How to Plant, Grow, and Care for ‘Granny Smith’ Apple Trees

Are you a green apple lover? ‘Granny Smith’ is the variety for you! It grows versatile apples that taste great, either fresh or cooked. Learn all there is to know for a successful harvest each year with this apple guide from gardener Jerad Bryant.

Close-up of ripe fruits on a Granny Smith apple tree in a sunny garden. Its branches are adorned with glossy, dark green leaves. The fruits themselves are medium-sized and round, boasting a vibrant green skin.


If you love apple pie and caramel apples, ‘Granny Smith’ is the variety to grow at home. The fresh-picked apples taste delicious and are hard to compare to store-bought ones. Grocery stores sell apples before they ripen, and they lack the sugar content that makes homegrown produce preferable.

Of all the apple varieties, ‘Granny Smith’ is iconic for its green fruit and tart flavor. If you’ve eaten a green apple in your life, chances are you ate a ‘Granny Smith.’ From its humble beginnings in an Australian homesteader’s orchard, this tree now grows in orchards throughout the northern and southern hemispheres, from Australia to the United States. 

Have you heard that fruit growing is a challenge? There are chill hours, ripening seasons, and pollination buddies to consider. Fear not, as we’ll learn everything there is to know about growing a thriving ‘Granny Smith’ tree below. 

‘Granny Smith’ Apple Tree

‘Granny Smith’ Apple trees:

  • provide the ideal baking apples
  • can handle hot summers better than other apple types
  • are prolific fruit producers
  • thrive in zones 5-8
  • are self-pollinating

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‘Granny Smith’ Apple Tree Overview

Close-up of one ripe fruit on a Granny Smith apple tree in an orchard against a blurred green background. The leaves of the Granny Smith apple tree are broad, oval-shaped, and vibrant green, providing a lush canopy. They boast a glossy texture and slightly serrated edges. The fruit is medium-sized, round in shape with a slightly flattened bottom and top, and has a glossy green skin.
Plant Type Tree
Family Rosaceae
Genus Malus
Species domestica
Native Area Central Asia, Afghanistan
Exposure Full sun
Height 12’-20’
Watering Requirements Regular water during fruit development
Pests & Diseases Codling moth, apple maggot, fireblight, cedar-apple rust, powdery mildew, black rot, flyspeck and sooty blotch
Maintenance Average
Soil Type Deep, well-drained
Hardiness Zones 5-9

What are ‘Granny Smith’ Apples?

Close-up of Granny Smith apple tree with ripe fruits in the garden. The leaves are elliptical and serrated, creating a lush and vibrant backdrop for the tree's abundant clusters of round, tart apples. These apples ripen to a vivid green color.
Savor the tangy delight of Granny Smith apples in September.

‘Granny Smith’ is an apple tree that produces bright green, tangy, and juicy apples. Unlike most other varieties, the fruits are ripe when they’re green. They make excellent caramel apples, applesauce, and other prepared apple dishes. When cooked, the zesty flavor complements the sugar content.

Each September, they ripen on my backyard tree. Right before the tree’s leaves change color, I pick the green apples to make apple jam. If you like sharp-tasting apples, they are also excellent fresh. Just know you might pucker up a bit after eating one!

Apple trees not only create delicious produce, but they also form graceful statures in maturity. They sprout sweet-smelling flowers that are a boon for pollinators, as the bees and bugs in your area benefit from the surplus of apple nectar. 

Native Area

Close-up of ripe apples on a tree among the foliage. The Granny Smith apple tree presents a striking appearance with its spreading branches adorned with glossy, dark green leaves that provide a lush backdrop for its vibrant fruits. Some leaves are yellowish-orange. The leaves are oval-shaped with serrated edges and a slightly waxy texture. The apples are large, round, with a bright green skin.
Centuries of breeding crafted the beloved Malus domestica apples.

