- Cross-Pollinate Fruit Trees
- Cooperative Extension: Tree Fruits
- Pollination Requirements
- Breaking news
- Pollination of apple trees and other fruit trees
- Blossom time
- Flowering groups / Pollination groups
- Blossom day – best ignored
- Flowering times
- Rootstocks and flowering groups
- Good pollinators and poor pollinators
- Fruit bud formation
- Check apple tree pollination compatibility online
- Final word
- Fruits Trees & Pollination: What You Need To Know
- Briggs Garden & Home
- Plum tree planting, pollination & aftercare
- Plum pollination explained
- The best time to plant Plum & Gage trees
Cross-Pollinate Fruit Trees
- For best pollination, don’t plant fruit trees more than 100 feet apart.
- Consider the fruit harvest. Fruit that’s not picked eventually will fall from the tree. Place the tree where fallen fruit won’t cause a problem — away from decks, driveways and walking paths.
- Fertilizer isn’t recommended immediately after planting trees. They go through a kind of shock when they’re put into the ground, and fertilizer can burn tender roots. Water is all that’s needed at first. Spread pine bark mulch in a 4-foot diameter about 6 inches deep around the tree to help retain moisture. Pull the mulch back so it’s not piled against the trunk. Don’t use hardwood bark because it can release acids that lower nitrogen levels, which can weaken the tree.
- Once the tree is established, use a mild, slow-release fertilizer, like a 10-10-10, for the first year, following the manufacturer’s directions. This promotes root growth, the overall health of the tree and a strong bud set, which leads to better pollination.
- Water fruit trees once a week during dry spells, especially during the first two years after planting. Allowing a tree to go dry can cause a weak bud set or even cause the flowers to drop early. That means poor pollination and little or no fruit. Apply enough water to soak several inches into the soil.
- Spray the trees with dormant oil to smother mites and insect eggs that later emerge and damage the buds. Spray it on the trees while they’re dormant, on one of the warmest and sunniest days in February. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for mixing and application, as well as all of the safety recommendations, like wearing a respirator, gloves and goggles.
- To help honeybees pollinate fruit trees, don’t apply pesticides during bloom time. Bees are very susceptible to almost all pesticides. And even if other insects are the target, the bee population can be seriously damaged.
- Remove nearby dandelions and other broadleaf weed flowers before the trees blossom so the bees won’t be distracted from their fruit-tree pollination job.
Cooperative Extension: Tree Fruits
In order for fruit to develop, flowers must first be pollinated. The process of pollination begins when a pollen grain is deposited on the part of the flower called the stigma. The pollen grain germinates and grows down through a floral tube or ‘pistil’ that is connected to the ovule or unfertilized seed. Once fertilization takes place, the seed and fruitlet grow in size. In some varieties, particularly pear, a small number of fruit can develop without pollination.
Fruit trees that do not require cross pollination by a different variety are self-fruitful. They bear fruit when one variety is planted alone. Most peach and tart cherry varieties are self-fertile and can be expected to bear fruit with pollen from the same tree or another tree of the same variety. Some varieties of quince and sweet cherry are also self-fertile.
A fruit tree that is partially self-fertile will have a small number of fruit when planted alone, but will bear more fruit when planted with another variety. Some varieties of plum are partially self-fertile. However, planting two or more varieties will ensure that trees consistently bear fruit.
Fruit trees that require cross pollination by another variety are self-unfruitful. In this case, pollen from the same variety is not capable of reaching the unfertilized seed or ovule within the flower. The pollen grain is prevented from growing through the floral tube and never reaches the ovule, so the blossom drops instead of growing into a fruit. In these self-incompatible species, pollen from a different variety is needed for fertilization. Apples, pears, apricots, and many sweet cherries and plums are self-unfruitful and should be planted with other varieties of the same species, i.e. Asian plums with another Asian plum variety. For apple, it is enough to have two trees, each a different variety with similar bloom times, such as Honeycrisp and Golden Delicious. The same is true for pears.
Crab apples will pollinate apples, and Bradford pear will pollinate most European pears. However, Asian pear will pollinate European pear only if the two bloom at the same time. Tart cherry will not pollinate sweet cherry. European plum is infertile with Asian or hybrid plum, and vice versa.
There are a few instances where two varieties will not cross pollinate each other. Such is the case with Seckel and Bartlett pears, an incompatible mix.
Incompatibility exists among varieties of sweet cherry and plum that adds a level of complexity to their cross pollination needs. The easiest solution to this problem is to select a variety that is known to be a good source of pollen for most other varieties. For plum, Toka, and South Dakota are two varieties that cross pollinate most other cold hardy Asian plum varieties. For other Asian plums, it is not clear which varieties serve as good cross pollinators of other varieties, and this remains an unresolved problem for experts and novices alike. Sweet cherry varieties that cross pollinate most others are Black Gold, Hedelfingen, Kristin, Lapins, Seneca, Stella, Regina, Valera, and White Gold.
