Apple fruit trees need 20–30 feet (6–9 meters) of space between each other. This is close enough to allow for cross-pollination between trees but far enough to prevent root tangling. For dwarf apple trees, reduce the distance to 7-10 feet (2–3 meters) between trees. A good rule of thumb is to plant apple trees their maximum tree size away from each other. Regular apple trees grow to 30 feet (9 meters) in height while dwarf trees grow to 10 feet tall (3 meters). There are also semi-dwarf trees that grow to 15 feet tall (4.5 meters) and thus need 15 feet of space.
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5 Steps to Planting Apple Trees at the Correct Distance
Fruit tree spacing is a pretty simple thing so long as you have a tape measure. However, there are additional steps you can take to make sure you provide enough feet of space for your trees. Follow these steps below and you’ll be harvesting delicious fruit in no time.
Scout the Location
Apple trees grow best in full sun (6 hours of sunlight per day) and need well-drained soil. You don’t want to plant your tree somewhere affected by shade. You should also avoid planting in a low area where water may pool. Gauge the space you have to see what types of trees you could grow successfully in your planned orchard.
Choose Your Cultivars
Depending on your yard space, decide between standard, semi-dwarf, and dwarf varieties of trees. Smaller yards will obviously bias towards smaller trees while big yards can handle standard-sized trees.
Prepare the Soil
Apple tree varieties have particular soil needs for ideal growth. Well-drained soil with good air circulation is best for apple trees. Loamy soils in particular will work great for most types of apple trees.
Measuring the Distance
This is where you break out the tape measure and your shovel. Dig a planting hole in your hard that is 2 feet (60 cm) deep and double the width of the tree’s root ball. Then measure the correct distance away from your hole for your next tree. Standard trees will need 20–30 feet (6–9 meters) of space. Semi-dwarf apple trees will need 15 feet (4.5 meters) of space between trees. Dwarf apple tree cultivars will need 7–10 feet (2–3 meters) of space. Continue digging, measuring, and planting until your row is complete
Plant your apple tree in the planting hole and cover the roots with soil. Water the tree and provide a layer of organic mulch to help the tree ease into its new surroundings. For more details on how to dig a hole for planting a tree so that it establishes itself quickly, follow our digging guide.
What Happens If You Plant Apple Trees Too Close Together?
Apple tree roots will tangle if your trees are too close. When apple tree roots become tangled, they will steal nutrients from each other. This stunts the growth of any tree caught in the tangle. Additionally, tangles can help accelerate the spread of diseases between trees. This is because lack of distance allows disease to cross into trees more easily.
- Root tangle can leave trees struggling to get enough nutrition.
- Close planting can encourage a quicker spread of plant diseases.
- A canopy can form which results in more fungal disease.
Planting apple trees too close together can also result in a canopy forming. While this canopy can provide great shade for you, it will also prevent excess moisture from evaporating as quickly. This in turn encourages the growth of fungi and fungal disease will become more common.
How Close Do Apple Trees Need to Be for Pollination?
Pollination distance depends on which type of tree you have planted. Most types of fruit trees can release pollen at double the distance of their mature tree size. Taller apple varieties can release pollen a bit further than that. Thus a dwarf variety, growing only 10 feet tall, can cross-pollinate with trees up to 20 feet away. Meanwhile, a larger tree, growing up to 30 feet tall, can cross-pollinate up to 75 feet away. Here’s a quick breakdown of how far each of the apple varieties can pollinate.
- Standard – within 75 feet (23 meters).
- Semi-dwarf – within 45 feet (14 meters).
- Dwarf – within 20 feet (6 meters).
Apple trees do best when different cultivars are used for cross-pollination. It’s recommended that you switch up the type of cultivar every 3rd tree in a row for the best effect.
How Close Can You Plant Apple Trees Together?
The distance between apple trees should equal the mature height of the tree. This will vary depending on the variety or cultivar you choose to plant. Here are the key things to remember in planting apple trees:
- Plant fruit trees as many feet apart as they will be feet tall.
- Plant standard apple trees 20-30 feet apart (6–9 meters).
- Plant semi-dwarf apple trees 15 feet apart (4.5 meters).
- Plant dwarf apple trees 7-10 feet apart (2–3 meters).
- Be aware that planting trees too close together poses health risks to your trees.
- Apple trees can pollinate with other trees at distances double their height.
With these tips, you’ll be well prepared to grow a bountiful apple harvest. Remember that full-size trees need to vary in cultivar type for cross-pollination to succeed. Be sure to give your apple trees high-quality soil and regular watering for ideal growth.