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By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
Nearly all fruit trees require pollination in the form of either cross-pollination or self-pollination in order to produce fruit. Understanding the difference between the two very different processes will help you plan before you plant fruit trees in your garden. If you have space for only one fruit tree, a cross-pollinating, self-fruitful tree is the answer.
How Does Self-Pollination of Fruit Trees Work?
Most fruit trees must be cross-pollinated, which requires at least one tree of a different variety located within 50 feet (15 m.). Pollination occurs when bees, insects, or birds transfer pollen from the male part (anther) of a blossom on one tree to the female part of the blossom (stigma) on another tree. Trees that require a cross-pollinator include all types of apples and most sweet cherries, as well as some types of plums and some pears.
If you’re wondering about what is self-fruitful or self-pollinating and how the process of self-pollination works, self-fruitful trees are pollinated by pollen from another flower on the same fruit tree or, in some cases, by pollen from the same flower. Pollinators such as bees, moths, butterflies, or other insects are usually responsible, but sometimes, fruit trees are pollinated by wind, rain, or birds.
Self-pollinating fruit trees include most types of sour cherries and most nectarines, as well as nearly all peaches and apricots. Pears are a self-pollinating fruit, but if cross-pollination is available, it may result in larger yields. Similarly about half of plum varieties are self-fruitful. Unless you are sure about your variety of plum tree, having a second tree in close proximity will ensure pollination occurs. Most citrus trees are self-fruitful, but cross-pollination often results in a larger harvest.
Because the answer to what trees are self-fruitful isn’t cut and dried, it’s always a good idea to purchase fruit trees from a knowledgeable grower before you invest money in expensive fruit trees. Don’t hesitate to ask plenty of questions before you buy.
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Read more about General Fruit Care
Are grapefruit trees self pollinating?
Keep in mind that newly planted grapefruit trees will take at least three years before producing quality fruit. Any fruit set in the first or second years should be removed to direct all its energy into growth.
Also Know, do you need two trees to make fruit? Most fruit trees require pollination between two or more trees for fruit to set. Pollination occurs when the trees blossom.
Similarly, you may ask, which fruit trees are not self pollinating?
However, some types of fruit trees are self-fruitful and do not need to reproduce with other plants.
- Citrus. Most citrus trees grown indoors or outdoors are self-fruitful, including oranges, grapefruit, kumquats, lemons and limes.
- Peaches, Nectarines and Apricots.
- Other Fruit.
- Cross-Pollination Exceptions.
Why is my grapefruit tree not producing fruit?
Insufficient Maturity If a grapefruit does not produce fruit, perhaps it has not been growing long enough. Grafted trees should first bear in their third season. In fact, any fruit that sets earlier than that needs to be removed, so the young tree can concentrate all its energy on growth.
Apples, pears (Asian and European), and most sweet cherries are generally self-unfruitful and require pollen from another variety within 100 feet to produce a good crop. Ornamental flowering fruit trees may provide needed pollen for good fruit set if their bloom period overlaps with the fruit trees. For example, crabapple trees are excellent pollinators for fruiting apples. Blueberries will yield more fruit and larger fruit if two cultivars are planted together.
Without bees there will be no fruit, so you must protect your bees and other pollinators. Never spray insecticides on blooming fruit trees or when pollinators are present. Limit pesticide use when possible.
Mostly self-sterile requires a
Golden Delicious is self-fertile. Mutsu, Jonagold, Winesap, and Arkansas Black produce sterile pollen. They must be grown with two additional cultivars.
Mostly self-sterile requires a pollenizer
[email protected] no pollenizer required
* To ensure cross-pollination, be certain that the selected cultivars are pollen-compatible and share a similar bloom time. Crabapple trees, callery pear trees (Bradford), and ornamental plum and cherry trees will cross-pollinize their respective fruiting “cousins” if bloom time is similar. In any case, do not plant callery (Bradford) pear: it is highly invasive.
## Japanese-type plums may not be hardy in Western Maryland.
@ Fruit develops without fertilization or seed.
Pollination Requirements for Tree and Small Fruits
In the flower, pollination is the transfer of pollen from the anther to the stigma. After pollination and fertilization, fruit set occurs. There are two types of pollination. Self-pollination occurs when the pollen is transferred from the anther to the stigma on the same flower, from another flower on the same plant, or from a flower on another plant of the same variety. Self-pollinated plants are said to be self-fruitful. Many plants cannot produce fruit from their own pollen and are considered self-unfruitful. These plants require cross-pollination for fruit set. Cross-pollination is the transfer of pollen from one plant to the flower of a genetically different plant or variety.
Pollination is an important factor when selecting and planting tree and small fruits. A list of pollination requirements for the various fruits is presented below.
Apples -- Most apples are self-unfruitful. A few varieties, such as Jonathan and Golden Delicious, set a good crop without cross- pollination. Generally, however, plant at least two different varieties for maximum production. (Most flowering crabapples will pollinate nearby apple trees.)
Apricots -- Few apricot varieties are reliably hardy in Iowa. Moongold and Sungold are hardy and self-unfruitful. Plant at least one of each for proper pollination.
Cherries, Sour -- Sour or pie cherries are self-fruitful.
Cherries, Sweet -- Sweet cherries are not reliably hardy in Iowa. Most varieties are self-unfruitful.
Peaches -- Peaches are not reliably hardy in much of Iowa. Most peach varieties are self-fruitful.
Pears -- Most pears are self-unfruitful. A few varieties, such as Kieffer, will set a fairly good crop without cross-pollination. However, for maximum fruit production plant at least two different varieties. Plums -- Japanese plums are not reliably hardy in Iowa. However, some European and hybrid plums can be successfully grown in the state. European plums are partially to entirely self-fertile. Hybrid plum varieties (crosses between American and Japanese plums) are self-unfruitful. European plums will not pollinate the hybrid plums and vice versa.
Fruit trees which require two different varieties for pollination should be planted within 50 to 100 feet of one another to insure good fruit set.
Blueberries -- Plant two or three different varieties for maximum production.
Currants -- Currants are self-fruitful.
Gooseberries -- Gooseberries are self-fruitful.
Elderberries -- Elderberries are essentially self-unfruitful. Plant two or more varieties to insure good fruit set.
Grapes -- Grapes are self-fruitful.
Raspberries -- Raspberries are self-fruitful.
Strawberries -- Strawberries are self-fruitful.
Home gardeners should keep these fruiting requirements in mind when browsing in garden centers or leafing through garden catalogs.
This article originally appeared in the March 2, 1994 issue, pp. 1994 issue, pp. 19-20.
When in doubt of which variety to plant, most white-flowering crabapple trees are a great pollinator for any apple tree.
Pro Tip: Triploid (three chromosomes) apples have sterile pollen that will not pollinate other trees. You should plant at least two different non-triploid varieties when growing a triploid apple. Triploid (sterile) varieties include: 'Arkansas Black', 'Jonagold', 'Liberty', 'Lodi', 'Spartan' and 'Winesap'.
Cooperative Extension: Tree FruitsDuring bloom, bees transfer pollen to the stigma, the flower part indicated by the arrow. Pollen germinates and grows through the floral tube to reach the unfertilized seed indicated by the circle.
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.
As they collect nectar and pollen, bees cross pollinate flowers.
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.