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A Guide to Honeycrisp Apple Trees

Growing a Honeycrisp apple tree is the perfect challenge for a seasoned gardener located in colder states. In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about the tree, from growing conditions to ongoing maintenance.

Author Image Written by Brenda Woods Updated 06/11/2024

Honeycrisp apple trees are known for bearing unique apples with a crisp bite and sweet, tart flavor. Typically grown in cooler climates, this tree is perfect for the gardener located in the Midwest and Northern regions of the United States.

However, as appealing as its fruit is, the Honeycrisp apple tree requires a good deal of maintenance to bear high-quality fruit. In this guide, we’ll discuss what a Honeycrisp tree looks like, how to grow and maintain this type of tree, and where to buy a Honeycrisp apple tree.


Honeycrisp Apple Tree Overview

CharacteristicDescription

Fruit size

At least 3 inches in diameter

Fruit uses

Ideally eaten fresh, but can be cooked in a recipe like an apple pie

Fruit color

Mottled red and yellow skin, white flesh

Fruit texture and flavor

Crisp and juicy texture and a sweet, tart flavor

Region

North and Midwest

Hardiness Zones

3–7

Growing season

The tree blossoms in April, with apples ready to pick in September

Resistance

Scab disease

Susceptibility

Fire blight, fly speck, sooty blotch, bitter pit, and mildew


What Does a Honeycrisp Apple Tree Look Like?

Honeycrisp is a specific cultivar of the Malus domestica, or common apple tree. The tree’s foliage is green with white blossoms, the apple itself is red blushed with some yellow, and the apple’s white flesh is crisp and juicy. Honeycrisp apple trees reach a height of 14 to 18 feet and a width of 12 to 15 feet at maturity. The average apple is between 2.5 and 2.75 inches in diameter, but some apples can grow to be more than 3 inches in diameter.


Before you decided whether this is the right tree for your yard or garden, take a look at the optimal growing conditions for Honeycrisp apple trees.

Honeycrisp apple trees require about eight hours of direct sunlight every day. This sunlight is especially important in the morning to dry the dew from the leaves, which will help reduce the spread of diseases and kill fungi and bacteria.

You should plant your tree in well-drained soil, specifically loam soil. Loam soil is mostly made of sand and silt with a little clay. The pH of the soil should be between 6.0 and 7.0, meaning a slightly acidic or neutral pH soil is best.

You can maintain tree growth by applying fertilizer annually during the spring. The best type of fertilizer to use is one with high levels of nitrogen because that promotes plant and leaf growth and a vivid green color in leaves. One potential nitrogen-rich fertilizer grade is 10-10-10.

Fertilizer grades are broken into their primary ingredients—nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The 10-10-10 grade means that the fertilizer is 10% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus, and 10% potassium.

Honeycrisp apple trees should be watered regularly to keep the roots moist. When temperatures are high, which is typically between May and October, you should water your tree daily. Hold the watering can or hose over the base of the tree to allow for the water to penetrate 7 inches down into the root system.

The Honeycrisp apple tree grows best in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Hardiness Zones 3 and 4, which have average annual minimum temperatures between -40 and -20 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the plants can still survive in grow Zones 6 and 7, which have warmer climates.

Like most fruit trees, Honeycrisp apple trees require careful pruning to yield the best crop. Prune in late winter or early spring when tree growth is dormant. Cut off any broken, dead, or diseased branches, as well as branches that are growing vertically. Once the fruit starts growing, you should also prune away excess buds so that there’s a space of about 8 inches between individual apples. This will help grow the largest, tastiest fruit.

Honeycrisp apple trees don’t self-pollinate, so they need other apple trees that are 6 to 12 feet away to help with fertilization. Fuji, Golden Delicious, and Red Delicious apple trees work well as pollinators because they survive in the same hardiness zones as the Honeycrisp apple tree.


How to Plant a Honeycrisp Apple Tree

Honeycrisp apple trees aren’t grown from seeds—instead, fruit-bearing branches are grafted on to rootstocks and sold as saplings. Honeycrisp apple saplings are typically sold as bare root trees, meaning that the tree was grown in the ground, pulled out while it was dormant, shaken free of soil, and stored in a container with moist material. This is the easiest way to transport an already growing tree.

