Columnar Apple Trees for Suburban Yards

comments (9) June 5th, 2009

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ChrisMcLaughlin Chris McLaughlin, contributor
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Heres what we like to see! Lots of baby apples.
Picture by Jim under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
These are the columnar apple trees in my front yard. Theyre the second set Ive planted - we left the others at our last home. Okay, theyre not as big as the trees in the other picture, but give em a break - theyre in their infancy; we planted them three years ago.
Heres what we like to see! Lots of baby apples.Click To Enlarge

Here's what we like to see! Lots of baby apples.

Photo: Chris McLaughlin

As a gardener who loves growing food, I had always aspired to have apple trees in my garden. Living in suburbia most of my life made space for growing fruit trees rather limited. Standard apple trees at maturity reach 20 feet tall and usually a little more in width.

Of course, I had the option of planting the semi-dwarf varieties, but they’re honestly only a dwarf compared to their larger cousins. I considered trying the even smaller dwarf apple tree, but I realized that I needed more than one variety in order to produce apples, so they would've still been too wide (8 feet or so) for my space.

  More on growing apples in the backyard orchard, plus links to apple recipes...
Then, about 10 years ago I discovered columnar apple trees. These compact dudes were the answer to my prayers. Columnar apple trees are created to grow predominantly straight up, reach a height of 8-10 feet and are usually less than 2 feet wide. Suburbanites, apartment-dwellers, people living on boats – anyone can have columnar apple trees.

They don’t have the side branches and the spread that the usual apple trees are known for. In fact, rather than looking relaxed and orchard-ish, the columnars look rather elegant and stately. Runway models would be jealous. Yet they bring a little extra somethin'-somethin' as edible landscaping to your yard for about 20 years. Try them in huge pots flanking the front door or garden entrance or plant these little darlings along your boring good-neighbor fence to give it some class.

If that isn’t enough, these micro-trees will produce normal-sized apples the first year you plant them! God bless the experimenters.

Columnar apple tree varieties:

•    ‘Northpole’ will remind you of a McIntosh apple.
•    ‘Golden Sentinel’ is similar to Golden delicious in flavor.
•    ‘Scarlet Sentinel’ produces green-yellow apples with a red blush.

Columnar apple tree requirements:

•    Plant in full sun
•    Plant trees 2 feet apart or line them up planted in whiskey barrels.
•    Don’t forget to plant at least two, for cross-pollination
•    Regular watering during fruit development

*Hardy in zones 4-9

Three things I’d like to throw out there about these trees. First, you may need to thin the apples to help the tree support the weight in the first year. Second, you’re going to need at least two trees but different varieties. The apples will only be produced if the flowers are cross-pollinated by two varieties of apple. Third, the price tag is a little heavier than average apple trees. That said, like all trees, if you order them bare-root in the winter, you’ll get to save some bucks, too.

Are you infested with apple maggots? It's possible to control them without spraying. Learn how to make an inexpensive, pesticide-free apple maggot trap.

posted in: fruit, apples, columnar apple trees

Comments (9)

bd3425 writes: I haven't seen anything about chill hour requirements. I recently moved to AZ from MI and have discovered this is an important topic. I need 2 varieties that have low chill hour requirements, are there any and if so, where would I find them?
Posted: 12:26 pm on February 28th
MikeTheGardener writes: How deep and wide do the whiskey barrels have to be?
Posted: 8:33 am on September 18th
jhpowell writes: Where can I locate a columnar fuji tree? Do they even exist? I have one columnar apple tree that needs to be identified so I will know what will cross pollinate with it. Thanks for your help.
Posted: 5:41 pm on April 16th
ARWadoo writes: Hi
How can i get rootstock of columnar apple type in India.We have dwart and semidwarf in addition to the normal apple trees. Kindly acknowledge
with regards
Posted: 1:25 pm on October 24th
christalg writes: Thanks so much for sharing this info! I have the exact same desire for apple trees and the same suburban restraints! ThankGod4Gardening, thanks for sharing the lead about Jung nurseries, too!
Posted: 1:47 pm on May 27th
ThankGod4Gardening writes: I'm looking for info on pruning these trees. I have 2 second year trees, a northpole and a golden. they have both sent up multiple leads and my instincts want to trim them back to one. Any tips or even better any videos?

FYI to feltig: I found mine thru Yung Seed online. I had shopped in there nurseries when passing through Wisconsin, but this was my 1st experience using there online company. The trees were reasonably priced, quickly shipped and in beautiful shape when they arrived. As it said above, 2 varieties are needed for polination, also be certain not to plant deep (they're grafted) & protect from rabbits.
Posted: 3:12 pm on April 22nd
kristinawrite writes: Thanks for this; I saw columnar apples in a catalog and wondered if they were worthwhile. Approximately what is the yield from each plant?
Posted: 6:39 pm on January 5th
feltig writes: Could you please give more info and where to locate trees like these? I have searched online at the more common gardening sites, but have yet to locate. Thank you!
Posted: 8:35 pm on June 17th
MelanieBD writes: Please elaborate on the thinning process of columnar apple trees. I have several which had fruit last year, but most fell off prior to ripening. Thank you
Posted: 6:37 pm on June 17th
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