I recently ordered a fuji apple tree and was wondering if I needed a second tree to pollinate it. So, I did some research to find out which apple trees are self-pollinating, along with the best practices for maximizing fruit yields. Here’s what I found.
The most common self-pollinating apple trees are Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji, and Gala. However, while many apple trees will self-fruit, cross-pollinating them will lead to larger and more fruit. Some good cross-pollinators for apple trees include Winter Banana, Golden Delicious, and flowering crab apples.
So, while most self-pollinating apple trees will bear larger and more fruit when cross-pollinated, what are the self-pollinating apple varieties, and how can we get the maximum fruit yield from them?
Do You Need More Than One Apple Tree?
Generally, you do need more than one apple tree. It’s been shown that apple trees (even those that are self-fruiting) produce larger and more fruit when cross-pollinated. So, while many apple trees can self-fruit, they still greatly benefit from 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
However, if you’re still interested in knowing which apple trees are self-pollinating, I did some research and put together the table below:
|Self-Pollinating Apple Trees*||USDA Growing Zone|
If you’d like more information about why apple trees won’t fruit, and how to get the maximum fruit set, check out my recent post: Apple Trees Not Fruiting? Here Are the Top 5 Reasons.
How To Tell if Your Apple Tree Needs a Pollinator
While there are many charts online that show the pollination compatibility of apple trees, they’re often complicated and overwhelming to read at first.
There are other, easier ways to tell if your apple tree needs a pollinator (and which varieties are best).
Use an Apple Tree Pollination Tool
Orange Pipping Fruit Trees has an online tool that shows you which fruit trees are compatible with each other. Simply decide on which apple you’d like to grow and enter it in the tool below to find its pollinators. Keep in mind that while this tool is helpful, they do mention it’s not 100% accurate.
When in doubt, the best way to learn how your apple trees pollinate best is by trial and error. Get one or two of the best cross-pollinating varieties for your apple tree and see how they perform. If the results aren’t what you were looking for, simply switch the cross-pollinator with another variety.
Contact Your Local Nursery
Generally, you can contact your local nursery for additional information about plant pollination. Usually, when purchasing apple trees, a small card that describes their needs will be attached. However, some staff at the nursery could have also specialized knowledge about which varieties work best with each other.
The Top 3 Varieties To Use for Apple Tree Pollination
Since we’ve already covered that all apple trees can benefit from cross-pollination, it’s probably a good idea to provide your apple tree with cross-pollination if you aren’t already. If you’re not sure which cross-pollinators to get, I found some helpful information while researching.
These varieties will work as cross-pollinators for just about any apple tree (self-pollinating or not):
- Winter Banana
- Golden Delicious
- Flowering Crab Apples
In general, the early maturing summer apples and the late maturing varieties should not be used to pollinate each other. Winter Banana, Golden Delicious and the flowering crab apples are the most commonly used pollinators in commercial plantings.Van Well Nursery
So, while the above varieties are typically used with commercially grown apple trees, they are still extremely effective when grown in smaller orchards.
Can a Pear Tree Pollinate an Apple Tree?
Pear trees generally cannot pollinate apple trees. Since other species, such as pear, cherry, plum, are too genetically different than apple trees, they cannot pollinate each other. The best pollinators for apple trees are other apple trees such as Winter Banana, Golden Delicious, and flowering crab apples.
So, while my Fuji apple tree is self-pollinating, it will still do best when it’s cross-pollinated. My next step is to find a good pollinator for it.
To do this, I’ll use the Orange Pippin tool above and consider using one of the three effective cross-pollinating varieties mentioned in the previous section.
In doing research for this post, I also came across some helpful pollination tips for apple trees. I’ll leave you with a few of the best ones here:
- Plant apple trees no more than 25-50 feet from each other. This range provides the best pollination distance, along with avoiding root competition between trees. Any more than 50 feet and pollinators such as bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies will be less likely to visit multiple trees and flowers (providing little to no cross-pollination).
- Avoid using pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals as these can easily kill beneficial soil bacteria and insects, such as pollinators
- Plant companion plants to improve cross-pollination for your apple trees, along with many other benefits
- Pollinate your apple trees by hand if your area is lacking pollinators or if you have indoor apple trees. You can use a clean toothbrush, paintbrush, or a q-tip and lightly brush from flower to flower.
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. See your local services.
- 7 Easy Steps to Grow Fruit Trees (Free Guide): Need more fruit tree help from the ground up? See our free guide to make growing fruit trees a breeze.
- Ask the Free Community: Join The Couch to Homestead Community and connect with other members discussing gardening, homesteading, and permaculture.
- 30-Day Permaculture Food Forest Course: Learn how to turn your backyard into a thriving food forest in just 30 days with our online course.