Some apple varieties have an extra set of chromosomes and cannot be used for cross pollination because they have sterile pollen. These “triploid” varieties are Baldwin, Boskoop, Bramley’s Seedling, Crispin, Gravenstein, Jonagold, Mutsu, Rhode Island Greening, Ribbston Pippin, Roxbury Russet, Shizuka, Spigold, Wealthy, and Winesap. When growing any of these varieties, plant at least two other varieties for good cross pollination.
Sally Tagg Very fruitful plum basket
Pollination of blossom is essential to harvesting a bountiful crop from fruit trees. Pollination occurs when the pollen is moved from the male parts of the flower (stamens and anthers) to the female part of the flower (stigma). The pollen is usually transferred by bees or insects. Some fruit trees need the pollen to be transferred from a different variety, or even from the male flowers to the female flowers on the same tree (for avocados), while others are self-fertile, meaning they are self-sufficient for pollination. But even self-fertile or partially self-fertile varieties will do better when planted with another variety that flowers at the same time.
A cross-pollinating variety needs to be the same fruit type but a different variety. So an apricot won’t cross-pollinate with an apple, and two trees of the same variety won’t cross-pollinate.
Where space is limited, choose double-grafted fruit trees where two cross-pollinating varieties are grafted onto the same rootstock. Or plant two, three or four trees in one hole – the close proximity to each other will guarantee good cross-pollination.
Only a few apple varieties are reliably self-fertile (‘Braeburn’, ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ and ‘Granny Smith’). Most varieties benefit from cross-pollination with another variety that flowers at the same time. Crabapple varieties are useful pollinators for apples, as most types have a long flowering period and produce a lot of pollen. In commercial orchards, ‘Manchurian’ and ‘Profusion’ crabapples and ‘Granny Smith’ apple trees are interspersed as pollinators. Some apple varieties are “triploids” (they have three sets of chromosomes rather than the usual two), which means they are self-sterile and don’t produce any useful pollen for other varieties (they include ‘Belle de Boskoop’, ‘Blenheim Orange’, ‘Bramley’s Seedling’ and ‘Gravenstein’).
Most stonefruit varieties are self-fertile. All peach and nectarine varieties are self-fertile, so will produce a good crop of fruit when a single tree is planted. The ‘Sundrop’ apricot is the only apricot variety requiring cross-pollination (plant it with ‘Trevatt’).
Plum varieties are bit trickier as there are Japanese and crossed types (‘Elephant Heart’, ‘Fortune’ and ‘Omega’), which flower in early spring, and European varieties, which flower in late spring. Due to the spread in flowering time, Japanese varieties only cross-pollinate with each other and European plums only cross-pollinate with each other (although some European varieties are self-fertile). Because they flower early in spring, Japanese plums can be hit and miss in southern regions where there is a higher chance of Jack Frost burning tender blooms. European varieties like ‘Stanley’ prune and ‘Damson’ plum are safer choices with their later spring flowers.
Pears have the most specific pollinating partner varieties, with ‘Conference’ being the only reliably self-fertile cultivar. If you don’t want two pear trees, plant a pear and a nashi, like ‘Nijiseiki’, as these cousins will cross-pollinate. If space is limited, espalier one variety (like ‘Taylors Gold’) alongside the dwarf variety ‘Garden Belle’.
Pear blooms are not as attractive to bees due to the flowers having lower sugar contents, so don’t plant highly fragrant and attractive flowers near your pear trees.
Citrus have such highly fragrant and attractive blossoms that there is usually no difficulty attracting insects to the flowers. But citrus trees are like the Labrador of a home orchard – they want regular meals. An underfed tree will show signs of being hungry with yellowed, veiny or curled leaves and will usually have a poor show of flowers. The good news is that it’s easy to turn this around by applying regular doses of a controlled-release citrus fertiliser like Tui Fruit Food for plants in the ground and Tui NovaTec fertiliser for container-grown plants.
Even seedless varieties can produce seeds if the flowers are cross-pollinated by a different variety that blooms at the same time. Therefore, it’s a good idea to plant seedless varieties some distance away from other citrus (especially from ‘Meyer’ lemons, which flower and crop year-round).
Unlike most fruit trees, the pollen on feijoa flowers is transferred by our feathered friends. Large birds like blackbirds, thrushes and mynahs munch on the petals, picking up the pollen on their beaks and chests. Most feijoa varieties are either self-fertile (‘Unique’) or partially self-fertile (‘Kaiteri’, ‘Apollo’ and ‘Wiki Tu’), but all will produce bigger crops of larger, more fleshy fruit if the flowers are cross-pollinated by a different variety. ‘Wiki Tu’ will sometimes have gaps inside the fruit if the flowers are poorly pollinated, as without the tiny seeds (formed from cross-pollination) the jelly-like flesh doesn’t form completely.
