"Graventstein" apples make excellent fresh fruit, and retain their flavor when baked or dried.

How to Plant a Gravenstein Apple Semi Dwarf

by Jessica Westover

Grown for its crisp, tartly sweet apples, the "Gravenstein" apple tree (Malus domestica "Gravenstein") first appeared in North America in the early 1800s and produces ripe fruit in late summer to early fall. Classified as a semi-dwarf cultivar, "Gravenstein" reaches heights of only 12 feet with a spread of 15 to 20 feet. Thriving in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 8, "Gravenstein" makes an excellent fruit tree for small landscapes. Plant a new "Gravenstein" tree in the late winter or early spring while it remains dormant.

Water a container-grown "Gravenstein" tree before planting. Fill a bucket two-thirds full of water from a garden hose, and submerge the roots of a bareroot "Gravenstein" tree for two to three hours before planting.

Select a planting site that receives at least six hours of full, direct sunlight per day, contains fast-draining, nutrient-rich, deep soils with a pH of 6.5 and sports at least 12 feet of open vertical space. Clear weeds and debris from a 15- to 20-square-foot area on the planting site.

Dig a hole, making it twice as wide and equal in depth to the "Gravenstein" apple tree's root ball. Space the hole 15 to 20 feet away from other trees, buildings and stationary objects.

Slide the tree out of its container or pull it from the bucket. Prune off any broken, dead, mushy or discolored roots with pruning shears. Cut vertically through any roots growing in a circular pattern around the root ball. Trim any overly long roots back to 12 to 18 inches.

Place the tree in the center of the planting hole. Add or remove soil from the hole's bottom as needed to position the top of the root ball level with the surrounding ground and the graft union, or round knob on the trunk, 2 inches above ground level.

Fill the hole half full of soil, crumbling any clods before adding them to the hole. Tamp the soil firmly around and in between the roots. Add additional soil if needed, tamping it down as before, to keep the hole one-half full.

Pour 2 gallons of water slowly into the hole. Wait for the water to soak completely into the soil, settling it farther around the roots.

Fill the hole completely full of soil, packing it around the roots. Do not overfill the hole or bury the tree deeper than it was previously growing.

Build a 3- to 4-inch-tall ring of soil around the outer perimeter of the "Gravenstein" tree's buried root ball. Fill the ring's interior with water. Wait for the soil to absorb all of the water.

Spread a 2- to 3-inch-deep layer of mulch over the planting site with a rake. Cover the ground beneath the tree's canopy and at least 12 inches beyond. Pull the mulch 3 to 4 inches back from the trunk to prevent the bark from rotting.

Drive a 2-inch-by-2-inch wooden stake that is 10 feet tall into the ground with a mallet. Position the stake 3 to 4 inches away from the tree's trunk on the side from which the dominate wind blows. Drive the stake into the ground to a depth of 2 feet.

Cut a 6-inch length from an old garden hose using a utility knife. Thread a length of 9-gauge wire through the section of hose. Wrap the portion of wire inside the hose around the tree's trunk, just below the lowest branch. Cross the two ends of the wire in the space between the trunk and the wooden stake to create a figure 8. Wrap the wire ends around the wooden post to secure them in place. Do not pull the wire so tightly that the tree leans toward the post or that it restricts the tree's natural movement.

Water the "Gravenstein" tree when less than 1 inch of rainfall falls during the previous seven days. Apply 1 to 2 inches of water directly to the ground inside the soil ring. Do not over-water to the point that the soil becomes soggy.

Items you will need

  • Garden hose
  • Bucket
  • Shovel
  • Pruning shears
  • Mulch
  • Rake
  • 2-inch-by-2-inch wooden stake, 10 feet long
  • Mallet
  • Old garden hose
  • Utility knife
  • 9-guage wire
  • Wire cutters


  • Paint the tree's trunk with a solution of 1 part white latex paint and 1 part water to protect its bark from sunburn until the tree produces leaves. Allow the first coat to dry, then apply a second coat.


  • In order to produces apples, a "Gravenstein" tree requires two other apple trees that bloom around the same time to pollinate its flowers. Plant the trees no farther apart than 100 feet.

Photo Credits

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