Suggestions for Cold hardy full-flavored apples

Anybody have suggestions of apples that are cold hardy for zone 4, NW Wyo, but in my area probably actually means zone 3 since I’m not at sea level (4,500 feet) and in a dry climate (5" of rain a year–yes I irrigate)?

As an indication of what survives in my location, I have Yellow Transparent, never had any winter kill and over 50 years old. MacIntosh, lost a tree to winter kill in the winter of 78-79 when most trees were killed, but my “new” tree has never had any damage (early fruit drop is a problem though–and I love the flavor). Also have a young Sweet Sixteen, winter killed to near the base a couple years ago but coming back strongly above the graft which I plant deep, and a young Honeycrisp with had about 50% winterkill a couple of years ago, never had fruit off of either to see what they actually taste like.

I’m looking for suggestions of varieties that are flavorful, preferably at least somewhat aromatic since that goes with flavor, and keep well as there is so much from the garden and other fruit in Sept/early Oct. before things freeze down that I really don’t get into apples until later. As to flavor, it is hard to find actual flavor descriptions, but I detest Yellow Delicious–it just has this insipid sort of flavor. I’ve heard it described as a bit of anise at times, and I don’t care for anise, so I’ve always stayed away from anything that is described as similar to Yellow Delicious for fear it will resemble that same insipid flavor. YUCK!

I’ve had locally grown Haralson, which is good but rather bland, Jonathan, which I also have and really love but it winter killed a couple years ago and is regrowing. Grocery store apples come in 4 types–Red Delicious, which I like, Granny Smith, which is no flavor other than sour (I had a fresh one once in Arizona which was ripe and very delicious, excellent sweet-tart mix and actual flavor, but they won’t ripen here), Yellow Delicious, which I’ve described, and the last type is all the others, which taste the same–no flavor other than a plasticky storage.

By the way, since I constantly have a message about lurking, I read this site very frequently, but usually on a tablet when I go to bed and therefore can’t login or respond to anything, even if I want to–those micro electronic keyboards are not worth using. Sorry I don’t contribute much, but those tablets are impossible to use and I don’t get on a real computer as often as I’d like at home recreationally/hobbywise.


I don’t have any suggestions for varieties, but have you looked at Fedco for your apple trees? They are based in Maine and have several apples rated down to Zone 3.

Fedco is a great idea, I would think (although I’ve never used them myself).

I have a friend who has Wealthy apples that came from a homestead in eastern Montana, where it is known for its harsh winters. The apples are really quite good. Wealthy is fireblight susceptible though, if that’s a major consideration for you.

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I agree with VSOP that checking out Fedco would be a good place to start in identifying cold-hardy varieties. They rate most of their apples as hardy to zone 4, but here’s a quick list of the ones that they say are hardy to zone 3:

Arabskoe (Russian)
Charlamoff (Russian)
Chestnut (MN)
Frostbite (MN)
Honeycrisp (MN, which I see you have and has winter killed for you)
Keepsake (MN)
New Brunswicker (seedling of Russian Duchess?)
Sweet Sixteen (MN, which has winter killed for you)
Wolf River
Yellow Transparent (Russian, which I see you have)
Zestar (MN)

It sounds like the tricky thing for you is that you’ve already had significant winter kill with some of the Minnesota apples, which are supposed to be hardy even to zone 3. Maybe try some more of the Russian apples, since Yellow Transparent seems to be doing well for you. Fedco has some additional Russian varieties available as scion wood, I think, if you’re into grafting. Others here can tell you a lot more about them than I can.

I am totally not an expert, but I wonder if other factors (wind, dry climate) are contributing to the winter damage that you’re seeing. Others here may have strategies to suggest for dealing with that. (When I was out in Minnesota, I remember seeing that many farms had a windbreak of evergreens to shelter the house and trees around it. Maybe that would be something to think about, if you don’t have one already?)


If you live in zone 3 you should look closely at varieties bred in northern Russia and Canada. USDA has scions of many cold hardy old Russian apples and you can find grafted trees for sale of some of them. It is important to know that the varieties bred in the southern Russia and Ukraine likely won’t be hardy enough in zone 3. Just out of my mind I can name a few: Antonovka, Borovinka (duchess of Oldenburg), Korichnoe polosatoe, Korichnoe novoe, Yellow transparent, Susleiper (Lowland raspberry), Anise Aliy, Grushovka, Pepin shafranniy, Belfler Kitaika, Slavianka, Severniy Sinap, Shtriefel and many more. The quality of the apples may vary depending on the zone, these varieties will be best in the cold climate. Severniy sinap and Slavianka are long storage apples. Korichnoe novoe, Antonovka, Pepin shafranniy, should store reasonably well. These varieties of apples are not so good comparing with southern apples, but they fruit reliably in the cold regions. I am sure Canadians bred a lot of winter hardy varieties too.


