Description & Overview

Perhaps one of our most requested apple trees, Honeycrisp is noted for its incredibly crisp texture and juicy, sweet flavor – a taste explosion! There is truly nothing like a Honeycrisp apple which is why it is consistently ranked by the University of Minnesota as one of the highest-quality apples in their sensory evaluations.

Core Characteristics

Category: Fruit Trees

Wisconsin Native: No

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 4

Mature Height: 15 feet

Mature Spread: 15 feet

Growth Rate: Slow

Growth Form: Tree

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Site Requirements: Well-drained site

Flower: White

Bloom Period: Early-mid May

Foliage: Green. Often shows yellow leaf margins in summer.

Fall Color: Yellow

Urban Approved: No

Fruit Notes: Large, striped or mottled. Ripen mid-late September.

Suggested Uses

Bred by the University of Minnesota in 1960 to be more cold-hardy than others, Honeycrisp was released to the public in 1991. Johnson’s Nursery offers Honeycrisp on M7 rootstock, which is semi-dwarf and free-standing, typically growing between 12 to 18′ tall and wide. This variety needs to be in full sun (6+ hours) and preferably in well-drained soil to achieve the best flower and fruit production. Honeycrisp cannot tolerate heavy clay soil or waterlogged areas. Be sure to avoid planting in any low-lying areas where frost can gather and impact the health of the tree.

Like all other apple trees, Honeycrisp needs a different apple variety or a crabapple to cross-pollinate and produce fruit. It cannot cross with itself. The good news is that this particular variety pairs well with any other apple that we have in our inventory. Be sure to plant any cross-pollinators nearby – we recommend within at least 30′ to 50′ of each other to make it easier for the pollinators to find their way.

While not an ornamental tree, the Honeycrisp apple does have some aesthetic merit with its fragrant, pretty whitish-pink flowers that bloom in early to mid-May. After flowering, the fruit begins to form and in mid-September, large red apples ripen to maturity. The skin is thin and yellow-green with a pink blush. The flesh is ivory to white in color, with a crisp, snappy texture, aromatic, with has a nice balance of sugar and acidity.

Plant Honeycrisp apples with other fruit trees to create a home orchard or “food forest.” Fruit trees are a great way to introduce children to gardening!

Perhaps one of our most requested apple trees, Honeycrisp is noted for its incredibly crisp texture and juicy, sweet flavor – a taste explosion! There…
Perhaps one of our most requested apple trees, Honeycrisp is noted for its incredibly crisp texture and juicy, sweet flavor – a taste explosion! There…

Wildlife Value

Apple trees are relished by deer, Ruffed Grouse, cotton-tail rabbits, and numerous other small mammals. Honeybees are the primary pollinator of apple trees – expect to see your tree abuzz when flowers are in bloom.

Maintenance Tips

Annual pruning is needed to increase light penetration and airflow through the canopy to achieve the best colored and flavored fruits. Find more information on Training & Pruning Fruit Trees.

Perhaps one of our most requested apple trees, Honeycrisp is noted for its incredibly crisp texture and juicy, sweet flavor – a taste explosion! There…

Pests/Problems

The best fruit quality is obtained by growing in areas with cool climates. Although it performs well in the upper Midwest, New England area and anywhere where McIntosh Apple can be successfully grown, growers in the south and west coast find that it often colors poorly in their warmer growing season.

Honeycrisp has low vigor, is somewhat biennial bearing, and is slow to start bearing fruit. Don’t let these facts discourage you from growing Honeycrisp – they are well worth the wait.

This variety is resistant to apple scab and fire blight. In summer, its leaves may look mottled green and can be confused with insect damage; however, this is related to the mechanics of how the tree manages moving carbohydrates.

Cedar Apple Rust (Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae) affects apples, crabapples, hawthorn, serviceberry, and other plants in the Rosaceae family. The disease requires plants from two different families to complete their life cycle; a red cedar or juniper and an apple, crabapple, etc. Bright orange to red spots will appear on leaves and fruit, developing into tube-like structures as the season progresses. If you have red cedar or juniper on your property, you may want to rethink planting apples. You can also enact a spraying regimen; however, fungicide is only preventative and not curative.

Find a spraying guide and more information on Best Pesticides For The Home Orchardist.

As mentioned previously, deer love apple trees not only for the fruit but they also enjoying browsing on the foliage. If your goal is to build an orchard and enjoy the apples yourself, deer protection will be needed if you’ve deer in your area. Consider planting crabapples somewhere else on your property to deter the deer from going after your Honeycrisp. Otherwise, you can install a physical barrier such as a fence made of woven wire like chicken wire. Be sure to make the fence tall enough that the deer can’t jump over it. A trunk protector is not a bad idea as rabbits can chew on bark and deer can rub their antlers on it, damaging the tree. More info on deer protection.

Leaf Lore

Bred to be winter hardy with high-quality fruit, Honeycrisp was originally thought to be the result of a cross between Macoun and Honeygold; however, DNA tests suggest that Honeycrisp has a Keepsake heritage. Read more on Researcher Uncovers the Origins of ‘Honeycrisp’ Apple (growingproduce.com).

Honeycrisp was designated the “Official State Fruit of Minnesota” in 2006 by the state of Minnesota.

Honeycrisp apples were bred to have larger cells than other varieties, contributing to the flesh’s unique juice-bursting consistency.

How should you use Honeycrisp apples? The sky is the limit! Mix into salads, slaws, or fruit bowls, or chop into salsa. Slice them, dice them, and dip them into nut butter! Bake into pies, cakes, bread, cobblers, crisps, or muffins. Roast alongside carrots and other root vegetables as a side dish. Slow-cook them to make sweet applesauce, preserves, and apple butter, or press them into cider or juice for cocktails!

Companion Plants

Honeycrisp Apple must be cross-pollinated with a crabapple or different apple variety to produce fruit. We have other spring-flowering varieties that pair well with Honeycrisp including Cortland, Haralred, Liberty, McIntosh, Royal Gala, or Zestar!

Consider adding other fruit trees such as Cherry, Pear, Peach, Chokecherry, Paw Paw, or Cornelian Cherry Dogwood. Expand your edible garden by including shrubs such as Serviceberry, Chokeberry, American Elderberry, American Filbert, or Nannyberry. There are even edible perennials such as Allium (ornamental onion), Dianthus, Coneflower, Bee Balm, and Daylily — flowers that are great on salads!

Perhaps one of our most requested apple trees, Honeycrisp is noted for its incredibly crisp texture and juicy, sweet flavor – a taste explosion! There…
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Written by Paul Schwabe