When you decide to plant apple trees in your yard, you invest in a long-term project. Your children and their children may even pick apples from the same trees you plant today.
So how long do apple trees live?
Apple trees have an average lifespan of 35 years. Standard trees can live up to 85 years, while dwarf apple trees may only live 15 years. The lifespan of semi-dwarf trees is between 20-25 years. Several factors will influence the lifespan of an apple tree, both positively and negatively.
Let’s dive deeper to see what you can expect and how you can get the most out of your tree.Learn how to raise your own quail and have an unlimited supply of eggs and meat.
Average lifespan of an apple tree (dwarf, semi-dwarf, standard)
The type of rootstock you buy will have the greatest impact on the lifespan of your trees. Rootstocks commonly come in 3 types: standard, semi-dwarf, and dwarf.
These are the largest trees and grow to the tallest and widest sizes. They also live the longest. The average lifespan of a standard apple tree will be over 35 years.
Many live longer than 50, and large healthy trees with strong root systems can even reach 80 years or more. The real average can be pinned at around 40 to 50 years. This is the best type of apple to get if you plan on creating a legacy for future generations of your family.
These trees are the midsize choice between a large standard tree and a small dwarf. Semi-dwarf apple trees have a lifespan of around 20 to 25 years.
Dwarf trees are the best apple tree to plant if you don’t have years to wait for a crop and don’t see yourself nurturing your trees for decades to come. They are smaller in size and have an average lifespan of around 15 to 20 years.
|Average Life Span
|35 to 85 years. Can even reach 100
|20 to 25 years
|15 to 20 years
Ornamental apple trees such as cordons, planted at 45 degrees and heavily pruned, may only live to be 15 years old. Espaliered apple trees that are trained to grow horizontally on one plane are less susceptible to breaking branches and have, on average, a much longer lifespan.
Factors that influence an apple tree’s lifespan
Like everything that grows, there are a plethora of factors that will affect the lifespan of your apple trees. The figures above are averages based on healthy, well-tended trees in optimum climates.
Let’s look at some of the main factors that affect the lifespan of an apple tree.
The best climate zones for apple trees are US Zones 4, 5, 6, and 7. Apple trees planted in the wrong climate zone will struggle to survive due to too much heat, excessive cold, or insufficient water.
Water is vital for a long lifespan. Too little water or too much water will discourage healthy growth. Apple trees need at least 1 inch of rainfall every 7 to 10 days. Young trees should be given at least 2 inches of water per week. Over-watering your trees will result in permanently wet soil that will cause the roots to rot, and ultimately, your trees may die.
Insufficient sunlight will have a major impact on the life span of your apple trees. Healthy trees require full sunlight, between 6 to 8 hours per day. Trees that grow in the shade will be smaller and produce inferior quality fruits, and have a shorter life.
The best soil for apple trees is rich, loamy, organic soil that is well-draining. This type of soil offers essential nutrients that promote strong root growth. It also allows water to drain away at a pace that is neither too fast nor too slow. The PH reading of your soil should be neutral to slightly acidic. You can test this easily with a home PH soil kit. Look for a reading that is between 5.8 and 7.0.
Apple trees need space to spread their branches. Trees that are crowded will have to compete for water and sunlight and will have shorter lifespans. More shade means more damp and less air circulation that encourages pests and diseases to breed. You can read about how to calculate the space you need to keep between your trees when you plant them in this other article I wrote.
Pests and disease
Apple trees can be affected by many pests, including Powdery Mildew, Apple Sawfly, Apple Scab, and Canker. Diseased trees will never reach their full potential and may even die at a young age.
Different varieties of apple trees also have different life spans. Here are some of the most common varieties that you may want to plant in your backyard farm. You can decide how long you want to tend to your trees and choose varieties that best suit your timelines.
|Apple Tree Variety
|Average Life Span in Years
|40 – 50
|20 – 30
|35 – 45
|35 – 50
|15 – 20
|35 – 50
What to do to extend your apple tree’s lifespan
Providing the best possible conditions for your apple trees, and caring for them throughout the year, will ensure that they live to their full life expectancy.
Here are some things you can do to extend your apple tree’s lifespan –
Soil, water, and sunshine
Ensure that your tree has well-draining, loamy soil and gets at least 1 inch of water every 7 to 10 days. Apple trees do best in 6 to 8 hours of full sunlight per day.
Fertilize your trees during the growing season. Using natural organic fertilizer protects the environment and won’t leach harmful chemicals into your soil. Fertilization promotes the growth of strong, extensive root systems that ensure your trees will last for decades.
Plan to prune your apple tree once a year, preferably in late winter. Prune any dead, damaged, or diseased branches. This will allow nutrients to reach the healthy parts of the tree and promote growth. Open up the canopy to allow light and air circulation to reach the lower branches. Always use sterilized pruning shears to prevent the spread of bacteria.
Rake up leaves in autumn
While you may love the glorious colors of falling autumn leaves, once they land on the ground they can become detrimental to your apple trees. Piles of rotting leaves attract pests and fungal spores that can infect your trees. Rake up the leaves and keep your orchard clean.
Protect your trees in winter
Even the hardiest trees take strain in very cold winter conditions. If you have young trees, set up wind-breaks or plastic sheeting to protect them until they become stronger. Some home farmers go to the extent of painting their tree trunks with white latex paint. This prevents the bark from splitting or cracking after exposure to freezing temperatures. Do not use oil-based paint, as this is toxic to trees.
Prevention is better than cure! Preventing your trees from being attacked by pests is vital to ensure a long lifespan. You can apply fungicides in early spring and summer to prevent disease. At the beginning of the growing season, you can use horticultural oils to kill scale insects and eliminate aphid and mite eggs.
If you are concerned about not being able to cope with diseased trees, there are some varieties of apple trees that have been bred to be resistant to disease. Choosing these will certainly prolong the life of your orchard.
Here are some choices:
- Liberty is resistant to fire blight and apple scab mildew
- Pixie Crunch, Crimson Gold, and Crimson Topaz are resistant to apple scab
- Goldrush is immune to apple scab and is moderately resistant to powdery mildew
Can apple trees live 100 years?
Although not common, some apple trees can live as long as 100 years. There are many recorded cases of apple trees older than 100 years. Starkey’s Fruit Farm in the UK claims to still harvest apples from trees planted over 100 years ago.
What’s the oldest apple tree?
Many countries around the globe claim to have the oldest apple tree.
Starkey’s Fruit Farm again tops the list for ancient apple trees. They claim to still collect fruit from the original Bramley Tree in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, UK, planted in 1809, which is now over 200 years old. Sadly, they also report that the tree has been attacked by honey fungus and probably won’t survive much longer.
The MCSA, Mountain Club of South Africa, reported that Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing had found an ancient apple tree at the top of Table Mountain. It is thought to have been planted by the dam engineer over a century ago and is the oldest known tree in the country.
Another legendary apple tree is the Old Apple Tree in Vancouver, Washington, planted in 1826. Until only recently, it was one of the oldest trees known and was lovingly protected in its own park. Sadly, the tree was recorded to have died in 2020.
Different rootstocks and varieties of apple trees have vastly different lifespans. You can decide how long you want your trees to last before buying.
Standard trees have the longest lifespan, followed by semi-dwarf and then dwarf. Ensuring the best growing conditions and caring for your trees always go a long way toward guaranteeing a healthier life and a longer lifespan for any type of apple tree.