15 Fruit Trees That Grow In Zone 6 and Crop

Did you know that zone 6 is one of the best climates for growing fruit trees? While you can’t grow tropical varieties this far north, orchard staples like apples, cherries, and peaches are all fair game. You can also grow unique fruit like jujubes and pawpaws with relative ease.

In this article, I share 15 fruit trees that grow in zone 6, including the best cultivars for cold-hardiness and overall performance.

About USDA Hardiness Zone 6

States predominantly in zone 6 that are suitable for growing fruit trees include Pennsylvania, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia. Zone 6 also extends into parts of New England, the Southeast, and the Pacific Northwest. These regions are all characterized by warm/hot summers and mild winters. 

Zone 6 regularly experiences temperatures as low as -5 to -10°F so plants grown in this climate must be able to withstand temperatures well below freezing.

Throughout zone 6, the year’s last frost typically occurs in mid-March. The first frost date occurs in November. Unsurprisingly, these dates affect the length of the growing season for fruit and vegetable crops.

Fruit Trees You Can Grow In Zone 6

Below you’ll find the best fruit trees for USDA zone 6, including which cultivars I recommend most and some tips and tricks for planting and routine maintenance.

Apples

1. Apples

Malus domestica

  • Recommended Varieties: Honeycrisp, McIntosh, Red/Gold Delicious, Gala
  • Ideal Position: Full sun
  • Harvest Time: Late summer, Fall

When it comes to cold-hardy fruit trees, apples are often the first that come to mind. Not only can these trees tolerate harsh growing conditions but they also produce incredibly versatile fruit depending on the variety you choose.

Apple trees thrive in full or partial sun, with some varieties being able to withstand shade and all need moist, well-draining soil. During the typical cycle of apple tree growth stages most cultivars produce fragrant blossoms in late spring or early summer. According to Iowa State University, you should plant at least two different cultivars for optimal cross-pollination.

Apples are usually ready to harvest in the fall but some varieties are known to set fruit as early as July or August.

The best cultivar for your home orchard will depend on how you want to use the fruit — e.g., some trees bear fruit that is perfect for eating right off the stem while others produce fruit more appropriate for baking or preserves.

European Plums

2. European Plums

Prunus domestica

  • Recommended Varieties: Stanley, Italian, Damson, Castleton
  • Ideal Position: Full sun
  • Harvest Time: Late summer, Fall

As the name implies, European plums are varieties that originated throughout Europe and its adjacent regions. Many of the most popular plum cultivars today belong to this group.

Since European varieties bloom and set fruit later in the year than other plums, they are naturally more cold-hardy. This is great news if you live in a cooler part of zone 6 or have an exposed property.

European plum trees tend to be sweeter than any of their counterparts. Some varieties produce the high-sugar fruit traditionally used to make dried prunes. 

Another notable feature of European plums is that most are self-pollinating. This means that you only need one tree to produce fruit. 

Japanese Plums

3. Japanese Plums

Prunus salicina

  • Recommended Varieties: Santa Rosa, Shiro, Methley
  • Ideal Position: Full/partial sun
  • Harvest Time: Summer, Fall

In comparison to European varieties, Japanese plums are smaller, softer, and juicier. They also tend to be tarter.

The majority of Japanese plum trees are not self-fertile, so you’ll need to plant multiple to ensure a good harvest.

For home gardeners, the main advantage of growing Japanese plums is that the flowers and fruit mature earlier in the year. Japanese cultivars are also a little more shade-tolerant than European ones.

(You may also see these called Chinese plums, which is a more appropriate name since they actually originated in China!)

Sweet Cherries

4. Sweet Cherries

Prunus avium

  • Recommended Varieties: Lapins, Stella, Benton, Rainier
  • Ideal Position: Full sun
  • Harvest Time: Late spring, Summer

If you want to pluck fresh cherries from your home orchard as an afternoon snack, a sweet cherry tree is your best bet.

