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Grow an Orchard: The Best Apple Trees for Northern Illinois

Backyard orchards are a fun way to get into the Grow Your Own movement, but when looking at fruit trees in a nursery there are important considerations to make. One of the biggest mistakes is to loading a cart with three Honeycrisp Apple trees and calling it a day. In this article we will discuss how to select the right varieties of apple trees for your landscaping along with growing and care tips.

Pollination of Apple Trees

Apples, like pears, usually need a pollinator that is a different cultivar to produce fruit, and while there are some cultivars and nifty grafted combo trees that do not need a pollinator, having a second or even third variety can really increase crop yield. Apple cultivars bloom at different points in the season (early, mid, and late) and thus are ready for harvest at different times.

For best results in our region, it is usually a good idea to choose varieties that have a little later bloom time to avoid those pesky late spring frosts. If the flowers get frosted before they can pollinate, then that year’s crop is essentially done for. Below are some of our top performing varieties to consider when selecting your own stock.


Honeycrisp Apple

Known for their perfect balance of sweet and tartness, this is usually the first variety to sell out in our yard. They have a early-mid bloom time so it is best to pair them with other early-mid bloomers such as Red Delicious, Gala, or Granny Smith. An East, South-East exposure with plenty of sun will help minimize any risk associated with the early-mid bloom time. Hardy and a proven performer in our area!

Columnar Apples (Tasty Red and Tangy Green)

These are varieties which are comparable to McIntosh and Granny Smith in taste, but with a very tight and narrow growth habit that makes them perfect for small yards and urban environments. They have a mid bloom time which allows them to be pollinated by many different cultivars, but they look their best when paired with other columnar apples so why not try one of each!


A lesser known cultivar that was developed with disease resistant in mind. It is well suited for sauces and baking, with a flavor that is comparable to McIntosh and Red Delicious. It is an early-mid bloomer which makes gives it plenty of options for pollination.

Starting a Backyard Orchard in Illinois

The Barn Nursery carries a variety of fruit trees and can help you select the correct varieties to meet your apple.jpggoals, including fruit production and cross-pollination. To learn more about how to plant and grow your own, take a look at these other articles on fruit trees.

The Quick Guide to Growing Fruit Trees

Fruit Trees & Pollinators

What You Need to Know About Fruit Tree Pollination

This winter we're making it even easier to start an orchard. Fruit Trees, especially Apple, Cherry and Peach, sell out quickly every year. Order yours this winter and get 20% off. You'll be guaranteed spring availability and can pick up or arrange for delivery and planting as soon the plants arrive. Simply enter coupon code: FRUIT20 at checkout. Order fruit trees online here.

The Barn Nursery & Landscape Center has a long history of excellece in landscape design and installation. If you are considering a large landscape project, take a look at our portfolio of work on Houzz.com. To schedule an appointment with a member of our Landscape Design Team, click below.

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