Helping an amateur figure out fruit trees in zone 4b

Hi everyone, hopefully this is okay!

We’re in the process of buying an house in the country with a little under 5 acres. I’m pretty experienced in growing most vegetables (i’m currently growing 25 varieties of hot peppers), and have always wanted fruit trees, but never had the opportunity to commit to a tree. I’m in zone 4b, in eastern South Dakota. I’m looking for a little help planning out the best spot to put theses trees, and some recommendations for varieties. I may be getting a little overzealous, but I want to try and grow everything that’ll work in zone 4, and maybe even more. I’ve put together a list of most trees/varieties based off my extensions papers, but i’m looking to get some input from here as well.

Cherries - North Star, Carmine Jewel Shrub
Pears - Gourmet, Ure, Summercrisp
Apricots - Harlayne, Sungold, Harcot
Peaches - Intrepid, Reliance, Cortland
Apples - Zestar, Liberty

Any other fruit/nut tree ideas?

I would like to start off with the bare minimum. So two trees for those that aren’t self pollinators, and one for those that are. The house faces south, and the shelter belt is on the North and West side. I’m trying to find a spot that they wouldn’t be in the way, as i’m hoping to put a shop up on the NE corner of the property, and i’m unsure about planting them too close to the shelter belt. Currently there’s an apple tree just to the west of the house, but it hasn’t set fruit the last few years. I’d also really love to try an espaliered apple tree somewhere around the house, and i’m planning on doing a bunch of other fruits. Grapes,Raspberries, Blackberries, etc.

Just looking from some ideas and opinions, as well as some tips and tricks. Thanks!


You’re quite a bit colder than I am, though there are people here growing in similar climates to you and colder still.

The cherries look like good choices. I have both of them and they should do well for you.

The only other on your list that I have is Liberty apple. Its good, but not spectacular. I prefer my Sweet Sixteen apple.

Look into honeyberries. They are likely going to be your best bang for your buck plants in your climate. Also consider currants/gooseberries, they should work well for you as well.



Hi there, your new spot looks lovely! Welcome to Growing Fruit.

The first recommendation I have is to leave all those trees on the perimeter, a lot of people on this site have had issues with herbicide drift off of farm fields hurting or killing fruit trees.

The first thing I noticed on your list that I’ve grown here are hazelnuts. I got mine really small and cheap from Arbor Day Foundation so I can’t comment on nut quality yet.
What I have also had success with (and are super easy) are currants (black, red, and pink), gooseberries, raspberries.

You might look into saskatoons, they’re pretty easy/ take care of themselves. Haskap/honeyberry is another to check out.

I’ve had a couple of years of crop on Evans cherry, it does well here. This is my first year getting Green Gage plums so I know it will survive and bear as well.

In the yard and have survived winters but haven’t fruited yet are:
Montrose apricot
Prairie Star persimmon
Harrow Sweet pear
Winesap apple
Winecrisp apple
Spitzenburg apple
Mount Royal plum
Kuganskaya quince
unknown Cornelian Cherry varieties
Juliet cherry

I get Zestar apples from the you pick operation down the road and they are fantastic.

I think that was what you were looking for? Let me know if you have any questions although I don’t claim to be an expert as I’m pretty new to growing, myself. Looks like you could fit quite a bit in that space with dwarf/semidwarf rootstocks.


That apple tree west of the house may just need you to graft another variety onto it, so it will become self-pollinating–and also give you another variety of apple to harvest. Do you know what kind of apple tree it is, and what it is supposed to produce? If not, you might graft a Dolgo crabapple onto it, as “crabs” have a longer bloom period than regular apples, and so it may better pollinate unknown varieties. The Dolgo crab is also cold-hearty (Zone 3), is popular for its’ pink blossoms, it makes an outstanding red-colored jelly, and it can also be used to make a single variety hard cider. Here is a link to a description of Dolgo on the “Pomiferous” website, which is an excellent source for apple variety info: Dolgo

Primarily, I am growing for cider-making purposes, but I also intend to have trees that produce desert apples, baking apples, jelly making varieties, and with varieties to harvest at different times, from late July/early August through late October, though some may not ripen every year here (due to the weather). The reference I gave above can give you a lot of info on apple varieties, when they bloom (for pollinating each other), and what the primary uses and “characteristics” are for each apple.

