Yes, northerners, you can enjoy fresh fruit right from your very own trees. In the upper Midwest region there are several varieties of fruit cultivars available to you. If you have the right growing conditions and adequate space, you can probably fit some fruit trees into your landscape.


Rich, juicy apples are the most popular fruit tree in this area and usually very productive. When planting, you will need to have at least two different cultivars. Apples will not produce fruit unless they receive cross-pollination from another tree. If you have crab apple trees in your neighborhood, that should be near enough to provide pollination for one tree. The pollen source (crab tree or second cultivar) should be within 100 feet of the newly planted tree. Most apple trees are grafted to dwarf-size stock that keeps growth to less than 10 feet tall, so most yards will have space for two trees. When space is limited, pay attention to the rootstock. Trees will be labeled dwarfing, semi-dwarfing, and standard. Grafted to dwarfing stock, trees will start bearing fruit 3-4 years after planting, some standard size trees can take up to 8 years. Choose a location that gets at least 8 hours of sun per day. Plant the trees 6-20 ft apart. Most soils are suitable as long as the area does not have standing water.

Apple varieties: Make sure to choose cultivars suitable for your growing area. Far northern regions need varieties that are hardy to zone 3, where it can get as cold as 40° below zero. Most of Wisconsin is zone 4 or 5. Much of northern Minnesota is zone 3 and 4.

If you do not have the time or equipment to frequently treat apples for disease, consider a disease-resistant cultivar. Good disease resistant varieties include Redfree, Prima, and Jonafree. Good all-purpose varieties include Lodi, Zestar!, Honeycrisp and Frostbite. Check your garden center for new varieties specially targeted for your growing area. You will still need to trap insect pests or spray for insects on any variety. Fleet Farm carries a wide variety of sprays and fertilizers for your fruit trees. Choose your variety based on the way you’ll use the apples: cooking, eating, or both.

Planting and care: When planting your apple trees, it is very important to situate the trees properly. After planting, you may need to do some pruning to remove limbs from the base of the tree. Any newly planted tree needs to be kept watered, and should receive the equivalent of at least and inch of water per week.


Like apples, pears require two different cultivars to provide cross-pollination before they set fruit. Pears blossom earlier in spring and can be damaged by an early spring frost. Unlike apples, pears are less prone to disease and insect damage. Pears can be grown in zone 5 and hospitable areas in zone 4b. Purchase cultivars that are targeted for your zone. They’re best transplanted in the spring after the severe cold weather is gone. They require full sun and may take up to 10 years to produce, but they are very prolific and produce a lot of fruit. Pear trees can get very tall (up to 40 feet) so be sure you have the space for the variety you choose.

Stone fruits - Cherries, Apricots, Peaches & Plums

Be aware that most trees in this group can be very sensitive to early spring frosts. These trees flower early and a spring frost can harm the blossoms and prevent fruit from setting. Extremely low temperatures can kill the trees, so choose varieties specifically targeted for your growing zone. Sweet cherries require another tree for cross-pollination. Tart cherries do well in the upper growing regions and do need another tree to pollinate. If you are interested in plums, choose only European plums. Mount Royal is a hardy variety for this area. There are new varieties of peaches and apricots introduced yearly that are more hardy, but none are resistant to the damage an early frost can do to the blossoms. Check with your garden center for the varieties they carry and speak with the nursery about any warranties that may come with your selection. Stone fruit trees need well drained soil and require at least 8 hours of sun per day. When planting, dig a hole large enough to accommodate the roots without cutting them. The hole should ensure the entire root system is underground. Newly planted trees should be staked. Water thoroughly and wrap trunk to prevent rodent damage. Stake if necessary. You may want to place netting over your trees to prevent the birds from decimating your crop.


Although they’re not technically a fruit “tree”, blueberries have become a very popular garden fruit in the past few years because of their health benefits. Unlike fruiting trees mentioned above, blueberries need special growing conditions. The planting soil needs to be very acidic, with a pH of 4.5-5.2. A good way to grow and maintain this level is to plant your blueberries in a raised bed, where the acid levels will be easier to maintain, and won’t harm surrounding plants. Soil can be amended with sulfur formulations, but needs to be well drained. Be sure to check your planting area pH during the growing season. Blueberries require winter protection; so will need to be well mulched after the first frost. Many blueberry plants require another “pollinizer” plant such as “Northblue”. Check the label on the plants at the garden center and choose the ones that work well with your variety.

Your local county extension office has a wealth of information on specifics for planting, pruning and disease control for your fruit trees. Plus, there is a ton of information on other shrub-growing fruits and berries.