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All about apples, pears, plums, and cherries - and orchards where they are grown

Sunset apple

Sunset

Sunset is a popular Cox-style apple, widely recommended as an alternative to Cox's Orange Pippin as it is much easier to grow.  The parentage is not known but it is almost certainly a seedling of Cox.  Disease resistance is far better, and cropping is good.  It is also self-fertile, which is fairly unusual in apples and means it can be grown without the usual requirement for a pollination partner.

Like Cox it is a mid-season variety, ripening slightly ahead of Cox - so expect to pick around mid-September in northern Europe.  Sunset does not keep especially well, and is best stored in a refrigerator, where it will last a month or so.

The main horticultural problem is that the fruit tends to be small, but this is easily corrected by thinning the fruitlets as the develop in May and June.

Visually Sunset is quite close to Cox's Orange Pippin, but often with a slightly more yellow hue to the characteristic orange flush.

Our main concern with Sunset is that the flavour can be very variable.  There is no doubt that in principle it is quite close to Cox, with similar aromatic qualities and good sweetness.  However whilst it invariably crops well in both good and bad seasons, the flavour can be very disappointing in a poor year - although even then it remains a crisp and sweet apple.  We have also had reports that flavour varies quite noticeably between M9 and MM106 rootstocks (with M9 producing a better flavour).  We therefore think its popular billing as a "Cox substitute" should be taken with caution.

However, taking it purely on its own merits, Sunset is undoubtedly a good apple for the northern European gardener, crisp, sweet-flavoured, reliable cropping, easy to grow ... and in a good year the promise of some of the aromatic flavours of Cox too.

Sunset apple identification images

All images copyright Orange Pippin unless otherwise stated.

  • Sunset
  • Sunset
  • Sunset

USDA identification images for Sunset

The identification paintings in the USDA Pomological Watercolor Collection span the years 1886 to 1942.

    Citation: U.S. Department of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Collection. Rare and Special Collections, National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, MD 20705.

    Parents and other ancestors of this variety


    Offspring of this variety

    • Pixie(distant descendant)