For more than 100 years, apple breeders have crossed and bred species to produce the hybrids we know and love today. Species like Malus sylvestris from Europe and Malus coronaria from America shared pollen and created new hybrids. To make classification easy, most cultivated apple species are now considered Malus domestica

Apples are native to central Asia and Afghanistan, although they now grow in Australia, the Americas, Europe, and Asia. They are a worldwide fruit phenomenon beloved by many different cultures. Each variety has growing preferences, and with hundreds of options, there is surely an apple that will thrive in your garden. 

The ‘Granny Smith’ parent tree originally grew in Australia at the hands of Maria Ann Smith. It prefers a long and hot growing season, and ripens later than most apples. In the United States, the West, the East Coast, and areas of the South have optimal conditions for growing this variety. 


Close-up of a cluster of ripe Granny Smith apples on a branch among dark green foliage. The leaves are oval in shape, with slightly jagged edges. The fruits are large, round in shape with bright green smooth skin.
Cherish the dual beauty and bounty of ‘Granny Smith’ trees.

I value my ‘Granny Smith’ tree for its ornamental beauty and its bountiful fruit production. It is deciduous, and the leaves turn a buttery yellow each fall. In the spring, it sprouts pinkish-white blossoms that bees and pollinators love. 

This variety grows to 12 feet tall as a dwarf, and 16 as a semi-dwarf. Standard ‘Granny Smith’ trees can grow over 20 feet tall! Dwarfs make excellent espaliers. Semi-dwarfs and standards spread to be anywhere from 15 to 20 feet wide. 

‘Granny Smith’ apples ripen to a distinctive glossy green color. Tiny white spots speckle over the bright green skin. Pick them in the late fall after they’ve swelled to a good size. If left on the tree, the apples may turn yellowish-green and lose their tang. 

Dwarf trees may need additional staking when young and are more susceptible to storm damage than semi-dwarfs and standards. Choose the right type for your garden size, and you’ll treasure your tree for decades to come. 

While ‘Granny Smith’ apple trees are self-pollinating, apples benefit from another pollinator tree nearby for maximum fruit production.


How do you best propagate an apple variety? To achieve the same genetics as your parent tree, you’ll need to take cuttings from a ‘Granny Smith.’

Apples grow from seed in the wild and are hybrids of their two parent trees. Growing apples from seed is a fun activity, but not a reliable means for fruit production. 

I am not discouraging you from growing apples from seed! Just know that your daughter tree will not look like ‘Granny Smith’, and its apples may look and taste completely different.


Close-up of three black pots with apple tree cuttings in a garden against a white wall. The cuttings are upright, short, leafless stems that are pale green in color. One of the cuttings is completely covered with yellowish-green oval leaves with finely serrated edges.
Transform cuttings into thriving saplings with simple propagation methods.

For reliable propagation, take six-inch cuttings of a parent tree after it has lost its leaves. Place cuttings in an airtight bag in the fridge until spring. 

In the spring, take your cuttings out of the fridge and prepare them for planting. Fill pots with soil and place your cuttings an inch or two into the soil. Water them, then place humidity covers over them. Domes or clear bags work well for this purpose. 

Situate your baby cuttings in a dappled shady area, and keep them moist but not soggy. Remove any flower buds that form so the plants can focus on rooting. 

If the cuttings grow leaves for a few weeks, they’re most likely rooted! It may take up to six months for them to root. Keep an eye on them to ensure you notice powdery mildew or damp conditions before issues emerge. Remove the humidity covers if you see stunted or infected new growth.

Once well-rooted, transplant them into larger pots or plant them directly into the ground in an area with full sun. By next spring, your sapling will be full of leaves and growing handsomely in the landscape.


The best time to plant an apple tree is in the fall. The tree may look asleep during its winter slumber, but it is still growing underground! The tree’s roots penetrate the soil in the fall and anchor it to the ground.

The type of hole you dig depends on the type of tree you have. Most nurseries sell ‘Granny Smith’ as either bare-root or container-grown. Learn how to take care of your type with these easy instructions below!


