Why Is My Apple Tree Growing So Slow? How to Make It Grow Faster?

After planting, nurturing, and caring for your young apple trees, it can be very frustrating to find that year after year, you are not getting a crop of those delicious juicy apples you expect. 

It may simply be a timing issue, as many apple trees need up to 10 years to begin to bear fruit. Or, the slow growth or low yield could be due to several other reasons. 

If your apple tree is growing slowly, it could be due to the wrong soil type, too little sunlight, insufficient water, crowding by other plants, the distance between your trees, disease, inadequate fertilization, or lack of pruning. Apple trees can take years to produce a crop, so age is also a consideration.

Normal growth rate of apple trees

The normal growth rate of apple trees will vary depending on many factors. 

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One consideration is the rootstock on which the tree is growing. Another is the variety of the apple tree. Most apple trees can take 8 to 10 years to reach maturity and produce fruit. 

Apple trees have a moderate to fast growth rate. After planting your tree, you can measure its growth year on year. You should feel comfortable that it has a normal growth rate if the branches are increasing in size by 10 to 12 inches laterally per year. By years 3 to 4, you should have many spreading branches and the trunk would have expanded in thickness. By years 5 to 6, you will have thick, tall branches forming a classic conical shape. 

Growth rate of different apple tree varieties 

An important factor to consider is what the size of your tree should be when it reaches maturity after 10 years. This will depend on the rootstock and variety. 

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Let’s look at rootstock sizes 

Type of RootstockSize 
Dwarf8 to 10 feet tall and wide
Semi-dwarf12 to 15 feet tall and wide
Moderate11 to 15 feet or more tall and wide
Vigorous15 feet or more

If your tree has reached maturity and its size is way off these indicators, you have a slow-growing tree that will not reach its full potential. 

Let’s look at different varieties at maturity 

Apple VarietyMature Height in FeetMature Width in Feet
Anna Apple20-3020-30
Dorsett Golden Apple10-2010-15
Gala Apple 12-1710-15
Golden Delicious15-2015-20
Red Delicious15-2015-20
Red Fuji Apple10-2010-15

What can cause slower growth?

A tree that is not growing at an acceptable rate per year could be affected by many factors. 

Here are some of the most common problems.

Wrong soil type 

Apple trees enjoy medium-textured, loamy soil that is well-draining. Water must be able to drain away from the roots. If the roots stand in water they can become diseased and your tree won’t grow to its full potential. Clay-type soil does not allow water to drain and river-sand soil is too loose and won’t retain any moisture. Apple trees enjoy soil that is slightly acidic to neutral.


Ensure that you have the correct type of soil. If not, you may have to replant your trees. When it comes to the PH level, you can easily check this by purchasing a PH home testing kit. Neutral soil has a PH value of 7.0. Values above 7.0 are alkaline and values below 6.0 are very acidic. If your soil is too acidic, you can add lime or pulverized limestone to decrease the acidity. 

Insufficient water 

Established trees need about 1 inch of rainfall every seven to ten days. Young trees require more water and you should plan to give them around 2 inches of water every week. 


Mature trees will survive in areas with normal rainfall. If your conditions are dryer, you should water your trees when the top 8 to 10 inches of the soil is dry. 

Too little Sunlight 

Another reason for slow growth is the lack of sunlight. Apple trees love the sun and thrive in 6 to 8 hours of full sunshine per day. 


Planting trees on the southern side of your property (northern side if you live in the southern hemisphere) ensures maximum sunlight. Ensure that you do not have other tall trees or structures nearby that will block the sun and cause shade to fall onto your apple orchard. You may have to consider moving your trees to an area that gets full sunlight to help them grow faster. 


Most plants do better when they are properly fertilized. Your average garden soil is not always packed with enough nutrients and minerals that a tree needs. 


A general-purpose fertilizer that is high in Calcium and Potassium is ideal for apple trees. The best time to fertilize is once a year in the fall after the leaves have dropped. Spread your fertilizer on the surface of the soil about a foot from the trunk, extending beyond the outermost branches of the tree. 


Apple trees need space to spread their branches. Crowding them together can cause them to grow slower than expected. If your trees are crowded by other plants or trees, they will increase the problem. 


Plan to plant dwarf trees at least 6 to 8 feet apart. Larger trees require at least 15 to 18 feet of space between them. If your trees are too close, you may have to consider taking some down to allow the remaining ones to florish. Remove other trees, plants, weeds, vines, and creepers that are encroaching on your apple trees.


is a vital factor that will cause apple trees to grow slowly, produce a low yield, or even die. Common diseases and bugs that affect apple trees are Canker, Aphids, Apple Scab, Powdery Mildew, and Apple Sawfly.


Seek advice from your local nursery. There are many types of sprays that can be used to ward off pests. Choosing organic solutions is always better for the environment. 

Inadequate Pruning

When branches on apple trees grow too densely, you may find that your yield is not what is expected or that your tree is growing too slowly. 


Pruning the branches of your tree encourages new growth and allows sunlight to reach all the branches, helping them to grow faster. 

Poor Pollination

Apple trees need a partner tree nearby to ensure fruit production. Even self-fruiting trees do best when they have a pollinating partner. 


If you are planting more than one apple tree, choose varieties that are different but have the same or overlapping flowering times. This will ensure the most robust pollination to produce healthy fruit. Perhaps, you are relying on a neighbors apple tree for pollination? Make sure that the tree has not been removed. Bees are great pollinators. You can attract bees into your garden by planting purple coneflowers, wild indigo, black-eye susan, or setting up a beehive. 

Is the real problem the growth rate or the yield?

Your apple tree may suffer from two different problems. The first is slow growth, where you can see that it will not reach its full height and width by maturity. The second is a tree that has grown to its full height but fails to produce an adequate crop. 

Many of the factors mentioned above can overlap to cause either of these issues. 

For slow-growing trees, consider soil quality, sunlight, fertilizing, pruning, and adequate water.

To improve your yield, consider the distance between your trees, the type of pollinating partners, correct pruning, adequate sunlight, and whether your tree has pests that may be harming your crop. 


Sam is an outdoor enthusiast, who loves spending time in the garden and learning about animals. His motivating forces are his wife and 5 beautiful children. When he doesn't get it right, he will go and try again!

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