    Visitor reviews

    • 17 May 2024 
      Bought a tree a few years ago. Didn’t produce a good crop last year. But this year masses of blossom.
    • 02 May 2024 
      We have grown sunsets for a number of years. On a vigorous rootstock they can do well on poor soil. Generally reliable heavy croppers but as article states necessary to thin out the the fruits to ensure a decent size. In our experience they store well (individually wrapped, stored on trays in unheated green house so cool in winter) this year we ate the last of the crop in early February. Can get canker, choose your tree carefully!
    • 13 Aug 2022 
      Fruits very well every year. Not a good keeper.
    • 25 Feb 2022 
      I actually prefer the flavour of sunset over cox: a little more crisp and sour, towards Fuji, but a stroger flavour. In fact I would say sunset is my favourite-tasting apple . I didn't notice any "bad flavour" years in my case.
    • 15 Oct 2019  ANGUS, United Kingdom
      My sunset trees are the workhorse in my orchard. I call it the insurance apple, it always crops heavily and will excel in a poor year, plus the blossom is intense and frost resistant. If there were a year where sunset failed to crop this would surely be a sign of the apocalypse! Flavour is 7/10, trees are very healthy and fruit is clean
    • 16 Sep 2018  POWYS, United Kingdom
      Mature tree in garden when we moved in, believe it to be Sunset. Pretty heavy crop, starting mid-summer, but many fallers, some rotting on the branch and others attacked by wasps. Plenty of eaters remaining though. Lovely taste, crisp and sweet. Flesh brows quickly. I have retained a few dozen, wrapped in newspaper and stored in garden shed, hoping that they will keep well. Next year I may try thinning them out but suspect wasp trouble will persist.
    • 14 Dec 2016  ROSS & CROMARTY, United Kingdom
      I planted a Red Falstaff on my allotment back in 2012, along with a Red Falstaff and an Eggremont Russet. It’s done pretty well and had no problems, with a crop of about 30 apples this year on a 2m tree. Although the flavour is quite similar to a Cox, I think I’d have to agree with the site review that it’s not as deep or rounded a flavour a a good Cox apple.
    • 15 Mar 2015  CO DOWN, Ireland
      Have had sunset tree for about 10 years and always produced masses of small fruit if not not heavily thinned out. Tried chilling some at 3-5 Degrees this year and eat the last ones today still very sweet and firm
    • 31 Oct 2014  LANCASHIRE, United Kingdom
      This is the fourth year of my Sunset tree and the apples are HUGE with an average weight of 9-10 ounces and 10 to 11 inches in circumference. I wonder if this is because it is very windy here and they are thinned out naturally by being blown off when they are just fruitlets. We love the tangy flavour and they are so juicy it runs down your hand. The skin is a little bit tough. We started picking them about a week ago ie the 3rd week in October and the total harvest will be 38 apples
    • 13 Oct 2009  EAST DEVON, United Kingdom
      I have this apple and a Sturmer Pippen. Sunset is the better taste and croper of the two. Both of them make very good juice and cider, so I am not too bothered about the size.
    • 04 Oct 2008  HAMPSHIRE, United Kingdom
      Tasted Sunset at an apple tasting event at Damerham near Fordingbridge produced at Fruitwise Durley and thought that they were the best tasting of ten or so available.Firm, sweet, juicy and lovely flavour. Prefered it to the following; Kidds Orange Red, Spartan, Orleans Rreinette, Pitmaston Pineapple, Lord Lambourne, Egremont Russet, Ribston pppin, Ellison's Orange, and James Grieve.
    • 01 Oct 2008  WAKEFIELD, United Kingdom
      Marian Fitch may have a similarly named apple "Suntan". It is a later variety (late Oct-Nov), and has a good deep red shading when ripe.
    • 24 Sep 2008  ENGLAND, United Kingdom
      Hello i have sunset apples and i was wondering when to pick them?
    • 03 Jun 2008  SOMERSET, United Kingdom
      Reading the comments I wonder if my 'Sunset' is miss named. It never drops, always has to be picked and stays well on the tree. Large fruit with much red on it. Sweet and crisp, a lovely flavour.
    • 02 Jun 2008  MIDLAND MICHIGAN, United States
      The apple is small, but is the most beautiful orange-red of any apple I have ever seen and I have seen almost 700 varieties..
    • 13 Nov 2007  BRIDPORT WEST DORSET, United Kingdom
      I have this apple and it doesnt EVER fruit after October so dont understand that summary on this site of its fruiting times! I love its crisp sharp taste, even the tiny ones taste lovely!
    • 11 Oct 2007  Ireland
      Picking now (11th Oct); superb apple - sweet, crisp, aromatic, very juicy. Small if not thinned, but this year I thinned early to one apple per truss and results are great.
    • 05 Oct 2007  WEST DORSET, United Kingdom
      Always crops well. A strong apple taste and very sweet when fully ripe. Crisp flesh and not sharp. Tends to drop. Less disease problems than the Cox. Texture becomes soft if kept.
    • 24 Sep 2007  EX15, United States
      Very heavy crop. Interesting and complicated flavours. Far too sharp for a dessert apple. However, the whole family detests the Cox. Will juice them this year as a last resort. Expect to rip it out. Rgds. Malcolm

    Tree register

    United Kingdom

    France

    Ireland

    New Zealand

    • Giles in HAMILTON, WAIKATO

    Spring blossom records for this variety

    2022 season

    • 24th April  2022  - tree owned by Paul in Rochdale, United Kingdom
    • 24th April  2022  - tree owned by Graham in Southampton, United Kingdom
    • 16th April  2022  - tree owned by Mark in Bronington, Whitchurch, United Kingdom

    2018 season

    • 5th May  2018  - tree owned by Bill in Smeeton Westerby, United Kingdom

    2017 season

    • 25th April  2017  - tree owned by Bill in Smeeton Westerby, United Kingdom

    2016 season

    • 13th May  2016  - tree owned by Bill in Smeeton Westerby, United Kingdom
    • May  2016  - tree owned by Graham in Southampton, United Kingdom
    • April  2016  - tree owned by Mike in Launceston, United Kingdom

    2015 season

    • 10th May  2015  - tree owned by Bill in Smeeton Westerby, United Kingdom

    2014 season

    • 1st May  2014  - tree owned by Ian in Tewkesbury, United Kingdom
    • 28th April  2014  - tree owned by Bill in Smeeton Westerby, United Kingdom
    • 27th April  2014  - tree owned by Wendy in Sudbury, United Kingdom
    • 25th April  2014  - tree owned by Melvyn in Old Windsor, United Kingdom
    • 15th April  2014  - tree owned by Pip in Rye, United Kingdom

    2013 season

    • 19th May  2013  - tree owned by Bill in Smeeton Westerby, United Kingdom
    • 13th May  2013  - tree owned by Jean in Martock, United Kingdom
    • 10th May  2013  - tree owned by Pip in Rye, United Kingdom