Close-up of a bare-rooted apple tree planting in an orchard. One gardener adds soil using a large garden shovel. Another gardener places a bare-root tree in the hole.
Plant bare-root trees promptly for swift, sturdy growth.

Bare-root trees grow in fields when they are young. Orchardists train them to branch at an earlier age, and they shape them to be tall, straight trees. In the fall, they dig up these trees and shake the roots free of soil. This makes them cheaper and easier to transport.

Bare-root trees establish themselves faster than container-grown ones. Their roots come in direct contact with the ground’s soil, and they only have one type of soil to grow into. Their only downside is their availability, typically only fall through early spring. 

Plant your bare-root tree as soon as you can. Soak the roots for an hour or two. While it is soaking, prepare a hole as deep as the roots and twice as wide. Keep the center of the hole raised for the tree to sit on, and dig deeper at the hole’s edges like a moat.

Lower your tree into the hole and extend the roots into the moat at the edges. Cover the tree with soil halfway, then water well. If your tree’s trunk sinks below the soil, raise it a little so it is at ground level.

Fill in the hole up to ground level and water again. You won’t have to water your tree again until the growing season. Add mulch around the tree, leaving space around the trunk for the tree to breathe.

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Top view, close-up of a gardener's hand holding an apple tree seedling in a black plastic pot against a background of a green lawn. The seedling has a vertical gray-brown trunk covered with oval green leaves with finely jagged edges. There is a blue watering can, a cart and a garden shovel on the lawn.
Plant container trees year-round for visible seasonal performance.

Container-grown trees are bare-root specimens that lived for a season or two inside a pot. Buying a container allows you to see how the tree performs throughout the growing season. Container trees are also available at most nurseries year-round. 

To plant a container-grown tree, prepare a hole the same depth and three times as wide as the tree’s root ball. Digging this wide aerates the soil and makes it easier for the tree to put down roots.

Place your tree in the center of the hole. If you are staking it, add stakes into the hard soil at the bottom of the hole. Fill the hole halfway, then water well and let the soil settle. 

Fill the hole again until it reaches the base of the apple tree trunk. Water the soil again, and add more dirt if necessary. You can also add mulch around the base of the tree. Just be sure to leave space around the trunk for the tree to breathe. 

How to Grow

Growing a ‘Granny Smith’ is a treat in and of itself! This tree is a favorite in warm climates of the U.S. for good reason. It produces a reliable crop of apples that store well in the refrigerator. 

Although it is frost-hardy, this tree’s apples mature late in the season. In zones 4 through 6, it is a risky choice, and it may not set as much fruit as an early-ripening variety like ‘Gala.’


Close-up of Granny Smith apple tree with ripe fruits under sunlight in the garden. The tree has lush dark green foliage and ripe green fruits. The leaves are oval with finely serrated edges. The fruits are large, round in shape, with a waxy skin of bright green color.
Ensure ‘Granny Smith’ gets ample sunlight for optimal growth.

‘Granny Smith’ thrives with six to eight hours of direct sun during the growing season. It can tolerate partial sun but may set less fruit compared to a full sun location. The area should have a spread of at least fifteen feet to allow your tree to grow and ramble. 

In zones 9 and 10, where summers are incredibly hot and dry, plant your tree in an area with dappled shade in the afternoon. This will allow the tree some protection against sunscald and moisture loss.


Close-up of a Granny Smith apple on a branch covered with raindrops. The apple is large, round in shape, bright green in color with a smooth waxy skin. The leaves are oval, large, dark green in color with finely serrated edges.
Maintain regular, slow watering for healthy apple tree growth.

During flowering and fruiting, apple trees require regular water. They need little water when dormant in the winter. Gardeners with rainy conditions will only need to irrigate during low rainfall. Gardeners in dry areas should plan on irrigating so that the soil is moist throughout the growing season.

