5 Best Places To Plant An Apple Tree (And How To Do It)

Best places to plant apple trees

Apple trees are some of the best trees to plant near your home for several reasons. For instance, they have lovely leaves that change color in the fall and are usually very hardy trees that work well in several climates. And, of course, they produce delicious apples every year!

If you want to plant an apple tree near your home, these are some of the best places to plant your tree to make sure it grows healthy and strong, producing lots of delicious apples year after year. Deciding where to plant an apple tree is a very important decision that will affect your tree and the fruit it produces for the entirety of the tree’s life.

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Choosing The Best Planting Location For Your Apple Tree

There are many different varieties of apple trees, and before you get started, you will want to note what is probably the most important piece of information you can gather about planting and growing an apple tree. 

An apple tree, no matter what variety it is, can only produce fruit if it is planted within about 100 feet of another apple tree, and that second apple tree has to be a different variety of apple. 

That’s right; to grow apples on one apple tree, you have to have two apple trees, unless you happen to have a neighbor who also has apple trees.

It is of note that crab apple trees, which are very common although rarely used for their fruit, do count, so if you have a crab apple tree, or you have a neighbor close by who has one, you are in luck. 

Using A Crabapple As Your Secondary Apple Tree

Many rare crab apples in the apple orchard.

There are some benefits to planting a crabapple tree, apart from the obvious benefit of providing that secondary variety of apple tree you need for your primary apple tree to produce fruit each year. 

For starters, crabapple trees have very pretty blossoms that might be a wonderful addition to your garden.

They also produce fruit that is usually discarded as not very tasty, but in fact, crabapples are great for making jams and jellies. If you are a fan of canning or just want to make some apple jam, a crab apple might be a great tree for you. 

Another benefit of the crabapple tree is that it is very easily planted in many climates and environments. No matter what kind of soil you have at your home, it is likely that a crabapple tree will grow well there. They are very hardy and durable trees!

You can also scope out your neighborhood to see if there is already a crabapple tree somewhere close by.

Chances are, depending on the part of the country in which you live, someone has planted a crabapple at some point, But if they haven’t, this might be a good solution for you if you need a second tree so your primary apple tree can produce fruit. 

The 5 Best Places To Plant An Apple Tree

Sometimes, the best place to plant an apple tree depends on the type of tree you have chosen. Sometimes, it depends on the reason you have planted an apple tree; after all, not everyone chooses an apple tree for the fruit alone.

Sometimes, the best place to plant the tree depends on where you live, the type of climate you live in, and the type of garden you already have. 

Before you can choose where to plant your tree, there are several factors you should consider. Do you live in a dry, hot climate? Do you have a very small yard? How many apple trees are you planning to plant? What is the purpose of your tree?

These are all questions you should consider before planting your new apple tree. These five tips will help you determine the best place to plant your apple tree, no matter the reason you have chosen to plant one. 

1. Planting An Apple Tree Where You Need Shade

One of the biggest reasons that people may choose to plant trees of any sort is to provide shade. Nothing is better than a giant leafy tree when you need a shady place or need to provide some sun cover for your home, yard, or other plants. 

Areas of the country lacking natural trees may particularly benefit from the planting of shade trees.

If you live in one of those, be careful that you plant where your tree will survive or that you are prepared to take the extra precautions required to care for your tree throughout the year. For example, these trees will need extra water. 

Picking The Best Spot To Provide Shade

Picking the best spot depends on where you want the shade to be focused.

If you want to provide some shade for your house, for example, to help keep it cool in the summer, you will need to determine the right distance from your home that will provide shade but will not make the tree’s roots grow under your house. 

Apple trees have very deep roots, but, especially compared to some other trees, the roots of apple trees do not grow out very wide. 

So while the tree’s roots will go very far into the ground, apple trees are great shade trees for houses because it is less of a threat that the roots will grow out and under the house itself. Just provide about ten feet or so of space between your tree and your house and all should be well!

When choosing your spot, keep in mind that the tree will eventually reach its full height of 30 feet or more, so the canopy will be quite large. This means that you can choose which side of your house you want to shade and plant your tree there without having to worry about a very specific spot in the yard. 

To shade your house best in the summer from the harsh and hot afternoon sun, plant the tree on the west side of your house. This way, the tree will keep the afternoon sun at bay.

You can also plant additional trees on other sides of your home to provide shade throughout the entire day. This might be a good way to incorporate additional trees if you need a second variety of apple tree to ensure that your trees produce fruit. 

2. Planting An Apple Tree Near Other Plants

Blooming apple trees in a row on a flower meadow

Why settle for one variety of apple tree when you could be eating two, three, or more different types of apples every harvest season? Some people plan to plant not just one or two but many apple trees and create a mini orchard in their backyards. You can do this, too, with a little careful planning. 

First, make sure you space your trees far enough apart that they will have plenty of room once they reach their full growth potential. Most apple trees grow to be about 30 feet tall, give or take several feet. They also have large canopies, so you also have to account for the width of your trees. 