St. Lawrence Nursery. Everything they cultivar they sell is designed for your climate. The only issue is they grow everything on antonovka which is a standard. If a standard doesn’t work for you at least you know what scions to search for.


Heres a list of some cold-tolerant apples. Not sure where I got it from…

Early October, New England 1833. Medium to very large purpleish red fruit with bluish waxy bloom. Yellowish flesh is mild, subacid, rich and aromatic. Large spreading tree is very hardy and long lived Popular for local market due to it’s size and beauty.

BREAKEY — Zone 2
Canada 1935, Seedling of Blushed Calville , Medium-sized fruit,well colored red and scarlet fruit, flesh is white, juicy, subacid, and spicy. tree is vigorous and hardy. Excelent fresh, in sauce or pies. Little tip injury at-46 degrees in Fairbanks Alaska. Pol.Date: ?, Harvest: mid-Aug.

Large, high-quality apple. Fruit is deep, solid red with stripes and gray-green dots splashed on underside. Flesh is very white and slow to brown. Originated from crossing the McIntosh and the Ben Davis apple. Flavor is sweet compared to McIntosh. Excellent dessert quality because of its white flesh.Season: Mid October

DUCHESS OF OLDENBURG (Borovinka) — Zone 3
Russia, 1700, introduced into England c. 1815. Good cooking apple, fair dessert apple.Very beautiful, medium to large sized greenish yellow with bright red stripes, splashes and russetted dots. Flesh fine, firm and juicy.Flavour tart, brisk and refreshing, first class. Keeps for only a few weeks.Tree is very hardy and vigourous, early and abundant bearer. Disease resistant. Pol.Date: 7, Harvest: Aug. - early Sep.

(Canada,) USA, prior to 1800. Cooking apple, especially good for sauce. Dessert apple when fully ripe.Golden with slight blush of brownish orange. Crisp, tender, creamy white flesh with subacid flavour. Pol.Date: 11, Harvest: July - Aug.

MN 1943. McIntosh X Longfield. Delicious type that is hardy for Minnesota. Better flavor and texture than Delicious although not so highly colored. Large conical fruit. Green skin with scarlet stripes and sometimes a mottled orange flush. Crisp, sweet, juicy greenish white to yellow. Not flat or mealy. Sweet subacid flavor. Excellent dessert apple. Good keeper. Resistant to cedar apple rust. Tree is vigorous and hardy. Ripens in October.

Malinda x Ben Davis.Minnesota, 1913. Good baking, dessert and cider apple. Flesh is crisp, juicy, firm.Mildly tart flavour, not acid.Holds its shape and texture in baking.Tree is vigourous, bears young, with a tendency toward biennial bearing.Retains good flavour in keeping. Pol.Date: ?, Harvest: late Sep., Season: Oct.- Feb./Mar.

USA raised 1935, University of Minnesota Horticulture Research Center. Introduced in 1969. Golden Delicious X Haralson. Hardy substitute for Golden Delicious developed especially for cold northern areas. Golden Delicious flavor - Haralson hardiness. Medium to large golden to greenish fruit with very smooth finish and reddish bronze blush. Flavor is sweeter and more bland than Golden Delicious. High quality. Superior storage qualities. Moderately vigorous tree. Crop is good. Susceptible to fire blight. Hardy to -50 degrees with occasional winter injury. Ripens in late October.

Irish Seedling x Yellow Transparent.Ireland, 1800. Good baking and dessert apple.Fruit small, pale yellow-green.Crisp, juicy aromatic flesh.Slender tree with upright growth, bears at tips. Pol.Date: 8, Harvest: Aug.

Introduced in 1979. Malinda X Northern Spy. Unattractive, irregularly shaped. 2.25 to 2.75 inch diameter fruit. 90% red fruit. Fine grained, hard, very crisp, juicy light yellow flesh. Strongly aromatic flavor. Very hardy. Mellows with age. Attains peak fresh eating quality in January or February. Keeps in storage through April. Moderately vigorous spreading tree. Resistant to fire blight and cedar apple rust. Ripens mid October mid November.

