8 Cold-Hardy USDA Zone 3 Apple Trees (That Will Thrive)

USDA Zone 3 includes some of the coldest regions of America, which makes growing fruit trees in this zone a challenging task.

Luckily, you’ll find that Apples are cold-hardy trees which fruit well into Spring, even when there are early frosts or snow. To make it easy for you, we’ve compiled this list of the hardiest Apple varieties that do best in Zone 3.

Plant Hardiness Zone 3 covers parts of Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

  • Minimum temperatures for Zone 3: -40°F to -30°F (-40°C to -34°C).
  • Minimum average temperatures for Zone 3a: -40°F to -35°F (-40°C to -37°C).
  • Minimum average temperatures for Zone 3b: -35°F to -30°F (-37°C to -34°C).

Depending on weather conditions, the two subzones can experience harsher temperatures. When purchasing new plants, remember to select varieties rated as “very hardy” so they can survive in your garden.

  • Estimated last frost date for Zone 3: May 15
  • Estimated first frost date for Zone 3: September 15

8 Hardy Apple Varieties That Grow Best in Zone 3

1. Honeycrisp (Malus domestica ‘Honeycrisp’)

Honeycrisp Apple Tree

Honeycrisp Apples are named so for their crisp, juicy texture and for their sweet, aromatic flavor that you might associate with honey. Unsurprisingly, Honeycrisp is one of the most highly in-demand varieties in the Northern American fruit market.

The Honeycrisp was bred in Minnesota in 1974 particularly for the sweetness of the fruits and the tree’s ability to grow in cold climates. You will see your first apples appear approximately 2-5 years after you plant a dwarf Honeycrisp tree, or 7-8 years for a full-sized tree.

Keep in mind that Honeycrisp trees don’t self-pollinate, so make sure there are other apple or crabapple trees nearby, ideally about 12 feet away. You can expect a mature Honeycrisp tree to bloom and fruit every year.

Other Common Names: MN #1711, Honeycrunch, Honey Crisp

Growing Zones: 3-8

Average Size at Maturity: 8-18 feet tall, 8-15 feet wide

Fruiting Season: September to October

2. Sweet Sixteen (Malus pumila ‘Sweet Sixteen’)

Sweet Sixteen Apple

As the name suggests, Sweet Sixteen Apples are one of the sweetest apples you can eat, but the flavor is more unique than that. You might taste hints of vanilla, molasses, sugar cane, spicy cherry candy, licorice, and even bourbon when you bite into the fruit of a Sweet Sixteen tree.

This rare variety originated from the University of Minnesota in 1977. Sweet Sixteen trees are extremely cold-hardy so they’re best suited for orchards located up North. They even bloom with white fragrant flowers in Spring to decorate your landscape beds!

You can expect to harvest your first Sweet Sixteen apples when the tree is about 3-5 years old. Just remember to keep another apple tree around for cross-pollination.

Other Common Names: MN 1630

Growing Zones: 3-9

Average Size at Maturity: 22 feet tall, 20 feet wide

Fruiting Season: September to October

3. Goodland (Malus domestica ‘Goodland’)

Goodland Apple
Image Credit: the real Kam75 via Flickr

Goodland Apple Trees are popular across Canada and America for their tasty, slightly tart, juicy fruits that keep well for up to 20 weeks. You can eat these apples raw, bake them, can them for later consumption, or even use them to make aromatic apple sauce!

The Goodland cultivar was introduced in 1955 from Manitoba, Canada. It can easily survive harsh winters and produce apples as early as 3-4 years after being planted.

Plant your Goodland seedlings about 30 feet away from each other, and they’ll grow into good-shaped trees that provide ample shade. Goodland trees will bear fruit each year, but they require a pollinator tree within the area.

Other Common Names: No other common names

Growing Zones: 3

Average Size at Maturity: 15-25 feet tall, 12-25 feet wide

Fruiting Season: August to October

4. Wolf River (Malus pumila ‘Wolf River’)

Wolf River Apple
Image Credit by Josh Graciano via Flickr

It is believed that a farmer named Alexander once planted apples along the Wolf River in Wisconsin. Other accounts point to a lumberman from Quebec named William Springer who eventually moved to Wisconsin, near the banks of the Wolf River.

