Choosing an apple tree cultivar to plant in Kansas can seem overwhelming, but with a little information you’ll be ready to make a decision that will work for you.
First choose tree size
Apple trees are commonly sold as dwarf, semi-dwarf, or standard size. In general we recommend choosing a semi-dwarf sized tree for regular backyard gardens in Central Kansas. Dwarf trees grow on a dwarfing rootstock that may not hold up in our weather extremes. Standard trees can also be used but can get large and will require regular pruning.
Apple trees come in many varieties. Some trees ripen in late summer while others may ripen in late fall. There are also vast differences in fruit quality and uses. Some apples are tart, some are sweeter, some are better for baking and processing, some are better for fresh eating.
Here is a nice resource from the University of Missouri that explains apple cultivars and their uses
Ensure Cross pollination
All varieties of apple trees should be cross-pollinated with another apple or crabapple variety to attain the best fruit set on apple trees. Thus, the bloom periods of the pollinizer tree and the producing apple tree must overlap.
Here is a great resource from the University of Missouri Extension that will clarify which varieties can pollinate each other well.
Disease susceptibility ratings
It is also important to know what diseases the apple varieties you intend to plant susceptible to. Certain apple varieties are resistant to common diseases and require less overall spraying. For example Golden Delicious apple is quite susceptible to cedar apple rust fungus while Liberty apple is resistant to cedar apple rust. Control of cedar apple rust and other fungal diseases may be critical on certain apple varieties to produce fruit. You can view our apple spray guide here for information on when and how to spray apple trees.
Granny Smith/Fuji/Jonathan is an example of a set of trees that would pollinate each other but require regular spraying to control common apple diseases. In contrast a gardener could plant the varieties Enterprise/Liberty/Pristine as a mix of tress that would require less fungicide spraying and still produce quite well also. There are differences in fruit quality to consider but in the end it would simply be a matter of the preferences of the gardener.
For a great resource on apple varieties that is applicable for us, our friends at the University of Missouri have a very helpful webpage to guide decision making:
Keep in mind that regardless of the apple variety chosen, coddling moth, which is the insect responsible for ‘wormy’ apples will generally be a problem and if worm free apples are desired, a spray schedule to control the coddling moth will be necessary.
This KSU publication is just what you need to know when to spray apple trees.
This KSU publications lists recommended fruit varieties for Kansas.