LODI — Zone 3
Montgomery x Transparent, New York, 1942. Good for drying, freezing, sauce, and juice. Good for pies when green. Fruit is pale yellow flushed with deeper yellow.Flesh is crisp and juicy, flavour is sweet-tart. Ripens later than Transparent and keeps longer. Resistant to apple scab. Tendency to biennial bearing can be remedied by thinning. Dependable, productive trees. Pol.Date: 9, Harvest: July - Aug., Season: 4 weeks from harvest.

Mid September. NY. 1892
Large yellow russett. Very aromatic with delicious flavor. Heavy annual bearer that was sent to the NY. Experiment Station for testing. Has taken -46 degrees in Fairbanks, Alaska with no winter injury.

Mid-August Russian 1860’s (P.I. 143181 x Livland Raspberry). Medium large waxen white fruit, marbled and splashed with light crimson. A beautiful fruit with white flesh, stained with red, very tender, melting, fine grained, juicy, and mildly subacid becoming sweet. Taken-46 degrees in Fairbanks, Alaska with slight tip injury. Resistant to fire blight.

Mid September. NJ 1817. Medium large, lemon yellow with attractive red cheek. A very beautiful fruit. Tender, subacid, white flesh has a mild flavor and out best for drying. Medium sized, open, spreading, moderately vigorous tree. Some- times can become a biannual bearer.

POUND SWEET (Pumpkin Sweet)— Zone 3
Early Oct., CT.1834, Large to very large fruit, with a yellow flesh that is sweet and juicy. Open spreading tree is long lived. Good cider apple and is the “best” for baking.

Mid October. MN. 1940. large appealing apple with a yellow background and stripes of red. High dessert and culinary quality apple that keeps well. Hardy tree bears early.

Russia, introduced to England via Sweden 1816 then to USA 1835. Dessert, cooking (harvest when slightly green) and cider apple.Excellent early summer apple, very productive every other year.Its beautiful appearance made it a popular summer market apple, widely planted commercially. Medium sized, crimson coloured, flesh is juicy, tart and crisp with good flavour.Very short storage. Pol.Date: 4, Harvest: Aug. - early Sep.

Mid September. (Golden Delicious x Red Duchess) 1969 Round-flat medium to large fruit with a green to golden background color and bright cherry red blushing on the trees exterior fruits. Crisp, juicy flesh is pleasantly acidic, good for fresh eating, pies, sauce, excellent for cider, but not a keeper. Tree is tolerant of fire blight and consistently productive.

Germany 1873. Large, round to slightly flattened orangish yellow fruit with red stripes. Thin skin. Crisp, juicy, fine grained, yellowish white flesh. Known for fine flavor. Unexcelled for cooking. Makes wonderful pies, desserts, sauces, and cider. Keeps until early November. Pick frequently because of uneven ripening and premature drop. Tendency to biennial bearing may be helped by heavy pruning. Ripens early. Triploid, will not pollinate.

Seedling of Vandevere. Pennsylvania, early 1800s. Very good quality all-purpose apple. Large, flattish shape, yellow flushed and striped red. Exceedingly juicy, crisp and tender flesh. A reliable cropper, slightly susceptible to scab. Pol.Date: 10, Harvest: Oct., Season: Oct. - Feb.

SPARTAN — Zone 3
Firmer McIntosh type, deep rich red color with excellent dessert quality,

Late October. NY. Medium Large, deep red over yellow background. Yellow flesh is rich, crisp, juicy, and sprightly subacid. Keeps well and is considered best for canning and shipping, but is also a choice dessert fruit.

Early August, Russia 1831, Brought to the US. by the MA. Horticulture Society because of it’s hardiness. Uniform medium size fruits are satin yellow in color and occasionally with bright red stripes. Flesh is white, crisp, tender, juicy, and mildly subacid. Ripens late July to early August just before Yellow Transparent.

USA, prior to 1822. Skin pale, yellow, sometimes flushed, russet lines. Small to medium uniform fruit has white, very sweet, hard flesh. Long lived, very hardy tree is early to bear and productive. Once again in favor for it’s naturally sweet applesauce - no sugar needed. South Meadow: Large round green apple sometimes lightly blushed, often marked with a suture line running from top to bottom. Probably the best late sweet apple. Ripens in October.

October. MA. 1796. Medium size green-yellow apple, orange blush with carmine stripes and russet dots. Flesh is firm, juicy, rich, mildly subacid, and aromatic. Hardy, healthy long living tree, is particularly adapted to lighter soils. Abundant bearing tree is very attractive in desserts and great for cider.