You don’t want the branches of your apple trees to overlap. A general rule of thumb is to plant apple trees about 20 feet apart but no more than 100 feet apart.

Keeping them in this general vicinity will ensure that they have enough room to grow but are also close enough to provide the fertilization needed for fruit production each year. 

Arranging Your Apple Trees

You can place the trees in rows to achieve that classic orchard look, or you can plant them a little more sporadically to achieve a natural look that you might find in a forest or grove. Either way, if the spacing is right, you can have many different varieties of apples in your yard. 

If you want to plant several different trees, but you do not have a lot of yard space, you can consider planting dwarf varieties of apple tree instead of standard-sized apple trees.

This will allow you to plant the trees closer together so you can have more trees and more types of apples. 

Taking Care Of Your Mini-Orchard

Take care of your new mini orchard by looking into some of the more nuanced things about growing apple trees.

For example, some apple trees’ growth can be affected by whether or not the fruit is picked or whether the blossoms of the tree are removed, so look into your variety to see whether this is something you want to consider when choosing multiple apple tree varieties. 

You can also sometimes affect the production of fruit based on the removal of shoots from your trees, so this also might be something to look into if you plan to become an amateur (or even professional!) orchardist. 

3. Planting An Apple Tree In A Container

There are some reasons that it might not work well for you to plant an apple tree in your yard. Maybe you don’t have the space or maybe you don’t live in a climate conducive to growing fruit trees easily.

Maybe you are renting your home and don’t want to leave your tree behind when you move or your landlord has not approved a new tree in the year. 

Whatever your reason, you can still grow an apple tree even if you are not able to plant it in your yard. You can just plant it in a container!

This method works best with dwarf varieties of apple trees, but luckily, there are quite a few of those. You still have lots of options. According to Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, dwarf varieties usually grow to be between 10 and 15 feet tall. 

They are also easier to care for than larger trees, so this type of tree might be good for you if you are new to growing trees. 

To grow your apple tree in a container, you will need to follow some of the steps for planting a tree outside, but some aspects will be a little different. So don’t use the chart below on its own. Instead, incorporate these steps to make sure your container apple tree is just as healthy as if you had planted it in an outdoor orchard.

How To Plant An Apple Tree In A Container

First, choose a large container. A bigger container will help you grow the tree as long as possible before you have to move it. If you choose a container large enough, you might not ever have to move the tree at all! 

If you want to keep your tree indoors, you can get a rolling plant stand that will make it easier for you to move the tree from room to room, as the potted tree will be very heavy once it is planted and especially after it is watered. 

Being able to roll your tree is also beneficial because it can help you move the tree from spot to spot in your house as conditions change. If the tree needs more or less sun, you can move it.

You can also move it away from heat sources or air conditioning throughout the year to keep its environment at a more consistent temperature. 

Plant your tree in the container using potting soil, and water it thoroughly right after planting.

From there, the care of your apple tree is much like it would be with an outdoor tree, with one huge and very important exception: you have to water your tree! Don’t forget that this indoor tree doesn’t get rain or snow like an outdoor tree, so it depends on you for water. 

And make sure that your container tree, just like one that is outside, stays within 100 feet of another apple tree so it can produce fruit when it matures.

Unless you are keeping your container outdoors year-round, you will probably want to have multiple container trees or consider placing your container tree indoors in the winter months but outside for spring and summer. 

4. Planting An Apple Tree In Full Sun

Apple tree in a sunset

Apple trees love the sunshine. If you live in an area where the sunshine is not too harsh, you usually cannot go wrong with planting your tree in the full sunshine. 

Apple trees need lots of sunlight to produce apples, and the most important time for a tree to get sun is in the morning when the drying properties of sunlight will help keep disease at bay. 

To find a good location, scout areas around your house that are not shaded for most of the day. Choose a sunny day when the cloud cover is unlikely to affect how you see the shade and sun near your house.

If one of the spots you located is far enough away from other trees but close enough to that second apple tree needed for your new tree to produce fruit, you may have found the perfect spot!

5. Planting An Apple Tree In Partial Shade

This one is a specific location tip for those who live in harsh, dry, sunny climates like the southwest United States. The sun in these parts of the country can be too sunny for many plants, even apple trees that normally love full sun. 

If you live somewhere with very harsh sun or you live at a high elevation where the UV rays are significantly more intense than in other parts of the country, you should consider providing some partial shade for your apple tree (and for most of your plants except those native to the area where you live). 

How To Plant An Apple Tree In The Shade

To choose a location that will provide a healthy environment for your apple tree, the key is to pick somewhere that gets some sun but not all the sun all day.

For many people, this means planting the apple tree in a location that will be shaded by your house. It is best for your apple tree to get sunshine in the morning hours and to have shade in the harsh afternoon sun. 

Determining Where To Plant Your Apple Tree For The Best Shade

To figure out where to plant your tree, you will need to do a little detective work. Before you plant anything, take some time to observe the sun at your home. Step outside and walk around a little bit in the morning. Where is the sun?

Make note of the sunniest locations. Then go back outside again in the afternoon on the same day and check the spots you marked earlier that morning.

