I bought a new Fuji apple tree and I was wondering how long it would take to reach a mature size and fruit. The only problem was, there really wasn’t a clear answer out there. So, I did some research to find out more. Here’s what I found.
Apple trees grown from seed take around 5-10 years to mature and fruit, while grafted apple trees take 1-3 years. If you bought your apple tree from a nursery, it’s most likely grafted. You can tell if your apple tree is grafted if it has a grafting scar, which are usually found just above the trunk or along a node.
So, while apple trees can take a long time to grow and fruit, how can you tell if your apple tree is grafted, and how can you make it grow faster? Let’s take a closer look.
How Long Does It Take an Apple Tree To Fruit?
Grown From Seed
Apple trees grown from seed take an average of 5-10 years to reach a mature size and begin fruiting. However, because apple trees from seeds are genetically different than their parents, they often have different fruit. As a result, some apple trees have inedible fruit. Other times, some never fruit.
Grown From a Graft
Because apple trees grown from seed take a long time to fruit, most growers use grafted trees due to their benefits and speed of growth.
Grafting is when you take a piece of wood (called a scion) from a mature apple tree and fuse it with a rootstock from another apple tree. If all goes well, the rootstock should adopt the scion, making it a part of the tree.
The main benefits of grafting are:
- Faster growth
- Fruit is identical to the mature tree
- Increased disease and pest resistance
- Improved hardiness
The first step in determining how long your apple tree will take to grow is to check to see if it was grown from a graft or grown from seed.
Usually, you can tell that an apple tree was grafted if it has a scar or larger node on the site where it was grafted (see image below).
If you can’t tell if your tree was grafted or not, then it’s best to contact the seller, nursery, or orchard you purchased the tree from.
So, once you find out if your apple tree is grown from seed or graft, you should get a clear answer on how much longer you’ll need to wait to get fruit.
However, if it’s been 10+ years, and your apple tree isn’t yet producing fruit, it may never fruit. This is especially true for those that were grown from seed.
While this can be discouraging, the best thing to do in this case is to purchase a young, grafted apple tree and only wait 1-3 more years for an abundance of fruits! Young apple trees typically cost around $46, so they’re not too expensive.
For additional trees, you can always start grafts from that single tree.
Do You Need 2 Apple Trees To Bear Fruit?
While many apple trees are self-pollinating and fruit on their own, they still benefit from cross-pollination. This encourages heavier fruiting and more yields. It’s a best practice to have at least 2 apple trees within 50 feet of each other for increased pollination.
All varieties of apple trees require some cross-pollination for fruit set. Even though some varieties are listed as self-fruitful, they will set fruit more heavily and more regularly if they are cross-pollinated.Washington State University
You can increase your apple tree’s pollination even more by planting pollinator-friendly companion plants nearby. For more about companion plants for apple trees, you can check out my recent post: The 10 Best Companion Plants for Apple Trees.
5 Tips To Make Apple Trees Grow and Fruit Faster
- Provide full sun (6+ hours a day): Sunlight is converted into sugars through photosynthesis in the leaves. Without enough sugar and energy, apple trees will lack foliage and fruit. Apple trees grow best in USDA hardiness zones 3-9 and trees that face a southern direction will get the most amount of sun.
- Water only when the top 2-4 inches of soil is dry: While many factors contribute to how much water an apple tree needs, the best rule is to only water when the top of the soil gets dry. This way you’re not over or under-watering. If the soil is still sopping wet 1+ hours after watering, the soil likely needs to be amended for better drainage.
- Provide compost and mulch: Apply 2 inches of compost and 4 inches of mulch to your apple trees. Compost helps the soil retain water and nutrients while mulch greatly reduces evaporation. Reapply compost every 1-2 months and mulch every 3-6 months. Some good mulches for apple trees are leaves, bark, straw, pine needles, and grass clippings.
- Avoid planting near junipers or cedars: Apple trees can get a disease called apple cedar rust. For this reason, plant apple trees away from juniper and cedar trees and remove any weeds in a 6-foot radius around the apple tree. For more information on Cedar Apple Rust, check out my recent post: How to Fix Yellow Leaves on Apple Trees.
- Prune any leaves that look scorched or spotted: Apple trees can get many conditions and diseases, and one of the best ways to prevent them from spreading is to prune the diseased leaves. For example, Fire Blight is a bacterial disease that has the appearance of brown and scorched leaves and commonly affects apple and pear trees. While there isn’t a cure for it, there are many treatments and practices to prevent it.
Apple Tree Not Fruiting
If your apple tree is a mature size, but still isn’t fruiting, here are some common causes:
- Lack of Pollination
- Insufficient Watering
- Poor Nutrients
- Biennial Fruiting
Some ways to improve pollination are by planting other apple trees or companion plants such as comfrey and nasturtium.
When it comes to watering, only water when the top 2-4 inches of soil are dry. This prevents both under and over-watering.
For more information on why apple trees won’t fruit, including which fertilizer to provide your apple tree, see my other post: 5 Reasons Why Apple Trees Won’t Fruit (& How to Fix It).
Need More Help?
You can always ask us here at Couch to Homestead, but you should know the other resources available to you! Here are the resources we recommend.
- Local Cooperative Extension Services: While we do our best with these articles, sometimes knowledge from a local expert is needed! The USDA partnered with Universities to create these free agriculture extension services. See your local services.
- 7 Easy Steps to Grow Fruit Trees (Free Guide): Need more fruit tree help from the ground up? See our free guide to make growing fruit trees a breeze.
- Ask the Free Community: Join The Couch to Homestead Community and connect with other members discussing gardening, homesteading, and permaculture.
- 30-Day Permaculture Food Forest Course: Learn how to turn your backyard into a thriving food forest in just 30 days with our online course.