Sweet cherries grow in zones 5 to 7, so zone 6 gardeners should have zero issues getting these fruit trees to thrive. Just be sure to select a location with full sun exposure and good circulation (don’t crowd your cherry trees around other large trees).

Nearly all sweet cherries are self-sterile and need access to another tree for pollination and fruit production. However, the recommended variety ‘Stella’ is self-fertile and can fruit all on its own.

Sour Cherries

5. Sour Cherries

Prunus cerasus

  • Recommended Varieties: Morello, Danube, North Star
  • Ideal Position: Full sun
  • Harvest Time: Late spring, Summer

Sour cherries, on the other hand, are ideal for making pies, preserves, and other yummy treats.

While you probably won’t want to munch on these cherries straight off of the branch, they’re a bit easier to grow than sweet varieties. For example, all types of sour cherries are self-fertile, so only one tree is necessary for pollination.

You can grow sour cherries in a number of soil conditions as long as the area is well-draining. Dwarf varieties, such as ‘North Star’, are well suited to raised beds.

European Pears

6. European Pears

Pyrus communis

  • Recommended Varieties: Bosc, Summercrisp, Bartlett
  • Ideal Position: Full sun
  • Harvest Time: Late summer, Fall

Growing pears is very similar to growing apples. But pear trees are less vulnerable to common pests and diseases than apple trees, so growing the former is actually a bit easier.

European pears include popular cultivars like ‘Bosc’ and ‘Bartlett’. The fruit of these trees tend to be classically pear-shaped — i.e., narrow on top and wide at the bottom. 

One of the most important things to know about European pears in particular is that they must ripen off of the tree. According to horticulturist Hugh Conlon, the fruit must be stored at room temperature for 7 to 10 days after picking to ripen.

Asian Pears

7. Asian Pears

Pyrus pyrifolia

  • Recommended Varieties: Shinseiki, Chojuro, Kosui
  • Ideal Position: Full sun
  • Harvest Time: Late summer, Fall

Asian pears are even more similar to apples than the European varieties. The fruit has a more rounded shape and is left to fully ripen on the tree. They also store better after picking than European pears. On average, Asian pear trees bloom many days later than European ones. According to Oregon State University, cross-pollination between the types is possible but very rare due to their flowering schedules.

Apricots

8. Apricots

Pyrus armeniaca

  • Recommended Varieties: Moorpark, Goldcot, Puget Gold, Tilton
  • Ideal Position: Full sun
  • Harvest Time: Summer

Apricots are stone fruit like plums and peaches. While apricots look a lot like peaches overall, they are notably smaller and less sweet.

Apricot trees are technically hardy to zone 5 but tend to bloom very early. As a result, late frosts can damage flower buds and destroy the year’s fruit before it even begins to form. Be sure to select a cold-hardy cultivar — I’ve listed a few good ones above — for growing in zone 6.

Your apricot tree will need well-draining soil that contains plenty of organic matter. Planting these trees in elevated areas can lessen the risk of spring frost damage.

Last but not least, apricots are self-fertile. So you only need to invest in a single tree to enjoy a delicious harvest!

Peaches

9. Peaches

Prunus persica

  • Recommended Varieties: Elberta, Madison, Redhaven, Reliance
  • Ideal Position: Full sun
  • Harvest Time: Summer

Many people are surprised to learn that you can grow peaches in zone 6. But, in fact, some varieties can even grow as far north as zone 4.

Most peaches are self-fertile fruit trees that ripen in the summertime. The exact time of harvest varies from one cultivar to another, so do some research before selecting a tree for your home orchard.

If you’re short on space, you may be able to grow a dwarf peach tree in your back garden or a large container. ‘Reliance’ and ‘Redhaven’ are both hardy, smaller varieties.

Ensure your peach tree receives full sunlight throughout the day for maximum productivity and disease resistance.

Almonds

10. Almonds

Prunus dulcis

  • Recommended Varieties: Mono, Hall’s Hardy, All-In-One
  • Ideal Position: Full sun
  • Harvest Time: Late summer, Fall

Most almond trees are only hardy up to zone 7. If you’re willing to hunt down a cold-hardy variety, however, it’s 100% possible to grow almonds in zone 6. I recommend one of the cultivars listed above.