In the 1850’s, William and his family planted apples which they later named ‘Alexander.’

Regardless of their true origin, Wolf River Apples turned out to be significantly large in size. Each fruit can grow up to 8 inches wide and weigh heavier than a pound. You might find that Wolf River apples aren’t too sweet, but the flavor is balanced with a mild spiciness to it.

You can expect your Wolf River Trees to bear fruit about 2-4 years after being planted. They are generally resistant to common diseases, especially against Apple Scab. They are also self-fertile.

Other Common Names: No other common names

Growing Zones: 3-9

Average Size at Maturity: 12-23 feet tall, 12-30 feet wide

Fruiting Season: September to October

5. Duchess (Malus domestica ‘Duchess of Oldenburg’)

Duchess of Oldenburg Apple
Image Credit: English: National Fruit Collection, Brogdale., OGL 2 via Wikimedia Commons

The Duchess of Oldenburg hails from a long history, and was once enjoyed as the premier apple in the orchards of England. The Duchess is labeled as a heritage or an heirloom apple, which means it has been grown for at least 50-100 years, long before large-scale commercial farming became available.

True enough, Duchess Apple Trees can be traced back to Russia in the 1750’s, which can explain why they are extremely cold-hardy. In fact, there were no apple trees in Maine until the Duchess was imported and bred by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.

No other variety could grow in the coldest parts of New York, New England, and Canada.

The Duchess is among the best-tasting apples, perfect for making apple pie or creamy apple sauce. You can even plant the seeds of your Duchess apples, and they will reliably grow into fruit-bearing trees with equally delicious fruits!

Other Common Names: Baroveski, Borovinka, Duchess of Oldenberg, Duchess of Oldenburgh, Dutchess, Early Joe, New Brunswick, Oldenburg, Queen Mary, Smith’s Beauty of Newark

Growing Zones: 3-7

Average Size at Maturity: 12-30 feet tall, 15 feet wide

Fruiting Season: August to September

6. Norkent (Malus ‘Norkent’)

Norkent Apple

Norkent Apples are sweet and crispy, keeping well for up to 3 months when stored cold. You can eat them fresh, use them to make juice or cider, or cook them into pies.

The Norkent will serve you well as an accent tree, a shade tree, and an ornamental flowering tree. In optimal conditions, your Norkent Apple Tree will live for 50 years or longer.

It is important to note, however, that this is a high maintenance variety that requires regular upkeep and Winter pruning.

Although Norkent Trees are self-sterile, you can plant other apple tree varieties nearby to help with fertilization and to improve the shape of the fruits. Norkent Trees will begin to bear fruit when they are 3 years old, and will continue to fruit annually.

Other Common Names: Enigma

Growing Zones: 2-8

Average Size at Maturity: 16-20 feet tall, 13-20 feet wide

Fruiting Season: August to September

7. Harcourt (Malus ‘Harcourt’)

Harcourt Apple

The Harcourt Apple is a cold-hardy variety produced by the University of Alberta in 1955. With medium-sized, red, crispy, mild-flavored apples, the Harcourt can be eaten fresh, juiced, or baked as desserts. Unfortunately, the fruits don’t store well so consume them quickly after you harvest them.

You will see pinkish white, showy flowers blooming throughout the Spring on your Harcourt Apple Tree. These fragrant blooms will attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators to your garden. Even birds like to eat the fruits and seeds, so leave some Harcourt apples if you enjoy observing all these wildlife.

The Harcourt Tree will rely on another apple or crabapple tree within 500 feet of its vicinity for pollination to occur.

Other Common Names: No other common names

Growing Zones: 3-9

Average Size at Maturity: 10-20 feet tall, 10-16 feet wide

Fruiting Season: September

8. Wealthy (Malus ‘Wealthy’)

Wealthy Apple Tree

The Wealthy Apple is a product of laborious trial-and-error by Peter Gideon, who studied the art of growing fruits since his childhood.

Before 1868, no apples grew in Minnesota until Gideon experimented with 1,000 trees (which mostly died) and finally succeeded with a single tree. The Wealthy Apple is named after his wife.

Thanks to the efforts of Gideon and other members of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society, many apple cultivars were hybridized from the Wealthy Apple. People living in the cold Northern regions of America can now enjoy apples because of them.