    2012 season

    • 12th May  2012  - tree owned by David in Petersfield, United Kingdom
    • 1st May  2012  - tree owned by Keith in Honiton, United Kingdom
    • May  2012  - tree owned by Dan in Killarney, Ireland
    • 19th April  2012  - tree owned by Alan in Chippenham, United Kingdom
    • 15th April  2012  - tree owned by Pip in Rye, United Kingdom

    2011 season

    • 21st April  2011  - tree owned by Pip in Rye, United Kingdom
    • 13th April  2011  - tree owned by Keith in Honiton, United Kingdom
    • 12th April  2011  - tree owned by Alan in Chippenham, United Kingdom
    • 10th April  2011  - tree owned by Erica in Lincoln, United Kingdom

    2010 season

    • 6th May  2010  - tree owned by Robert@Ankeow.Freeserve.Co.Uk in Newquay, United Kingdom
    • May  2010  - tree owned by Pip in Rye, United Kingdom
    • 28th April  2010  - tree owned by Marian in Street, United Kingdom

    2009 season

    • May  2009  - tree owned by Pip in Rye, United Kingdom

    Record your blossom dates in our Fruit Tree Register - more >>.


    Harvest records for this variety

    2020 season

    • 4th week September  2020  - tree owned by Dave in Derby, United Kingdom

    2017 season

    • 3rd week September  2017  - tree owned by Bill in Smeeton Westerby, United Kingdom

    2016 season

    • 1st week October  2016  - tree owned by Bill in Smeeton Westerby, United Kingdom
    • August  2016  - tree owned by Graham in Southampton, United Kingdom

    2015 season

    • 1st week October  2015  - tree owned by Bill in Smeeton Westerby, United Kingdom

    2014 season

    • 3rd week September  2014  - tree owned by Bill in Smeeton Westerby, United Kingdom
    • September  2014  - tree owned by Pip in Rye, United Kingdom

    2013 season

    • 1st week October  2013  - tree owned by Bill in Smeeton Westerby, United Kingdom
    • September  2013  - tree owned by Pip in Rye, United Kingdom

    2012 season

    • 3rd week September  2012  - tree owned by Dan in Killarney, Ireland
    • September  2012  - tree owned by Pip in Rye, United Kingdom

    2011 season

    • September  2011  - tree owned by Peter in Ickenham, United Kingdom
    • September  2011  - tree owned by Pip in Rye, United Kingdom

    2010 season

    • 3rd week October  2010  - tree owned by Pip in Rye, United Kingdom

    2009 season

    • 2nd week October  2009  - tree owned by Clare in Bodorgan, United Kingdom

    Origins

    • Species: Malus domestica - Apple
    • Parentage: Cox's Orange Pippin
    • Originates from: Kent, England, United Kingdom
    • Introduced: 1918
    • UK National Fruit Collection accession: 1979-190

    Identification

    • Awards: RHS AGM (current)
    • Country of origin: United Kingdom
    • Period of origin: 1900 - 1949
    • Fruit colour: Orange flush
    • Flower colour: White
    • Leaf colour: Green
    • Popularity: Best sellers
    • Annual cycle: Deciduous

    Using

    • Picking season: Late
    • Keeping (of fruit): 2-3 weeks
    • Flavour quality: Good
    • Flavour style (apples): Aromatic
    • Discoloration of fruit: No discoloration (Good for drying)
    • Cropping: Heavy
    • Fruit persistence: Normal ripening
    • Food uses: Eating fresh
    • Food uses: Juice
    • Picking period: late September
    • Wildlife: RHS Plants for Pollinators

    Growing

    • Gardening skill: Beginner
    • Flowering group: 3
    • Pollinating others: Average
    • Ploidy: Diploid
    • Vigour: Average vigour
    • Bearing regularity: Regular
    • Fruit bearing: Spur-bearer
    • Self-fertility: Self-fertile
    • Growth habit: Upright-spreading / Vase

    Climate

    • Frost resistance of blossom: Good resistance
    • Climate suitability: Temperate climates
    • Climate suitability: Mild damp climates
    • Summer average maximum temperatures: Cool ( 20-24C / 68-75F)
    • Cold hardiness (RHS): H6 (to -20C)

    Other qualities

    • Disease resistance: Good
    • Canker: Some resistance
    • Scab (Apple and Pear): Some susceptibility

    Where to buy trees

    The following tree nurseries offer Sunset apple trees for sale:


    Where to buy fresh fruit

    The following orchards grow Sunset:

    United Kingdom




    References

    • Apples of England (1948)
      Author: Taylor
    • Fruit Expert
      Author: Hessayon

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