High Chill Apple in a Low Chill Climate

This 3-year-old tree shows typical growth of a “high-chill” apple in a low chill climate. While some branches are leafing out fully, others have lots of blind wood. It’s hard to see, but there are a few apples the size of grapes, some the size of peas, and other branches just blossoming here the end of June. The branches have a funny shape because they were long and vertical before being pulled down horizontal, which is also what is causing all the blossoming.

Despite all this, fruit set will be heavy, annoyingly so. They will ripen in November, the perfect time here as it misses the 100 degree weather common in October. The horizontal branches are sprouting lots of vertical suckers, which usually you want to trim back to three leaves to set a fruit bud. The variety is Tompkins County King, a great variety for hot climates, as the heat doesn’t hurt the apple quality. The white trunk paint is mandatory, it should actually be painted all the way up on the south side. That one top branch on the left should be pulled down horizontal too.

This tree is acting like it wants to get big, which is these parts is about 15 feet. It will depend on the variety how easy it is to keep them smaller, but TCK is pretty vigorous and we may just let it do what it wants size-wise; everyone should have at least one big ol’ apple tree.


Apples aren’t happy here either with ~1,000 hrs below 45, ~500 Utah. But happier than yours.

Thanks for the photo and post, applenut. It helps confirm my experience. My Gravenstein and my neighbor’s Pink Lady aren’t supposed to require a lot of chill, but they aren’t looking too good. Not half as good as yours, even. Our side of town got LESS THAN 100 HOURS this last winter!! Most of the apple trees in town are confused, with fruit ranging from tiny to nearly ripe, blind wood, and new blooms, all on the same tree.

You can see a lot of the same thing on this GoldRush; big apples, tiny apples, blind wood, blossoms, last season’s leaves (brown tipped ones), new season’s growth pushing out last season’s growth. This is after I thinned it heavily, as most apples were part of a cluster of 5. It is a fight to pull down the vertical habit, thus the reason for the long branches; they were vertical and vigorous beforehand, which rarely fruits here. Pulling them horizontal calms them down and makes them fruiting machines. Some fire blight started in on this tree, but 100 degree weather stops it in its tracks, and only dry, crispy branch tips let you know that bacteria was once stalking the tree.

By the way, the apples are really, really good; not battery-acid tart like I’ve heard them described, but more like the best Fuji you’ve ever had in your life. I don’t know how long they keep, we eat them all.


Have you seen rootstock make any difference in health of high chill apples in low chill environment? Here in Phoenix we see extremely slow growth (along with all the usual problems of low chill i.e. blind wood). They come out of dormancy late and then we heat up quickly after and they go into what we call summer dormancy and stop growing. Then they come out for a bit in the fall and grow a little before the cool weather arrives. This results in a very slow growing tree.There is a theory floating around Phoenix that if we grafted high chill apples onto higher vigor standard rootstock rather than dwarfs like M111 that they may be able to push growth longer and size up faster. Any opinion or experience on that?

Rootstocks that can push growth all summer have been key for us in cherries here. Until the new hybrid cherry/plum rootstocks became available we had almost no chance here with them. They exhibited some of the same issues with extended summer dormancy. The new rootstock solved that. Wondering if something like that could be found to help apples push harder.


Eric, it’s not that I’m happy you have to put up with that, but I am relieved to hear an experienced person describe this because that sounds just like what I experience. I keep hearing about rapid growth in other people’s trees, but mine practically stall out after spring and go into what I call survival mode instead of growth mode until fall. You just assured me that it really is more the high heat than my gross mistreatment of fruit trees. We aren’t as hot as Phoenix, but just spent two weeks in the low 100’s and are headed back to that by the end of the week.


We get some amount of “summer dormancy” in almost all our trees. Least in our peaches and other stonefruit. More highly in the apple and pear. We grow two types of apples here. High chill fall apples and low chill summer apples. The low chill summer apples do so much better and establish quicker because they come out of winter dormancy 2 months before fall apples. In that two months they grow rapidly because our weather is reasonable at that time of year. Fall apples dont come out until near April and our 100 degree days get started shortly after. That shuts them down until temps moderate in October. Then we get cold in December…its just not a whole lot of time for these apples to do anything.

1 Like

I don’t observe all of the effects shown in Applenut’s posts, but do get blind wood and some trees that occasionally decide that fall might be an appropriate time to send out a few blooms and new growth. I’m not so stumped about the “why” now. I wish I could get them to save those blossoms and energy for the spring.

We do use vigorous rootstocks, either M111 or Antonovka, and would like to try Northern Spy. We’re around 100F most of July and early August, but late August through September is when we can hit 110+ and growth stalls out a bit. October gets back down to mid 90’s (which is incredible how good that feels after 110) and growth starts up, and is still going strong in November when I will still do some bud grafting. Vigor depends more on the varieties however, with Hawaii, King, Terry Winter, and Stump being the most vigorous and pushing growth most of the season.

Muddy, I have had to stop doing any pruning on my Gravenstein past June because any cuts at all stimulate blossoming on this tree, even in late summer and fall. So it’s winter pruning and early spring trimming only for me.

1 Like


I was just getting ready to post this, bleeding! I was surprised at Tom’s seemingly lack of knowledge of Kuffel Creek, and applenut’s extensive experience over many years with high chill apples in low chill areas. I found that rather amusing, to be honest.

1 Like



Tom Spellman knows @applenut :



1 Like

Looks to me like DWN is doing their own trial so they can market some higher chill apples in low-chill areas. It’s just due diligence. I don’t see it as a snub to @applenut, who is a rock star. :guitar:

Those are very confused trees. Poor guys just need a break for a few weeks


I am testing the viability of a small nursery business selling apple and pear trees. I just got a certificate form the state for shipping out of state. I really want to limit most of the sales to the midwest for now because I have not worked through the logistics of shipping to other climates. That said, I would have a hard time turning down an order that understood I made no guarantee the trees would do will in say Miami. So, the question is when would it be best to ship bare root dormant trees to very warm climates? I am guessing Spring only? It just seems like it would be a shock to them being thrown straight into warm weather.

Definitely doing their own trialing, but oddly, zero mention of Kuffel Creek. Tom mentions repeatedly about CRFG members, but never talks once about Kuffel Creek. I kept listening and listening for a mention. And that he has no less than 3 videos at Kuffel Creek or with Kevin is even more puzzling to me. I suppose you could say it was a (huge) oversight on Tom’s part, but I guess I just found it very strange that during this entire video he never once mentioned Kevin and his extensive experience. Perhaps I’m reading too much in it, but it just struck me as very odd. And now, odder knowing about all these videos.

Agreed. @applenut has already done a lot of the heavy lifting. Dollars to donuts there won’t be anything new that emerges. At least nothing that hasn’t already been presented. No shock and awe at this point. :slight_smile:

1 Like

No worries guys,Tom and I are good and know full well what’s going on in each other’s lives. I’ll leave it at that - he’s a class act.


So are you, Kevin! Tom’s a nice guy. He actually stopped by my place to look at my low chill cherries, Royal Lee and Minnie Royal, to see why they weren’t setting well. He said everything looked great, and to give it another year or two, and I should have some really good set. I thought that was a nice thing to do, to take the time out of his busy schedule to stop by my place.