Fruit Cultivar Selection

When a person purchases a piece of rural property, many times they are looking for ways to expand their returns from that investment. Most rural properties have old orchards. These areas provided farmsteads will a great source of fruit or drink in the cold days of winter. A fifty year old Standard Apple tree, may produce some fruit, but they generally do not product “marketable” fruit. So it would be much wiser and more profitable to start with a new planting.

Choosing a cultivar is one of the most important decisions in a establishing a fruit crop planting. Unproven and untested cultivars are often a costly and discouraging gamble. Some cultivars are relatively rare and must be ordered from specialized nurseries. It always recommended at cultivars be purchased from a reputable local garden center or a nursery.

In Wisconsin, we do not recommend planting peaches, nectarines, sweet cherries, Japanese plums, European grapes, boysenberries or winter-tender cultivars of other fruits. These crops lack the hardiness to survive Wisconsin’s winters. Temperatures below -15 will kick fruit buds. Over a period of time, woody stems and trunks of tree will be winter injured, leading to disease susceptibility and eventually to early death. Apricots in particular bloom very early in the spring, which leads to loss of fruit buds and blossoms to spring frost.

Apples by themselves are unfruitful. Plant at least two compatible cultivars to provide for cross pollination and adequate fruit set. These are the Apples we recommend for Wisconsin:

Lodi is a very early, large, light green or yellow apple with tart, tender flesh. It is best for pies or sauce. Lodi is very susceptible to Fire Blight and tends to yield biennially. Fruit matures about the second week in August.

Earligold is an early Golden Delicious-type apple. It is medium sized with fine, firm flesh and a pleasing sweet tart flavor. Earligold stores for 3-4 weeks.

Jerseymac is an early ripening, red McIntoshtype apple. It has excellent flavor for fresh use. This apple will store for 2-3 weeks. Jerseymac is very large and susceptible to fire blight and scab.

Paulared is another McIntosh-type apple. It is a high quality, medium size fruit with bright red skin and white flesh. This fruit does not store well. The tree is hardy but very susceptible to fire blight.

McIntosh is the most popular apple in Wisconsin. It is very good for fresh use, baking and sauces, plus it stores very well. It is very susceptible to scab. Spur-type strains such as

Macspur, Spur McIntosh or Marshall

McIntosh are similar varieties.

Cortland is a very good quality fruit. It has tender flesh and is slow to brown. Cortland’s are good for fresh use and baking. The tree has a weeping, willowy growth habit and is winter hardy. Red sports such as Redcort are suitable.

Honeycrisp is a long stemmed, large fruit with a red blush over a yellow background. The flesh is exceptionally crisp and juicy with a mild sweet flavor. The fruit will stay crisp even after storage. The tree is moderately vigorous and upright in its growing habit. Honeycrips is hardy.

Spartan is a highly colored, medium sized fruit with solid dark red blush. The flesh is firm, crisp, white, and juicy. Its quality is very good for fresh use and cooking. Trees are medium sized and hardy.

Empire is a high-quality, McIntosh-type red apple. It has firm, crisp, and juicy flesh. This apple is good for fresh use. It stores well for 3- 5 months. Empire trees are productive and medium sized, with a spur type growth habit.

Regent is a medium-sized red fruit. Its skin is tough, but its flesh is crisp and juicy. The flavor is mild and sweet. It is excellent for fresh use and cooking. The tree is moderately hardy.

Red Delicious is a large full-red fruit. Its flesh is light yellow, crisp, and juicy with a sweet distinctive flavor when it ripens. Red Delicious is a late maturing fruit and may not reach optimum quality in Wisconsin.

Jonagold is a large fruit that is similar to Golden Delicious. The skin is yellow with a red blush on the exposed side. The fruit stores well and is used for apple desserts. The flesh is a creamy yellow with an outstanding sweet flavor. Jonagold is a tripold apple and will not pollinate any other cultivars. It is moderately hardy.

