Your thoughts on regional adaptability of apples

My son and I have a small apple orchard in Colorado with about 80 different trees. We started planting in 2016 and only lost one tree in the first three years. This year it looks like four or five trees didn’t make it through the winter. These included an Alexander, Vilberie, Blue Permain, and maybe a Canadian Strawberry and a Black Oxford. This was a pretty mild fall and winter for Colorado, and these trees seemed to be doing pretty well last fall. We did notice that the Alexander especially was having trouble shutting down last fall, i.e., was not dropping its leaves.
I know that great tasting apples from the northeast may not do well in the south or may not taste as good. We are generally considered to zone 5a or 5b, but can have wide temperature swings in the winter, and late spring frosts which are tough on trees. We are therefore partial to varieties from zones 3 and 4 assuming that they will hardier. What we are wondering now is whether trees that are from colder zones may actually be adapted to longer colder winters, and a short fall season. Will a mild fall prevent a tree from shutting down properly so that it more prone to freeze damage in the winter?
Any thoughts or experience?


I’m currently growing quite a collection, myself. But, here in zone 6b I have not noticed problems with either too hot or too cold. I did notice some trees still had leaves last year after multiple nights in the low teens…all the way up to New Year in some cases. I think that was because of the rainy year that didn’t slow up until end of February 2019.

Having in times passed (like 37 to 39 years ago) picked apples for roadside orchard near here…I’ve not observed any problems for trees in our area. (Even the year it got to 17 degrees after apple buds were about opening to blooms and the entire crop was lost that year…,maybe it was 1988 or 89 or 91… I forget…the trees seemed to have been fine.)

But, back then, from r. and y. delicious to Mollie’s Delicious to Ozark Gold to Rome Beauty and Stayman Winesap to Jonathon to Mutsu were among the varieties.

I grew Geneva Early once upon a time, and it turned to a soft mush a day or two after it was ripe. Lowland/Livland/Russian Raspberry does well here…despite being a northern apple, but it also is so soft most would probably spit it out. (I have a friend with no teeth…it would win with him!) Looking forward if my little Black Oxford ever grows, to see how it does here.
Anoka, a South Dakota apple, is really a waste of space…so maybe that’s an example of a northern apple that won’t work in the south.

Thanks for the topic, Colorado_orange

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We are just a state away and i lost at least a dozen apples over the winter. Nature has its own version of thinning out the weak. Apples are a real challenge to grow at times here in Kansas and are even harder in Colorado. My hats off to you for doing what sounds like a great job with your orchard. I think the cold long winter after a hot nasty drought did mine in. We have not seen.a drought like that since the dirty thirties or rains like this since the floods of 1993 or a cold winter like this last one in a long while or warm winters like the others before the last one. The weather is turbulent to say the least. The trees lack stored nutrients to recover since its one thing after another.

It sounds like your orchard really was put through the wringer this past year or two. It’s a wonder anything can survive through all that!


mine survive the winter just fine here but canker and fireblight get them every time. plus they don’t like to be planted in my rocky ,clay soil either. luckily here we don’t have wild temp. swings , just the usual dramatic changes of the season. our deep snow buffers the weather somewhat.