USDA Zone 6 experiences winter temperatures as low as -5°F. To establish an orchard, we recommend selecting fruit trees for their resilience to frigid winters. The zone encompasses parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, New York, Virginia, and Missouri.
With an emphasis on winter hardiness and adaptability to local microclimates, here are the best fruit-bearing varieties capable of thriving in Zone 6.
1. Patriot Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum ‘Patriot’)
The Patriot Blueberry is a hardy and rewarding early-season highbush variety that performs well in Zone 6. It produces snowy blossoms in early summer, followed by a delightful bounty of fruit later in the season.
We recommend the Patriot Blueberry for its improved resistance to root rot, which means you can get away with some level of overwatering and poor drainage issues.
The fruit ripens in June, offering luscious, medium-sized light-blue berries with a distinctive sweet flavor.
Being a self-pollinating fruit tree, you can grow a single tree in your yard, but for increased yield, I recommend planting a pollinator tree nearby.
Planting different varieties of blueberries in your orchard ensures the Patriot blueberry yields larger and more blueberries on the bush.
Plant the tree in a spot receiving full sun or partial shade, spacing the plants 60-96 inches apart.
- USDA Zone: 5 – 8
- Height and spread: 5 – 8 feet
- Spread: 15 ft
- Flavor profile: Sweet
- Soil type: Well-drained
- Sunlight: Full sun exposure
- Years to bear: 4 to 7 years
Check Prices at NatureHills or Fast Growing Trees.
2. Bing Cherry Tree (Prunus avium ‘Bing’)
The Bing cherry is a moderately growing fruit tree suitable for USDA Zone 5 to 8. We recommend it for its dependable production and landscaping utility, as it produces elegant white flowers in the spring.
The fruit tree was first discovered by Seth Lewelling of Milwaukie, Oregon, and is known to have an average height and spread of 6 to 20 feet and 12 to 15 feet, respectively.
Grow it in a sunny spot with well-drained soil, and you’ll be rewarded with large, dark cherries encased in smooth, glossy skin that ripen mid-season.
The flavor profile of the Bing Cherry fruit is sweet, making it ideal for snaking and baking purposes.
A true testament to its vigor, the Bing Cherry Tree typically bears fruit within the first year, providing an early reward to growers.
Other cherry varieties that do well in zone 6 include the Black Tartarian, Benton, Emperor Francis, Hedelfingen, Lapins, Sam, Rainier, Montmorency, Stella, and Napoleon Royal.
3. Emperor Francis Sweet Cherry (Prunus avium ‘Emperor Francis’)
The Emperor Francis Sweet Cherry is well known for its bright red fruit, and resilience, as it does not crack easily. Cold-hardy to zone 6, its productivity is almost unmatched, so you’ll expect it to deliver a bountiful harvest consistently for years.
Emperor Francis Cherry requires a compatible pollinator, and we recommend the ‘Montmorency’ cherry as its ideal cross-pollination partner.
Fruit ripens in late June, which is why we love it for its early harvest. The sweetness of these cherries can be likened to candy, so the best application is in jams, jellies, and even for eating fresh.
For a thriving tree, plant it in well-draining soil in a spot receiving full sun. Late winter pruning is advised to encourage healthy growth just before the tree blooms and becomes productive.
4. Rainier Sweet Cherry Tree (Prunus avium ‘Rainier’)
Rainier Sweet Cherry is known for its yellow cherries and impressive size of 20-30 feet tall and wide. One of our clients in Pennsylvania grows it in their backyard, and they can’t be happier they chose this fruit tree that thrives well in USDA Zone 6.
She says this about the tree: “As spring approaches, the Rainier Cherry bursts into an enchanting display of sweet-scented white flowers. It’s a sight to behold, capturing the essence of the season and captivating neighbors and anyone else that can have a peek.”
“The real magic happens in early summer when my cherry unveils its large, succulent, golden-yellow cherries with an unmistakable red blush. These cherries aren’t just beautiful; they’re incredibly sweet, a delightful treat.”
We added the Rainer cherry to this list for orchardists looking for a bumper harvest. The tree is highly productive, bearing heavy loads of its delectable fruit.
Remember that this cherry variety requires cross-pollination for the best yield, preferably the ‘Bing Cherry’ or ‘Stella Cherry’ varieties.
My advice: Plant in well-draining soil in a sunny spot. This tree will require at least 700 chill hours to bear enough healthy fruit.
5. KSU-Benson Pawpaw (Asimina triloba ‘Benson’)
The KSU-Benson Pawpaw is a Zone 6-tolerant fruit tree from the Kentucky State University breeding program. Named in honor of the researcher behind it, Dr. Harold R. Benson, the KSU-Benson pawpaw yields 3″-6″ long greenish-yellow fruit with an amazingly delicious taste.
Fruit ripens mid-season, with each tree producing at least 150 fruits if well-cared for.
When we visited the KSU research farm in Frankfort, researchers described the flavor of the KSU Benson Pawpaw as “a tropical fusion of mango, banana, and pineapple all rolled into one fruit.”
