Elstar apple: pollination, care & harvest


Having studied organic farming, I enjoy trying out new cultivation methods and other gardening experiments with friends in our community garden. I care deeply about exploring sustainable and mindful approaches to working with nature. This is my biggest passion, but I am also a real ornamental plant enthusiast!

Favourite fruit: strawberry, mango, guava
Favourite vegetables: artichoke, tomato, rocket

What do ‘Elstar’ apples taste like and where do they grow best? Here we will answer your questions about ‘Elstar’ apple trees.

Elstar apples in tree
‘Elstar’ apples are delicious, but when it comes to cultivation, this apple can be a little bit of a diva [Photo: Manfred Ruckszio/ Shutterstock.com]

At our core, we Brits love apples: we consume billions of them every year. Yet some apple varieties, such as ‘Elstar’ (Malus domestica ‘Elstar’), despite being popular on the continent, are not that well known here. Find out more about the delicious ‘Elstar’ apple and learn how to grow it yourself in the following article.

‘Elstar’ apple: profile

FruitMedium-sized; yellow-gold with light red marbling
FlavourAromatic, sweet
YieldHighly irregular
Harvest timeFrom mid-September
Ripe to eatFrom late-September
Shelf lifeGood; can be stored until January
ClimateSheltered; not suitable for high altitudes
Pests and diseasesSusceptible to fruit tree canker, apple scab, mildew, spider mites, fire blight

History and origin

‘Elstar’ originates from a breeding programme of the Institute for Horticultural Plant Breeding at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. The variety was created in 1955 by crossing the varieties ‘Golden Delicious’ and ‘Ingrid Marie’, but the variety was not introduced to the market until 1975.

Expert info: Occasionally, the genetic material of a tree mutates, usually only on a branch or a section of a branch. Such mutations are sometimes further propagated and used to grow fruit. Mutants of the ‘Elstar’ variety include ‘Elstar Reinhardt’, ‘Red Elstar’, ‘Goedhof’ and the stunningly bright red ‘Bel-El’.

Ripe bright red mutant elstar apples
There are also bright red mutants of the ‘Elstar’ variety, for example ′Bel-El′ [Photo: Iryna Art/ Shutterstock.com]

How do ‘Elstar’ apples taste?

Like all apple varieties, ‘Elstar’ was subjected to a sensory fruit evaluation, in other words, a professional taste test. According to this, ‘Elstar’ apples have medium-firm, cream-coloured to yellowish flesh, which is moderately juicy with a sweet and strongly aromatic taste. The acidity is balanced, neither too sour nor too bland.

Growing ‘Elstar’ apples

Do you want to enjoy the sweet taste of an ‘Elstar’ apple fresh from your own garden? Here are our top tips for planting an ‘Elstar’ apple tree.

What to bear in mind when growing the ‘Elstar’ variety?

When growing an ‘Elstar’ apple tree you should keep one thing in mind: The variety is extremely demanding and is actually not recommended for home garden cultivation. The variety can be seen as a real diva for the following reasons:

  • ‘Elstar’ is a very vigorous growing variety, which means it requires a lot of pruning. If not pruned regularly, the health of the tree and the fruit quality will suffer.
  • ‘Elstar’ is susceptible to many major apple diseases: Fruit tree canker, apple scab, powdery mildew, spider mites, and fire blight.
  • The yield of ‘Elstar’ is highly variable. If the tree is not pruned, fertilised, and watered correctly, it responds unforgivingly: Years without a single apple are followed by years with far too many apples and far too small apples.
Pruning elstar apple tree with shears and ladder
Fruit growers know that Elstar apple trees need to be pruned correctly and regularly [Photo: ondrejsustik/ Shutterstock.com]

But ‘Elstar’ does have some advantages too. Due to its rather late flowering, it is not very susceptible to blossom frost. It also ages well and regenerates pruning wounds or frost damage to the wood very well. And of course, the delicious tasting fruit makes it worth all the effort.

Location for ‘Elstar’ apple trees

The ideal location for an ‘Elstar’ apple tree is sheltered to prevent frost damage in winter. At the same time, however, it needs some wind, to prevent pests and diseases. The most important aspect for the ‘Elstar’ apple tree is sunlight: a full-sun location ensures higher yields and a healthy tree.