Kiwifruit and kiwiberries have male and female plants – a male is planted to provide cross-pollination for a female plant. Green kiwi ‘Hayward’ or miniature ‘Takaka Green’ are the most common examples. Usually nurseries will plant a male and female plant in one pot. Note that due to restrictions because of the vine-killing disease Psa, there is very limited availability of kiwifruit plants in garden centres at present.
Fruit trees fail to flower for a number of reasons. Sometimes they are too young or not healthy enough to produce productive growth (pest or disease infections reduce the ability of the tree to sustain a crop). Being overly generous with nitrogen-based fertiliser will encourage lots of luscious, leafy vegetative growth at the expense of productive, fruiting growth. Balance this out by applying potassium in late summer/early autumn.
If the tree has flowered but produced no fruit, it may have been too cold or wet (or both) during flowering. Bees, indeed most insects, prefer warm conditions. If you suspect bees weren’t active during the flowering period, try hand-pollinating the tree by brushing the pollen from flower to flower with a tiny paintbrush.
If conditions were perfect, but still there is no fruit, your variety may not be self-fertile. Plant a cross-pollinating variety nearby or, for more advanced gardeners, try grafting on a piece of the cross-pollinating variety as a new branch. For a short-term solution, take a flowering branch off the cross-pollinating variety and pop it in a bucket of water beneath your tree.
Companion planting will entice bees and other pollinating insects to visit your fruit trees by companion planting. These plants may not flower at the same time as your fruit trees, but will encourage bees to visit so that when your edibles are flowering, your garden is on the list of spots to check out. Some of these companion plants will also attract beneficial insects that will predate on pests such as mites and aphids. Allow the companion plants to flower or bolt as this is what will attract bees and beneficial bugs.
Recommended companion plants for fruit trees include herbs in the Apiaceae/Umbelliferae family (named for their flat, umbrella-like flowers) including angelica, caraway, coriander, dill, fennel and parsley • mints • onions • basil • thyme • borage • cosmos • sunflowers • zinnias • alyssum.
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Pollination of apple trees and other fruit trees
Pollination is an important topic when growing fruit trees because many – but certainly not all – varieties require pollination from a compatible donor tree before they can set fruit. However it is a natural process that almost always “just works”. Some simple rules of thumb:
- If you are in an urban environment you probably won’t need to worry about a pollination partner for your apple tree – there will usually be compatible apple trees or crab apple trees in neighboring gardens and hedgerows. Pears, plums, and cherries are a bit less widely-planted though, and you can’t assume there will be others nearby, but try asking neighbors.
- For varieties which are not self-fertile, and require a pollination partner, the partner has to be a different variety of the same fruit species. Two trees of the same variety will not pollinate each other.
- If you are in an isolated area and only want to plant one tree, choose a self-fertile variety.
- If in doubt, and you have space for more than one tree of the same species (e.g. 2 apple trees or 2 plum trees), plant two compatible varieties. (If doing so, it is a good idea to choose varieties that have different picking times so that you have a spread of fruit through the season).
- You can always contact us for specific advice and we will be glad to help.
So having reassured you that pollination is not such a big issue when choosing what fruit trees to grow, here are some of the factors that can affect pollination:
In general terms each species can only pollinate others of its own kind – apples will only pollinate other apples, pears will only pollinate pears, and so on.
Amongst apples there is generally no distinction between crab apples, cider apples, and mainstream apples – they can all potentially cross-pollinate each other.
Things are less clear with plums. European plums (Prunus domestica) can inter-pollinate with closely-related species such as damsons, mirabelles and cherry plums. European plums cannot generally cross-pollinate with Japanese plums (Prunus salicina). Many European plums are self-fertile, but most Japanese plums are not self-fertile.
Sweet and Acid cherries are also different species but can cross-pollinate each other – but usually cannot be pollinated by ornamental flowering cherries.
For most fruit varieties, pollination is carried out by insects, often bees. Since pollination happens in early spring, good weather which will encourage bees can be a factor.
Pollination also depends on having blossom to be pollinated – which is why the risk of late frosts which can damage blossom is sometimes a concern. Frosts just after pollination can also damage the first stages of fruit formation.
Temperatures at blossom time are also very significant for effective pollination. Pollen germination in apples works best at temperatures in the range 60F-70F (15C-20C). If you are in an area where spring temperatures are less than this (say around 50F) then you will need lots of pollinators and/or varieties that can germinate pollen at lower temperatures.
While bad spring weather can prevent effective pollination, it is useful to know that you only need 1-2 fine warm days during the bloom period for pollinating insects to come out and for blossom to be successfully pollinated.
Flowering groups / Pollination groups
One of the easiest and simplest ways to see if two varieties could pollinate each other is to check their pollination or flowering groups. The flowering groups are not the only factor in determining compatibility between varieties, but they are a good starting point.