It is important to do this on a day when there is no cloud cover, as that can affect how the shady and sunny spots of your yard look. If you find the weather has changed throughout the day, it might be worth it to start over another day when you are sure to get an accurate picture of the sun and shade around your home. 

If you find a spot that was sunny that morning but is now in the shade, you may have found the perfect location for planting your apple tree. 

How To Plant An Apple Tree After You’ve Chosen The Best Spot

Tree planting

Now that you have chosen a location for your apple tree, it is time to get to planting! If you have never planted a tree before (or even if you have!), you might find the process a little daunting.

Never fear; we are here to help you learn how to plant a tree with some quick tips that will make the process simple and set your tree up for health and success. 

When To Plant Your Apple Tree

Before you buy your new apple tree seeds, sapling, or seedling, think about the time of year you are going to plant it.

Because you can damage or even kill the tree by waiting too long to plant it, it is best to make sure you have everything in order, including the location of planting and time of year, before you even purchase the tree. 

The best time to plant your apple tree depends to some extent on where you live. Different parts of the country can experience wildly different climates regarding temperature, humidity, precipitation, and elevation. You should consider where you live before you decide what time of year to plant. 

In general, you’ll want to plan your apple tree either in the early Spring just as the ground thaws, OR you’ll want to plant it in the late Fall just before the ground freezes. Either option gives the tree’s roots ample time to get established with minimal pest damage.

Steps For Planting Your Apple Tree

To best set your apple tree up for success, you can use this checklist as you go through the planting process. This way, you won’t miss any steps and everything will be clear as you work on planting your apple tree. 

STEPSTIPS
Dig a holeMake sure the hole is deep enough for the entire root ball of the tree, but not any deeper. 
Place the treeThe roots should be buried, but the area just above the roots of the tree should be visible. 
Fill the holePack the soil in and then evaluate to see if you need to add more. The replaced soil should be even with the surrounding ground. 
Water your treeMake sure to thoroughly water the tree once you have replaced the soil. The ground should be fully saturated. 
Skip the fertilizerIt may seem like a good idea, but it can hurt a young tree!

Using Fertilizer Or Fertilized Soil For Your New Apple Tree

It might seem like using fertilizer is a good idea for a new tree, as it might provide extra nutrients and help the tree grow better and faster. But fertilizer is usually actually bad for young apple trees.

Fertilizer that is used on new trees can burn the roots, causing the tree’s growth to slow or stop. So don’t use fertilizer on your brand new, young apple tree! When you plant your tree, fill the hole with only replaced soil and water. 

When And How To Fertilize An Apple Tree

You can, however, and probably should, use fertilizer on mature apple trees. So once your tree has established itself and is mature, it’s a good idea to add fertilizer.

If you use fertilizer, consider using one specifically made for fruit trees, like this Down to Earth Organic Fruit Tree Fertilizer Mix. You can also supplement the soil around the tree while you are planting with fertilized soil like Miracle Gro Garden Soil for Trees and Shrubs

We recommend adding fertilizer twice a year, starting the year after you plant the tree. Put the fertilizer away from the trunk, though, starting at least 18 inches away from the trunk. Fertilizer is placed under the branches but not at the literal base of the tree. 

Using products like these can give your apple tree an extra boost as it produces fruit. But read the directions first, and look into the specifications for the type of apple tree you have chosen before you apply fertilizer or fertilizing soil. And, as always, keep fertilizers and fertilizer soil away from children and pets. 

That’s A Wrap!

Now you are ready to choose a location for your new apple tree and plant it when the time is right. 

Be sure that you don’t buy your tree too early, as you want to plant it as soon as you can rather than leave it in its temporary container or bag for very long. Ideally, try to plant a new tree within a day or two of purchasing it, whether it is a larger tree or a sapling. 

Younger trees need to be planted even sooner, though, as they are more vulnerable than more established trees. 

Keep in mind that, if you want a head start, you can choose to purchase a tree that has already grown quite a bit. Some gardening sources even provide trees that are already several feet tall or may even already bear some fruit. If you are in a hurry to grow your apples, you can start there. 

It is more cost-efficient, though, to start with a younger tree like a seedling or sapling. You will have to wait longer to see apples, but it might be more satisfying to grow your tree from a very young age. 

And if you are struggling to decide exactly what type of apple tree you want to plant, check out our post on the easiest apple tree varieties to grow! 

Happy planting!

References

Maggs, D. H. (1963). The reduction in growth of apple trees brought about by fruiting. Journal of Horticultural Science38(2), 119-128.

Quinlan, J. D., & Preston, A. P. (1971). The influence of shoot competition on fruit retention and cropping of apple trees. Journal of Horticultural Science46(4), 525-534.

Roussos, P. A., & Gasparatos, D. (2009). Apple tree growth and overall fruit quality under organic and conventional orchard management. Scientia Horticulturae123(2), 247-252.

Merwin, I. A., & Stiles, W. C. (1994). Orchard groundcover management impacts on apple tree growth and yield, and nutrient availability and uptake. Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science119(2), 209-215.

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