Fruit Tree Pollination

The job of a fruit tree is to produce seed. The fruit is merely part of the package, from the tree’s perspective. But seed development requires pollination which can be done either by wind or insects. The cross-pollination required by most fruit trees is performed by bees, wasps and hover flies.

Some trees are called self-fruitful. This means that their blossoms can be fertilized by pollen from another flower on the same tree. They will produce fruit even if they are far from any other tree of their kind. Most peaches, apricots, sour cherries and some apples, pears and plums are self-fruitful.

Partially self-fruitful trees will produce a crop on their own , but they will produce a larger crop, up to twice as many fruit, if cross-pollinated. Many apples and pears are partially self-fruitful.

Some fruit trees only set fruit when they receive pollen from another variety. Their own pollen is defective or sterile. Most sweet cherries, some apples and plums and a few peaches fall into this group. Pollinating trees must bloom at the same time as the sterile blossoms for cross-pollination to be successful. Blooming time does not necessarily correspond to fruiting time. A late apple can bloom early, so check to be sure you are planting the correct varieties together.

A fruit tree that needs a pollenizer needs it close by. The maximum recommended distance is 100 feet between trees, but the closer the better. This is because the bees that carry the pollen must visit both trees on the same trip.

To ensure good pollination, either plant two trees fairly close together, or plant a combination tree with several varieties grafted onto the same tree, or graft a branch of a variety with fertile pollen onto a tree that needs pollination.

When you plan your orchard or decide to add a new tree to it, be sure to check on pollination requirements so you’ll be able to enjoy fruit and not just blossoms a few years from now.

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