I never saw apple trees when I was growing up in southern California. There were lots of orange trees and other citrus, of course, and a few neighbors had peach, plum or apricot trees, but no apples. I had heard that it didn’t get cold enough to grow apples. It wasn’t until I went through Master Gardener training that I found out we CAN grow apples in our warm winter climate. We just need to pick the right varieties for the limited ‘chill hours’ we get!
What are ‘chill hours’?
Chill hours are the number of hours in a year in which the temperatures are below 45 degrees. Apples (and other deciduous fruits) need a certain amount of chill hours in order to bear fruit. In southern California we don’t get a lot of hours with temperatures below 45 degrees so we need to choose fruit trees that have ‘low chill’ requirements. Low chill hours are less than 500 hours per year. For a more detailed discussion of winter chill see article on Dave Wilson Nursery website.
What apple varieties are ‘low chill’?
- Dorsett Golden – At less than 100 chill hours needed, this is probably the lowest chill apple available. The skin is yellow with a pink blush and firm, white flesh. It’s good fresh but can also be used in baking. It stores in the refrigerator for up to three months after harvest. (Summer harvest)
- Fuji – This is my favorite eating apple and it needs 200-400 chill hours to set a crop. Its crisp texture and sweet flavor have made it one of the world’s most popular apples. It also keeps well, 6 months or longer. (Fall harvest)
- Pink Lady – Has the same chill requirement as Fuji and also the same storage life. It has pretty pink skin and crisp, flavorful flesh. (Fall harvest)
- Anna – Needs 200 hours of winter chill and is a good producer. It is sweet and crisp but has a shorter storage life at about 2 month. (Summer harvest)
Dave Wilson Nursery Website
This wholesale fruit tree grower in central California has an amazing website that provides detailed information on dozens of apple tree varieties (as well many other deciduous fruit trees). There are other low chill apple varieties that they grow and a list of retailers that carry their trees. Click here for Dave Wilson Nursery – for the Home Garden to find more information on fruit tree varieties and growing advice.
An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away!