The best way to water is with a slow trickle. Turn your hose on low and place it by the root zone. Let it trickle for thirty minutes to an hour so that the soil soaks up most of the water. When the soil dries, water it again on low for the same amount of time.


Close-up of a young Granny Smith apple tree planted in the soil in a sunny garden. There are two wooden supports next to the tree. The sapling has a vertical thin stem with yellowish-green oval-shaped leaves with jagged edges.
Optimize apple growth with fertile, well-drained soil and mulching.

Apples appreciate fertile, well-drained soil. This green-fruited variety tolerates clay soil and most other soil types, making it a versatile fruit tree. If your soil dries quickly, you may need to water more during the spring and summer. Water less if the ground holds onto moisture like clay soils do.

Avoid mixing other dirt or compost into the soil when planting the tree. Instead, add mulch on top of the soil at planting and repeat mulch applications every spring. Over time, organic mulch decomposes and creates a beneficial ecosystem in the dirt below. 

Temperature and Humidity

Close-up shot of a blooming Granny Smith apple tree in the garden. The apple tree has branches adorned in clusters of showy white blossoms.Each flower consists of five petals and a central cluster of stamens.
Perfect for mild winters, ‘Granny Smith’ loves summer heat.

‘Granny Smith’ has a low chill requirement. It requires at least 400 hours of temperatures below 45 °F (7°C) in the winter to properly set fruit. This makes it a perfect choice for mild winter gardens. 

This cultivar loves the heat of summer. Where summers are warm, its fruit ripens midseason, and where they are cool, fruit ripens late. Apples in hot zones ripen quickly but also need more water than those growing in cool zones. 


Close-up of a gardener applying organic fertilizer to a young apple tree in the garden. The gardener holds in his hands a plastic translucent bucket full of fertilizers. Fertilizers are granular, gray-brown in color.
Nourish young apple trees with organic fertilizer for vitality.

Apples appreciate organic fertilizer while they establish themselves. Apply the correct amount of fertilizer according to the package’s directions for the size of your tree. Then, apply annually in early spring.

One example of a good dosage is ¼ pound of 10-10-10 at planting and every spring thereafter. You can stop fertilizing when your tree starts to produce a sizable crop of apples each year. This indicates it has accessed deeper soil mineral reserves.


Close-up of several rows of young apple trees in a plot in a sunny garden. The trees are young, have upright, slender, greyish-brown trunks and lush green foliage with finely serrated edges. The soil at the base of the plants is mixed with mulch and compost.
Minimal maintenance ensures thriving apple trees for years to come.

Apples don’t need much maintenance outside of their preferred growing conditions to survive. Add mulch every year in the spring, leaving a few inches of space between the mulch and the trunk. Prune off any dead or diseased wood in the winter. 

This cultivar benefits from pruning for an optimal shape. Aim to prune in the late winter, and follow these simple instructions to shape your tree for optimal fruit production. 


Close-up of a gardener's hands pruning the branches of an apple tree using pruning shears. The apple tree has oval, dark green leaves with finely serrated edges.
Shape apple trees for optimal growth and fruit production.

The best pruning method for an apple tree is the modified central leader shape. This is like a central leader shape, where a central trunk grows straight up with branches scaffolding outward. 

In the modified central leader shape, the apple tree has multiple leaders at the top, with branches growing off of them. Encourage this shape by pruning the central leader on your tree when it is taller than you. Branches will grow up and out from the central leader, and over time, they will become strong leaders themselves. 

For dwarf trees, an espalier method is also a superb choice. This requires a trellis or post for the tree to grow off of. Tie it to the post so that its shape is two-dimensional, and keep it well-pruned. With time, your espalier apple tree will produce nearly the same amount of fruit as a semi-dwarf. 


Close-up of many fallen apples in an apple orchard. The apples are large, round, bright green.
Harvest this variety in September or slightly later in cooler regions.

