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How to Care for Red Delicious Apple Trees

By Sarah Terry ; Updated September 21, 2017

Red delicious apple trees are early bloomers and produce sweet, red apples that are great for eating fresh. Plant at least two apple trees to pollinate the tree. You can plant golden delicious or gala apple trees as cross-pollinators for the red delicious. Plant your apple trees in well-draining soil and full sunlight, avoiding any low-lying areas that could be "frost pockets." Also avoid planting the apple trees near wooded areas to prevent damage from animals. Red delicious apple trees grow best in USDA Zones 5 through 8, withstanding minimum winter temperatures of about -15 degrees Fahrenheit.

Red Delicious Apple Tree Care

Stake your young apple tree to support it and protect it from damaging winds. Insert a 10-foot tall wooden stake 2 feet into the ground about 6 inches from the trunk of the tree. Tie the tree to the stake with string or twine at 6-inch intervals.

Water your red delicious apple tree deeply once or twice each week during the spring, summer and early autumn. Soak the soil around the entire canopy area, applying enough water to soak down to the root zone.

Feed your apple tree a commercial fertilizer for fruit trees or a 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer in early spring, before new growth begins. Apply 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer at a rate of 1 pound per year of tree age, up to 6 pounds for mature red delicious apple trees.

Thin the apples when they’re about the size of a dime in early summer to prevent limb breakage. Remove all fruit except one in each cluster and ensure that the apples are spaced about 5 inches apart.

Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of bark mulch around the red delicious apple tree to control weeds and retain soil moisture. Spread the mulch to cover the entire canopy area, but keep the mulch away from the trunk by leaving a 12-inch bare area around the trunk’s base.

Spray your red delicious apple trees with both a multipurpose fungicide and a horticultural oil once each year in early spring, right after the first new growth appears. These sprays will help to prevent and control fungal diseases and insect infestations. Follow the dosage and application instructions on the labels.

Harvest the apples from mid-September to mid-October. Pick the apples when they begin to turn a dark-red color and before they drop from the tree.

Pruning & Shaping the Apple Tree

Cut the young, branchless tree trunk, or “central leader,” down to 3 feet in height in late winter or early spring after planting the tree.

Select three or four major lateral branches on the tree that are evenly spaced, about 1 ½ to 2 feet apart, along the trunk and not directly across from each other. Ensure that the lowest selected branches are at least 2 to 3 feet above the ground level.

Prune away all lateral branches except for the selected lateral “scaffold” branches.

Cut back the central leader every year in late winter, before bud-break, so that it is no more than 20 to 28 inches above the topmost scaffold branches.

Remove all dead, diseased, crossing and crowded limbs from the red delicious apple tree each year in late winter.


Things You Will Need

  • Wooden stake, 10 feet long
  • String or twine
  • Garden hose
  • 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer or fruit tree fertilizer
  • Pruning tools
  • Bark mulch
  • Multipurpose fungicide
  • Horticultural oil
  • Premixed orchard spray (optional)


  • Instead of the fungicide and horticultural oil, you can spray your apple trees with a commercial, premixed orchard spray after the flowers are finished blooming. Continue to spray the chemical once every 10 days to two weeks during the summer season.


  • Don't broadcast the fertilizer too close to the apple tree's trunk, because this can cause root and trunk burn. To apply the 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer properly, broadcast the fertilizer on the ground starting 6 inches away from the trunk and working outward toward the farthest-reaching branches.

About the Author


Sarah Terry brings over 10 years of experience writing novels, business-to-business newsletters and a plethora of how-to articles. Terry has written articles and publications for a wide range of markets and subject matters, including Medicine & Health, Eli Financial, Dartnell Publications and Eli Journals.