Though Zestar is highly recommended for cold weather locations like mine and yours, I have heard of no one using it for cider, and so I have to believe it is not suitable for my purposes. It may be excellent when eaten out of hand, but lacking in the qualities that make a good cider. I can’t say for sure, because I am only a novice, but that is what I am guessing. (I am only in my second year of growing.) Cortland, on the other hand, is an apple which I have heard does make a good single-variety cider, and which also grows well in Zone 4b. I am limited in the number of trees I can grow, however, and so that also did not make my list either–at least not yet–but as I hear it makes a good cider, I would choose Cortland before Zestar.


welcome! everything mentioned are good choices. i have everything mentioned except the peaches and north star cherries plus many more here in z3b. if you want a big harvest of fruit with minimal care, try some of the cold hardy mulberries. there are even some dwarf ones hardy to your zone if you want a smaller tree. like mentioned, honey berries are bulletproof and are great fresh or in jams. so are currants and gooseberries. there are even blackberries hardy to your zone. try the nelsons from fedco. mine should fruit for me for the 1st time this summer. i have marquette and king of the north grapes that grow well here. if you like rhubarb it grows well in the colder zones. all the sour cherries do well here even in my rocky clay soil. i have several plums that are doing well also. i grow everything in rows and mulch the whole row with wood chips every spring so i don’t have to mow between every tree and bush, then i plant low growing fruits like low bush blueberries and arctic raspberries to fill in under them. even planted some herbs and bee flowers in there too. looks nice as it fills in and saves you the extra watering if you add fresh chips every spring. i haven’t had to weed in 4 yrs. i get my wood chips from a local arborist. or you could get straw from a local grainary farmer.


Katie mentioned My. Royal plum which tastes great, is freestone, and a very late bloomer. It’s also self pollinating.
Additional plums to check out are Superior, Toka (aka bubblegum plum), and Black Ice. They all pollinate each other.


Hi - Sounds like you have a real nice spot and a nice plan. I’m in a different cold climate (I’m guessing SD is dryer and windier than the Great Lakes) but for hardiness I’d think you have many choices for apples and pear, depending on what you want. I like Beacon, a Univ Minn apple, for a sweet summer apple, and Haralson for tarter winter keeper (sweetens after storage) and both are very hardy. But I’ve heard great things of Zester and can’t wait till my grafts of that variety produce. LOTS of opinions on apple varieties on this site!

There are a number of good hardy pears and though I don’t grow them I have read that Early Gold and Golden Spice, both offspring of Ure, get better reviews than Ure. My Summercrisp has decent small fruit and though not remarkable it is doing fine (I’m grafting over part of the tree to larger fruit). I also have Stacey which is a hardy tasty small fruited pear. Those two bloom near enough to pollinate (but I also have a very large inedible seedling pear which probably does a lot of the pollinating). That’s important if you only have two pears, to get two that bloom at the same time. I’ve heard real good reports of Gourmet and it’s on my “wanted to graft” list. I have a number of larger pear varieties grafted that are surviving our winters fine so far but no fruit yet – Patten, Southworth, Sierra, Nova, others.

I have Carmen Jewell and like it - does well here. I can also recommend Evans. I had a grafted Evans for a number of years and it did fine but I now have a three year own-root Evans from HoneyBerry USA which blossomed this year and may have a few fruits. Own-root is earlier to fruit and is a smaller tree than the grafted (on Mazzard) tree. I’ve heard own root is hardier, too.

I don’t have the climate for apricot or peach though I’ve heard rumors of someone in the area getting a peach off a Contender which seems to be one of the hardier peaches. Grapes are a challenge where I am but maybe you have a better climate. There are a couple of good thread discussions here if you search for Cold Hardy Grapes. I can recommend Bluebell and Prairie Star, maybe Marquette. And though I’ve only gotten one little bunch off my fairly new vine I’m real excited about Sommerset Red which was highly recommended by others. Brianna, also new, has had good fruit but may not be as hardy.

I’m sure you’ll enjoy whatever you plant! One’s own grown fruit is wonderful. Wish you the best with it all. Sue


Thanks for the advice! I’ll look into the honeyberries, as they do look good!


I appreciate your input! I’ll take a look into the varieties you listed. Glad to hear about the hazelnuts.

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I didn’t even think of grafting something onto it! I unfortunately don’t know what variety it is, but i’d love to try something like that.