These groups are somewhat arbitrary (there is no official definition) but the concept is simple – each group contains varieties that flower at around the same time. Groups may be given letters or numbers, but they typically run from the earliest-flowering to the latest-flowering varieties in each species. This works for apples, pears, and most plums. Pollination is most likely to be successful with two varieties that are in the same group.
In cool temperate climates where spring lasts many weeks, such as the UK and northern Europe you can assume that varieties in neighboring flowering groups will also be compatible because the flowering will overlap. In continental climates where the transition from winter to summer happens very quickly, such as much of the USA and southern Europe, you can assume that varieties even two groups apart will probably still overlap and therefore have the potential to cross-pollinate.
Our variety pages automatically show you compatible varieties based on these flowering groups.
Blossom day – best ignored
Some authorities record precise dates for the peak blossom day of each variety. This sounds more accurate than flowering groups but in practice this data is potentially misleading.
The problem is that flowering dates are different from one region to another i.e. trees in more southerly or sheltered regions will usually start blossoming earlier than those in more northerly climates.
The seasons are also different from one year to the next, depending on the severity of the winter and the weather during spring. The early spring of 2012 experienced across many of the northern states of the US brought the usual bloom period forward by several weeks.
A more subtle point is that in continental climates such as much of the USA, spring is often compressed – the transition from winter to summer happens very quickly. In contrast in temperate climates such as the UK – where much of the original blossom data was first recorded – the transition from winter to summer is more gradual and less prounounced, with the result that the blossom season is relatively longer.
For all these reasons, knowing an exact day can be misleading. The flowering groups, by virtue of being less precise, are much more helpful when comparing different varieties.
Some authorities, including the UK National Fruit Collection, publish flowering time data in the following form:
10% – 6th May, 80% – 12th May, 90% – 18th May.
This means 10% of the flowers are open on 6th May, 80% open by 12th May, and 90% have fallen (10% still open) by 18th May.
In this scenario the 80% figure is equivalent to the peak blossom day mentioned above, when it is most useful as a pollinator and to be pollinated, so exactly the same caveats apply. (Whilst 90% of the flowers are open on 18th May, the majority are past the stage where they can pollinate or be pollinated). However because a spread of dates is provided, the flowering times data is more useful than just knowing the blossom day, as it allows comparisons to be made with other varieties. It also explains a key point about the flowering groups mentioned previously – i.e. that varieties in neighboring groups are likely to overlap in their flowering times and therefore have the potential to cross-pollinate.
Rootstocks and flowering groups
Another complication is that the rootstock can affect the flowering times. For example, any apple variety grafted on the MM106 rootstock will tend to flower a few days ahead of the same variety on most other apple rootstocks, whilst the M9 and M25 rootstocks tend to delay flowering by a few days.
Good pollinators and poor pollinators
Some varieties naturally tend to produce a lot of blossom over a long period, and/or are genetically highly compatible with a lot of other varieties – this makes them good pollinators for other varieties. Most crab apples fall into this category and commercial apple orchards sometimes inter-plant them for this purpose.
Some varieties are very poor pollinators. Bramley’s Seedling is a particular case in point, because it is a ‘triploid’ variety which means its own pollen is ineffective at pollinating other varieties – see below.
This strange word refers to the number of chromosomes found in the cells of all living things, including fruit trees.
Most fruit trees are diploid (just like humans), which means they have two sets of chromosomes, one set inherited from the mother (the tree where the fruit subsequently forms) and the other from the father / pollinator. However some varieties of apples and pears are triploid, which means they have three sets of chromosomes. This is relevant to pollination because triploid varieties cannot cross-pollinate other varieties. Although some triploid varieties display a considerable degree of self-fertility it is perhaps best to assume they need another apple tree to pollinate them. In fact, if you plant a triploid variety you will usually require two other trees nearby, each of different varieties, which can cross-pollinate each other as well as the triploid tree.
This might put you off growing triploid varieties, but they have many advantages including often very good disease resistance – more details here.
The vast majority of apple varieties are self-infertile but there are a few exceptions such as Alkmene which are self-fertile – they do not require a pollination partner. However, fruiting and fruit quality is usually improved with a suitable partner.
In other species such as apricots, peaches, nectarines, the rule is the opposite – they are invariably self-fertile so you can safely plant just one example. However even self-fertile varieties still need the pollen to be transferred from one flower to another and if bad weather deters pollinating insects the pollination may be poor and you will get a reduced “fruit set”.
A number of apple (and pear) varieties are also listed as partially self-fertile. This suggests they should still set some fruit even if there is no pollinating partner nearby, but this is not necessarily the case. In practice partially self-fertile varieties tend to be fully self-fertile if the spring weather is good when the blossom is open, and not self-fertile at all if the spring weather is bad. It follows that if you generally have cold wet spring weather, you should assume even partially self-fertile varieties will be self-sterile in your conditions.
