Ministry of Agriculture

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Hardy Fruit Trees for Northern BC

Fruit trees are more challenging to grow in cold climates, however there are prairie-hardy varieties available that are suitable for cooler, shorter-season areas of BC.

Most fruit trees are propagated by grafting a scion, or the top part of the tree, on to a rootstock, which becomes the root and crown part of the tree. The rootstock has an influence on the size and hardiness of the tree, but the scion determines the type of fruit produced on the tree. It is important that both the rootstock and the scion be winter hardy.

Hardy apple rootstocks include the Russian rootstock Antonovka, which is extremely hardy and vigorous, and Siberian crabapple (Malus baccata). The dwarfing rootstocks favoured by commercial growers in the Okanagan will not do well in northern BC. If you favour a smaller sized tree, the size can be controlled to a great extent by pruning.

The following tree fruit varieties have been available at interior nurseries in recent years, and would be suitable for growing in colder areas. There are many more varieties available. Contact your nursery for more information.

Haralson Apple: Medium sized fruit. Red striped to deep red. Crisp, juicy, firm. Good for fresh-eating and juice. Excellent for baking. Stores for 4 to 6 months. Tree is biennial (heavy crop followed next year by light crop). Tree is hardy to zone 3 (-45 C). Ripens in September-October.
Honeycrisp Apple: Developed at the University of Minnesota in 1991 from a cross of Macoun X Honeygold. Skin is mottled red over yellow ground color. Flesh is very crisp. Excellent quality. Better than McIntosh and Red Delicious for fresh eating. Ripens in late September. Tree is an annual bearer and is hardy to zone 3. Nursery stock is in short supply.
Sunnybrook Apple:  Hardy to zone 3. Fruit ripens in late August. Fruit is medium sized. Good for pies.
Golden Spice Pear:  Good for fresh eating and processing. Not a keeper. Ripens in October. Tree is hardy to -45 C. Tree is vigorous. A good pollinator.
Ure Pear:  Excellent for eating and canning. Ripens in mid-September. Fruit is greenish-yellow, sweet, very juicy. Tree is hardy to zone 3.
Early Golden Pear:  Tree is hardy to zone 3, very vigorous and can grow to 30 feet tall. Fruit ripens in early August and is good for fresh eating and preserves. The variety is a selection of Ure.
Meteor Cherry:  A sour (tart) cherry. Large, oblong, bright red fruit. Juicy, freestone. Tree is a natural genetic dwarf, growing 8-12 feet tall. Self-fruitful. Tree is hardy to -45 C.
North Star Cherry:  A sour (tart) cherry. Red skin, red flesh, free-stone. Fruit can stay on the tree for 2 weeks after ripening when the skin turns mahogany. The tree is a natural genetic dwarf, growing 6 to 12 feet tall. Tree is self-fruitful and bears early, heavy crops. Ripens from mid-June to early-July. Tree is hardy to -40 C.
C-100 Apricot:  A hardy selection from Alberta.
Prairie gold Apricot:  Tree is hardy to zone 3. Fruit ripens in late July. Good for canning or jam. Fruit size is 1 ½ inch. Tree is 12 feet all and 10 feet wide.
Scout Apricot:  Tree is self-fruitful, but more productive with a pollinator. An early, reliable bearer. Fruit is a golden, juicy freestone. Tree is disease-resistant. Hardy to zone 3.
Westcot Apricot:  Fruit ripens in August. It is golden yellow with a reddish tinge. It is a juicy freestone. Good for fresh eating. Excellent for canning and jam. Tree can grow to 20 feet tall and is hardy to zone 3.
Brookred Plum:  Dark red fruit with red flesh. Ripens in late August. Good for eating or cooking. Tree is hardy to zone 3 and can grow to 15 feet tall. Cross pollinate with Pembina or Tecumseh.
Pembina Plum:  Fruit has red skin with yellow flesh. It is a freestone. Excellent for eating and processing. Ripens in mid to late August. Tree is hardy to zone 3.
Tecumseh Plum: Medium-sized fruit, dark red skin. Firm, juicy yellow flesh. It is a clingstone with excellent quality. Good for fresh eating, jam, jelly or sauce. Ripens in August. Tree is hardy to at least zone 5. It was developed in South Dakota.

The planting and care of hardy fruit trees is the same as for regular fruit trees. If possible, plant on a south-facing slope to improve drainage of cold air and to maximize sunlight. Allow fruit trees to harden off for the winter by reducing water supplies in the fall. Do not apply fertilizer in late summer, as this may induce a flush of growth that would make the tree winter-tender. Paint tree trunks white to help prevent southwest injury.

For more information on varieties of hardy fruit, refer to the University of Saskatchewan website on fruit breeding and research.

Types of winter damage:

Autumn Cold damage: Trees are injured by sudden cold temperatures in the fall or early winter before the they are completely hardened off.

Winter Cold damage: Trees are injured by extremely cold temperatures that exceed the tolerance of the rootstock or variety.

Spring Cold damage: A sudden dip in the temperatures in the spring as trees are coming out of dormancy may cause injury. Chinooks, or warm winter temperatures may cause a similar effect.

Spring frost damage: Often spring frosts will kill the fruiting buds resulting in a reduced fruit set or russeted fruit that year, however the tree itself will not be seriously injured.

Southwest injury or sunscald: The southwest side of the tree may warm up sufficiently on sunny, warm winter days to lose hardiness. Subsequent cold temperatures cause injury, and often cracking of the bark.

Revised Feb. 2006