My parents have many fruit trees (avocados, lemons, limes, tangerines, and more), and they’re looking at getting some new ones soon. But first, they were wondering if different fruit trees would be compatible if they planted them next to each other. To help them out, I did some research. Here’s what I found out about planting different fruit trees together.
Different fruit trees can be planted next to each other as long as they have enough spacing and resources. Generally, space fruit trees 25-50 feet apart. This distance allows for sufficient spacing for root and canopy growth, while not being too far from other tree’s flowers and pollination effects.
So, while fruit trees can be planted next to each other, which ones are the most compatible, and where should you plant them? Let’s take a look.
How To Plant Different Fruit Trees Together
Before planting different fruit trees together, make sure they’re compatible in your hardiness zone and their blooming windows overlap for the best pollination. For example, cherries bloom in March while lemons bloom in April, so they both miss out on the other’s increase in pollinators.
Hardiness zones are one of the most important things to check when growing fruit trees. For instance, cherry trees often have a hard time growing in the heat of the south.
However, there are some ways you can stretch their growing zones. Providing compost, mulch, and afternoon shade in hot climates, and more sun, insulation, and windbreaks in cold climates can go a long way.
Also, don’t underestimate the benefits of overlapping the trees’ blooming times. Flowers from fruit trees attract many pollinators, as their flowers provide the pollinators with nectar and sugar. Generally, the more fruit trees that are in bloom together, the better.
Not only will the overlap in blooming attract more pollinators, but it will increase the chance of cross-pollination.
Even though many fruit trees are self-pollinating, they can still benefit greatly from cross-pollination. Cross-pollination often results in bigger fruit, more fruit, and fewer blossom and fruit drop. By increasing the number of pollinators, you increase the chance of cross-pollination.
All varieties of apple trees require some cross-pollination for fruit set. Even though some varieties are listed as self-fruitful, they will set fruit more heavily and more regularly if they are cross-pollinated.Washington State University
And this isn’t only true for apple trees, but just about every fruiting tree.
So, while it’s best to grow fruit trees based on their growing zones and overlap in blooming, which fruit trees overlap in these ways?
I put together this table to help.
|Fruit Tree||Growing/Hardiness Zone*||Blooming Month|
Aim to get varieties of fruit trees that have at least 2-4 weeks of blooming overlap (especially if they’re different varieties of the same fruit). This will help them share the boost in pollinators and any cross-pollination, leading to better fruit yields.
Also, some varieties have longer blooming windows than others. For example, some crab apples varieties can bloom from April to May and are a popular choice for fruit tree growers (especially those with apple trees since they can be cross-pollinated by crab apples).
Once you have your fruit trees in mind, you can go ahead and plant them. If you’re ready to plant, here are the steps I use to plant my fruit trees:
- Have the new ground (or pot) prepared
- Remove as much of the tree’s current topsoil as possible, without damaging the shallow roots
- Grab the base of the tree’s trunk and wiggle lightly
- Using your other hand, scoop up and support the rootball
- Lightly place the tree in the new ground (or pot) and fill it in
- Make sure the soil is at the same level on the trunk as before
- Apply 1-2 inches of compost and mulch to the top of the soil
- Water generously and add more soil as needed
But, what if you don’t know where to plant them yet? How do you do site selection and determine where to plant your fruit trees?
Where To Plant Fruit Trees
The best place to plant fruit trees is in an area with plenty of sun, nutrients, and space to grow. Additionally, loose and well-draining soil will prevent over-watering and allow enough room for the tree to grow its roots. Avoid planting near powerlines or structures such as walls or home foundations.
Generally, the main requirements that fruit trees need to grow and fruit properly are:
- 6-8 hours of sun
- Proper watering
- Loose, well-draining soil
- Balanced pH
- Abundant nutrients
- Sufficient pollination
Also, you’ll likely want to avoid planting the fruit trees near:
- Fire Hydrants
Fruit trees growing near powerlines can be difficult to trim (and a hazard), while the tree’s roots can sometimes cause damage to structures such as foundations.
Aside from selecting a site that has well-draining soil and is not near powerlines, there are some other, important factors to consider.
For example, soils that are high in clay or sand are typically more alkaline or acidic and might not be good for certain fruit trees.
For best results, check the preferred pH of your fruit trees and the pH of your soil, and amend the soil if needed.
Once you Googled the pH requirement of your variety of fruit tree, it’s time to measure your soil’s pH.
A good way to measure your soil’s pH is either with pH strips or a pH meter, but I prefer using a meter since they’re affordable and easy to use. To see which pH meter I use and recommend, you can check out my recommended tools page.
After measuring your soil, if you find its pH isn’t right for your fruit trees, don’t sweat it too much. There are ways you can amend it.
If you find your soil is more alkaline (or high in clay), you can use acidic amendments such as sand, peat moss, or coffee grounds. On the other hand, for soil that’s too acidic (or sandy), use alkaline amendments such as biochar, charcoal, or wood ash. Just make sure not to use treated or toxic charcoal, ash, or coal.
