I’ve been researching apple trees for my homestead, and while I found out they typically require a pollinator, I was wondering if apple trees could cross-pollinate with pear, cherry, or plum trees. I did some research to find out more.

Apple trees generally cannot cross-pollinate with pear, cherry, plum, or other fruits. This is because their genetics are too different and fertilization cannot take place. While there are some cases of apple trees successfully crossing with pear trees, the resulting fruit was found to be sterile.

But, what can actually pollinate apple, pear, cherry, and plum trees? And are there self-pollinating trees for each?

apple tree flowers blooming

What Can Pollinate an Apple Tree?

Cross-Pollinating Apple TreesSelf-Pollinating Apple Trees
LodiWhitney Crabapple
PristineGrimes Golden
EmpireHewe’s Virginia
Red DeliciousRobert’s Crab
JonagoldSaint Edmund’s Russet
Golden DeliciousSpartan
FujiYellow Transparent
Granny SmithGolden Hornet
Arkansas BlackEgremont Russet
Red YorkCox’s Orange Pippen
Rome BeautyCortland
Mutsu (Crispin)

While it may be obvious, the best pollinators for apple trees are other apple trees. Simply, the pollen from apple flowers is best suited to pollinate the female apple flowers.

Since other species, such as pear, cherry, plum, are too genetically different, they typically cannot pollinate apple trees and vice-versa.

Apple trees are interesting because the different types of apples can all potentially cross-pollinate with each other. They include:

  • Crab Apples
  • Cider Apples
  • Mainstream Apples

So, no matter which type of apple tree you have, it should help pollinate your other apple trees. To see more about which apple trees cross-pollinate, you can reference the chart below by the University of Missouri.

Cross-Pollination chart of apple trees, Source: University of Missouri
Cross-Pollination chart of apple trees, Source: University of Missouri

Pro-Tip: Self-pollinating fruit trees still benefit from cross-pollination. These benefits include higher fruit yields, larger fruits, and less fruit drop. To learn more, check out my other post: A List of Self-Pollinating Apple Trees + Pollination Tips

What Can Pollinate a Pear Tree?

Cross-Pollinating Pear TreesSelf-Pollinating Pear Trees
Louise Bonne of JerseyHoneysweet
BethPineapple Pear
Beurre HardyHosui Asian Pear
Glou MorceauKieffer
Merton PrideBartlett
Williams bon Chretien
Winter Nelis
Doyenne du Comice
Hellens Early

Pear trees normally are best pollinated by other pear trees and cannot be pollinated by other types of fruit trees. While some pear trees are self-pollinating, the best fruit yields are still provided by cross-pollinated pears. For best pollination results, plant pear trees around 25 feet apart.

Unlike apples, not all pears can cross-pollinate with each other. For example:

  • Group A trees can cross-pollinate with groups A and B
  • Group B trees can cross-pollinate with groups A, B, and C
  • Group C trees can cross-pollinate with groups B, C, and D
  • Group D trees can cross-pollinate with groups C and D

To see more about the different pollination groups for pear trees, check out this cool table by ashridgetrees.co.uk.

What Can Pollinate a Cherry Tree?

Cross-Pollinating Cherry TreesSelf-Pollinating Cherry Trees
Black TartarianRoyal Tioga (Sweet)
Royal AnnCraig’s Crimson (Sweet)
RanierSunburst (Sweet)
VanSkeena (Sweet)
BingEnglish Morello (Sour)
Black RepublicanMontmorency (Sour)
Hardy GiantBalaton (Sour)
StellaEarly Richmond (Sour)
HedelfingenNanking (Sour)
RoyaltonHanson bush cherry (Sour)
LambertNorth Star (Sour)
SweetheartMeteor (Sour)

Cherry trees are stone fruits and can usually cross-pollinate with other stone fruits such as apricots and plums. This is because they belong to the same genus: Prunus. Typically, sweet cherry trees require cross-pollination while many sour cherry tree varieties are self-pollinating.

If you haven’t tried a cherry pluot before, you’re missing out! I found some at a farmer’s market once and they instantly became my favorite fruit. I believe they’re a cross between a cherry, plum, and apricot (hence “cherry plu-ot”).

Remember, even though they’re self-pollinating, sour cherry trees can greatly benefit from cross-pollination with increased fruit loads, larger fruits, and fewer drops.

On the other hand, ornamental flowering cherry trees normally cannot cross-pollinate with the fruiting varieties.

Similar to the apple tree section above, the University of Missouri has a great resource for the cross-pollination of cherry trees. I’ll link it below.

Cross-Pollination chart of sweet cherry trees, Source: University of Missouri
Cross-Pollination chart of sweet cherry trees, Source: University of Missouri

What Can Pollinate a Plum Tree?

Cross-Pollinating Plum TreesSelf-Pollinating Plum Trees
Satsuma (Japanese)Stanley (European)
Burbank (Japanese)Damson (European)
Redheart (Japanese)Green Gage (European)
Shiro (Japanese)Early Laxton (European)
Methley (Japanese)Imperial Epineuse (European)
Ozark Premier (Japanese)Blue Damson (European)
Elephant Heart (Japanese)Italian (European)
Seneca (European)
Sugar (European)
Yellow Egg (European)
Duarte (Japanese)
Hollywood (Japanese)
Santa Rosa (Japanese)

Generally, European plums are self-pollinating and can cross-pollinate with other European plums, but not with Japanese plums. On the other hand, Japanese plums are cross-pollinating but cannot cross-pollinate with European varieties. However, some hybrids can be cross-pollinated on occasion.

As mentioned, self-pollinating plum trees still benefit from cross-pollination, so it’s a good idea to get at least two trees if possible and space them about 25 feet apart.

Recommended: The 10 Best Companion Plants for Plum Trees

Do You Need Two Fruit Trees for Pollination?

It’s a good idea to get two fruit trees regardless of their type of pollination. While many fruit trees have self-pollinating varieties, they still benefit from cross-pollination with increased fruit yields, fruit size, and reduced fruit drop. Make sure to check your tree’s specific pollination requirements.

Even though many fruit trees have self-pollinating or cross-pollinating types, sometimes it’s more complicated than that.

For example, we saw above that pear trees have different groups they can only pollinate a few other groups. Additionally, self-pollinating avocado trees have two different types of flowers and do best if you get both Type A and Type B trees.

Pollination isn’t a black and white rule, so make sure to check your tree’s requirements before buying them!


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