I’m sure I want one variety that’s good for cider, as I love brewing quite a bit. I’ll take a look into those suggested. Thanks!

I really love the idea of doing the shorter bushes within the trees. I’m trying to maximize the space used. I’ll take a look into the other varieties and go from there.


Thanks! I’ll keep all of these in mind.

Thanks for the help! I’ll definitely look into those other pear varieties.

I’m pretty confident in the grapes. I have some varieties picked out there too. My coworker has had good luck with hers, and we actually have two vineyards very close to us, so i’m assuming that we’d be able to have luck with them as well.

I’m not sure why my last two photo’s didn’t post, but here they are. I’m a little concerned on where to put the trees/garden. I was thinking of putting them behind the house by the shelter belt, but i’m concerned there may not be enough air flow there? Possibly put a peach there, since I know they don’t like to be warm late winter, and can be protected from winds? The other place I was thinking was in the pasture on the east side of the house. That would be the second picture.

I’m trying to be as efficient with the space as possible, and since i’m going to be doing so many bushes/trees I want everything to be cohesive.


Hi, 'm Canadian 5b, (southern Ontario) so pretty close to your range.
I’ve had good luck so far with berries. Another vote for haskap. I have to net them, but they are a great cooking and smoothie berry.
We are loving black raspberries. So far, very easy to deal with and productive. An extremely tasty cooked berry. The only issue is the thorns. I have armour for picking. I think ours are Niwot.
Saskatoon or service berries are easy and hardy but you will have to fight the birds.
I have a Montmancy sour cherry, which I like but it tends to alternate productive years.
Hardy kiwi are surprising good too. They need supports and we have had bad winter bunny pressure but they are vigorous and easy to propagate. Tasty too.
Rhubarb and asparagus are great to put in and forget about except when you harvest.
Jerusalem artichoke and ostrich ferns are things you can let take over rougher spots and then harvest as you want.
I have a couple of pawpaws, but it looks like we are too close to edge of their range and I’m not sure they will ever produce here.


I’m in central Montana and the past couple of warm, wet autemns followed by polar vortecs have raised havic with my fruit trees. I started a small orchard about 6 years ago with around 15 verieties of apples, 4 pears, several verieties of dwarf cherries and honneyberries. My Yellow Transparent apple has faired better than most of the other verieties and given us some early apple treats in the summer. Chestnut Crabs are very good pollenators and yeild delightful snack apples. Of the U of S verieties of dwarf cherries, Juliet has seemed hardiest here. Honneyberriy bushes can be fit in between trees and are pretty problem free.


If @Viridian hadn’t said it, I was going to mention pawpaws (I have to!)
Might be a tough go, definitely would recommend wind protected location.

4b in eastern South Dakota for pawpaw would be a nightmare. Sometimes consecutive days below 0F.

You’re in an area where Niels E Hansen worked hard to find cold hardy plants that could withstand tough plains conditions. Some of those might be worth considering…although much work has been done since then. Hansen brought back a great number of plants such as the Dolgo crabapple for his breeding work, and hardy alfalfa.

Dolgo is a very good late summer crab. Centennial is a Dolgo x Wealthy cross developed by Minnesota which might be another one to consider – very good eater. Minnesota developed a number of great cold hardy apples.

You could possibly plant a rim of wild plums Prunus americana around the perimeter on the east part of your properly to cut down on spray drift as long as you don’t cause drifting where you don’t want it? They would eventually spread but can be managed with mowing.


Herbicide drift was the first thing that came to my mind as well. It looks like the property is surrounded by agriculture. I just read something from a guy in KS that has fears of losing all his trees to a mistake by a crop duster.

I would also be careful of comparing what will grow in zone 4 in the northeast U.S. to what will grow in the Dakotas. I’m in central MN, and the same holds true here. Zone 4 in the northeast isn’t the same as zone 4 here.

I have found using the old USDA zone maps are more accurate for my location. This area is more 3b than 4a. Knowing some folks in the Dakotas, their experience has been the same. I’d use the old zone map as a guide instead of the new one.


My grafted Dolgo and Dolgo seedlings all have profuse white blossoms

Well sounds like Haskap is something I really need to look into. The black raspberries sound great too! Rhubarb and asparagus are a definite thing! They’ll be going in asap.