Blooms, too, are quite striking, showcasing a reddish-purple color. However, these don’t really attract bees because of their pungent smell. Instead, they attract flying beetles and flies, which also aid pollination.
A good hack to attract more pollinators in your pawpaw orchard is to place some rotting meat near the blooming Benson pawpaws. If this is not a great option for you, try the hand pollination method.
Note: With so much fruit, branches might get a little overwhelmed and break. You may need to support long branches that are heavily loaded with pawpaw fruit using props or belts. Here’s a video on more ways to support fruit tree branches.
Other pawpaw trees suitable for USDA Zone 6 include the Pennsylvania Golden Pawpaw, and Wells Pawpaw.
6. Ozark Premier Plum (Prunus salicina ‘Ozark Premier’)
The Ozark Premier Plum, also known as the Japanese plum, is a heirloom variety known for its yellow, juicy, and delightfully tart flesh.
Come spring, the Ozark Premier reveals its sweetly fragrant blooms, which is why it is a great addition to landscapes and orchards alike. In mid-late summer, it bears large red plums full of flavor.
The flavor and taste can be described as sweet and incredibly juicy, which is why it is among the most popular plum varieties across different USDA planting zones.
In terms of growing success, full sun and a minimum of 800 chill hours are required to thrive. Plant in mildly acidic, well-drained soil.
Other plum varieties that do well in zone 6 include Bubblegum, Damson, Alderman, Green Gage, Methley, Morris, Ruby Sweet, Santa Rosa, and Starkling Delicious.
7. Hosui Asian Pear (Pyrus pyrifolia ‘Hosui’)
The Hosui Asian Pear stands out as a useful fruit tree, particularly for those in USDA Zone 6. Its resilience and elegance are standout characteristics. It is easily distinguished by its golden-russet skin and crisp-textured fruit that tastes sweet.
The fruits are large, which is why we added the tree to this list for commercial fruit farmers. The Hosui Pear is self-fertile, so you can grow it as a single tree in your backyard.
A fully matured Hosui Pear tree stands at a height between 8-10 ft and spreads out to a width of 6-7 ft, a size we find suitable for gardens where space might be a constraint.
Lastly, the tree’s aesthetic appeal also makes it useful for landscaping purposes. Every spring, it blooms, producing dainty white flowers that accentuate its beauty and signal the arrival of a bountiful harvest season.
Other pear varieties you can grow in zone 6 include Anjou, Bartlett, Moonglow, New Century, Blake’s Pride, Colette, Chojuro, Seckel, Sunrise, Peggy, Russetted Bartlett, and the Starking Delicious pear.
8. Key Lime (Citrus aurantifolia Swingle)
The Key Lime is characterized by its deep green fruit that can be harvested as soon as one year of planting, provided you go for grafting instead of seed.
The tree offers the advantage of being potted, allowing fruit tree farmers the flexibility to manage its location in response to climatic or aesthetic requirements. Blooms produce a light, sweet scent that adds delicate fragrance to yards.
The tree is suited to Zone 6 but may need some protection from winter frost, otherwise, it finds its optimum growth in USDA Zones 8 to 11 when planted outdoors.
Key limes do well in both full and partial sunlight, demonstrating their tolerant disposition towards varying sunlight intensities.
When planted in the ground, key limes can achieve heights of up to 12 feet and spread as wide as 8 feet. However, when cultivated in containers, the tree’s growth is more restrained, rendering it more compact and ideal for limited spaces.
- Other names: Florida key lime, West Indian lime, Omani lime, bartender’s lime, and Mexican lime
Note: Key limes are slow-growers compared to lemon trees. We advise patience and proper care for these fruit trees, especially in planting zones 6a and 6b. In an interview with Kristi Mitchelle, a seasoned orchardist in Zone 6b said, “I have to roll the pots inside for winter and outside for spring to keep my key limes happy. This way, they reward me with lots of fruit.”
9. Ichi-Ki-Kei-Jiro Asian Persimmon
The Ichi-Ki-Kei-Jiro Asian Persimmon is known for its adaptability; that’s why we recommend growing it within USDA Zone 6. It produces a non-astringent fruit, offering a sweet taste that can be likened to a harmonious blend of banana and mango.
This mellow and sugary flavor profile is the main reason why the Jiro Asian Persimmon is popular in commercial orchards in Zone 6a and 6b.
The Ichi-Ki-Kei-Jiro fruit trees we’ve grown so far are prolific producers, bearing abundant yield and ensuring a consistent harvest every season. The deep orange fruits are large and flat, with a shape similar to tomatoes.
Out of all Asian persimmons, the Ichi-Ki-Kei-Jiro has great hardiness and can ripen early, typically maturing between September and October.
The tree requires full sun but can tolerate partial sunlight for its growth and nourishment. You don’t need a companion for proper fertilization, as the Jiro Asian persimmon is a self-fertile fruit tree.
I always recommend it to fruit growers with limited space and also to those who are beginners to the hobby and business of growing fruit trees.