As an aside, self-fertile apple and pear varieties, if not pollinated by a different variety, can be prone to a fruit disorder called bitter pit which makes the fruit rather unsightly. This seems to be related to the lack of pips and / or small pips which occurs in self-pollinated apples. Good quality apples tend to have larger and / or more numerous pips – the result of good pollination. This is the reason why (in the case of apples and pears) it is often best to plant at least two trees (of different varieties), rather than relying on one self-fertile variety.
Even if all the other factors are taken care of, some varieties are still not compatible. This is often because there is a family relationship. Thus Golden Delicious – which is an excellent pollinator for many apples because of the duration and quantity of its blossom – will not pollinate Jonagold or Crispin and is a poor pollinator of Gala, mainly because these varieties are closely related to it (very closely related in the case of Jonagold and Crispin).
These relationship incompatibilities operate at a genetic level and are difficult for the non-scientist to follow. However a useful rule of thumb is that you can usually assume traditional varieties from the USA are unlikely to be related to traditional varieties from Europe and vice versa. Thus Golden Delicious, which originated in the USA, is a good pollinator for many heirloom European varieties. This rule breaks down for varieties developed from the late 19th century onwards though, because by then transport and communication links had developed and new varieties were increasingly raised by research stations and knowledgeable amateurs using varieties from both continents.
This self-incompatibility is a particularly important issue with the pollination of sweet cherries, and very complicated to work out. For this reason it is often best to begin your cherry orchard by planting a self-fertile cherry variety, as this will usually pollinate most of the other cherry varieties.
Fruit bud formation
In order to have pollination you have to have blossom … and in order to have blossom some of the buds must be fruiting buds rather than leaf buds. Perhaps surprisingly, this spring’s fruit buds are formed the previous summer. Therefore if you have good spring weather but little blossom, the cause is often incorrect pruning the preceding summer or over the winter.
Conversely, you can encourage a tree that is not producing much blossom to create more fruit buds by tying new branches to the horizontal in early summer – this fools the tree into thinking that it is fruiting, and in turn causes it to set new fruit buds (which will hopefully blossom next spring).
Check apple tree pollination compatibility online
Our online pollination checker takes into account all the above factors and can suggest pollination partners for a large number of different apple varieties and other fruit varieties.
As we said at the top of the page, inspite of all the apparent difficulties, pollination is rarely an issue in practice.
Fruits Trees & Pollination: What You Need To Know
If you are considering buying fruit trees, it helps to learn a little bit about pollination requirements for the type of tree you wish to purchase. Here are a few helpful facts and tips regarding the pollination of fruit trees.
Without pollination, your beautiful fruit trees will not produce a bounty of delicious edibles. Some fruit trees are self-pollinating or self-fruitful while others are non-self-fruitful. Self-pollinating fruit trees are those which do not need another type of tree nearby in order to complete the process of pollination. Cherry trees and peach trees are two types of fruit trees in this category.
Fruit trees, either container tree or bare root trees, that are not self-pollinating will need to be pollinated by another variety of tree. Apple trees and pear trees are two types of non-self-fruitful or non-self-pollinating trees.
When it comes to fruit trees, it is important to note that some types of self-pollinating trees experience a higher level of success when they are cross-pollinated with another tree. We always recommend that you purchase these self-fruitful trees in pairs, as you tend to enjoy greater fruit production.
But what does all this mean? How does one ensure proper pollination? All you really need to do is select the type of tree that you want and then do some research and find out which trees are compatible for cross-pollination. Part of this compatibility includes finding two types of trees that bloom around the same time of year. This is especially important if you are planting just two fruit trees. When planting the two trees or several trees, it is important to plant the trees at least 15- 20 feet apart, as this allows for optimum pollination.
Among our selection, some of our self-pollinating fruit trees include peach trees, European plums, figs and persimmons. Again, it is wise to buy a twin for your fruit tree to improve fruit yield.
Our non-self-pollinating fruit trees include apple trees, pear trees, hybrid plum trees and blueberries. For any of these fruit trees, you will need to also purchase a compatible pollinator.
For instance, crabapple trees would be an excellent choice as a pollinator if you were planting just about any variety of apple trees. If you prefer not to plant crabapples, you can cross-pollinate with another type of apple tree. For instance, if you wish to plant a Granny Smith apple tree, cross-pollinate this tree with a Gala tree or perhaps a Golden Delicious tree. It’s best to select two varieties that you particularly enjoy eating, of course, as well as two varieties that are compatible pollinators.
Under the Plant Info tab on our homepage, we have a section entitled Pollination Requirements. This provides you with a great deal of information regarding our fruit trees. You can find helpful pollination suggestions for all of our non-self-pollinating fruit trees in this section.