Mid Season. CA. 1944. (Yellow Newtown x Spitzenberg) Fruit is brilliant red varying to yellow. Shape is oblong, appearing more crab than apple. Flesh is juicy, sweet(up to 25% sugar content), great in jam, jelly, or as cider.

Mid October. 1946.(Sasha x Redflesh). Fruit is Red fleshed, as is the wood of this beatiful crab tree. Excellent for red sauce and jelly. Stunning ornamental with purple flowers and bronze-red colored leaves.

Probable seedling of Alexander.Wisconsin, 1875. Spectacularly large, up to 1 lb. Outstanding culinary apple, good blended in cider as well. Pale yellow skin covered in dull red. Flesh is tender, subacid-tart, and juicy. Tree is long-lived, hardy and productive. High resistance to scab and mildew. Pol.Date: 15, Harvest: late Sep. - mid-Oct., Season: Oct. - Dec.

Russia, Introduced to USA in 1870. Well-known early summer apple, good for drying, freezing, sauce, juice and wine. Good for pies when green.Transparent pale yellow skin. Crisp, light-textured, juicy flesh.Very sweet flavour. Process immediately because it will not store long. Scab resistant. Pol.Date: 10, Harvest: July - early Aug.


HI Bee one, I’m in a fairly cold spot in the UP of Michigan have a good number of varieties growing well here. My oldest are two 40 yr old Beacons which are really nice apples for fresh eating, sauce and cider. Also Haralson for a keeper. Black Oxford is a sweeter, but dryer, keeper I really like. Dudley has been a good cropper and tree for me, not as sweet as Beacon but a nice overall one. Frostbite just started but I expect will be plenty hardy. All my bearing trees are standard, all but Beacon on antonovka from Fedco. If I buy a tree or bush I mostly go to Fedco and can recommend them. I also have many not yet bearing grafts doing well, mainly on local wild or crab seedlings.

But i’m also in a much different climate -humid not dry, and we usually have snow cover in winter (starting today!). I often search the Canadian sources for variety suggestions and I wonder if the prairies might be closer to your climate? Surely there are trees that will do well for you. Hope you have fun and success finding them!

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Of Scott’s list I have Haralson, Prairie Spy and Fireside and consider Haralson an excellent apple, with PS being excellent sometimes and just bad some years, and Fireside OK but not outstanding for me.

Two apples I think you should try even if they don’t do well are Rubinette and Karmijn de Sonnaville- but I think these are so excellent that everybody should try them! KdS is Dutch-bred and Rubinette is Swiss, which may portend cold-climate suitability.


Like Mark I grow haralson and Prairie Spy that have fruited for years. I really like haralson but it took awhile to produce for me. Prairie spy is a great tasting apple here but there are never enough of them and size varies drastically. I don’t recommend Prairie Spy unless it’s based on flavor alone. Honeycrisp is a great tasting apple as an example and produces tons of apples too so why grow ones that don’t produce? Honeycrisp is zone 3-6 so it’s a perfect apple for you to grow Honeycrisp Apple Trees - Stark Bros. I’m also going to say prairie spy is an apple I decided to keep a tree of based on flavor. Need to also say I have 4 honeycrisp trees and it’s not enough!

I should have added apples I like on that list … not based on how easy they are to grow for me though as I am not in zone 3 and many of these suffer for me.

Blue Pearmain - rich flavor
Cortland - Mac-like but sweeter
Gravenstein - Unique flavor, great in kitchen
Smokehouse - A good all-arounder and very reliable producer
Wickson - very unusual apple that is super sweet / sour and can taste a bit like apricots

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I am in zone 2 and I have successfully fruited Sweet 16, Discovery, Honey Gold, Wynoochee Early, and McMahon White. With the exception of Honey Gold and McMahon White, the others were pretty good eating by my standards, and I like a strong flavoured apple as opposed to a crisp weak one.

My response with to the store purchased Honey Crisp was that I would not plant one if it was going to taste like that! They had absolutely zero taste but lots of juice. However, based on HC ratings here, and the experts opinions, I have grafted one or two to see if the fresh HC is better. LOL.

I agree with JinMa that you may have other factors than just the cold working to cause the winter dieback with some of your trees. I also wonder about rootstock? Some varieties that have died for me, have been purchased from stores that import their trees from warmer zones and the rootstock will not survive our cold winters.


The Alaskan fruit growers association has put together a list bases on several years of taste tests.
Click ratting in the headers to sort.


Once again the contrasting experiences with cultivars seem influenced by how the fruit varies as grown in different regions. Many of the apple varieties mentioned so far on this thread are commonly grown here in Alaska, and I must say the descriptions of them are optimistic compared to how I found them at local apple tastings. I would like to try these same apples as grown further south. Most apples I’ve tried here tend to be more soft than crisp, though not as soft as the yellow transparent usually is.