The best time to buy and plant a Honeycrisp apple tree is in the spring or fall when the ground is cold but not frozen. Once you have a sapling in your possession, here’s how to plant it:

  1. Dig a hole twice as wide and twice as deep as the root ball, leaving a cone of soil in the center.
  2. Adjust the height of the cone so that the crown—where the trunk meets the roots—sits at soil level.
  3. Fill the hole up halfway with soil and then continue filling the hole, pushing down on the soil to eliminate any holes.
  4. Create a shallow trench around the tree with a radius of 2 inches from the trunk.
  5. Use this trench to thoroughly water the tree. Avoid overwatering the trench—the tree should not be in standing water.

If properly planted and maintained, you will see your first apples in two to five years for dwarf Honeycrisp apple trees and seven to eight years for full-size trees. White blossoms should appear during April, and the apples themselves will be ripe and ready to pick by September.

Full-size Honeycrisp apple trees that have been properly cared for typically live between 35 and 45 years. If you buy a smaller Honeycrisp tree from a nursery, the tree will likely have a shorter lifespan of 20 to 25 years.

Tolerance and Susceptibility

Honeycrisp apple trees are disease-resistant, especially to scab disease, which creates olive green and brown spots on fruits, leaves, and branches. However, young Honeycrisp trees are susceptible to fire blight, which will cause a reddish, watery liquid to ooze from the affected branches and blacken the fruits.

This type of tree is also susceptible to fly speck, sooty blotch, and mildew fungi. Fly speck presents as a group of five or more round black specks that resemble flies, sooty blotch creates black or brown blotches 1/4 inch in diameter or larger around the apple, and mildew presents as a thin, white coating on the apples.

Wildlife Threats

There aren’t insects or animals that are specifically attracted to Honeycrisp apple trees, but apple trees in general are prone to attacks from certain types of wildlife. Insects like aphids and mites can attack leaves, while codling moths can attack the fruit. Small-to-medium sized animals like opossums, squirrels, raccoons, and foxes, may also steal the apples from your tree for food. To minimize wildlife around your tree, pick up any apples that fall to the ground as soon as possible.


Our Conclusion

Honeycrisp apple trees are picky plants that require specific growing and maintenance conditions, so you’ll have to work to get the large and crisp apples that the tree produces. If you’re an avid gardener, you might be up to the task of growing one of these trees. However, if you’re a beginner gardener, we recommend starting out with a more low-maintenance fruit tree, like a plum tree.


FAQ About Honeycrisp Apple Trees

Do Honeycrisp apple trees need to be surrounded by pollinator trees?

Yes—Honeycrisp apple trees don’t self-pollinate, so you’ll need to plant other apple trees nearby to allow for pollination. Fuji, Golden Delicious, and Red Delicious apple trees are good candidates.

Are Honeycrisp apple trees hard to grow?

Honeycrisp apple trees may be difficult to grow because of their susceptibility to infections and fungi and very specific growing conditions.

Do Honeycrisp apple trees bloom every year?

Honeycrisp trees take two to eight years to produce their first apples depending on their size. Once the tree has matured, you should see fruit every year as long as you properly care for it.

Should I prune my Honeycrisp apple tree?

Yes, pruning can improve your tree’s overall health, which ultimately encourages more flower and fruit growth. Prune your Honeycrisp apple tree each spring by removing vertically hanging branches and leaving five to seven horizontal branches to bear fruit.

How far apart should Honeycrisp apple trees be planted?

Plant dwarf Honeycrisp trees 8 to 10 feet apart. Plant full-size trees 15 to 20 feet apart. However, since Honeycrisp apple trees don’t self-pollinate, you’ll need another apple tree of a different variety planted close by to make sure your Honeycrisp apple trees are fertilized.

Why are Honeycrisp apples so expensive?

Honeycrisp apples are more expensive than other apple varieties because the trees are more difficult to grow and the apples more difficult to transport than other varieties like Golden Delicious. Demand for Honeycrisp apples has also exponentially increased in recent years.

What other apples are similar to Honeycrisps?

SweeTango, Jazz, Ambrosia, Sweet Lady, and Enterprise apples all have similar flavors and textures to Honeycrisps. These apple varieties are not only more affordable at the grocery store, they are easier to grow, which makes them a good choice if you want a similar apple for less hassle.

Where was the Honeycrisp developed?

The Honeycrisp apple tree was developed by the University of Minnesota and is a hybrid of Macoun and Honeygold apple cultivars.

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