  • Spring Snow crab apple (Malus 'Spring Snow')


By far north, we mean the northernmost parts of the prairie provinces as well as the Yukon and Northwest Territories with sufficient soil to support an apple tree.

Note that two apple trees of different varieties separated by a maximum distance of 100 feet are needed for cross-pollination. 

Recommendations based on cultivar trials performed by Klondike Valley nursery (Dawson City, Yukon):

Category Cultivars Notes
Ultra Hardy Noret, Trailman, Rescue Should survive and fruit most years without winter protection in sheltered sites like downtown Whitehorse. Wrapping for winter is recommended in colder, more exposed locations.
Hardy Michelin, Norland, Parkland, PF12, Prairie Sun Will grow and be productive in warm, sheltered locations throughout the southern and central parts of the territory with winter protection.
Apples grown under season-extending cold frames Autumn Delight, Norda Grow under cold frames to extend the growing season. Require winter protection.


See our preservation section for more videos.

Planting apple trees

Apples and crabapples do best full sun to thrive. They can grow in part sun, but you will get less fruit.  They are not suited to part shade or very shady conditions.

Apples are tolerant of most soils, but do best in well drained, loam or sandy loam soil. 


Apples are self-incompatible which means they require pollen from another apple tree of a different variety to produce fruit. Apples are pollinated by insects such as bees and hoverflies. There is no concern about finding compatible cultivars with overlapping bloom times because apples and crabapples tend to bloom around the same time. 

Apples and crabapples can pollinate each other because they are the same species. The only exception is certain ornamental double-flowering crabapples which do not produce pollen and do not produce fruit. 

In urban areas, there are usually enough ornamental apples, crabapples or other apples in neighbouring yards to provide sufficient pollination.  

In rural areas, it's a good idea to plant two apple trees. Another alternative is to buy a tree with multiple varieties grafted onto it. 

The flowers on apples and crabapples tend to emerge in a sequence over a week or more. An early spring frost can damage the earliest blooms, but the later blooms usually are fine. 


Apples and crabapples are very ornamental trees with spring flowers, interesting bark, and ornamental fruit. Some have deep red or burgundy leaves. Apple tree leaves turn yellow in fall. They have a pleasing overall form when pruned correctly, which adds winter interest.

They can be used as a feature tree or a focal point in a front or back yard. They are especially nice planted in a large, mulched island or border amoung well-spaced perennial flowers. Consider growing spring-blooming bulbs near the apple tree to coincide with and complement spring apple blooms. 

Caring for apple trees

A newly planted apple or crab apple can take up to two years to establish and may take as long as 5 years to begin producing fruit.

Do not plant grass or other plants (not to mention weeds!) within about one metre of the trunk of newly planted apple trees. The competition from other plants can slow or stunt its growth. A better way is to apply a thick layer of mulch around the tree, but take care not to bank mulch against the trunk - leave a little well instead. 

Keep newly planted trees moist but not waterlogged for the first 2 - 3 weeks. After that apply about 2.5 cm (1") of water every week or so, unless it rains. Water new trees near the base, but as the tree grows, water at the dripline (the area below the widest part of the tree), where the feeder roots are. 

Do not fertilize newly planted trees. It is however, safe to apply 2 cm of compost or well-composted manure near the base of the tree before applying the mulch. 

Apples are deep rooted trees and only need moderate amounts of nitrogen fertilizer. An annual application of compost or composted manure is usually adequate. If using a granular chemical fertilizer, apply it only once in early spring. Nitrogen fertilizer applied in late summer or early fall may exacerbate insect and disease problems or cause tender growth that does not harden off properly for winter.  

Apple tree pruning, USask fruit program

Pruning a young apple or crabapple

  • In the first year, make sure that the tree is developing a central leader.  This means one dominant central axis branch.
  • In the second year, remove narrow angled branches (narrow angled branches mean branches that are less than 90 degree angles from the main axis).  By this year you should have about 4 or 5 good placed branches which will become your scaffold branches. 
  • In year three remove suckers and water sprouts as well as bad branches (branches with narrow angles, crisscrossing branches etc)
  • From Year 4 onward just do typical pruning to keep the tree the size you like, and to maintain overall health (removing dead, diseased or crossing branches).