As far as the soil is concerned, this depends on the rootstock onto which it was grafted. So before buying an apple tree, find a suitable rootstock for your soil. The following table shows you the location requirements of different apple rootstocks.

RootstockExampleLocation requirementsTree growth
DwarfM9, M27, M26Very demanding. Nutrient-rich, loamy-sandy soil with high humus content. Does not tolerate waterlogging and drought.Tree remains smaller and has weaker growth.
Semi-dwarfM7, M4, MM106Fairly demanding. Good quality, nutrient-rich soil with a high humus content. Tolerates waterlogging and drought slightly better.Tree grows to medium size.
VigorousM11, A2, seedling rootstocksLow to medium demands. Tolerates poorer soils as well as dryness and wetness.Tree grows taller and wider.

If you have enough space in your garden, we recommend a semi-dwarf rootstock. On this rootstock your ‘Elstar’ will grow a little taller and you will need a ladder to prune it, but the tree is much less sensitive and can cope better with a less ideal location.

Large apple tree
Large apple trees need more space, but a little less care [Photo: Kati Finell/ Shutterstock.com]

How to plant an ‘Elstar’ apple tree

We have written an in-depth article on planting apple trees, but to save you some time, here are the key steps:

  • Plant the ‘Elstar’ apple tree in autumn.
  • Dig a hole at least 1.5 times as wide and deep as the root ball.
  • Mix two-thirds of the excavated soil with mature compost or a high-quality potting soil and granular fertiliser such as our Plantura Tomato Food.
  • Root pruning: With bare-root plants, only cut the tips, while with potted plants, pull apart the root ball in a few places with your hands or a spade to tear the fine roots. Root pruning is not necessary for balled plants.
  • If necessary, prune the apple tree.
  • Place the tree in the planting hole. The grafting point should be 15 to 20 cm above the ground. Make sure the roots are not exposed.
  • Fill the planting hole with the soil mixture and then tread on the soil with your entire body weight.
  • Form the rest of the dug soil in a mound around the tree to form a watering reservoir. Water generously and top up any sinking soil.
  • Water the tree regularly in its first year of growth so that it can develop well.
Tomato Food, 1.5kg
Tomato Food, 1.5kg
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  • Perfect for tomatoes, chillies, courgettes, cucumber & more
  • For healthy plants & an abundant tomato harvest
  • Long-lasting fertiliser that is free from animal products - child & pet friendly

Tip: An ‘Elstar’ apple tree on dwarf-growing rootstock will only develop weak roots so it needs a firm stake as support and to be tied up for the duration of its life. Check the stake and ties and renew, if necessary, annually.

When to harvest ‘Elstar’ apples?

If you want to store ‘Elstar’ apples for a long time, pick them earlier. From around mid-September, the apples are ready for picking. The apples then ripen slowly in storage. If you do not want to store the fruit, but eat them straight away, harvest from the end of September when the apples are perfectly sweet and delicious. Of course, you can also pick and store some of them early and pick the rest from the tree later to enjoy fresh. Read our article on harvesting apples for more helpful tips.

Tip: ‘Elstar’ has a special feature: It does not drop dead or ripe fruit on its own. This is good if you do not fancy fallen fruit on your lawn. Unfortunately, this means diseased and rotten fruits remain on the tree and infect the other fruits. Fruit rot can even overwinter in so-called fruit mummies and infect young fruit again in spring. So, check the tree regularly for diseased or rotten fruit and remove.

Storing and processing ‘Elstar’ apples

‘Elstar’ apples can be stored easily in a cool place. If temperatures remain below 4°C, they can keep until January. Make sure that the fruit for storage is harvested early, so they are not fully ripe. Unfortunately, ‘Elstar’ apples are susceptible to rot and wilt in storage and require a constant, not too high or low, humidity. Find more information in our article on storing apples.

Harvested elstar apples for storage
Only store apples that are not quite ripe and, most importantly, undamaged [Photo: Lyudmila2509/ Shutterstock.com]

‘Elstar’ apples are perfect for eating fresh, but the sweet and tangy taste is also perfect for cakes and apple strudels. Of course, it is also possible to preserve in apple sauce, but this apple is a little too good for this.

Do you reckon the ‘Elstar’ apple tree is too demanding? Then the apple variety ‘King of the Pippins’ could be an ideal alternative. Not only is it delicious, but it is also better suited for the home garden.

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