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Apple Pollination Chart


Use the apple pollination chart below to select compatible apple varieties and ensure successful cross pollination. Most pollination charts are in alphabetical order but we have organized our by the flowering group since that is the main driver of compatibility. You’ll also learn about some of the other factors like genetic compatibility, sterile triploid pollen, and pollinators. We’ll explore the nuances of various apple tree types, including self-pollinating and cross-pollinating varieties, and understand the unique needs of triploid apples. Equip yourself with practical knowledge to optimizing tree spacing and design your orchard or backyard for maximum yields.

Apple Tree Cross Pollination Chart

The successful pollination of apple trees heavily depends on the compatibility of the varieties involved. An apple cross pollination chart can be an invaluable tool, detailing which varieties are compatible with each other.

Factors Affecting Pollination Compatibility

  • Bloom Overlap: This is crucial. Apple varieties are often categorized into flowering groups based on their bloom times. For effective pollination, the bloom times of the different varieties should overlap. Varieties in the same flowering group will have a full overlap, while those in adjacent groups may only partially overlap. This timing ensures that pollen is available when the flowers are receptive.
  • Pollen Viability: Some apple varieties produce sterile pollen. The most common examples are triploid varieties. These varieties have three sets of chromosomes, which makes their pollen sterile. They can’t pollinate other apple trees, nor can they be pollinated by their own pollen. Therefore, they need to be paired with varieties that have viable pollen. It’s important to plant at least two other varieties of apple trees nearby to ensure pollination.
  • Genetic Compatibility: Apple trees are often incompatible with their direct relatives. This means that the cross-pollination of closely related varieties, or parent-offspring pairs, is generally unsuccessful. When selecting varieties for cross-pollination, it’s important to choose trees that are not closely genetically related to maximize the chances of successful fruit set.
  • Pollinator Activity: Effective pollination relies heavily on pollinators like bees. Their activity is influenced by factors such as weather conditions, flower attractiveness, and the use of bee-friendly pesticides. Ensuring a healthy pollinator population and favorable conditions for their activity is crucial for successful apple tree pollination.

Self Pollinating Apple Trees

  • Self-pollinating apple trees, such as the Golden Delicious, are capable of producing fruit on their own.
  • These varieties can pollinate themselves, which is beneficial for smaller spaces or gardens with room for only one tree.
  • However, even self-pollinating varieties can benefit from cross-pollination, resulting in improved fruit set and quality.

Cross Pollinating Varieties

  • Cross-pollination is the process where pollen from one apple tree variety is transferred to another variety.
  • This is essential for most apple trees as they are typically self-unfruitful.
  • Effective cross-pollination requires compatible varieties that bloom around the same time.
  • For instance, Gala apples can be effectively pollinated by varieties like Fuji, Granny Smith, or Honeycrisp.

Triploid Apple Varieties

  • Triploid varieties, such as the ‘Stayman Winesap‘ and ‘Arkansas Black‘, have sterile pollen and cannot pollinate other trees.
  • These varieties require two different apple trees for successful pollination.
  • Despite their pollination challenges, triploid varieties are often valued for their unique fruit qualities.
  • They need careful planning in orchard design, ensuring that two other compatible varieties are planted nearby.

When do Apple Trees Bloom

Bloom Periods of Apple Trees

Apple trees exhibit a variety of bloom periods, categorized as EarlyEarly-MidLate-Mid, and Late Season. Understanding these bloom times is crucial for effective pollination.

Apple Pollination Chart

Early Season Bloomers (Flowering Group 1)

  • Varieties like ‘Anna‘, Ein-Shemer‘, and ‘Dorsett Golden‘ bloom early in the spring.
  • These are best paired with other early bloomers for cross-pollination.

Early-Mid Season Bloomers (Flowering Group 2)

  • These varieties start blooming shortly after the early bloomers.
  • Examples include ‘McIntosh‘ and ‘Liberty’.

Late-Mid Season Bloomers (Flowering Group 3)

Late Season Bloomers (Flowering Group 4)

Importance of Bloom Time Synchronization

  • Successful pollination requires bloom time synchronization between different apple tree varieties.
  • Choosing varieties that bloom around the same time ensures that pollen is available when the flowers are receptive.