To be able to focus more on really great tasting apples and not so much the cold hardy aspect, you might look up some of the conclusions that Bernie Nikolai came to regarding trunk hardiness. He is a fruit grower with decades of experience experimenting with hundreds of trees in Canada. He contends that the trunk is the part of the tree most susceptible to cold damage, and found that by using hardy interstems (perhaps your yellow transparent), or a hardy rootstock grown out more can increase winter survival. He grafted the not-so-winter-hardy cultivars higher up the tree or onto branches 6-12 inches out from the trunk and successfully fruited many varieties which weren’t supposed to survive the low temperatures he had.

I agree that Ursula northof53 might have a good consideration with the importance of rootstocks. Here the most common rootstock seems to be Baccata due to its hardiness. The general rumor against it is limited compatibility with different cultivars, but I’ve never run into anyone who had problems of that sort yet. It’s available from Lawyer Nursery.

Also here are more cold hardy apple descriptions from Fairbanks. Again, I find them somewhat optimistic.


Hi Beeone. Just a few thoughts to add, from someone at perhaps a similar climate (Z5 at 8300’ so a bit warmer than you, but very windy and dry):

These are the apples I have grown here with good results:

Lodi. Probably my most reliable producer, doesn’t keep well but great for cooking. But similar to yellow transparent which you don’t care for.

Keepsake. Took a long time to first fruit, but tasty and no disease problems (yet).

Wealthy. Tasty, produces pretty well.

Honey Crisp. Slow grower, but tasty and fairly reliable producer.

Mantet. Good taste (probably our favorite), strong grower.

State Fair. Good grower and fairly tasty.

Also, are you painting the trunks and big limbs with dilute white latex in the fall? Before I started doing that I would have winter losses of 50% or so. It’s not the cold necessarily but the bright sun followed by cold nites that does in many apples over the winter.

Also, bear in mind that in our climate, a full sized root stock will likely only produce a semi-dwarf sized tree or smaller. Full dwarfing root stocks rarely survive more than a year or so at my place. St Lawrence nurseries used to have a good write-up on dwarfing root stocks and why not to use them in harsher climates.

Good Luck

I think you also have to consider its value as an excellent keeper.

I’ve had some issues with PS flavor- for a couple of years there it was just terrible, this year’s crop of half a dozen was good. I’ve had some that were really, really good. So I don’t know that it’s safe (for me) to recommend it on the flavor.

So we’ll see down the road!

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+1 on this. I have a passing interest in the old Iowa apple literature from the turn of the 20th Century and this was the practice back then. I think they had much harsher winters back then especially in the NW part of the state. They often talk of top working hardy seedlings after a few years to the more tender varieties.

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The flavor here is so amazing they rival the best apples. They are really good as apple sauce!


In my opinion, Honeycrisp and Red Gravenstein are among the very best tasting apples, when eaten fresh in their season.

Thank you all for all the suggestions and information. I’ve purchased trees from Fedco several times, and from St. Lawrence some years ago now. I liked the products I got from both of them. My struggle is always reading the descriptions of the different varieties and trying to figure out which ones might be good, not just sound good.

The variety recommendations everyone has given here are really useful. No catalog describes a variety they are selling as tasteless or awful! And when they say “unique flavor”, what does that mean or is it a nice way of saying you’ll only eat it once? A number of those suggested I haven’t heard of and will have to look up. Another question from your responses–do you experience early drop with any of the varieties mentioned?

The suggestion of grafting slightly more tender varieties onto more hardy trunks is also interesting. I’ve done some grafting in the past, but it has always been to a tree of more questionable hardiness, so when those trees got nailed the grafts got nailed as well.

I don’t know what it is about our conditions. Altitude seems to play a part, coupled with the dry climate, cold open winters. Temperatures can swing wildly during the day, and bark heating in the winter is probably occurring as days are typically sunny and tree trunks will really warm up with the sun on them, only to plunge back to 0 when the sun goes away. When I had all the tree damage a couple years ago, we went from a mild fall to below zero in a couple days, then held around zero for a while. Surprisingly, that winter a lot of people lost a lot of chinese elms (I think they call them siberian elms in other places), which are typically indestructible and the reason they are so common. I figure my best defense against the weather is a range of varieties so that hopefully some are not so sensitive to the extreme of the day. I guess the climate challenges are what makes playing with this stuff so interesting.