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Fruit Tree Sizes

by Stark Bro's on 10/10/2011
Dwarf Candy Crisp Apple Tree

Do you want to grow your own fruit trees but find the sizes a bit confusing? We’re here to help clear up some of the fruit tree sizing lingo. Don’t worry! These terms aren’t in Botanical Latin.

What are the differences between dwarf, semi-dwarf, and standard fruit trees?

Generally speaking, the fruit trees with the smallest mature height will be dwarf trees.

Dwarf fruit trees will grow 8-10 feet tall and wide and, depending on the environment, may start bearing fruit sooner than their larger counterparts. Dwarf trees are ideal if space is limited, and care and maintenance (spraying, pruning, harvesting, etc.) can be done from the safety of the ground — no ladders needed! Some dwarf fruit trees require staking to help them become established and grow upright, but this is a quick and easy task made possible with tree stakes. Trees planted in particularly windy areas may require staking even if you are not planting dwarf sizes.

If you are limited on space, even for a dwarf tree, consider growing fruit trees in containers. Most fruit trees, with adequate care and maintenance, will grow and produce fruit in a container environment.

Semi-dwarf is the next-larger size in fruit trees.

These trees will reach 12-15 feet tall/wide. Once semi-dwarf fruit trees are bearing fruit, a 6-foot tall person can harvest most of the fruit without needing a ladder. Sweet cherries are an exception: running a little larger, the semi-dwarf size sweet cherry tree reaches 15-18 feet tall/wide. The average semi-dwarf fruit tree may yield almost twice as much fruit as a dwarf-sized one, without taking up much more space.

Semi-dwarf fruit trees tend to be well-anchored and have a greater surface area to yield fruit, compared to dwarf fruit trees, all without taking up that much more space.

With proper care and pruning management, a semi-dwarf fruit tree can be the perfect fit for a modest yard or garden, and they are also suitable for being grown in containers!

Standard is the largest-sized tree of any variety.

When they have grown to their full mature size, these fruit trees can reach 18-25+ feet tall/wide. That is, unless you’re considering standard-sized peach and nectarine trees, which will reach 12-15 feet (this may appear to be the range of a semi-dwarf but, because they naturally don’t grow very large, it is the ‘standard’ size for these trees). Depending on the type of fruit tree you’re hoping to plant, the mature height may vary just a little: pears* and plums reach about 18-20 feet in height, while apricots grow up to 15-20 feet tall/wide. Standard-sized trees may take longer to bear fruit but, once they get started, they will produce a greater quantity of fruit over all. At maturity, these trees may require use of a ladder or a fruit picker to help you harvest the fruit, and family and friends to help you consume it. :)

Remember, from smallest to largest, it goes: dwarf, semi-dwarf, standard. For spacing purposes, it is safe to assume that the mature width of a fruit tree will be the same as its height. *Some fruit trees, like pears, have more of a conical (narrow but tall) growth habit — these trees naturally won’t have much of a wide spread: Dwarf pear trees will be 8-10 feet tall and spread about 6-7 feet wide; Standard pear trees will be 18-20 feet tall and 12-13 feet wide.

Now that you understand fruit tree sizes, the real challenge is to choose your favorite fruit trees to fit your available space. Good luck!

Comparing Dwarf, Semi-Dwarf, Standard Fruit Tree Heights Shop All Fruit Trees at Stark Bro’s »

Topics → Planting & Growing, Tips


  1. In my retirement I plan to have a yard with a small orchard. Growing up I had fond memories of picking peaches, plums and apples on my grandparent’s farm.

    • Fancy seeing you here, Alan! :) I wonder if people realize what lasting impressions they create when they share those experiences with loved ones. So many of us can look back fondly on those memories and are inspired to recreate them. When you’re ready to start your small orchard, we’ll be here to help you! :)

  2. Josh permalink

    I was thinking about buying the dwarf cinnimon apple and was wondering if ginger gold would be a good pollinator

    • Hi Josh! Yes, they would make an excellent pollination pair :) They have overlapping bloom times and a little bit of a span on the fruit becoming ripe (Ginger Gold ripens in mid to late August and Cinnamon Spice ripens in late October).

