GARDENING: Apple trees moderately successful in TexasFloyd is a horticulturist with Texas AgriLife Extension Service. He can be reached at 498-4071 in Ector County or 686-4700 in Midland County or by email at

Few apples are grown in Texas. Many popular commercial varieties must be exposed to more than one thousand hours of temperatures below forty-five degrees Fahrenheit to overcome internal factors that inhibit fruit development. The coldest regions of Texas rarely meet the chilling requirements of apple trees. Nevertheless, many apple trees are sold in Texas each year and a few varieties can be moderately successful.
For many years, successful apple orchards could be found in the Davis mountains, but unusual weather patterns have taken a toll on these trees leaving many decimated. The Llano Estacado has a few apple orchards with at least one relatively large old commercial orchard in Lubbock County being brought back into production recently. The remainder of the state is mostly limited to apple trees in landscapes.
Inconsistent fruit development of apple trees can have several causes. Many are not self-fertile. Even those that are will produce much better when other apple trees are nearby.
Apples require exposure to a minimum number of hours below forty-five degrees. This number, known as the chilling requirement, varies depending on the tree variety but most need more than one-thousand hours of chilling. This requirement is rarely achieved in Texas.
Most apples bear fruit on spurs. These short fruit-bearing outgrowths are two or more years old and easily identified by their tightly compressed buds. Pruning should be performed to minimize the number of spurs removed from a tree.
Apple trees do not fruit well when weeds are growing nearby. These unwanted plants rob the soil of valuable water and nutrients often leaving apples deficient and stunted. Apples are sensitive to broadleaf weed killers. Hand removal of weeds is an ideal control method.
Nitrogen is a major limiting nutrient in many home orchards. Regular applications of small amounts of a 21-0-0 fertilizer or other high nitrogen source will often improve fruiting.
Mature apples may require up to fifty gallons of water per week during the hottest days of summer. Water should not be delivered close to the trunk where disease can easily develop. Instead, irrigate the soil of mature apple trees out near their drip line (underneath the area where they cast shade at noon).