In the end, no plot of land is perfect. It’ll either have too much rain, too little rain, too much sun, etc. Just do the best you can. Over time, you can make small adjustments.
Planting in areas that have good sunlight, soil drainage, and enough space are some of the most important markers to hit. If you can provide these, the other factors can be adjusted as needed and without too much trouble.
How Far Apart Should Fruit Trees Be Planted?
As a general rule, standard-sized fruit trees should be planted 25-50 feet apart, while dwarf varieties should be planted 15-50 feet apart. This spacing ensures the trees’ roots and canopies won’t compete but is still close enough to promote increased pollination from their nearby flowers.
25 feet is a good space to avoid competition, while 50 feet is the maximum distance before the effects of pollinators start to drop. Any more than 50 feet and the pollinators will be less likely to fly over and visit multiple flowers and trees, reducing pollination and cross-pollination.
However, if your fruit tree spacing is a little off, it’s not a big deal.
Generally, most fruit trees don’t have invasive roots and won’t compete with each other—especially if they’re the same variety. Fig trees are probably the most vigorously growing and have the most invasive roots out of all of the most common fruiting trees.
Just about every fruit tree can be planted together, as long as they have the proper spacing. This includes sufficient space for their roots, nutrients, water, and light. If any one of these is restricted, the tree will likely become stunted in some way.
If you have multiple potted fruit trees, keep them 1-50 feet apart. Make sure one tree’s canopy isn’t blocking the other’s (taking all of the sunlight) and their leaves aren’t touching. Some related trees can spread diseases to others via leaf contact, especially in the spring, so it’s best to keep potted fruit trees at least a few feet apart.
Can Different Fruit Trees Pollinate Each Other?
Different fruit trees can only pollinate with each other if they’re a similar variety of the same species. For example, a Pink Lady apple tree can cross-pollinate with a Fuji apple, but not with cherry or pear trees. However, different species can still benefit from overlapping blooming times, improving pollination.
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.The University of Maine Cooperative Extension
So, different fruit trees can not cross-pollinate unless they’re of similar varieties and species. In the end, their genetics are simply too different.
Much like how a dog can’t mate with a cat, an apple tree can’t mate with a cherry tree.
However, different fruiting trees will still benefit from the increase in pollinators from other tree’s flowers.
On the other hand, it’s important to boost cross-pollination efforts between similar species of fruit trees if possible.
Even self-pollinating fruit trees benefit from cross-pollination. Generally, fruit trees drop their unpollinated flowers (and therefore any potential fruit), so the more flowers that are successfully fertilized the more fruit you’ll have.
Aside from planting multiple fruit trees near each other, if you’d like to boost your fruit trees’ pollination even more, consider keeping bees or planting companion plants nearby.
If you’d like to see which companion plants are great to plant near your fruit trees, check out my recent post: The 10 Best Companion Plants for Fruit Trees.
More Tips To Grow Fruit Trees
- When possible, grow grafted fruit trees. Compared to those grown from seed, fruit trees that are grafted grow much faster (1-3 years vs. 7-10 years), have more disease resistance, and are hardier. Grafted trees also have fruit that is the same as the parent tree, since they share the same DNA. Fruit trees grown from seed can likely have different fruit, poor quality fruit, or potentially no fruit at all.
- Buy grafted trees from your local nursery or professional orchard. While some online sellers are reputable, it’s usually better to see the tree first and ask them any questions you might have. Grafted fruit trees typically aren’t too expensive. However, if you’re growing dozens or hundreds of trees, you can always learn how to graft them yourself.
- Before watering, check the first 2-4 inches of soil. This is a great way to avoid under or over-watering. You can do this by pushing a finger into the soil, up to the second knuckle. If the soil is dry, water it. If the soil is sopping wet 1 or more hours after watering, the soil likely needs to be amended for better drainage.
- Add deterrents around young fruit trees. Deer and other critters LOVE the tender leaves on young fruit trees. Luckily, this is only temporary since as the fruit trees mature, their canopy will be largely out of reach from them. Some trees also grow thorns as natural deterrents. If you’d like some ideas on how to deter pests such as deer, feel free to check out my recent post: Do Deer Eat Fruit Trees? + 14 Ways to Keep Them Away.
If any your fruit trees start to die at any point, I put together a post that might help: How To Revive a Dying Fruit Tree: 3 Quick Steps.
Need More Help?
You can always ask us here at Couch to Homestead, but you should know the other resources available to you! Here are the resources we recommend.
- Local Cooperative Extension Services: While we do our best with these articles, sometimes knowledge from a local expert is needed! The USDA partnered with Universities to create these free agriculture extension services. Check out this list to see your local services.
- Permaculture Consultation: Need help with a bigger project? Send us a message.
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