  3. Rich permalink

    Are any of your stone fruits grafted to St. Julien rootstock? If not, can you recommend varieties for NE Oklahoma?

    • Hello Rich :) Our peaches are actually on a peach redleaf rootstock (St. Julien is a plum – but works very well for peaches, too). The rootstock we use is virtually the same as St. Julien, but we have found that the peach redleaf has a tendency to be more well-anchored. It should work just fine for you there in NE Oklahoma!

  4. Catherine permalink

    What is the difference between a dwarf fruit tree and a dwarf supreme fruit tree?

  5. Roger permalink

    I’m thinking about planting a couple of semi dwarf supreme Honey Crisp apple trees. How old are these trees, and how many years before they bear fruit? Would Red Delicious, and Courtland make good polinators? Thanks.

    • Hey there Roger! All of our bare root fruit trees are 2 years old when we ship them to you, and apples will take an additional 2-5 years to bear fruit (depending on the variety and the environment). Read more about how many years it takes a tree to bear fruit here. :)

      As for Cortland and Starkrimson® Red Delicious as pollinators – they would make a perfect trio!

  6. Sheri Maxwell permalink

    I planted an apple tree from Stark Bros back in 1995, it is a semi dwarf, planted it by the leach field!!! I live in Tucson, Arizona and this darn apple starts blooming in December, it absolutely loves life and loves giving me tons of apples. I think it is something like a Jonagold. I wish I could remember or you had records back that far. Would love to plant another. Thanks

    • That is amazing Sheri! I wish we knew what type of tree it was, too. We would love to see photos of it in bloom and the apples if you’d like to share them with us! :)

    • Ron Crafton permalink

      If it is a really crisp juicy apple with a sweet and tart flavor that has lots of juice, I would opt to call it a Jonagold. The Jonagold is a cross between the Yellow Delicious and the Jonathan. It is a very good keeper and the only apple we have been keeping the last two years in our cold garage all winter. I like it so well that I bought a semi-dwarf at Lowes the other day while strolling the outdoor gardening area. Can’t wait for it to start producing.

  7. Greg permalink

    Between Fall 2012 and Spring 2013, I’ve put in 17 various fruit trees. These were all bought as bare root trees from you guys. The ones I planted in the Fall are leafing out and look good. What type of maintenance do I need to perform on them this first year after planting?

    • It sounds like you chose a great spot for your new fruit trees to grow, Greg! There isn’t a whole lot you need to do during the growing season other than watch and enjoy them as they continue to thrive.

      If you haven’t already, consider adding a mulch layer a couple of inches thick on the ground over your trees’ roots to keep weeds down and keep the soil around the roots from drying out.

      If you plan on fertilizing your trees, the best time would be during the spring and definitely before July 1st — any later and you’ll be encouraging growth down the line when your trees should be shutting down for the winter.

      Once your new fruit trees are dormant (winter or early spring before things leaf-out again), you can see where to make your pruning cuts: Simply aim to shape your trees so that they are open — no branches growing in toward the center — and remove dead, damaged, and diseased limbs so that your trees come back healthy and strong next spring!

      • Greg permalink


        I don’t have the mulch down yet, but it’s on my schedule to do this week. I also need to figure out a good way to water them. It’s 100 yards or more to them and the hose doesn’t seem to the the best way to handle it.

  8. dan permalink

    I recently ordered a bunch of standard, semi, and dwarf trees from you, and planted them a little further apart than the recommended distances because space was not much of an issue. Would it be possible to add soil to above the grafting point on the dwarfs at some point in the future (a few years from now) to get them to root beyond the root stock and turn into standard size fruit trees? Im just wondering if that is an option…

    • This can happen, Dan, and some varieties of fruit tree are more likely to self-root than others. Apples are a good example of trees that do this. It’s why we recommend keeping the graft union above the soil line when you plant. If you would like to intentionally bypass the rootstock’s dwarfing characteristic, you may certainly give it a try — especially if you have the space for it!

  9. Patrick Shaw permalink

    You used to have several SPIRE varieties available and now I see only one. They seemed to be a great idea for people who have limited space. Where havve they gone?