In addition to thinking about pollination when buying fruit trees and bare root trees, it is important to consider your climate and soil conditions. You will need to select varieties that thrive in your Plant Hardiness Zone. We have a large selection of fruit trees, so it should not be difficult to find some excellent options for your property.
It’s also important to consider your yard size and the eventual height of the fruit trees you plan to buy. Because many fruit trees need to be planted at least 50 feet away from each other, property size is quite important.
At Plant Me Green, you can find a wide variety of fruit trees, including container fruit trees and bare root trees. We have more than one dozen varieties of apple trees as well as crabapple trees, pear trees, fig trees, persimmon trees and peach trees. In addition, we also sell blueberries, blackberries, and grapes. We even have pawpaw fruit trees, which produce a delectable fruit that some say tastes like a banana, while others say it tastes like a cross between a mango and a banana.
Take a look at our selection, and if you have any questions about fruit trees, container trees or bare root trees, don’t hesitate to give us a call or send us an email.
Briggs Garden & Home
Most fruit trees require cross-pollination (the pollen of a different but compatible variety) to yield a crop of fruit. Pears, sweet cherries and Japanese plums fall into this category. Other fruit trees, such as peaches, figs and sour cherries are self-fruitful, meaning they yield fruit from their own pollen. Another group of fruit trees, including most apples, are semi self-fruitful. Trees in this group will yield an adequate crop without cross-pollination, but yields increase with cross-pollination.
Cross-pollination is accomplished by planting two or more varieties side by side or grafting two or more varieties on one trunk. The cross-pollination varieties must bloom at the same time and be compatible with one another. The length of the blooming season varies from 7 to 15 days depending on the fruit, varietal strain and weather. Cold, windy and wet weather can prevent bee activity and therefore hinder cross-pollination during fruit blooming.
Apples and Pears
In order for apple and pear trees to produce fruit, there has to be a second tree for cross-pollination to occur. As long as a second tree is within 500 feet of the first, pollination should take place. If your apple or pear trees are not performing to satisfaction, the following list will help you trouble-shoot:
Cool, rainy weather conditions during flowering
Unfortunately, other than hoping for better luck next year, there is nothing that can be done.
Old, unproductive trees that don’t flower
Generally, apple and pear trees have a productive lifespan of about 30-40 years. Trees can be rejuvenated by removing old, unproductive growth and allowing new growth to replace it.
A poor crop the year after a bumper crop
Some apple varieties tend to perform biennially, with a great crop one year, not so great the next and a better crop again the third year.
No trees of the same genus nearby
It is always best to pollinate fruit trees of the same genus with each other (apples with apples, pears with pears) but pears can cross-pollinate with apples as long as both trees bloom at the same time.
The other cultivar in the yard is sterile
Some (but not all) crabapple trees work for cross-pollination. A few varieties have sterile pollen.
Lack of pollinating insects
Try adding to your flowerbeds. Most flowering plants are guaranteed to attract bees. The annual herb Borage and the perennial Bee-Balm (Monarda) are especially good for this purpose. Due to their flowering times coinciding with those of many fruit trees, marigolds, pansies, spurge, trollius and arabis are the best choices.
The trees are of the same variety
Clones will not pollinate each other. For example, a Norland apple tree cannot pollinate another Norland apple tree.
European apricots are self-pollinating. Manchurian and Siberian apricots fruit more dependably with other apricot varieties or Nanking cherries.
Cherries and Plums
Sour cherries are self-pollinating. In order for cross-pollination of the remainder of cherries and plums to occur, it is essential that they bloom at the same time. Many chokecherries will also aid in cross-pollination. Plums must be from the same region of the world to cross-pollinate (European plums with European plums, Asian with Asian, etc.). The closer the relationship between species, the more abundant the fruit will be.
Grapes are self-pollinating. Cross-pollination is not essential, but some hybrids may have non-viable pollen. Planting two or more varieties will solve the problem.
Blueberries are self-pollinating but two or more varieties result in better yields and larger berries.
Currants and Gooseberries
Currants and gooseberries are self-pollinating. Excellent fruit production can be obtained with just one plant. If currants are grown near gooseberries or jostaberries, however, yields can be even better.
Strawberries and Raspberries
Strawberries and raspberries are both self-pollinating.
Both male and female plants are required to produce fruit. You need at least one of each plant but a male can cross-pollinate up to 8 females. Plants must be 2-3 years old before they can produce fruit.
Plum tree planting, pollination & aftercare
Plum pollination explained
When your new Plum trees come into blossom it might be assumed that a good crop will follow. Hopefully that will be the case but unless you have taken some guidance on variety selection, or done some homework you might be disappointed because of the issue of pollination.
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Not all fruit trees are capable of setting a good crop on their own and require a partner – of a different variety – to cross fertilise and set fruit. Plums and Gages are no different in this respect, although it is slightly less of a minefield than with, say, apples or pears. There is certainly a greater range of self fertile varieties and it is important to choose on of these if you can only grow one tree. Many other varieties of Plum and Gage are at least partly self fertile, that is to say they will produce some fruits most years on their own, but may never show their full potential or really ‘shine’ Still others are full self-incompatibible.
