My orchard results from our -33F winter


I am a novice hobby orchardist in zone 3b and I wanted to share with the community my results of how the trees I planted in 2018 did over our very cold winter, as it is hard to find much info on the internet about how different trees do in very cold winters.

My thermometer logged an overnight low of -33F here, and that day the 24 hour average temperature was actually -22F. I think we had a number of nights colder than -25F. This was somewhat colder than a typical winter here, but the more unusual thing is that when we were going through these very cold temperatures there was only a couple of inches of snow on the ground. I could actually see grass poking through the snow, which is very unusual (we made up for the lack of snow later!).

The cold plus the lack of snow, coupled with trees going through their first winter made me pretty nervous, but I’m pleased at what survived.

What survived after being planted in 2018 and seems to be doing well:

  • Hazelnuts (Hybrid from Forest Ag)
  • Seaberries (from One Green World)
  • Serviceberries (Northline, Smokey, Thiessen)
  • Nanking cherries
  • Bush cherries (Juliet, Romeo, Carmine Jewel, Evans Bali)
  • Aronia (Nero, Viking, Autumn Magic)
  • Elderberry (Nova, York, Adams, Johns)
  • Apple – Antonovka rootstock planted for future grafting

What may be dead:

  • Illinois Everbearing Mulberries. I planted two in 2018 and they grew really well last year, getting above 6 feet tall in one year. However, they haven’t leafed out, but I can see there are a few green leaves pushing out near the base of the tree so it’s not completely dead. These came from Stark Bros. Does anyone know if that could be a rootstock that is still alive or are these not grafted? Do you think the Mulberry could regrow or is it toast? I knew I was pushing zones a little with these but was curious.

What is dead:

  • American Plums. I planted these in 2018, intending to grow some as a plum hedge and others to graft onto but they all died! I think I had 25 of them. This one is the strangest to me, as they came from our County’s DNR tree sale so I would think they would be plenty hardy, but every one died and I’m not sure why. Any ideas?

I also had quite a few existing apple trees that survived fine. They are all on Bud-118 rootstock. The tops mostly are Zestar and Redcort, and there are a few others. Some died but that was voles rather than the weather. Also the pear trees survived OK. I think I have Golden Spice and Jungs Hardy Wisconsin, but I’m not 100% sure.

I hope this post might help someone in the future!


I would guess the plums were not established enough to withstand the harsh winter. My limited experience shows the following:
Year 1: may not leaf out or survive the winter or survive predators.
Year 2-4ish: pests/diseases have not built up in a new orchard…honeymoon phase.
Year 4ish-?: tree is established and resilient, but pests/disease pressure demands a more dedicated spray routine.


im in the same zone but we got record snowfall so it protected my 1 year plums. only thing i lost is goumi that died above the snow line which was pretty high. as much as i hate the deep snow pruning my plants for me, it also allows some that , if they didn’t have snow cover, wouldn’t tsurvive.

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I wonder if those american plums might come back from the roots since they sucker so much…if the roots weren’t totally killed?

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