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Empire is an apple known for its deep purple-red color, crisp but juicy texture, sweet and somewhat pineapple-y flavor, and its ability to be knocked around in lunch box without bruising. Empire apples also store well in the refrigerator, though the flavor is better when fresh—and you don’t get any fresher than picked off your own tree! If you’ve never grown Apple trees before, Empire is a good beginner’s tree, especially if you live in the Northeastern U.S., where this tree does best.
- Hardiness Zone: 4-8
- Spacing: 12-15'
- Exposure: Full Sun
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The Empire Apple was developed in the Empire State many years ago, and New York is still the area where this variety is primarily grown commercially. Lester Anderson of Cornell University crossed a McIntosh Apple with a Red Delicious Apple in 1945 to get the ball rolling, and more than 20 years and thousands of seedlings later, Empire was chosen for release. (This is why you probably shouldn’t bother growing Apple trees from seed—even after a carefully planned cross, you’ll get a LOT of duds!)
While some Apple trees only bear heavily every other year (“biennial bearing”), Empire has proven to be a reliable producer every year. Its fruits will keep until January in the fridge and are used for fresh snacking and in salads, pies, and applesauce.
How to Grow
Your First Fruits™ Empire Apple tree is “partially self-fertile,” meaning that even without another pollinator tree nearby, it will set some fruit. To ensure optimum fruit set, you can plant a different Apple or Crabapple variety in your yard to contribute pollen. Empire blooms mid-season, and its flowering time overlaps with several Crabapples you may use as pollen donors, such as Royal Raindrops®, Prairie Fire, or Louisa. Always plant Apple trees in sunny sites with good air circulation to discourage disease. Irrigate regularly, but don’t overwater. Our fruit tree experts here at Bower & Branch™ are happy to answer any questions you have about Apple tree care. Please don’t hesitate to ask!
Questions & Answers
Q: What other variety of Apple Tree do I need to pollinate my Empire Apple?
Unfortunately, two Empire Apples will not pollinate each other - a different variety is needed.
Other pollination partners for Empire can be native wild crabapple within 100’. Perhaps your neighbors are already helping you out! Crabapples, especially the white varieties are great providers of pollen for apples! Bower & Branch recommends Donald Wyman, Weeping Red Jade, Sargent, Madonna, Spring Snow or Sugartyme. These named varieties are grown for flower and show providing tremendous landscape value and do not produce edible fruit for people, but the birds adore them!
Q: How large will my Empire Apple Tree be when mature?
A: We grow Empire Apples on a semi-dwarfing rootstock (S-M7). This will give you an apple that will grow 12-15’ in height and width before pruning to form. You can expect a substantial harvest in 3 to 5 years using this rootstock, or about 3 years after planted at your home.
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