Even cold-hardy almonds are sensitive to spring frost, so I recommend selecting an elevated, south-facing planting location if at all possible. These trees require full sun exposure to produce as many flowers and nuts as possible.

Almond trees prefer relatively dry conditions in the summer. They need well-draining soil (an elevated planting location will help with this) and minimal irrigation to thrive.

Nectarines

11. Nectarines

Prunus persica var. nucipersica

  • Recommended Varieties: Independence, Snow Queen, Arctic Jay, Flavortop
  • Ideal Position: Full sun
  • Harvest Time: Summer

Nectarines, while categorized as their own type of fruit, is actually a variety of peach trees. The fruit of a nectarine tree is extremely similar to a normal peach. The main difference is that nectarines are smaller.

Most nectarines are capable of surviving in zones 6 to 8. These trees are sensitive to frost, so gardeners in the northern part of this region may need to take extra steps to protect their annual harvest. 

As is the case with peaches, modern nectarine trees are largely self-pollinating. You only need one healthy nectarine tree on your property to produce fruit.

Pecans

12. Pecans

Carya illinoensis

  • Recommended Varieties: Kiowa, Wichita, Apache, Pawnee
  • Ideal Position: Full sun
  • Harvest Time: Fall

Pecans are traditionally thought of as a southern crop but these nut trees can grow as far north as zone 6. You just need to be sure to plant a variety known for its cold tolerance.

These trees prefer full sunlight and need a relatively large amount of water during the growing season. On average, you should expect to provide 2 inches of water per week via either irrigation or natural rainfall.

Pecan trees grow quite big — up to 75 to 100 feet tall — and you need more than one to ensure cross-pollination (unless your neighbors have a pecan of their own).

Pawpaws

13. Pawpaws

Asimina triloba

  • Recommended Varieties: Rebecca’s Gold, Taylor, Davis, Sunflower
  • Ideal Position: Full/partial sun
  • Harvest Time: Late summer, Fall

The pawpaw is the largest edible fruit native to the United States. Yet a surprising number of gardeners have never heard of this tree!

The pawpaw tree is a cold-hardy, deer-resistant tree that typically grows just 15 to 20 feet tall. The sizable fruit is usually described as tasting like a blend of tropical fruits, including bananas, mangos, and pineapples.

The American pawpaw (Asimina tiloba) is sometimes confused with papaya (Carica papaya). This is because tropical papaya is also known as ‘pawpaw’ in some areas. To avoid confusion when researching this fruit tree, I strongly recommend using the scientific name.

Jujubes

14. Jujubes

Ziziphus jujuba

  • Recommended Varieties: Winter Delight, Honey Jar, Sugarcane
  • Ideal Position: Full/partial sun
  • Harvest Time: Fall

The jujube tree is native to China and prefers hot, dry climates. But it also performs very well in zone 6. I recommend investing in a cold-hardy cultivar, such as Winter Delight, for the best results.

Jujubes are similar to apples in terms of flavor. The oblong fruit look like large berries that turn reddish-brown when ripe.

Jujube trees have dark, glossy leaves and semi-weeping growth habits. Many people grow jujubes as ornamental trees rather than for the fruit alone.

Crabapples

15. Crabapples

Malus spp.

  • Recommended Varieties: Butterball, Magenta, Garland
  • Ideal Position: Full sun
  • Harvest Time: Fall

Contrary to popular belief, crabapples are 100% edible. If your goal is to harvest edible crabapples at home, however, I strongly suggest planting a cultivar known for its flavor.

While the fruit is too sour to eat off the tree or bake into a pie, crabapples are commonly used to make jellies, jams, and other preserves.

Since crabapples are essentially just small, non-domesticated apples, their care, and maintenance are nearly identical. Crabapples and apples will also cross-pollinate if grown near each other (this won’t affect the fruit quality).

FAQs Fruit Trees That Grow In Zone 6

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.