Frigid winters, late spring frosts, and an overall shorter growing season makes growing fruit trees in the upper northern U.S. region challenging. The key is to understand which types of fruit trees and what cultivars to plant for successful fruit production.
Types of Fruit for North Central Regions
The best types of fruit trees to plant in upper northern U.S. regions include apples, pears, plums and sour cherries. These types of fruit trees originated in the mountains of Central Asia where cold winters are the norm. Apples, for instance, grow best in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 7, but several varieties can be successfully cultivated in zone 3.
Depending upon your hardiness zone, gardeners may also be able to grow other types of fruit trees in North Central states. Several varieties of peaches and persimmons can be safely grown in USDA zone 4. Apricots, nectarines, sweet cherries, medlars, mulberries and pawpaws may periodically produce fruit further north, but zone 5 is usually recommended for yearly fruit production from these trees.
Varieties of North Central Fruit Trees
Successfully growing fruit trees in the upper northern U.S. region is dependent upon choosing cultivars which will be winter hardy in USDA zones 3 and 4. Consider these varieties when selecting north central fruit trees.
To improve fruit set, plant two compatible varieties for cross-pollination. When planting grafted fruit trees, the rootstock will also need to meet your USDA hardiness requirements.
Two cultivars are needed for cross-pollination of pears. Several varieties of pears are hardy in USDA zones 4. These include:
- Flemish Beauty
- Golden Spice
Japanese plums are not cold hardy for northern regions, but several varieties of European plums can withstand a USDA zone 4 climate:
- Mount Royal
Sour cherries bloom later than sweet cherries, which are hardy in USDA zones 5 through 7. These sour cherry varieties can be grown in USDA zone 4:
- North Star
- Suda Hardy
Peaches do not require cross-pollination; however, choosing two or more varieties can extend the harvest season. These peach cultivars can be grown in USDA zone 4:
Many commercial varieties of persimmons are only hardy in USDA zones 7 through 10. American persimmons are native species which are hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9. Yates is a good variety to look for.
Choosing winter-hardy cultivars is the first step to successfully growing fruit trees in North Central states. General principles of orchard husbandry give young transplants the best opportunity for survival and optimize fruit production in mature trees.