Fruit thinning

If your apple tree seems to be producing an abundance of apples one year and then none the next, fruit thinning may be required.  Heavy fruit set can cause damage to limbs and reduce fruit the following year. To think fruit, you can knock flowers off in the spring to reduce the amount of fruit or you can remove the immature fruit once it has started to develop.  The general rule of thumb is to have one apple a hands width away from the next apple.  This is only necessary for apples, not crab apples. 

Young fruit trees can get sunscald caused by snow reflection. Install a spiral snow guard in fall to prevent damage. Remove the guard in spring. Another way to prevent sunscald is to paint the lower portion of the trunk with white latex painted diluted with water.  See: Sunscald

Rabbits sometimes chew on tree bark in winter when other food sources are scarce. The chewing damage is usually seen about .5 m above the snow line. Mice can also chew young fruit trees but mice damage is low, under the snow line and close to the base of the tree. Chewing damage that girdles or goes all the way around the circumference of the trunk can kill a tree. Spiral tree guards are very effective should be installed in fall before the damage occurs. 



Growing apples in the far north is a challenge but can it be done. By far north, we mean the northernmost parts of the prairie provinces as well as the Yukon and Northwest Territories with sufficient soil to support an apple tree.

Two apple trees of different varieties are needed for cross-pollination. Blooms may need protection from frost. Apple trees usually require winter protection and should be pruned in multi-stemmed shrub form to enhance hardiness and reduce winterkill. Other special techniques include wrapping for winter protection and growing under high tunnels.

Complete details, growing and pruning information as well as plans for tree shelters and winter protection is published below with permission from Klondike Valley Nursery, Dawson City, Yukon.

Factsheet 1: Temporary winter shelters for fruit trees

Factsheet 2: Caring for fruit trees in early spring

Factsheet 3: Apple tree pruning

Factsheet 4: Planting fruit trees

Factsheet 5: Blooms and frost

Factsheet 6: Pollination and thinning

Fruit tree shelter plans


Not applicable.

We do not recommend saving seeds from apple trees. Apple tree seeds do not breed true: the apple that is produced will not be the same as the tree you collected it from.

Coming soon!


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Hand pick the apples when you like the flavour.  Botanically speaking, apples are “ripe” when the seeds inside are dark brown.  However, if you are happy with the flavour before the seeds are dark brown, it's fine to pick them a bit immature. Immature apples will continue to ripen after they are picked and this may even extend the storage life of your apples.


Twist and pull the apple to remove it from the tree.  If you just pull the apple off, there is a risk of  breaking off the fruit spur and removing some of the buds for next year. 

Avoid dropping the apples, as that will lead to bruising. 


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Apples can be stored in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator for at least a few weeks. Storage life depends on the cultivar: some apples only last a few weeks and should be used right away while others can keep for months.

If you're hoping to store them longer than a couple of months, check the long term storage information.

Be careful about what you store with apples. Ethylene from apples will cause faster ripening or bitter flavours in other fruits and vegetables.

You may be able to store apples longer than a few months following the short term suggestions. However, apple storage depends on the type of apple as well as whether the apples are immature, ripe or over-ripe. 


Ideal storage conditions for apples are 0˚C, 90% humidity in perforated plastic bags. 

See our cold storage page for detailed advice on finding a suitable storage location and choosing storage methods

Other preservation methods we recommend include freezing, fermenting, dehydrating (drying) or canning.

Cooking and preserving

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Preservation methods we recommend include freezing, fermenting, dehydrating (drying) or canning.


Dehydrating apples

Alternative ways to eat common vegetables



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Apples are a medium maintenance fruit tree. Providing their water, light and soil needs are managed they don't tend to get a lot of issues. Annual, light pruning is needed to keep apple trees healthy and productive.

Apple sawfly or apple maggots are the most common apple pest on the prairies. Fireblight can also be a problem in trees with low resistance to the disease. 

See the Common problems tab on this page for advice on these and other specific apple issues.





Common questions

The University of Saskatchewan fruit program holds an annual plant sale open to the public, usually in the first week of June. There may be a second sale in early fall of 2021. Details will be announced at the link below. We do not sell plants to the public at any other time.

This sale raises funds to hire university summer students and/or purchase equipment for the fruit program.

There is typically a variety of tissue-cultured fruit trees, haskap, sour cherries and other fruits. The plants are saplings, usually in 2"-4" pots. A plant list will be available closer to the sale date.

There may be a limit to the number of plants sold per person. This is an in-person sale only and we do not ship plants to other locations. 

For details and ordering information, please check current information about the sale here: USask Fruit program plant sale


Research and student activities