Apple Tree Pollination

“Two years ago we planted two apple trees of same variety. Haven’t had any apples to date. Heard we had to plant another tree of a different variety for pollination. Is this true, and how close do they have to be planted to the other two trees we have already? Can we still prune the existing apple trees?




Hi Darlene,

Thanks for emailing in your questions regarding your apple trees.  My first question is: have your trees been blooming already? For being only two years old, they may not be flowering yet (and thus not producing). Most dwarfs begin flowering in 3-5 years after planting, and semi-dwarfs and standards take even longer.

It is recommended to have at least two different varieties of apple trees for successful pollination. Most apple varieties are self-unfruitful, which means their blossoms must be fertilized with the pollen of a separate variety in order to achieve good fruit set. A few varieties, are considered self-fruitful, meaning their blossoms can be fertilized with their own pollen, but even these apples produce more fruit if they are cross-pollinated by another variety. It’s important to choose varieties that have compatible pollen and bloom times. Any reputable company that is selling apple trees should have this information readily available for the varieties that they carry so you can chose which trees work best for you.

Apples also need pollinators—certain wasps, flies, and bees—to transfer pollen from one variety to the other. The apple trees must be planted within 100 feet of each other in order to help ensure that the pollinators visit both trees.

If you have only one apple tree in your yard or incompatible varieties, all is not lost. Crab apple pollen fertilizes apple blossoms. So if you have a crabapple in the vicinity that blooms concurrently with your apple tree, you’re in business. Grafting a branch of a compatible variety onto your existing tree is another option, though I recommend you hire an arborist to perform this job. You can also use an old, very effective orchardist trick: put a bouquet of crab apple branches in bloom in a 5-gallon bucket of water and place it inside the canopy of the tree. Then bees can visit the crab apple blossoms and transfer the pollen to the apple blossoms. In other words, a little can go a long way.

Pruning is SO important and it something that you should be doing regularly at the proper times of the year.  Pruning young trees encourages a strong, solid network of branches that will be the future of your tree. Pruning on mature trees maintains the shape of the tree and encourages fruit production.

The best time to prune apple trees is in late winter or very early spring when the trees are dormant and before any new growth starts.  The only growth you ever want to prune or remove during the summer months, when the tree is actively growing, is a sucker.

I hope this information helps you out. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask!


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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