The majority of commercial orchards are planted with tree cultivars carefully selected for both their fruit quality and tree growth characteristics. Many growth factors come into play when choosing which to plant: tree size, training/pruning requirements, precocity, disease resistance, pollinization, soil and nutritional requirements, and suitability to your climate. As well as different fruit characteristics: skin color and appearance, flavor characteristics, texture, harvest date, storability, and overall consumer appeal. Luckily, extensive testing has been performed by breeders, tree nurseries, and growers resulting in the development of thousands of commercially available cultivated trees with full descriptions. Here we have compiled descriptions of many of the most popular and successful cultivars grown in Washington and the Pacific Northwest.
For additional resources on cultivar information we suggest the following links:
- Washington State Apple Commission (most common apple cultivars in WA) (Accessed: 1/17/17).
- US Apple Association (popular apple cultivars for all US) (Accessed: 1/17/17).
- USA Pears (most popular pear varieties) (Accessed: 1/17/17).
- WSU Extension Western WA Variety Trials ( includes, apple, pear, cherry, other stone fruit)
- Sweet Cherry Cultivars for the Fresh Market (PNW bulletin #604) (pdf; good all-around guide on sweet cherries)
- Vanwell Nursery (apple, crab apple, pear, cherry, other stone fruit, rootstocks) (Accessed: 1/17/17).
- C&O Nusery (apples, crab apple, pear, cherry) (Accessed: 1/17/17).
- Willow Drive Nursery (pdf; of apple, pear, cherry, other stone fruit, rootstocks – listed under catalogs) (Accessed: 1/17/17).
- Orange Pippin (apples worldwide) (Accessed: 1/17/17).
Using Cultivar vs. Variety
Commercial tree fruit are often referred to as “varieties”. But in fact, most are really cultivars. What’s the difference? “Varieties” occur in nature and the seedlings grown from seed of a variety will have the same traits as the parent. Cultivars, on the other hand, are not necessarily true-to-type if propagated by seed. The word cultivar is derived from “cultivated variety”, meaning that it has been selected, bred and propagated to maintain desirable characteristics. You can tell by the name if you have a variety or a cultivar. Variety names are correctly written in italicized lowercase letters often preceded by the word variety or its abbreviation ‘var.’ It may also have single quotes around the word. A cultivar name is always written with the first letter capitalized and never italicized or within quotations. It may also be preceded by the word cultivar, or more commonly by the abbreviation ‘cv.’