You will immediately notice the juicy, sweet tart flavor of the Wealthy Apple on your first bite, reminiscent of a strawberry. The tree has fragrant pink and white flowers in Spring, bearing its first fruits 4-5 years after being planted.

Other Common Names: No other common names

Growing Zones: 3-10

Average Size at Maturity: 12-20 feet tall, 12-15 feet wide

Fruiting Season: September

Other Zone 3 Apple Trees

We’ve looked at the product listings of orchards and anecdotal discussions of people from the upper regions of the United States. Here are some other cold-hardy apple trees you can grow in Zone 3:

  • Red Delicious has an intense crimson color and a mild melon-like flavor which make it an American favorite. In fact, the Red Delicious is so famous that 50 cultivars have been derived from the original apple in 1872. It is an ideal pollinator tree for the Honeycrisp Apple.
  • Granny Smith, or simply Granny, originated from Australia in 1868. You might find that the fruit is hard and firm which means it will hold shape when cooked. The flavor is also tart and juicy. The US Apple Association named Granny Smith as the third most famous variety in 2018, right under the Red Delicious.
  • Spartan is a product of a scientific breeding program in British Columbia, Canada. Spartan Apples are a favorite of many children for their subtle but sweet flavor, ripening well when stored in a cold area. You can use them to make apple juice, apple cider, among other desserts.
  • Beacon is another cold-hardy cultivar developed by the University of Minnesota in 1936. Beacon Apples have a mild sweet flavor, with a pulpy softness that you can bite into right after picking. The tree bears deep red apples every summer.
  • Haralson was introduced by the Minnesota Horticulture Research Center in 1922. The apples are crisp, juicy, and tart. Haralson is one of the oldest and most beloved apple cultivars in America. It is extremely cold-hardy and has a short growing season, which means you can harvest fruits more frequently.
  • Snow, also known as Fameuse, came from Quebec, Canada in the 1730s. As the name suggests, Snow trees are cold-hardy and do well even in snowy regions. You might recognize the taste of strawberry when biting into a deep red Snow apple. It is a good source of Vitamins C, K, B6, antioxidants, and other minerals.
  • Lobo is popular across Canada and Europe. The trees are early-fruiters, extremely hardy, and have an upright habit. The apples are large, dark red, sweet and juicy with a faint aroma that might remind you of strawberries. You can use the fruits as a table decoration, or you can consume them juiced, baked, or fresh.
  • Minjon also comes from the University of Minnesota and is prominently prepared in the kitchen as a pleasant brisk sauce. The crisp, tart flavor of the Minjon will mellow out the longer you store it, ideally up to 2 months.
  • Oriole is another cultivar from the University of Minnesota. The large apples come in shades of yellow, orange, and red. The flavor is distinctively sweet, best for eating directly, but will keep well for up to a month in storage. Oriole Apple Trees are extremely cold-hardy, surviving the harsh Winter in Maine.
  • Red Baron has a juicy flesh and a mild sweet flavor which make it well-suited for making apple sauce, apple pie, and fruit salad. It originated from the University of Minnesota in 1970. The best thing about the Red Baron is that it generously bears plenty of fruit as early as 2 years.
  • State Fair was also introduced by the University of Minnesota. The aromatic, tart, and juicy apples have a hint of lemon to them. This cultivar might have gotten its name from the fact that the apples conveniently ripen during the annual Minnesota State Fair.
  • Prairie Magic is a compact, dwarf variety that is ideal for those who have limited space to grow trees in their backyards. The delicious, sweet-smelling apples of the Prairie Magic will not disappoint. It’s been dubbed by many apple enthusiasts as the best-tasting apple out there!

Final Thoughts on Apple Trees for Zone 3

Living in colder regions does not mean you cannot grow and enjoy apples from your garden! Researchers have worked hard for decades to create apple cultivars that are hardy to Zone 3, one of the coldest regions in the USA.

Luckily, apple trees are the easiest fruits to grow. In general, apple trees are not very picky with the type of soil you plant them in; they require little maintenance and pruning; and they don’t need to be heavily fertilized either.

As the saying goes, one apple a day keeps the doctor away, so start planting apple trees if you’re in Zone 3!

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