How To Grow Kei apple: Best Tips And Advice

Learn how to grow kei apple trees with our expert tips and advice. From soil preparation to pest control, ensure the health and vitality of your trees.

Choosing the Right Location for Your Kei Apple Trees

The location you choose for your kei apple trees is the most important factor in their successful growth. Kei apple trees require full sun for at least 6 to 8 hours per day to produce the best crop of fruit. They also need well-drained, fertile soil with a slightly acidic pH between 6 and 6.5. Heavy, poorly drained clay soils should be avoided.

Before planting, test your soil to determine the pH and nutrient levels. If needed, incorporate compost or other organic matter to improve drainage and add nutrients. Kei apple trees should be spaced 12 to 15 feet apart so they have adequate air circulation and sunlight as they grow.

Having the right location and properly preparing the soil before planting will give your kei apple trees the best chance at healthy, productive growth for many years. With the proper site and care, a single kei apple tree can produce up to 40 kilograms or more of fruit each year.

kei apple, planting, brown and green plant in brown clay pot
Photo by Christine / Unsplash

Preparing the Soil for Kei Apple Trees

Properly preparing the soil before planting is one of the most important steps to ensure the successful growth of kei apple trees. Kei apple trees require well-drained, fertile soil with a slightly acidic pH between 6 and 6.5. Heavy, poorly drained clay soils should be avoided.

Before planting, test your soil to determine the pH and nutrient levels. The ideal soil test results for kei apple trees are:

pH6.0 to 6.5
Phosphorus (P)60 to 120 ppm
Potassium (K)140 to 260 ppm
Calcium (Ca)2000 to 6000 ppm

If needed, incorporate compost, well-rotted manure, or other organic matter to improve drainage and add nutrients. Organic matter will also help provide humus to the soil which kei apple trees need to thrive. For average soils, add 2 to 3 inches of organic matter and till it into the soil to a depth of at least 2 feet before planting.

  • Till or rototill the soil to loosen it and mix in the organic matter thoroughly. Remove any stones, debris, or large clods of soil.
  • The soil should be loose, fine, and crumbly when ready to plant. Conduct another soil test to check the nutrient and pH levels again. Make any final amendments needed at this time.
  • For very poor soils, you may need to improve the soil over the course of several months or even a year before planting kei apple trees. Adding organic matter over time will provide the best long term results.

Properly preparing and amending the soil before planting will provide your kei apple trees with the healthy, fertile environment their roots need to become well-established. Taking the necessary time to build up and improve your soil before planting will be well worth the effort for your kei apple trees to thrive for years to come.

kei apple, soil, green tree under sunny sky
Photo by Ivan Bandura / Unsplash

Planting Kei Apple Trees: Best Practices

Once you have selected an appropriate location and prepared the soil, you are ready to plant your kei apple trees. For the best results, plant kei apple trees in late winter or early spring before new growth starts. Make sure the threat of extreme cold has passed if planting early.

Space kei apple trees 12 to 15 feet apart. This spacing will provide adequate air circulation and sunlight as the trees grow. Dig a hole that is at least 2 to 3 times the width of the root ball and the same depth. Place the tree in the hole, keeping the root ball level with the surrounding soil. Do not bury the root ball.

  • If the roots are pot-bound, gently tease them apart before planting. This will encourage them to spread out into the surrounding soil.
  • Partially fill the hole with soil and water thoroughly. Let it drain completely, then finish filling the hole with soil.
  • Tamp down the soil firmly around the base of the trunk to support the tree. Build a shallow basin around the edge of the planting hole to hold water.
  • For the first few years, a thick layer of mulch 2 to 3 inches deep should be placed around the base of the tree, but not touching the trunk. Keep the mulch back 6 inches from the trunk.
  • Stake the tree upright if it does not stand firmly on its own. Drive stakes into the ground on either side of the trunk, and secure the trunk to the stakes loosely with flexible tree ties.

