Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

How to Cross Pollinate Apple Trees

Apple Blossoms image by valleymiss from

Apple trees produce fruit when the apple blossoms are pollinated. However, according to the University of Missouri, most apple trees need to be cross pollinated in order to bear fruit. This means you need two different varieties of compatible apple trees planted close to each other that bloom at the same time to ensure proper cross pollination. Crab apple trees can also be used as cross pollinators for apple trees, according to Purdue University. Insects such as bees will cross pollinate the trees for you as long as they are planted close enough together.

Purchase two apple trees of different varieties or one apple tree and one crab apple tree that are good cross pollinators for each other and that bloom at the same time. You can determine which varieties will cross pollinate by referring to apple pollination and bloom time charts.

Plant the apple trees within 50 feet of one another in an area that receives full sun. Apple trees prefer rich soil but will also grow in sandy and clay areas, providing they are well drained.

Dig holes as deep as the trees' root balls and two times as wide. Place the roots in the holes and spread them out to be sure that nothing is tangled. Backfill the holes with soil and water deeply.

Introduce bees or other pollinating insects into your garden when the apple trees blossom. If you cannot introduce bees into your garden manually, plant more flowers in your yard to attract bees and other insects for cross pollination purposes.

Apple Trees Be To Cross-pollinate?

If you want your apple trees to produce apples, the blossoms need to be pollinated. Although the idea of pollination seems simple, the process of apple tree pollination is complicated by a variety of factors. In the botanical realm, the male pollen has to fertilize the female ovary, a feat usually accomplished by pollinators. A basic understanding of plant biology is helpful. The plant pistil also includes several parts. Nature leaves apple pollination primarily to bees. Attracted to the pollen of the apple blossom, they crawl into a flower, picking up pollen grains on their fuzzy bodies. When the stigma receives pollen, it moves to the ovary, causing pollination. A few types of apple trees (like Braeburn and Falstaff) are self-fruitful, meaning that their blossoms produce pollen that can be used to pollinate the same tree's blossoms. Also, some apple tree varieties just can't pollinate. Trees like Winesap, Stayman and Mutsu produce sterile pollen. That means that they require pollinator trees nearby but cannot be used to pollinate neighbor trees of any variety. In addition, the pollinating partners must bloom at the same time for one tree's pollen to get to the other tree's stigma. So, it's important to figure out which trees bloom at the same time and use this information when picking a pollination partner for your tree. The nursery trade has made this easier by identifying apple species by pollination group. However, the idea is not to check off the box "pollinator tree" on some survey but to maximize your apple crop. If you know you need a second pollinator cultivar but you can't or don't want to bring in another tree, you aren't the first person in that situation. Those gardeners before you have come up with several solutions you might try. This is a grafted apple tree.


Sir Prize, Turley, Stayman, Mutsu and Winesap apple trees are poor pollinators and should not be used as a cross pollination source, according to Purdue University.

Garden Guides