If you have ever had a plum tree in your garden that has consistently failed to produce good crops then it is likely that inadequate pollination was to blame. So before making your purchase check to make sure that you have a good pairing or that the variety are self fertile on their own. A good fruit nursery can guide you through this and the best fruit-tree websites will give full information on which pollinating partners are required.
Plums, Gages and Damsons will cross-fertilise one another, as long as the variety pairing is right.
The best time to plant Plum & Gage trees
The less experienced gardener might be surprised to learn that when it is cold, frosty at nights and all in the garden is dormant is actually the best time to plant Plum trees! Because the trees are dormant at this time – from late October to March – they are able to be transplanted with minimal shock and aftercare. Frost does no harm to the trees once they are in the ground again and because they have been liften from nursery fields out in the open they are well hardened and impervious to frost and snow. They will sit in their new home and await the Spring when they will shoot forth once more.
If you are a fair-weather gardener, or suddenly been bitten by the bug to plant plum trees and it happens to be the summer time then don’t despair. These days planting can take place at any time thanks to that wonderful invention called the container. It allows trees to be re-planted without too much disturbance and provided you’re willing to put the work in afterwards by way of lashings of water daily for a few weeks then it is certainly acceptable to plant right through the growing season. The trees will usually establish quite quickly at this time and you will have gained a few months advantage compared to waiting for the winter to plant as by then your new trees will have been in the ground and growing for quite some time.
If there is a choice then an expert will always promote the autumn and winter time as the best time to plant fruit trees and this includes plums and gages. The only time a container grown tree planted during the growing season is to be preferred is if the situation is very exposed or ‘difficult’
Planting – preparation and Plum tree fertlizer
Planting and pruning are identical to the instructions given for cherry trees.
The soil should be in a fairly friable state and well dug over before planting with an application of blood fish and bone, bonemeal a well balanced NPK fertilizer or growmore. If planting in grass then circles of 18” across should have been removed for each tree and a hole of 18-24” dug and replaced with well friable soil mixed with some fertilizer, since the ground beneath grass is often quite compacted. It is best, but not essential, if the soil is prepared some weeks in advance of planting.
To plant dig a hole that is large enough to take the roots or rootball without cramping, first drive in the stake place the tree in the hole so that the uppermost roots are covered by about 2” of soil. Infill with good friable soil and firm very well. It is important that no air pockets are left below the soil around the roots. Make sure the soil where you have planted is level with the surrounding ground and that there isn’t a low where water might collect as no newly planted tree likes to sit in water. When you are satisfied water the new tree in – copiously with a bucket or hose if it as pot grown tree, or just enough to settle the soil around the roots if it is a bare rooted one.
Container grown trees will require watering in the early morning and evening for the first few days following planting and thereafter once a day for 3-4 weeks until established. Bare root trees should not need watering again unless they become stressed after leafing in the Spring.
One of the most important aspects in influencing the quantity and quality of the crop is that of pruning. Although the subject might seem daunting at first, I often feel that to prune badly is preferred to not pruning at all – especially with cherries that can show uncontrolled vigour quite quickly if not curbed. To have a tree growing in such a way is not necessarily a good thing as cropping will be delayed. One of the reasons for pruning all fruit trees is to promote the kind of growth that actually bears the fruit – not all growth does this. So to allow your trees to grow merrily away with no intervention not only promotes a poorly shaped tree, you might be waiting forever for a crop, or at best only get a few fruits. There are of course different pruning methods for bush, column, and fan trees.
The bush tree
Is the most commonly cultivated tree form. Regardless of whether your trees are on colt, a vigorous stock, or on a dwarfing one the principles are the same, but with the dwarfing trees you will have less growth to deal with.
All pruning should be done in the Spring or early Summer, to avoid infection of silver leaf disease. But winter pruning can be unavoidable in some circumstances. If silverleaf has been a problem locally then paint main cuts with arbrex or similar.
Plums and cherries can both be grown in a natural shape with very little pruning. Leave the tree almost entirely un-pruned until it settles down to fruiting, just remove the odd branches that re overcrowding the tree, if any. If you require more laterals that are produced naturally, simply shorten some of the side shoots, In later years just prune to keep the tree tidy, preferably in Summer (July).
THE DWARF PYRAMID. This is by far the best trained form for plums and cherries if you require your tree to remain an easily manageable size. Plums can even be grown in a fruit cage using this method and all trees are easily netted from birds, which is very important with cherries. After planting the tree it can be left until the Spring and as growth starts the main stem should be cut back to 4 feet from ground level. This may have been done at the nursery before despatch. During the Summer, usually in late July, all of the new side branches should be shortened to about 8 inches, pruning to a downward pointing bud, the leader (main stem) should be left un-pruned. If the side shoots appear too close together, remove some completely to leave a well shaped tree. All shoots below 18 inches from the ground should be completely cut off.