Kei apple trees can grow up to 15 to 20 feet in height at maturity. They have an upright, spreading growth habit. Proper planting techniques provide your kei apple trees with the optimal conditions for healthy root and trunk development to support this growth. Following best practices when planting will give your kei apple trees the foundation they need to become well-established and thrive for decades.

kei apple, planting, green leafed plant
Photo by Nikoline Arns / Unsplash

Caring for Your Kei Apple Trees: Fertilization, Watering, and Pruning

Once established, kei apple trees require moderate care to produce high yields of fruit. Fertilizing, watering, and pruning are key aspects of caring for your kei apple trees.


  • Fertilize young kei apple trees in early spring before new growth starts and again in midsummer. For the first 3 years, use a balanced fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (such as 10-10-10) at a rate of 1/2 to 1 pound per 100 square feet of canopy space.
  • After the third year, fertilize mature kei apple trees in early spring with a fertilizer higher in nitrogen (such as 15-5-10 or 16-8-8) at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds per 100 square feet of canopy. Disperse the fertilizer evenly under the full canopy of the tree.
  • Never place fertilizer directly in contact with the trunk of the tree. Keep it at least 6 to 12 inches away.

### Watering

  • Water young kei apple trees regularly to keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy. For the first 3 years, water roughly 2 inches per week.
  • Once mature, kei apple trees can tolerate minor drought conditions, but they produce the best yields with regular watering. Water mature trees about 1 inch per week throughout the growing season.
  • Water thoroughly until the soil is soaked to a depth of 2 to 3 feet. Allow the top few inches of soil to dry out between waterings.
  • Do not overwater kei apple trees, especially when they are not actively growing in late fall and winter. Overwatering can lead to root rot.

### Pruning

  • Prune kei apple trees to maintain their size and shape. For the first 2 years, do minimal pruning. Simply clip off broken or dead branches. After the second year, begin shaping the tree.
  • Remove any crossing branches rubbing on each other and any branches that sprout from below the bud union. Leave a well-spaced framework of healthy, wide-angled branches. Thin inner branches to improve air circulation.
  • Never prune more than 25% of the tree in a single season. Kei apple trees produce fruit on 2- to 3-year-old wood, so avoid heavy pruning.

Caring for your kei apple trees through thoughtful fertilizing, watering, and pruning will repay you with healthy, productive trees and bountiful harvests for many years.

kei apple, pruning, photography of tree
Photo by Fabrice Villard / Unsplash

Protecting Your Kei Apple Trees from Pests and Diseases

While kei apple trees are relatively low-maintenance, there are several common pests and diseases that can affect them. Monitoring your trees regularly and taking appropriate action at the first sign of problems is key to protecting your harvest.

Major Pests

  • Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects that feed on new growth. They can cause distorted leaves and stunted shoots. Spray them off with a strong jet of water or apply insecticidal soap.
  • Spider mites are tiny spider-like pests that feed on leaves, causing stippling and defoliation. Apply predatory mites or horticultural oil for control.
  • San Jose scale secretes a waxy scale over its body and feeds on bark, twigs, and fruit. Apply dormant oil spray before buds open in late winter. Systemic insecticides containing imidacloprid may provide control when crawlers are active in midsummer.

Common Diseases

  • Apple scab causes olive-green spots on leaves and fruit. It thrives in warm, humid conditions. Apply fungicides containing myclobutanil or mancozeb starting at leaf emergence to suppress this disease.
  • Powdery mildew forms a white powdery coating on leaves, shoots, and fruit. Apply fungicides containing myclobutanil, triflumizole or sulfur at bud break to control.
  • Fire blight causes shoots to wilt suddenly, appearing scorched. It enters through flowers and wounds. There is no cure for fire blight. Apply streptomycin at bloom to prevent infection. Remove and destroy diseased shoots by pruning at least 6 inches below any sign of damage. Sterilize pruning shears between cuts.
  • Apply dormant oil spray in late winter before buds swell to smother overwintering pests and diseases. Thorough coverage of all branches and twigs is essential.

Monitoring for common pests and diseases and properly applying control sprays, especially at critical points in the growing season, will help keep your kei apple trees healthy and ensure bountiful harvests. An integrated pest management approach combining cultural, biological, and chemical controls as needed is the most effective strategy.

kei apple, soil, brown rock formation under blue sky during daytime
Photo by Roland Sz├ęp / Unsplash

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