How to Choose and Plant An Apple Tree

Autumn is the perfect time to plant fruit trees and once you have tasted your own apples in season you'll realise how much tastier they are compared to that from a supermarket. Even if you have a relatively small garden, David Hall thinks there I still space for a tree if you choose carefully and manage correctly.

Created by David Hall on Wednesday, 26th of August, 2015.
Updated on Friday, 18th of December, 2015.


Free standing apple and other fruit trees grow in different forms or shapes. A 'standard' apple tree will grow to well over 20ft with branches spread over the same width. A 'bush' tree will mature at between 10 – 20ft while a 'dwarf pyramid' has a pleasing shape but can be difficult to manage and will grow to 8ft with a 5ft spread.

Other forms are fan, cordon, espalier, stepover and festoon, these need careful training against walls or the use of posts and wires.


The 'rootstock', onto which a tree is grafted, decides the eventual size of a tree, while the grafted variety (or scion), such as Discovery or James Grieve, determines the type of fruit produced.

For apples, the most common rootstocks include 'M27' which is very dwarfing, meaning that the tree will grow up to 6ft tall and is therefore suitable for tub grown or stepover trees. 'M9' is a very common commercial dwarfing rootstock (up to 10ft) and is right for small gardens and cordons and 'MM106' produces a tree that is between 10 and 12 ft and ideal for fans, cordons and espaliers.

The root stock not only influences growth vigour but also imparts some pest and disease resistance and has suitability for different types of soils. The final height of a tree will also depend on variants such as climatic conditions, the application of fertiliser and pruning techniques.


Eating apples can be split into early, mid or late flowering varieties and, for the best crop, these must be pollinated by a different type. So it is sensible, if there are not apple trees in adjacent gardens, to choose at least two trees that flower at the same time. The ordinary man in the street will be most familiar with the mid flowering varieties. Here's a selection:

Early: George Cave, Egremont Russet, Lord Lambourne,

Mid: Cox's Orange Pippin, Discovery, Ellison's Orange, James Grieve, Laxton's Superb,
Worcester Pearmain

Late: Lord Derby, Newton Wonder

(If you want cooking apples, Bramley and Grenadier are suitable cross-polinating varieties)

The choice of variety largely depends on personal preference in terms of flavour and texture but difficulty of growing may also be an influence. For example Cox's Orange Pippin is extremely popular but won't succeed in colder parts of the country and needs good management to prevent mildew and canker.


Plant bare rooted trees when they are dormant, for example during the winter. You'll need to dig a hole about 3ft wide. If you suffer from poor soil add orgnanic matter and fertiliser to the discarded top soil. Locate a robust 2in stake in the hole, the top of which should be lower than the planted tree's bottom branch. Place the tree next to the stake and re-fill the hole with the top soil up to the same level as before, making sure there are no air pockets. Then firm the soil and tie to the stake before mulching.  

Trees that have been grown in a container can be planted throughout the year. If you have good soil, dig a hole that is just a bit larger than the root ball. For areas with poor soil, the hole should be larger so that fertiliser and organic matter can be added. Once watered and out of the container make sure the roots aren't pot bound and plant in the hole to the original level. After firming the soil, use two short stakes and a cross bar to secure the tree, throughly water and lay a mulch.


Apples will benefit from a well balanced spring feed and organic mulch. Keep well watered especially when the fruit is developing. Prune each year.

Related Articles

HTA Plant Show 2016

HTA Plant Show 2016

As GardenSIte's plant specialist I always keenly anticipate the HTA National Plant Show. This is my chance to visit nurseries, find out what's trending in the horticultural world and source new stock, all from under one roof.

Author: David Hall

Written by David Hall.
Published on Friday, 24th of June, 2016.

What To See At This Year's Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

What To See At This Year's Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

The Hampton Court Palace Flower Show takes place next month and Nathan James Dodd looks forward to what you'll discover at the largest annual show of its kind.

Author: Nathan James Dodd

Written by Nathan James Dodd.
Published on Monday, 20th of June, 2016.

How Thrive's Accessible Gardening Changes Lives

How Thrive's Accessible Gardening Changes Lives

The Society for Horticultural Therapy is an organisation generally known as Thrive, and David Coton recently learnt more about their projects, training and consultancy.

Author: David Coton

Written by David Coton.
Published on Thursday, 16th of June, 2016.

New Report Wants NHS To Prescribe Gardening

New Report Wants NHS To Prescribe Gardening

Once again a report has been published linking the benefits of gardening with healthy minds and bodies. The King's Fund findings are outlined by Nathan James Dodd, and they include recommendations that gardening should be promoted as a way of improving health.

Author: Nathan James Dodd

Written by Nathan James Dodd.
Published on Monday, 30th of May, 2016.

comments powered by Disqus


View RSS Feed


David Hall David Hall

View Profile

Follow Us!

Recent Articles

Poinsettias Now Available From Our Garden Centre

Poinsettias Now Available From Our Garden Centre

With Christmas rapidly approaching, our New Oscott Garden Centre has just taken delivery of that most seasonal of plants – the Poinsettia. These are David Hall's tips on to how to keep these beautiful plants at their colourful best.

Author: David Hall

Written by David Hall.
Published on Thursday, 8th of December, 2016.

GardenSite Donates Christmas Tree To Hospice

GardenSite Donates Christmas Tree To Hospice

Our garden centre has been part of the local community for over 60 years, so when one of our partners, David Coton, received a request to donate a Christmas tree to a nearby hospice, he had no hesitation in helping them out.

Author: Robert Hall

Written by Robert Hall.
Published on Wednesday, 7th of December, 2016.

How To Choose A Real Christmas Tree

How To Choose A Real Christmas Tree

Many people believe that Christmas would not have the same festive feel without the scent of a 'real' Christmas tree. They're naturally fresh, giving off a lovely aroma, and here Martyn Loach gives advice on which ones to buy..

Author: Martyn Loach

Written by Martyn Loach.
Published on Tuesday, 6th of December, 2016.

Premier Christmas Lights

Premier Christmas Lights

There's a huge selection of Premier Christmas Lights, and it's no wonder why they are market leaders judging by the variety and innovation that's on offer. This is Andy Taylor's guide to their range of top quality lights and decorations.

Author: Andrew Taylor

Written by Andrew Taylor.
Published on Monday, 28th of November, 2016.