    • They’re here Patrick!:

      Of course, this late in the planting/shipping season, most of them are already sold out and won’t be back in stock this spring. However, you may opt-in to being notified when the trees are available for shipping again if you enter your email address where it says, “Notify me when it’s available.” on the sold-out varieties you have in mind. :)

  10. Carl C permalink

    I have standard and semi-dwarf trees in my orchard. I have planted some dwarf apple trees from you. I have a good feel for pruning the other sizes to open up the tree and encourage the shape I want.

    When you prune dwarf apple trees, what guidelines would you give that would be different than semi dwarf?

    • Good news, Carl! It’s not really all that different when you prune dwarf, semi-dwarf, or standard apple trees. You’re still going for the same shape and structure that is best for the tree — in the case of apple trees, it would be a central leader with scaffold branches that aren’t too narrowly-angled. Remove the inward-facing growth and damaged/diseased/dead limbs. The main thing to keep in mind is that dwarf apples tree won’t get as tall as their larger counterparts, so you won’t need to be as aggressive to keep them maintained.

      You can see a basic video on pruning a young tree to a central leader here:

  11. glynnes permalink

    Here I go “preaching to the choir”.

    My 2 year old Stark Bros. Reliance dwarf peach is in full bloom. It is pretty and such a beautiful shape. At first I did not understand the professional (supreme) pruning that gives the tree it’s many wide open branches which are now covered with flowers where lots of peaches can grow. I am learning about fruit.

    This spring, I saw some other Reliance semi-dwarf trees in 7 gal. pots at a big box store. I was shocked at the pruning that left only a few scraggly branches at the top. Some had a few side branches halfway up the trunk. The trunks were very thin compared to height.
    If these sad trees live, they will never produce a normal crop of peaches due to the loss of those lower limbs. Maybe they cut them off to get them all on the truck.

    About dwarf vs semi-dwarf:

    I am sort of sad I did not get semi-dwarfs, but my little yard won’t allow it. However, when a late freeze was predicted, I could wrap the little trees far easier than bigger ones. I don’t even know if putting on Christmas lights and wrapping in sheets did any good. I only know I tried.

    I love my Stark Bros. trees. it took me a long time to consider bare-root trees. Now I see they are by far the best choice.

  12. JOHN permalink

    i grew 16 years ago a few standard size trees in the backyard…they grew so huge and tall, I could not harvest 80% of the fruit, and lets forget ladders. I cut them down. Best bet is the smaller varieties, foot for foot, they equal the larger yields…..huge trees defeat the purpose…

    • Standard-sized fruit trees aren’t for every grower in every space, John, you’re right! If you are growing fruit trees for the fruit (and why wouldn’t you? ;) ) Semi-dwarf and Dwarf fruit trees are the way to go. Like you said, even with a ladder, a lot of the fruit you want to harvest is just out of reach. Many fruit enthusiasts who end up with more fruit than they can handle tend to like standard-sized trees to feed the wildlife and still leave enough for them to enjoy from time to time. To each their own, I suppose! :)

  13. Jessica permalink

    Hi, I’d like to know how big a dwarf honey crisp, dwarf Washington navel orange, as well as possibly a dwarf sweet cherry tree, will grow in air pruning containers. I have a small deck to put them on, and no yard, so space is tight.

    • Hi Jessica! It’s really difficult to say. It’s going to depend on the size of the containers and the individual trees. We don’t offer a Washington navel orange, so I don’t know much about the nature of the variety itself. You might consult whomever you purchase your navel orange tree from on what to expect from it in a container environment. Sweet cherry trees tend to get quite large, even when they are dwarf trees growing in the ground. This nature will likely translate to the container situation, but, again, it depends on the size of the air-pruning containers you intend to use. Honeycrisp is a low-vigor tree itself, so, even when planted in the ground on a dwarfing rootstock, it tends to be smaller than other dwarf apple trees just naturally.