Overall, the Ichi-Ki-Kei-Jiro’s potential for edible landscaping is very desirable. Its vibrant fruit, architectural shape, and seasonal foliage make it a fruit-bearing entity and a visual centerpiece in gardens.
10. Dwarf Everbearing Mulberry (Morus nigra)
Among the diverse tapestry of fruit bushes, the Dwarf Everbearing Mulberry is one of the best recommendations for Zone 6 climates for its resilience and adaptability. In zones 5 through 11, we grow it as a perennial and harvest fruit consistently.
That’s where the ‘everbearing’ comes from in the name.
Why do I recommend it for beginner orchardists?
The Dwarf Everbearing Mulberry is an easy-to-grow fruit bush as it is a pest and disease-resistant cultivar that does not need frequent interventions and care.
The self-pollinating nature also makes it suitable for small-scale and single-plant growers who prefer to grow just a single fruit tree due to space limitations.
You can plant it in the ground or as a potted fruiting tree on patios and decks. The mulberry is highly amenable.
How about the fruit? What are its qualities?
The dwarf Everbearing Mulberry’s fruits are alluring: large, deep black mulberries with an intense burst of sweetness.
The bush thrives best in full sun and should be planted in well-drained, fertile soil away from walkways and driveways, as the fruit can cause staining.
In terms of size, the Dwarf Everbearing Mulberry grows between 2 to 6 feet high. However, you can prune it for aesthetic preferences to maintain a height of under 2 feet.
11. Chicago Hardy Fig (Ficus carica ‘Chicago Hardy’)
The Chicago Hardy Fig can grow quite tall, reaching between 15 to 20 feet and spreading out 9 to 12 feet. So, if you’re thinking of planting it, we recommend picking a spacious spot in your garden.
This tree loves sunlight, so it is best planted where it will get full sun – at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. The fig won’t need another fig variety to produce fruits; it is self-pollinating, an advantage for growers with small gardens and orchards.
For soil, the Chicago Hardy Fig is a bit picky. It likes loamy, well-drained soil and does not tolerate wet soil for too long. However, when bearing fruit, it requires a good amount of water.
It is indicated as a Zones 6 to 10 fruit tree, and we’ve had great success planting it. Greenish flowers emerge in the spring, with dark medium-sized figs ripening in late summer.
We start harvesting figs in mid-August until the first frost, with the yield ranging between 6 and 8 gallons per tree.
Although figs are quite cold-hardy, zone 6a can still present challenges, and we recommend winterizing, mulching, and insulation to protect them from frost if possible.
If you’re growing your Chicago Hardy fig in containers, remember that those sitting in a larger container will be more robust. However, they’ll still be vulnerable to very low temperatures typical of zone 6 winters.
The downside to the Chicago Hardy Fig is its susceptibility to fig rust.
Other fig trees for zone 6 include Brown Turkey, Fignomenal, and the Caleste fig.
12. Braeburn Apple (Malus domestica ‘Braeburn’)
The Braeburn apple tree is also a great choice for its luscious fruit, which is both sweet and slightly tart. Originating in New Zealand in the 1950s, this apple variety is identifiable by its reddish-orange hue overlaid on a greenish-yellow base color. [source]
Cultivating Braeburn apples requires 700 chill hours (periods of cold temperatures) to break dormancy and stimulate spring growth. That translates to about a month of winter temperatures ranging 32 to 45°F.
They’re typically mid to late-season bloomers and are best cross-pollinated with another apple variety to ensure a good fruit set.
The trees prefer well-draining soil and require regular watering, especially during dry spells. Proper pruning is a good practice that promotes air circulation and sunlight penetration that deters pests and diseases.
Braeburns are susceptible to apple scab, so regular inspection and preventive measures are crucial.
In terms of harvesting, Braeburn apples are typically ready in late autumn. When ripe, they can be picked and enjoyed fresh or used in various culinary dishes, retaining their texture and flavor beautifully.
Other apple trees for USDA Zone 6 include the CandyCrisp® Apple, McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Honeygold, Lodi, Northern Spy, and Zestar.
13. Chandler Red Pummelo (Citrus maxima ‘Chandler Red’)
The Chandler Red Pummelo demonstrates hardiness, particularly in regions such as the Houston area (Zones 8a to 9b), though it thrives well in zone 6 climates as well. It produces substantial, thick-skinned fruit known for its rich, juicy flavor.
Some fruits can be as heavy as 9 pounds, indicating the tree’s ability to bear substantial yields for commercial growers. Most Chandler Pumelo fruits are seedless, and most people find them a delight for this reason.
In terms of hardiness, this tree is suited for Zones 5 through 8, demonstrating its adaptability across a range of climatic conditions.
A fully matured tree measures approximately 20 to 25 feet with a similar spread. This stature underscores its presence, so I advise planting it where there’s ample space in your yard.
For optimal growth and fruit production, the Chandler Red Pummelo requires full sunlight, well-drained soil, and enough watering, especially during the early stages of development.