This is a mid to late-season ripening variety. I live in zone 8, and the apples on my tree are ready for harvest in September. In regions with cooler summers, harvests may extend later than this. 


Close-up of apple jam in a glass jar against a blurred background of green foliage. Apple jam presents a delectable appearance, with its smooth and glossy texture and rich caramel-golden color. Specks of tender apple pieces add texture to the jam. A couple of ripe green apples covered with drops of water lie next to a jar of jam.
Enjoy their versatility in fresh, cooked, and preserved recipes.

These apples are incredibly versatile. Eat them fresh for a tangy and refreshing taste, and use them in cooked apple recipes for sweet and tart flavors. This cultivar famously makes excellent caramel apples. I like to make jam with them for a delicious apple jam and peanut butter sandwich. 

Common Problems

Your apple tree may experience some issues with diseases and pests. Do not worry, though; the right care and conditions will get your tree back on track to producing healthy apples. 


Close-up of an apple tree affected by Fireblight in an orchard against a blue sky. An apple damaged by Fireblight exhibits a distressing appearance, characterized by wilted, blackened leaves and stems that appear scorched and withered.
Combat fire blight by promptly pruning infected apple branches.

Fireblight is a bacterial disease that infects apples through their flowers. Cut infected wood off to remove all signs of infection. This bacteria can spread if infected tissue is left on the tree, so prune all of it off to effectively remove the disease. 


Close-up of an apple damaged by a worm against a background of green foliage. An apple damaged by worms exhibits a disheartening appearance, with telltale signs of infestation such as holes or tunnels bored into the fruit's flesh. These punctures lead to rotting and decay, resulting in a mushy texture.
Protect ‘Granny Smith’ from pests with micromesh netting shields.

‘Granny Smith’ may be visited by aphids, coddling moths, and apple maggots. One clever and chemical-free way to get rid of pests is micromesh netting. The tiny holes of this mesh prevent bugs from laying eggs on or eating your apples.

Place micromesh on each apple after it has started to swell. If there are a lot of apples, place mesh over the entire tree. This is easier to accomplish on smaller trees. Be careful not to apply mesh too early, as this prevents pollinators from accessing the flowers. 

Other Diseases

Apple trees may suffer from powdery mildew.

Cedar-apple rust, powdery mildew, black rot, and flyspeck (a.k.a., sooty blotch) are other diseases to look out for when you grow apple trees. Cedar-apple rust appears on leaf undersides, which display raised yellow splotches. The disease is often spread by juniper trees that carry the Gymnosporangium pathogen. It can spread to fruit and branches as well. The only treatment for this ailment is pruning away diseased tree parts, and spraying systemic fungicides.

Pruning also treats powdery mildew, which covers the surfaces of leaves and sometimes spreads in a white powdery substance onto branches and fruit. Maintaining good air circulation in the tree’s structure will keep black rot off of fruit, and flyspeck away as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does ‘Granny Smith’ taste?

‘Granny Smith’ is tart, tangy, and sweet all at the same time. The longer it ripens on the tree, the less tart and sweeter it gets. Eat them fresh, or prepare them into dishes when cooking apples are required. 

How should I prune my apple tree?

The best shape for an apple tree is the modified central leader shape. Prune to shape in late winter, and also remove any dead or diseased wood.

What conditions do ‘Granny Smith’ apple trees need to grow?

This apple cultivar likes full sun, a warm growing season, and fertile, well-drained soil. It ripens quicker in warmer summers than cooler ones. While it is establishing itself, it appreciates an annual dosage of organic fertilizer.

Final Thoughts

This is a fun and unique apple with a rich history. I love how it started as a random tree growing on Maria Ann Smith’s property, and it has since taken the world by storm. When we think of a green apple, we most likely think of ‘Granny Smith.’ 

Grow one today and learn why these apples are treasures. They taste great at the supermarket, but like all produce they taste better homegrown. Plant a ‘Granny Smith’ this year, and you’ll have fresh apples for decades to come!

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