How Long Do Apple Trees Live? 8 Influencing Factors

Do you want a lifelong supply of apple trees? The first question that may pop into your mind is: how long do apple trees live?

Depending on the species and the growing conditions, apple trees can live anywhere between ten to 100 years. The reason why apple trees have a long lifespan is due to their extended vegetative phase—the period between germination and flowering—which is between five to 12 years.

Now, you may wonder why some apple trees live longer than others and what influences apple trees’ age. Keep on reading to find out!

Apple Tree Lifespan Averages

The lifespan of apple trees varies according to the species, human care, and environmental conditions. Another important factor that impacts the age of apple trees is whether or not they’re planted in their native areas.

Standard Apple Tree Estimated Lifespan

The estimated lifespan of standard apple trees is 50-80 years.

Some apple trees can live over 100 years, but generally, they’ll stop producing delicious apples after 50 years.

Dwarf and Semi-Dwarf Apple Tree Estimated Lifespan

The life expectancy of dwarf and semi-dwarf apple trees depends on the used rootstock type.  For those asking what it is, a rootstock is a cut from the plant’s underground part that’s grafted onto another plant to produce desired traits.

Dwarf apple trees have a life expectancy of 15-20 years. Semi-dwarf apple trees live around 20-25 years. 

Dwarf and semi-dwarf apple trees have a shorter lifespan because of their short vegetative phase. They usually mature and produce fruit within 2-4 years after planting.

Life Expectancy of Popular Apple Tree Varieties

You’ll find some popular apple trees and their life expectancy in the following table.

Apple VarietyAverage Lifespan
Red Delicious35-50 years
Fuji35-50 years
Dwarf Fuji15-20 years
Gala20-40 years
Dwarf Gala15-20 years
McIntosh30-45 years
Pink Lady20-25 years
Empire20-30 years
Honeycrisp35-45 years 
Jonagold25-50 years
Granny Smith50 years
Arkansas Black20-25 years
Crabapple30-70 years

Factors That Affect Apple Tree Lifespan

Several environmental factors, as well as caring conditions, can lower or extend the lifespan of apple trees. These factors include:

Wrong Climate

Although the required climate conditions will vary according to species, most apple trees thrive in colder regions, where the temperature doesn’t exceed 90°F.

That said, extremely cold weather will cause adverse results both in the quantity and quality of the apple yield.

When fall approaches, apple trees shed their leaves and enter dormancy until the middle of winter. Once they experience a particular amount of cold hours, around 800 to 1,700 hours, apple trees break dormancy and start budding.

Now, what happens when apple trees bud in the wrong climate conditions? The growing buds get injured and may die, eventually reducing the trees’ lifespan.

Poor-Quality Rootstock

A rootstock’s quality will affect apple trees’ yield quality, quantity, and life expectancy.

For instance, if an apple tree is grafted by a rootstock susceptible to a pathogen, the apple tree will be harmed by the same pathogen.

Graft your apple trees with rootstocks having desirable characteristics like disease resistance, long lifespan, stress tolerance, and high yield.

Competition With Other Trees/Plants

Agroforestry is when we plant woody perennial trees like apples around crops and animal farms. This creates positive environmental changes like decreasing water and soil loss, improving yield production, and thus, economic return.

The problem with agroforestry is that plants may compete on soil nutrients and moisture, decreasing the apple tree’s growth and yield.

Make sure to plant apple trees around good companion plants that fertilize the soil and attract beneficial insects.

However, keep in mind to choose plants that flower before or after apple trees to ensure insects pollinate apple trees.

Not Enough Sunlight

Apple trees need full sun (at least eight hours of direct sunlight) for best growth. Exposure to solar UV light stimulates apple plants to produce flavonoids. Flavonoids are plant pigments that benefit the plant by regulating growth and playing a role in plant defense.

While partial shade may affect apple trees’ growth and structure, it’ll still produce apples. However, when the exposure to direct sunlight is reduced to around 65%, apple trees will stop fruiting and growing.

Poor Soil/Lack of Nutrients

Apple trees can grow in a variety of soil textures (clay, loam, and sand). However, apple trees require fertile soil with different minerals for optimal growth.

Nitrogen and potassium deficiencies are common in apple trees, but other mineral shortages like boron, magnesium, and zinc happen occasionally.

The problem with nutrition deficiencies in apple trees is that they all produce similar symptoms like yellowing, dropping in leaves, and failing to grow young leaves.

Not only does poor soil affect growth, but it can also make apple trees susceptible to different pathogens, which eventually leads to dying.

Water-Related Issues 

Apple trees don’t need much water to grow. Generally, you should water apple trees about an inch every ten days or when you notice drought.

Good soil drainage is crucial for apple trees to grow. Oxygen can’t reach the trees’ roots if there is excess water in the soil, leading to serious root injuries.

Pests/Disease

Insects, bacteria, plant viruses, and mold love apple trees. These pathogens can cause severe injuries—particularly if they harm the root.

Common fatal root diseases include crown gall and root rot.

Lack of Maintenance/Care

Apple trees are susceptible to many pests and diseases. Lack of proper maintenance, like poor watering, drainage, fertilizing, and pruning, can cost you your precious trees.

For that reason, interval inspections for fungal infections and insect eggs and choosing the proper treatment are crucial to prevent the death of apple trees.

How Long Do Apple Trees Take To Grow

Standard-size apple trees will take an average of eight years to grow. Dwarf and semi-dwarf apple trees usually grow for around 2-4 years before fruiting.

How to Keep Apple Trees Healthy

Like most fruit trees, apple trees need proper maintenance to stay healthy. 

  • Make sure to plant apple trees in areas with adequate sunlight
  • Plant apple trees in soil with a sufficient amount of nutrients and good drainage 
  • Measure the soil pH to ensure it’s not too acidic since apple trees need a pH between 5.8-7 for optimal growth
  • Inspect apple trees regularly to avoid the spread of fungal infections—apple trees are prone to many fungal diseases

Related Questions

Do Apple Trees Bloom Every Year?

Yes, many apple tree varieties bloom every year, but only if they grow in optimal conditions and haven’t sustained an injury. 

When apple trees grow in poor environmental conditions, some buds don’t flower until the following year—this is known as biennial bearing.

Some apple tree varieties are more prone to become biennial bearers when experiencing poor environmental conditions. These include:

  • Braeburn 
  • Sierra Beauty
  • Spartan
  • Grimes Golden

What Time of Year Do Apple Trees Bear Fruit?

The time of year when apple trees bear fruit depends on the species. Apple trees are classified according to their blooming into early-season, mid-season, and late-season apple trees.

Apple trees bud in the spring. Early-season apples mature around July, while mid-to-late-season apples mature from late summer to fall.

Conclusion 

How long do apple trees live? That depends on several factors, including the species and various environmental conditions.

The key to extending apple trees’ lifespan is to meet all the growing requirements and prevent infections. That’ll make sure you get your apple supply for a long time.

Leave a Comment