Apples (Malus domestica cultivars) are somewhat temperate-climate harvest, suited to places with cold winters to ensure plant dormancy and following fruits. Over time, growers have developed varieties suited to milder winter climates. These low-chill varieties enable gardeners in warmer climes to enjoy home-grown apples. Home orchards at U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 10 can produce tasty apples, occasionally in numerous crops during the year. The secret is pick of varieties that match with the winter-chill characteristics for your region.
Apple trees need a certain number of cold nights to offer dormancy for great flowering and fruiting. Winter-chill conditions are calculated from November through February, when temperatures drop between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The low-temperature hours don’t have to be sequential. Most apples require 1,000 chill hours or more. But moderate chill apple types require 400 to 700 chill hours, and low-chill varieties can bear well with fewer than 400 winter-chill hours.
Some apples require few to no winter-chill hours. These include “Anna,” “Dorsett Golden” and “Ein Shemer.” “Anna” requires 200 to 300 winter-chill hours. This green apple, frequently tinged with pink, was created in Israel especially for mild winter regions. Fruit ripens in June to July, and the taste is comparable to that of “Red Delicious” apples. “Dorsett Golden” apples are yellow-green flushed with red-orange, and the taste resembles “Golden Delicious.” “Ein Shemer” also originated in Israel, and bears ample small, sweet-tasting green apples. “Beverly Hills,” also a green fruit, produces well at 300 winter-chill hours. “Gordon” does well with 300 to 500 winter chill hours, and “Fuji” and “Granny Smith” both require 400 hours. “Anna,” “Dorsett Golden” and “Ein Shemer” all develop in USDA zones 5 through 9. “Fuji,” “Beverly Hills” and “Granny Smith” grow in USDA zones 6 through 9, with “Gordon” hardy in zones 5 through 10.
Even though they require more winter chill, medium-chill apples also grow well in USDA zones 8 through 11. Cultivars demanding 500 to 700 chill hours include “Gala” at 500 hours, “Golden Delicious” at 600 to 700 hours, and “Gravenstein,” “Newton” and “Rome Beauty” at 700 hours. All the low-chill varieties can also produce under these conditions. Red “Gala” apples have good taste and are great for cooking, eating, cooking, applesauce and apple butter. They are hardy in USDA zones 4 through 10. “Fuji” apples are yellow-green streaked and tinged with crimson. They originated in Japan from a cross between the cultivars “Ralls Janet” and “Red Delicious.” These large, sweet, crisp apples have a firm texture. “Gravenstein” and “Golden Delicious” are hardy in USDA zones 3 through 9, “Newton” at USDA zones 3 through 8 and “Rome Beauty” in zones 4 through 8.
Some antique cultivars suited to growing in mild winter climates of USDA zones 8 through 11 have been “Pettingill,” “Yellow Bellflower,” “Winter Banana” and “White Winter Pearmain.” The “Pettingill” apple was discovered in 1949 as a chance seedling at Long Beach, California. The green fruit is flushed crimson, and has sharp, sweet flesh. “Yellow Bellflower” is yellow flushed red-orange. It produces great cider, dessert and baking apples. “Winter Banana” has a unique aroma and taste, somewhat reminiscent of banana. “White Winter Pearmain” has yellow skin, flushed and dotted reddish-brown. Used mostly as an eating apple, it’s juicy, subacid and sharp. “Pettingill” and “Winter Banana” rise in USDA zones 3 through 9, “Yellow Bellflower” in zones 4 through 8 and “White Winter Pearmain” at USDA zones 5 through 8.