Fruit Tree Pollination

To successfully produce a good crop of fruit, the flowers on trees need to be pollinated. This is done by flying insects such as honeybees, bumblebees, flies and wasps. Here you will find information for all you need to know about fruit tree pollination. Look out for the below symbols when you’re buying your trees.

How Pollination Works
  1. Step 1. The bees and insects (the pollinators) are attracted to the blossom by the fragrant scents and bright colours.
  2. Step 2. Once the pollinator arrives at the flower, they start to collect the nectar.
  3. Step 3. As they collect the nectar, it rubs against the anthers which transfer pollen onto the insect.
  4. Step 4. The pollinator carries the pollen to another flower. The insect will then feed on the nectar from the new flower.
  5. Step 5. Pollen from the pollinator’s body is deposited onto the female parts of the second flower (the stigma).
  6. Step 6. Part of the pollen travels down the style and into the ovary to complete pollination.
Tree Pollination Facts

> If you live in an urban situation, then you most likely won’t need to worry about fruit tree pollination as your fruit trees will crop satisfactorily. Insect pollination activity covers considerable distances and there is always a good chance there will be a compatible fruit tree nearby to your garden.

> Always bear in mind that crop yield will be affected by adverse weather and in these circumstances it is helpful to have several different varieties that provide strong and ample pollen for cross pollination opportunities.

> Two trees of the same variety will not pollinate each other unless they are self fertile. It is quite normal for trees to have a light cropping year after a heavy one – like us they need a big rest after a big effort. See more on this below under Biennial bearing.

> Fruit trees need to be the same type to pollinate one another. E.g. both apples or both pears.

When does pollination take place?

It can be as early as mid-February through to the late autumn. It’s very unusual to have to wait for more than a very short while on a warm, sunny day, before bees and insects are seen visiting some flower.

Fruit Tree Pollination Types

Self Fertile

This means your tree will crop satisfactorily on their own. Each of the fruit groups have varieties that are self fertile, a few in apples, pears and cherries and all apricots, nectarines and peaches. If you are planting one fruit tree and are in an isolated area, then we would advise choosing a self-fertile variety.

Flowering Groups

Each of the fruit trees are divided into 5 flowering periods. This covers approximately a month from beginning of period 1 to the end of period 5. Trees need to be from the same or adjacent flowering group to cross-pollinate, e.g. an apple tree of flowering group 3 will cross pollinate with those of groups 2, 3 and 4. If you want a few fruit trees then you will need to plant two compatible varieties.


Triploid varieties are marked with this symbol in the fruit sections. To pollinate, they should be accompanied by two other non-triploid varieties that will also pollinate each other or one variety that is self fertile.

Biennial Bearing

Some fruit trees can produce a heavy crop one year followed by a much lighter crop the year after, this is known as Biennial Bearing or Biennial Cropping. Traditional or heritage varieties tend to be more biennial bearing than many modern varieties that have been bred to crop more regularly every year. Biennial bearing is a natural phenomenon as a heavy crop can exhaust the tree’s resources leaving it with insufficient energy to set much fruit bud for the following year.

It is possible to manage the tree to manage the tree to produce a more regular yearly crop by using the following methods:

> In the ‘on’ year, thin the fruit before it ripens and summer prune before July.

> Following an ‘off’ year, heavily prune in the winter to reduce the likely heavy forthcoming crop.

> Repeat either of these remedies as necessary until the tree settles into an annual cropping habit.

Pollinating Different Fruit Trees

Pollinating Apple Trees

Follow the tips above for guidance for apples. Apples are regular croppers and Malus crab apples are excellent pollinators for fruiting apples. Read below for information on malus crab apples.

Pollinating Pear Trees

Follow the tips above for guidance for pears. Pears prefer to have a warm sheltered position to set a good crop.

Pollinating Plums, Gages, Damsons and Mirabelle Trees

Most varieties are self fertile. The few which aren’t are unlikely to need a pollinator unless planted somewhere very remote.

Pollinating Cherry Trees

Most good garden varieties are self fertile. All self fertile varieties are known as ‘Universal Donars’ in that they will pollinate any other cherry trees that flower at the same time, so if unsure then just include at least one self fertile variety in your garden. Sour cherries are all self fertile, they can pollinate sweet cherries but sweet cherries will not pollinate them.

Pollinating Peaches, Nectarines, Apricots, Almonds, Medlars and Mulberry Trees

All varieties are self fertile so don’t need a pollinating partner.

Pollinating Quince Trees

A few Quince varieties are self fertile. Other varieties may need to be accompanied with a pollinator.

Pollinating Walnut Trees

Broadview and Buccaneer are the two self fertile varieties we would recommend for gardens. Other varieties are likely to be partially self fertile and would benefit from nearby pollinators. Walnuts are pollinated by wind rather than insects so bear this in mind when choosing your site.

Pollinating Hazelnut Trees

Hazels will crop better if varieties are mixed together but due to the abundance of hazels in the wild, good crops usually appear. Like walnuts, pollination is mostly carried in the wind.

Pollinating Malus (Crab Apples) Trees

Malus crab apples are a very useful range of trees where many varieties will pollinate apples. Mostly all ornamental malus are self fertile themselves, indicating how useful their pollen is for cross pollination.

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