Our Guide to Fruit Tree Pollination

The birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees... When you're planning your home orchard it's a good idea to understand these things. Which trees are self-fertile and which need another variety to pollinate their flowers so they can set fruit? Here's our beginners guide to pollination for various groups of fruit trees.
 
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How Does Fruit Tree Pollination Happen?

Whether a fruit tree is self-fertile or requires cross pollination by another variety, they still need a helping hand to move the pollen from the male part of one flower to the female part of another flower. This helping hand is by birds (Feijoas), wind (Olives and some nut trees) and bees & insects.

Pollination can be affected by adverse weather. If it is really cold or wet when the fruit trees are flowering then wind, birds & bees cannot spread the pollen as effectively and this can lead to a poor crop. You can mitigate the impact of adverse weather on pollination by hand pollinating your crops with paint brushes if the weather looks like turning nasty.

Fruit Tree Pollination
Self Fertile Fruit Trees

Which Fruit Trees are Self-Fertile?

Many varieties of fruit trees do not need a pollinating partner to set fruit.

The self-fertile trees include all Fig Trees, Nectarine trees, Quinces, Citrus Trees, Sour Cherries, Peach Trees, Persimmons, Passionfruit, all the Berries except Blueberries and the Tamarillos. You only need one of any of these plants to get fruit.

Then there are those who are referred to as "partially self-fertile" just to confuse you. They will set fruit on their own but will set more fruit with a cross pollinating partner. Feijoa's fall into this category as do some blueberries, some chestnuts, some plums and some olives - see below for specifics.

And if a cross pollinating partner is required...

If a fruit tree needs a pollinating partner it will be a specific variety from the same family that does the job. So an apple won't pollinate an apricot.

It also has to be a different variety within that family. If a tree is not self-fertile then two of the same tree will not cross pollinate each other. Below we've listed out the pollinating partners for those fruit trees that do need cross-pollination to set fruit.

Cross pollination of fruit trees

Pollination Guide to Hazelnuts & Almonds

Hazelnuts produce long flowering catkins in winter and the wind carries the pollen from male catkins on one tree to female flowers on another tree. Pollinating varieties must be shedding pollen at the same time the female flowers are open. Trees should be no more than 20m from a pollinating partner. We sell Whitehart & Alexandra as a pollinating pair.

Some Almond trees are self fertile such as, "All in One", Dwarf Garden Prince and the hard Shelled Monovale. Other Almonds require a pollinator. Monovale is a good pollinator.

Plum Pollination Guide

Pollination Guide to Plum Trees

Plums are particular about their pollination partners. There are some self-fertile plums, however, most will produce more fruit with the right pollinating partner nearby.

Plum tree pollination guide

Pollination Guide to Feijoas

Feijoas are pollinated by birds who visit the flowers and share nectar from one tree to another.

Some varieties like Unique are self-fertile but most varieties crop better with another Feijoa in the neighbourhood as the crow literally flies.

Apollo is also partially self-fertile. If you are looking for pollinating pairs of feijoas try and get two with overlapping flower times, two early season or one early and one mid or one mid and one late. Don't get an early and a late variety as their flowering may not overlap.

Feijoa Pollination guide
Blueberry Pollination Guide

Pollination Guide to Blueberries

Blueberries come in several different families, the Rabbiteye Family, Northern Highbush and Southern Highbush family. When you're selecting blueberries choose different varieties from the same family and ensure they flower at the same time. Eg. Duke and Delite are both early season Northern Highbush varieties so they will pollinate each other.

We stock Rabbiteye varieties because they do best in gardens throughout the country and are the most vigorous. Within the Rabbiteye family we stock Tifblue and Centurion because although they flower at the same time, the fruit ripens at different times giving you both pollination and a longer picking season.

Pollination Guide to Chestnut & Walnut Trees

Sweet chestnuts are another wind pollinated nut tree, like Hazelnuts. Sweet Chestnut variety 1005 is self-fertile and this is the one we stock. Commercial growers recommend planting more than one variety for pollination.

Walnuts are a bit of a mystery. All the books say you need two varieties for cross pollination but you see stately old walnut trees in paddocks miles away from any another tree and they crop heavily and reliably.

Chestnut Pollination
Olive pollination guide

Pollination Guide to Olives

Olive flowers hang on pollen filled catkins that the wind blows through the olive grove pollinating the other trees.

So plant your olives where they get good air movement to spread the pollen and dot the pollinating varieties throughout the grove and on the upward side of the prevailing wind.

We have found the Pendolino variety to be a good pollinator of the Tuscan olive varieties which are the ones we predominantly sell. Tuscan varieties do well in a range of climates.

There are a couple of self-fertile olives, including Frantoio and Koroneiki and Leccino is partially self-fertile.

Pollination Guide to Sweet Cherry Trees

Some sweet cherries are self-fertile including Lapins and Compact Stella. Other sweet cherries need another variety nearby to cross pollinate their blossoms.

You will quite often see double grafted cherry trees in nurseries for this reason. Sour Cherries like Morello are self fertile.

Pollination Guide to Apricots

Apricots are a largely self fertile family. There are a couple of exceptions. Sundrop is a great warm climate apricot which is pollinated by Trevatt however TomCot and KatyCot are both great warm climate apricots that do not require a pollinator. See our selection of apricot trees for more information.

Pollination Guide to Apples

We don't tend to think about pollinating partners for apple trees however many do require a pollinator. An apple that is flowering at the same time as the tree you wish to pollinate will generally do the job however a more fool proof apple pollinator is an ornamental crab apple tree. John Downie, Jack Humm and Golden Hornet are all excellent varieties. John Downie is the variety that many commercial apple growers use, planting a tree at the end of each row.

The good news is that apple trees and crab apple trees are so widely planted that within a bees 3km radius there is a high likelihood of another pollinating tree flowering at the same time.

Apple Pollination Guide

Pollination Guide to Pears & Nashi

Pears are slow growing, long lived trees and they are particular about pollination partners. Pears are not widely grown so you can't rely on a pollinating tree in a nearby garden. Their blossom is also not as full of nectar as apple blossom so given a choice they are further down the bee's list.

Conference and Concorde are two partially self-fertile varieties but will do better with a cross pollinating partner. Nashi pears are sometimes put forward as pollinators for European pear varieties.

The good news about pear pollination is that although you need multiple trees you can pick them so that fruit ripens across the season. Take a look at our double grafted pear trees, chosen for pollination and ripening times.

And finally, Kiwifruit - they require two plants, a male plant and a female plant. The female plant fruits and the male plant cross pollinates. You will normally find both plants sold together in the one pot.

So there you have it folks, the birds and the bees of fruit tree pollination. You can be sure a little time spent encouraging both of these into your garden will lead to a bountiful harvest from your home orchard.