Influence of Climate and Rootstock on Bloom Times

  • Climate plays a significant role in determining bloom times. Varieties suited to a region’s climate will bloom more effectively.
  • Rootstock choice can also influence bloom periods. Some rootstocks induce earlier or later blooming in the grafted variety.
  • Gardeners should select varieties and rootstocks that are compatible with their local climate and bloom period requirements.

Matching apple tree varieties according to their bloom periods is key to ensuring successful cross-pollination. This not only maximizes fruit production but also contributes to the overall health and vigor of the apple trees.

How Close Do Apple Trees Need to Be to Pollinate?

Apple trees should ideally be planted within 50 feet of each other for effective cross-pollination. This distance ensures that bees and other pollinators can easily transfer pollen between trees. If space is limited, growing compatible dwarf or semi-dwarf varieties closer together, or even grafting different varieties onto a single tree, can be effective alternatives.

Impact of Orchard Design on Pollination

The design and layout of an orchard significantly influence pollination efficiency.

  • Row Planning: In commercial orchards, it’s common to plant a row of pollinizer trees for every four rows of the main variety to ensure adequate cross-pollination.
  • Solitary Trees: For a single apple tree, branches with blossoms from another variety can be hung in the tree to assist in pollination.
  • Smaller Gardens: In limited spaces, combo apple trees with multiple varieties grafted onto one rootstock can provide internal cross-pollination.

Key Considerations for Planting Distance

  • Accessibility for Pollinators: Ensure trees are close enough for bees and other pollinators to move between them effectively.
  • Environmental Factors: Consider local wind patterns, sun exposure, and topography to optimize tree placement for pollination.
  • Variety Selection: Choose apple tree varieties that not only are compatible for cross-pollination but also fit well within the available space.

Understanding and implementing the right spacing and design for apple trees can greatly enhance the chances of successful pollination and, consequently, a fruitful harvest.

Ripening nectarines

Pollination Challenges Specific to Apple Trees

Factors Affecting Fruit Set and Pollination Success

The process of apple tree pollination can be influenced by various factors, each playing a significant role in the ultimate fruit set.

  • Absence of Flowers: A lack of flowering can impede pollination. This may result from inadequate tree care, incorrect pruning, or unfavorable weather conditions.
  • Poor Pollination Conditions: Weather conditions during bloom, such as rain or extreme temperatures, can negatively impact pollination.
  • Inadequate Pollinator Presence: A lack of bees and other pollinators can lead to insufficient pollination. This might be due to environmental factors or the use of pesticides.

Dealing with Sterile Pollen Varieties

Some apple tree varieties produce sterile pollen and require careful planning in orchard design.

  • Understanding Triploids: Varieties like ‘Stayman Winesap‘ and ‘Arkansas Black‘ Seedling’ are triploid and have sterile pollen. They need two different varieties nearby for successful pollination.
  • Strategic Planting: Plant at least two other varieties that bloom simultaneously with the triploid variety to ensure effective pollination.
  • Awareness of Family Relationships: Certain varieties, like Honeycrisp, which are hybrids, should not be cross-pollinated with their parent varieties due to genetic similarities.

Key Strategies for Overcoming Challenges

  • Regular Monitoring: Keep a close eye on flowering patterns and pollinator activity to identify and address issues early.
  • Creating a Pollinator-Friendly Environment: Plant native flowering plants and provide nesting habitats to attract and support pollinators.
  • Careful Variety Selection: Choose apple tree varieties that are well-suited to the local climate and have overlapping bloom periods for effective cross-pollination.

Addressing these challenges is crucial for ensuring a healthy and productive apple orchard. Understanding the nuances of apple tree pollination can lead to more effective management practices and a successful harvest.

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Apple Tree Pollinators – Bees and other Insects

Diversity of Pollinators: Bees, Flies, Beetles, Butterflies, Moths, Wasps

Pollinators play a pivotal role in the successful pollination of apple trees. Each type of pollinator contributes uniquely to the process.

  • Bees: The most significant pollinators for apple trees. This group includes honeybees, bumblebees, mason bees, and solitary bees.
  • Other Insects: Flies, beetles, butterflies, moths, and wasps also assist in pollination, although they are less efficient than bees.

Managing Orchards for Pollinator Health

Creating a pollinator-friendly environment is essential for a thriving orchard.