Following Spring & future seasons As growth starts in the Spring, the leader should be cut back by about half to two thirds of the new growth, pruning to a bud the opposite side to the previous year’s pruning. In future years when the tree has reached the required height of 8-9 ft the leader should be cut back in May to control at this height. In Summer each year all of the current season’s growth of each branch should be shortened to about 8 leaves, all laterals growing from these branches should be pruned to 6 leaves, any vigorous shoots near the top of the tree should be cut out.
Your tree is now maintained in an easy to manage heavy cropping form
The fan trained Plum tree
Start with a young year old tree and immediately remove the top third of the growth. If it is feathered prune just above two conveniently placed branches; these will form the basis of your fan. Normally this is about 18” from the ground but it will depend on the positioning of 2 good feathers which you can use. It can also be varied to your own preferences and there are not hard and fast rules as to where the first branches should be – sometimes a fan will be grown with a short leg and other times it may be branched quite close to the ground. If your trees is an unfeathered maiden and does not yet have side shoots then prune to just above 2 good opposite buds and these will form your first laterals from which to work.
The first Spring shorten these two laterals to about 10-12”. You will now have a tree that looks a bit like a stumpy capital ‘T’ but don’t worry. This is a good basis from which your fan will develop. These two shortened side laterals will now produce several new upwardly mobile leaders during the course of the growing season. Leave them be until the next Spring and then stand back and survey your tree. Most of the work will now have been done but you will need to remove any new growths that are heading towards the wall or fence and any that are crossing or too congested. Having done this you should now have a nicely balanced tree – confratulations, your fan shaped tree has been trained!
Later that summer, and in subsequent summers, you can shorten again a selection of less importasnt laterals and you can also trim the top most growths so that the tree stays within the boundaries of your wall or fence. Finally, in Autumn of the same year trim again the laterals that you shortened earlier in the summer, to about 3 pairs of leaves. You will find fruit buds will form on these shortened branches to carry next years crop.
The columnar Plum tree
Is the easiest growing method to prune. Pruning takes place in the second half of the summer and is simply a matter of trimming back all of the side growths to about 3”. Established trees only need to be pruned once a year but young trees show more vigour and you may need to go over them again in late Autumn. In subsequent years the practice is continued late each summer. Flower buds form on the base of the previous years growth. The leader can be shortened once a year, at the same time, if desired and to keep it within an acceptable height. This promotes better branching lower down and a new leader will form from a bud just below where you cut.
If your tree has any bald patches along the trunk, which can happen especially lower down, you can encourage dormant buds to shoot by nicking the bark with a sharp knife just above the bud. This often encourages them to shoot.
Feeding – a regular source of food is essential to the wellbeing of your plum trees and in order to gain the best crops of quality fruit it is important to apply the correct type of feed at the right time. Fetilizers high in nitrogen can be used when the trees are young as this promotes growth, which is what you want in order to build a good framework of branches. But once the trees are established high nitrogen fertilizer should generally be avoided because you no longer want to promote lots of lush leafy growth at the expense of flowers and fruit. So, from year 3 I recommend either bonemeal/growmore or a similar balanced fertilizer which should spread over the soil immediately around the tree at a rate of 4oz’s per square yeard. Late winter or early spring is a good time to do this. Then, about a month later provide a further application with sulphate of ammonia, this time at just 1oz per square yard. This should provide all your trees need for the season.
If your trees are very dwarfing and easy to manage then you might want to apply foliar feeds instead – maxicrop, a seaweed extract, is ideal. I like using this type of feed because you can almost see the foliage turn a lush green within hours of applying it and it certainly encourages good results. But it is impractical on larger trees and there is also the downside that it really needs applying fortnightly during the main growing season for the best results which can be a bit of a chore.
Thinning of the fruits
This is a good practice if you prefer larger fruits and also discourages the natural process of fruit drop which will occur at some point before the fruits reach maturity. It’s not an essential if you don’t mind fruits of all sizes but if you want a really impressive yield of class 1 fruits then go through the fruit trusses when the fruits themselves are about the size of a small marble and thin so that you leave them about 3” apart.
You will need to go over your trees more than once – you can’t pick all the fruits at the same time as they won’t all ripen at once. This is a good thing of course. Usually 3 harvests are necessary on established trees. Don’t pick until the first fruits part readily from the branch – a few dropping to the floor is a good sign as it means that the first ones are fully ripe. Never try to force the fruits to part – if they won’t come reasonably easily then they aren’t fully ripe. If you try to pick too early they may be tart or the flavour may not have developed fully. And always try to leave a few on the floor for hungry Red Admiral and Comma butterflies that love feeding from over-ripe fruits – an important energy store for hibernation.