Golden Delicious is a medium to a large fruit, light-yellow at maturity. The flesh is tender, juicy, and light colored with outstanding flavor when mature. The fruit shrivels rapidly in low humidity storage-conditions. The tree is medium in size and marginally hardy.

When growing pears in Wisconsin, you need to plant at least two cultivars to produce cross pollination and adequate fruit set. Most pear varieties are susceptible to fire blight. Dwarf varieties of pear are not winter hardy in Wisconsin, so we must grow large trees (Old Home X Farmingdale 333 is recommended). Recommended cultivars:

Parker is a good quality, medium to large fruit, but does not store well. It is moderately hardy.

Bartlett is the standard commercial pear in North American. It is moderately winter hardy, but adapted to widely varying soil and climatic conditions. This pear is very susceptible to fire blight. The fruit is medium to large with melting flesh. Good for fresh use and canning. Red skinned strains, such as Red Sensation, are also available but are not suitable pollinizers for Bartlett.

Gourmet is a yellow to yellow green, medium sized fruit. This cultivar combines the crisp flesh found in Asian pears with the sweet, rich flavor of European pears. Refrigerated fruit will keep several weeks. The trees are medium in size. This variety is tolerant of fire blight.

Patten is medium to large yellow fruit, which is very slender and juicy. It has excellent dessert quality and unacceptable for canning. It is moderately tolerant to fire blight.

Luscious is a medium to small fruit variety. Its flavor is similar to Bartlett but sweeter. It is a very hardy tree. Luscious is considered moderately resistant to fire blight.

Flemish Beauty is a very good quality fruit, juicy, and tender with fair keep quality. Timely harvest is a requirement for this variety to prevent over ripening. This pear is susceptible to both fire blight and pear scab, which seriously reduces the fruit quality.

Tart Cherry cultivars do not require cross pollination to produce fruit: planting on cultivar is sufficient. Birds may decimate the crop before harvest is the trees are not netted. Recommended cultivars are as follows:

Montmorency is the standard tart cherry of North America. Its fruit quality is moderate.

North Star is the hardiest of all tart cherries. It has small, but good quality fruit. The small compact trees are resistant to leaf spot.

Meteor has a large, bright red, tart fruit. This variety has a medium sized, attractive, very hardy tree. It is resistant to leaf spot.

The last group we will talk about that shows up in most old orchards are plums. There are generally two types of plums the Blue or European plum and the Red (American) Plums.  Blue plums do not require cross pollination, but the Red Plums do in order to obtain fruit set. The recommended Blue Plum cultivars are:

Mount Royal is a very good, hardy blue plum for southern Wisconsin. It has small attractive fruit. This plum is good for fresh use, canning and freezing.

Stanley is a late blooming heavy annual producer. It has good growth habits, winter hardiness and productivity. Its yields are heavier when planted with Mount Royal. This cultivar is excellent for fresh use and processing.

The Red Plum varieties are as follows:

Underwood has round fruit that are medium sized. It has good quality, high yielding fruit. This variety is very hardy. It is excellent for fresh use and preserves.

Alderman has a large burgundy red fruit. This variety was introduced by the University of Minnesota as a very hardy variety. It has excellent fruit quality and is used fresh or in preserves.

Superior has an excellent quality large red fruit.  Unless hand thinned this variety tends to overload and produce small fruit. This tree is moderately hardy.

The Red Plum Pollinizer cultivars are as follows:

Kaga has a small to medium fruit. It is good fresh and used in cooking. This tree is small, hardy and productive.

Toka has small to medium sized fruit with sweet, somewhat spicy flavor. It is extremely winter hardy.

For more information concerning recommended fruit cultivars for southern Wisconsin, consult UWEX publication A2582, “Home Fruit Cultivars for Southern Wisconsin”. It is available for a small fee from any County UWEX Office in Southwestern Wisconsin or on the Web at

Author: Steve Kohlstedt

Richland County, UWEX Resource Agent

Originally Published: The Weekend Farmer, Fall 2006