  • Providing Food Sources: Planting native flowering plants can offer additional food sources for pollinators.
  • Creating Nesting Habitats: Providing suitable habitats, such as well-drained soil or rotting logs, encourages native bee populations.
  • Orchard Design: Incorporate features that attract and protect pollinators, like windbreaks and natural hedgerows.

Best Practices for Pesticide Use and Alternative Pest Management Strategies

The use of pesticides can significantly impact pollinators. Implementing alternative pest management strategies can mitigate this risk.

  • Timing of Pesticide Application: Avoid using pesticides during bloom when pollinators are most active.
  • Selection of Pesticides: Choose pesticides that are less harmful to bees and apply them in a way that minimizes exposure.
  • Integrated Pest Management (IPM): Employ IPM strategies to reduce the need for chemical pesticides, such as using natural predators or mechanical controls.

Understanding and supporting the diverse range of pollinators is key to successful apple tree pollination. By adopting pollinator-friendly practices and mindful pesticide use, orchard health and productivity can be significantly enhanced.

Ripening nectarines

How to Pollinate Apple Trees with Artificial Techniques

Hand Pollination Methods

In situations where natural pollinators are scarce or environmental conditions are not favorable, hand pollination can be a viable alternative.

  • Using a Paintbrush or Cotton Swab: Gently transfer pollen from the anthers of one flower to the stigma of another. This mimics the natural process done by bees.
  • Best Timing: The optimal time for hand pollination is when the flowers are fully open, typically mid-morning on a dry, sunny day.

Use of Blossom Branches in Solitary Trees

For solitary apple trees lacking nearby pollinators, utilizing branches from other apple varieties can encourage cross-pollination.

  • Branch Placement: Hang branches with fresh blossoms from a compatible variety in the solitary tree. The branches should be placed in water to keep them fresh.
  • Regular Replacement: Change these branches regularly to ensure a continuous supply of fresh pollen during the blooming period.

Hand pollination and the strategic use of blossom branches are effective techniques to enhance pollination in apple orchards, especially in areas with limited natural pollinator activity. These methods require careful and timely execution but can significantly improve fruit set and quality.

Ripening nectarines


In conclusion, understanding the intricacies of apple tree pollination is crucial for anyone aspiring to cultivate these fruit trees successfully. From selecting the right varieties for cross-pollination to managing the orchard environment for optimal pollinator health, each aspect plays a vital role in ensuring a healthy and productive harvest.

Embracing the diversity of apple varieties and their specific pollination needs, while being mindful of environmental factors and pollinator health, can lead to a more sustainable and fruitful orchard. This knowledge is not just beneficial for achieving a successful harvest but also for contributing to the broader ecosystem, supporting biodiversity and natural balance.

In essence, the journey of growing apple trees is enriched by a deep understanding of pollination, highlighting the interconnectedness of nature and the importance of thoughtful agricultural practices.


Are Apple Trees Self Pollinating?

Some apple tree varieties are partially self-pollinating but will produce better with a pollinator. While they can set fruit on their own, the quantity and quality of the fruit significantly improve with cross-pollination from other apple varieties.

Can a Pear Tree Pollinate an Apple Tree?

No, a pear tree cannot pollinate an apple tree. While both belong to the same family, Rosaceae, they are different species and genera. Apple trees (Malus domestica) require pollen from another apple variety, and pear trees (Pyrus spp.) require pollen from a different pear variety for effective pollination. Cross-species pollination between apples and pears is not possible.

What is the Best Pollinator for Honeycrisp Apple Tree?

The best pollinators for a ‘Honeycrisp’ apple tree are apple varieties that bloom at the same time and are not triploid. Good choices include ‘McIntosh‘, ‘Golden Delicious‘, ‘Granny Smith‘, ‘Empire’, and ‘Jonathan‘. It’s important to avoid other triploid varieties like ‘Arkansas Black‘ and ‘Stayman Winesap‘, as they are poor pollinators.

What Apple Trees are Self Pollinating?

Most apple trees are not truly self-pollinating and require cross-pollination from another apple variety for optimal fruit production. However, there are a few exceptions that are considered self-fertile, meaning they can produce fruit on their own, though their yield and fruit quality typically improve with cross-pollination. Examples of these self-fertile varieties include ‘Anna‘, ‘Cortland‘, ‘Gala‘, ‘Golden Delicious‘, and ‘Granny Smith‘. Despite this self-fertility, it’s still recommended to plant another compatible variety nearby for best results.


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