      To give you an idea, I have semi-dwarf apple trees in 7-gallon containers that are 3-4 years old. They are probably a little over 6 feet tall because I haven’t pruned them to keep them shorter — which is also an option you may consider. Semi-dwarf apple trees normally grow to reach 12-15 feet in height, to give you a reference. Their roots have completely filled the containers they are growing in and could use some work this winter, but that’s another story. ;)

      Another thing to consider is pollination. If you want fruit, you need to make sure your fruit trees have pollinators. Most citrus trees are self-pollinating. Most cherry trees and apple trees are not. You will need another different variety of sweet cherry tree for your dwarf sweet cherry to produce fruit. They can’t both be Bing cherries, for example — they will not pollinate themselves and therefore won’t pollinate the same variety. Honeycrisp apple needs another different variety apple tree for pollination as well. Without adequate pollinators you will have nice trees but no fruit.

  14. John permalink

    Hey there,
    I’m on the hunt for two apple trees. I’m in Zone 7 (Southern Connecticut) and I’ve been somewhat infatuated as of recent with apples and really wanting to grow them in my yard (which isn’t too large but big enough for two semi-dwarfs. I’ve been going to every orchard I could find and I’m really looking for the perfect apples for my liking. I could use you’re insight as to what would pair good together and have the qualities I’m looking for.

    Things I’m looking for:
    * I make apple pies all the time, so it has to hold it’s shape when cooking.
    * I love to eat them raw and usually go for a sweet/tart/crisp/hard apple.
    * I need something that’s pretty easy to grow (first timer here).
    * Something that is pretty good with warding off deseases.
    * Something that yeilds a good amount of fruit.
    * Something that stores for a good amount of time (if possible)

    Recently I went to an orchard and I really liked the Cortlands and Macouns I tried. I’m a fan of HoneyCrisp but everything I read pretty much says that it’s hard to grow and keep plus it’s not great for baking.

    A friend suggested the Northern Spy (for pie making) though I never could find one to try.

    Would a Macoun and a Courtland pollenate eachother?
    Can you suggest any other varieties that fit my needs that will work seasonally together for pollination that I can check out?

    Thanks so much!
    All the best,

    • It sounds like you’re a fan of that McIntosh quality in an apple, John!

      Macoun is an offspring of McIntosh x Jersey Black
      Cortland is an offspring of McIntosh x Ben Davis

      They’re not *ideal* pollinators for one another, although their bloom times sort of overlap. If you wanted to plant these two trees, I’d recommend also having a Golden Delicious tree growing nearby because it’s a stellar pollinator and it will help cover any gaps. Maybe your neighbor will be interested in growing one in their yard? ;)

      Macoun + Cortland (+ Golden Delicious)

      Another option, or two, is trying an Enterprise apple tree, or an Empire apple tree, both of which are offspring of McIntosh – so their fruit has that sweet-tart flavor and crisp texture. These characteristics make the fruit good for eating fresh and also for baking. The best part is, these two varieties are both very disease-resistant and either one will pollinate the Macoun and the Cortland apples if you wanted to mix and match the ones you’re most interested in:

      Macoun + Empire
      Macoun + Enterprise
      Cortland + Empire
      Cortland + Enterprise
      Empire + Enterprise

  15. Christie Jordaan permalink

    I wud like to know how far from each other must I plant apricot trees

    • It depends on the mature size of the trees you are planting. If they are going to be 8-10 feet tall and wide at maturity, dig their holes at least 8-10 feet apart to give them enough space on all sides for the mature width of the branches.

      If the trees are going to mature at a larger size (15-20 feet for standard-size apricot trees), or if you’re going to keep them pruned more compact than their natural spread, you will need to adjust their spacing accordingly.

      If you’re thinking about distance for cross-pollination, fruit trees can be up to 50 feet apart and still adequately pollinate one another.

  16. Christin permalink

    I live in south central Alaska, zone 4, or 3, people have apple trees up here but we are just looking at which ones might be best for us. We have lots of land, light, and the snow is usually melted by late April, and then first snow in early November. Is there an apple tree that could yield fruit in such a climate? Thanks.

  17. Rich permalink


    How long does the various tree types live? I’ve seen standard size apple trees that are over a century old but I’ve heard dwarves only last about 10 years… I’m hoping I’m wrong because I also read that planting an apple tree where an old one once was isn’t good because the roots give off something harmful to saplings…

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