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Best Fruit Trees to Grow in Zone 3: Top 5 Favorite Cold Climate Fruit Trees

Let's talk about the best zone 3 fruit trees to grow in Alberta and other cool climates. Growing fruit where it's cold may be more difficult than those growing fruit in warm climates, but is completely possible with many options to choose from. There are many fruits that actually need a climate with a freezing over winter. Select one or all of these top 5 fruit trees to grow in your zone 3 backyard.

What Fruit Trees Grow in Cold Climates?

I am sure you will all agree that the fruit you grow yourself simply tastes better than any you can buy at the grocery store. It is typically more nutritious too and easily grown organically.

Read below to find out more about the best fruit trees to grow in zone 3. This is not an

exhaustive list, these are just some of my favorites that I have found grow well in cool climates.

Zone 3 Apple Trees

Apple trees are usually the first tree that people think of when they want to plant a fruit tree in their yard. Did you know that there are thousands of different varieties of apples grown in North America? However, only some of them are suitable for cultivation in zone 3.

Here is a list of some of the best tasting zone 3 apple trees:

  • Norkent

  • Norland

  • Duchess of Oldenburg

  • Prunus

  • Goodland

  • Sweet Sixteen

  • Harcourt

You will find these zone 3 apple varieties not only hardy, but sweet and crunchy with excellent flavor. Some store longer, others are best consumed quickly or great for preserving.

Zone 3 Cherry Trees

Sour cherries are one of the best fruits to grow in zone 3. Why sour ones and not sweet ones?

The reason is very simple, this type of cherry flowers a little later than sweet cherries and therefore aren't as likely to be damaged by late frosts. Don't dismiss this option too quickly because of the term sour. The term "sour" refers more to the type of tree than to the taste of the fruit itself. Some growers swear that the taste of sour cherries is much sweeter than sweet cherries when they are fully ripe.

Cherries can come in tree or bush varieties. Something for every growing space.

The best zone 3 cherry trees are:

  • "Romance series" including Cupid, Romeo, Juliet, Carmine Jewel, Crimson Passion, Valentine (most recently developed hardy varieties from Saskatchewan, said to be the best tasting)

  • Evans Cherry (developed in Saskatchewan)

  • Nanking cherries

Zone 3 Plum Trees

Did you know that plums are members of the prunus family, just like cherries? When planting plums, it is crucial to understand their pollination needs. Some varieties are self-fertile and can produce fruit alone but will be more productive with cross pollination with a different variety. Many plums require another tree of the same group for pollination. Plums are differentiated as Asian (Japanese) plums, European plums, and hybrids. Take not of what varieties you have and learn their pollination needs.

Canada Plum and American Plum are extremely hardy, wild plum varieties that are excellent pollinators for other cultivated varieties and essential for pollination of many hybrid varieties. They also produce edible fruit but is smaller and sometimes not as sweet, though great for processing. There are a variety of hardy plum trees to choose from for growing in zone 3.

Great plum tree varieties to grow in zone 3:

  • Pembina plum (hybrid)

  • Brookgold (Japanese)

  • Brookred (Japanese)

  • Mount Royal (European, one of the only self-fertile hardy varieties, considered the best hardy blue plum)

  • Toka Plum (hybrid)

  • Waneta Plum (hybrid)

For information on harvesting plums read The Best Time to Harvest Plums.

Zone 3 Apricot Trees

Although it may come as a surprise, it is very possible to grow these lush, sweet, and tart stone fruit trees in cool climates. Varieties are limited but tasty!

Apricot trees are typically self-fertile but will benefit from a second pollinator for increased production.

Zone 3 apricot tree varieties are:

  • Casino Apricot

  • Westcot Apricot

  • Manchurian Apricot

Tip: Plant apricot trees in a northern location to prevent them from blossoming too early in the spring and risking losing the blossoms to frost. *Did you know? Most plums, apricots, and cherries are in the same Prunus genus and are often capable of pollinating each other! Nanking cherries work well as pollinators for many plum and apricot varieties. This is where we get "pluots" and "plumcots" and cherry plums!

Zone 3 Pear Trees

There is a plethora of hardy pear cultivars available today if you know where to source them. Some are extremely hardy, even to zone 2. Some are small, some are large, many different flavors and textures available. Pears are groups into two categories of European and Russian. They have different qualities. In general, the European varieties are sweeter and softer while the Russian/Asian varieties are crispier with some acidity and complex flavour. There are some beautiful hardy Russian varieties. It is best to source pear trees from knowledgable hardy tree nurseries.

Some hardy pear varieties to grow in your zone 3 backyard:

  • Early Gold Pear

  • Golden Spice Pear

  • Loma

  • Julienne

  • Patten

  • Southworth

  • Russian hybrid varieties Krazulya, Vekovaya

Where to Purchase

When purchasing fruit trees to grow in cool climates, be sure to find out for sure what zone you are and to check the tags of fruit trees you plan to purchase to ensure it is suitable for your zone. It has happened to me often that I am looking at a tree being sold in my zone 3 area, only to find out the tag states it is only hardy to zone 4 or 5. Trees listed as zone 1 or 2 will also be hardy in zone 3. Fruit trees from big box stores are sometimes mislabeled for zone. Do your research before purchasing.

Though you can sometimes find trees at local store garden centers, the selection is limited and the tree quality is not always dependable. Local greenhouses may have better selection and more knowledgeable staff.

Consider ordering from nurseries knowledgeable in hardy fruit tree varieties. Not only will you receive superior quality plants, but you will have a much great selection of trees appropriate for you growing zone and knowledgeable staff to assist you in your selections. Some excellent Canadian nurseries for ordering fruit trees online are Hardy Fruit Tree Nursery and Whiffletree Farm & Nursery

Your Turn

These were my favorites, what I consider the best fruit trees to grow in zone 3.

Let me know, if you could plant only one fruit tree in your zone 3 backyard

which one would you choose? Share your favorite in the comments below.

Thank you to Tony Manhart for providing this guest post and to Stefanie for editing and adding in your knowledge.

Author’s Bio

Tony Manhart is the founder and editor in chief at Gardening Dream. Tony’s enthusiasm and rich experience in all things related to growing plants have led him to share his knowledge with gardening aficionados all over the world. When he is not working around his garden, Tony spends his time writing tips and tricks on various subjects related to plant cultivation and soil maintenance.

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