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Red Delicious AppleMalus x domestica

Of the more than 2,500 different cultivated varieties of apple trees in North America today, the most famous and widely planted is the red delicious. Perhaps because of its mild, sweet flavor. Possibly because of the long storage life. Or maybe because the name is so appealing.

Legend states that the red delicious apple was named when its discoverer in Iowa sent samples to a commercial nursery in 1892. The nursery owner tasted one of the apples and exclaimed, "Delicious!"

Hardiness Zones

The red delicious apple can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 5–8. View Map

Tree Type

This is a fruit tree, grown primarily for the edible fruit it produces.

Mature Size

The standard red delicious apple tree grows to a height of 20–25' and a spread of around 25' at maturity. The semi-dwarf variety grows to a height of 12–15' with a spread of 12–15'. The dwarf variety grows to a height of about 10' with a spread of about 10'.

Growth Speed Fast Growth Rate

This tree grows at a fast rate, with height increases of more than 24" per year.

Sun Preference

This tree needs a minimum of 6–8 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

The red delicious apple grows well in acidic, moist and well-drained soil. It is not drought-tolerant.

Attributes

This tree:
  • Produces a medium- to large-sized red apple that is tender, crisp and juicy with a sweet, mild flavor--great for fresh eating and desserts. The fruit will keep for 3–6 months if stored in the refrigerator.
  • Blooms midseason, with pinkish-white flowers.
  • Is available in standard, semi-dwarf and dwarf sizes. Our standard red delicious seedlings are budded onto whole rootstock; our semi-dwarf seedlings are grafted onto Malling-Merton III; and our dwarf seedlings are grafted onto Malling 7A, Malling 26.
  • Yields ripe fruit typically from mid- to late September to mid-October.
  • Requires regular watering.
  • Needs a compatible cultivar--growing within 100' of the tree for standard, 50' for semi-dwarf and 20' for dwarf varieties-- to ensure pollination.
  • Can be pollinated with yellow delicious, red Jonathan, early harvest or a variety from a different apple family.
  • Has a chill hours (CU) requirement of 700–800. (Chill hours are the average hours of air temperature between 32° and 45° F in a typical winter season.)
  • Grows in an oval shape.
  • Bears fruit in 6–10 years if standard sized. The semi-dwarf tree bears in 4–6 years, the dwarf in 3–4 years.
  • Tends to be a biennial bearer, meaning the tree bears fruit heavily one year and sparsely the next.

Wildlife Value

Apples are eaten by a variety of birds and mammals. The leaves and branches are browsed. The trees can be destroyed by rodents and rabbits girdling the stem or trunk. The nectar and/or pollen provides nutrition for bees in early to late spring. Also, apple orchards are considered valuable habitat for wildlife.

History/Lore

Legend states that the red delicious apple was named when its discoverer in Iowa sent samples to a commercial nursery in 1892. The nursery owner tasted one of the apples and exclaimed, "Delicious!"