Cox’s Orange Pippin: taste, blossom & care


I am a qualified gardener and horticulturalist and love everything that grows! Whether it's a shrub, a tree, a useful plant or a supposed weed: for me, every plant is a little miracle.
In the garden I look after my 13 chickens, grow fruit & vegetables and otherwise observe how nature manages and shapes itself.

Favourite fruit: Blueberry, apple
Favourite vegetables: Braised cucumber, kale, green pepper

‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ has been used for commercial apple cultivation for some time, and remains a popular choice amongst apple lovers. Here is everything you need to know about growing this delicious dessert apple at home.

Ripe apple growing on Cox Orange apple tree
The ‘Cox Orange Pippin’ tree has specific demands when it comes to soil and climate [Photo: BlackSoulChoir/]

The apple variety ‘Cox Orange Pippin’, also known as ‘Cox’, is packed with flavour, and adored by even the pickiest of consumers. No surprise then, that despite its sensitivity, farmers continue to cultivate it en masse.

Successfully cultivating ‘Cox’ apples at home requires the best conditions and regular care. This means proper fertilisation, pruning and thinning. Read on to find out more.

‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’: profile

Fruitsmall to medium; light yellow base, orange-cloudy red top
FlavourTangy and delicate
Harvest timeMid-September to mid-October
Ripe to eatFrom October
Shelf lifeGood; can be stored until February
GrowthInitially vigorous; then decreasing; densely branched
ClimateEven with plenty moisture; not too hot or too dry
Pests and diseasesOn poor sites susceptible to fruit tree canker, blight, collar rot, blood louse, apple scab and powdery mildew

History and origin of the ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ apple

The ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ apple variety was grown from seed between 1825 and 1830 by Richard Cox in Colnbrook-Lawn, England, in his apple orchard. The seed came from an open-pollination of the variety ‘Ribston Pippin’. As such, the pollinator – the donor of the second half of the genome – is unknown. ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ was introduced to the market in 1850 and was widespread by 1858.

Random mutations of the variety also exist. Some red mutants include: ‘Kent’, ‘Rubinette’, ‘Red Windsor’, ‘Crimson’ and ‘Queen’.

Characteristics and taste

‘Cox’ are small to medium-sized, yellow apples. They are topped with orange-red to cloudy-red stripes and marbling. ‘Cox’ are almost always flattened spheres, with even, but rough skin that is covered in patterns of russeting. This skin hides yellow flesh that is streaked with yellow-green veins. It is a firm, tangy fruit that develops a fine, unique flavour.

Many believe ‘Cox Orange Pippin’ is only suitable for commercial farming, in a perfect orchard, under the best care. However, this need not be the case. If you are unconcerned with irregular yields and smaller apples with scab spots, ‘Cox’ is still a great choice.

Harvested and ready to eat cox’s apples
The apple variety ‘Cox Orange’ is known for its delicious taste [Photo: vera-g/]

Cultivating and caring for the ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ tree

‘Cox Orange Pippin’ trees grow vigorously when young, but slow with age. They tend to grow straight and upright, and form many thin shoots. Each shoot branches densely, and hangs under the weight of heavy fruits. Without pruning, a bushy, pyramidal and overhanging crown will form atop the tree.

‘Cox’ apple trees are not ideal if you are looking to merely cultivate a tree. Their bushy, vigorous growth gets out of hand very quickly. However, you could opt for a semi-dwarf or dwarf ‘Cox’ rootstock, such as MM106 or M7, although dwarf growing ‘Cox’ rootstocks, like M2 and M4, do require exceptional soil.

For ‘Cox’ trees, the soil must be deep and rich in humus and nutrients. Heavy, wet soils can leave ‘Cox Orange Pippin’ susceptible to fruit tree canker, as well as frost damage. Only humus-rich soils provide the even moisture and aeration desired by the ‘Cox’ tree.

As such, work in plenty of mature compost or a high-quality planting compost into your soil when planting a ‘Cox’ tree. Our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost is a great choice. And remember to fertilise the tree annually with natural, soil enriching plant food.

Organic All Purpose Compost, 40L
Organic All Purpose Compost, 40L
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  • Perfect for all your house, garden & balcony plants
  • For strong & healthy plants as well as an active soil life
  • Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition

For best growth, you will need a stable climate with sufficient rain or humidity. Too much heat and drought can lead to cracked fruit. ‘Cox Orange’ blossoms medium early, and stays in flower for a long time, although it is sensitive to frost. As a result, this blossoming can be irregular and varies from year to year.

Tip: Good pollinators of ‘Cox Orange Pippin’ include: ‘Golden Noble’, ‘Golden Delicious’, ‘King of the Pippins’, ‘James Grieve’, ‘Winter Banana’ and ‘White Winter Calville’.

To achieve a regular yield, you will need to prune your apple tree moderately once a year, and thin the fruit. To thin ‘Cox’, remove any small fruits from the flowers in May or June so that only one apple remains on each flower. This method promotes good flower formation and larger, well-developed apples the following year.

Without pruning or thinning the fruit, ‘Cox Orange Pippin’ trees develop biennial bearing. This means, each year you will alternate between high yield, small apples, and low yield, large apples.

Tip: It is important to choose a good location for your ‘Cox’ tree, as it is susceptible to canker, bunt, collar rot, blood louse, apple scab and mildew, which are most often found in poor locations.

Harvesting ‘Cox’ apples and eating them

Depending on the location and weather conditions, ‘Cox’ apples are ready for harvest between mid-September and mid-October. You will know when the apples are ready, because their stalks will easily detach from the shoots. In fact, healthy apples fall to the ground by themselves.

‘Cox Orange Pippin’ apples are particularly tasty in October and November, and can be stored in a cool, dry place until February. However, they may wilt, brown and rot in storage, so check them regularly. You can eat them fresh, or bake them for a warm dessert.

Note: If you have an apple allergy, avoid ‘Cox Orange Pippin’. It contains few polyphenols, which slows your body’s reaction to the allergens, and is very likely to cause an allergic reaction.

If you are looking for an easier apple to cultivate, have a look at the ‘Reglindis’. It has an impressive resistance to many apple tree diseases!