We are often asked questions about Fruit Tree Pollination. It’s important to get it right if you want any fruit! Tom takes a deep dive into the subject for us here
Domestic (eating) Apples
All apples need another apple of a different kind blooming at the same to provide cross pollination. The trees can be up to a ¼ mile apart, or more, if you have a healthy bee population. Crabapples can provide pollination for domestic apples. There are apple trees that have multiple different types of apples grafted onto the same trunk. In this case the different grafted branches cross pollinated each other. If you live in a somewhat established suburban neighborhood there is a pretty good chance a neighbor is growing a domestic apple or crabapple with in pollination range. You can also partner with a neighbor to plant pollination partners.
Sour (pie) cherries are self-pollinating so one tree will produce fruit though you will get more fruit with multiple trees. Sour cherries vary in sugar content. Montmorency cherries have a low sugar content that does not increase that much as the cherries ripen; they stay sour but are great for pies. The Evans Bali cherry is a variety that has a higher sugar content and when fully ripe (dark red verging to black) are sweet enough for fresh eating. You do have to beat the birds to the fruit, this is when a tree net comes in handy. Bali cherries are also very cold hardy; the buds can withstand temperatures as low as 25 degrees. Sweet cherries require cross pollination and not as cold hardy as sour cherries. There are a couple of self-pollinating varieties but they are hard to find.
Most peach trees do not need a pollinator but you will get more fruit with multiple trees. Peach trees have pink blossoms making them one of the showier fruit trees. The Polly peach is a white peach that is well suited to our area but it does bloom early so there is a chance of late frosts destroying the flowers. When the flowers are frozen then there is no fruit that year but the tree will survive and flower next year. Late frosts are a problem along the Front Range and the major reason mort of the orchards are now found on the Western Slope.
Getting fruit from Pear trees is a little more challenging. Most pears require cross-pollination. The 20th Century Asian pear is fairly self-pollinating but you will get more fruit with two or more 20th Century pear trees. Asian pears are also called apple pears because most produce round fruit that has a crunchy texture and may be eaten fresh from the tree. They do not ripen off the tree as does a Common or European pear. The Parker pear is a Common pear so the fruit is best if picked early and allowed to ripen off the tree for a week or so. The Parker pear also needs a pollinator and the Summercrisp pear will do the job and the Parker pear will pollinate the Summercrisp pear. The Summercrisp pear is best eaten fresh off the tree as with an Asian pear. After pollination partners are figured out there are other issues to consider. Pear trees bloom very early (April) so there aren’t a lot of bees or other pollinators in action at that time. Pear flowers have a relatively low pollen count and the nectar is lower in sugar so pollinators are less attracted to the flowers.
Plums are kind of tricky but the chances of fruit are better than with the pears. Most European plums are self-pollinating. The Mount Royal plum stock came from France and the variety originated in the area of Quebec, Canada. It is zone 4 hardy (about 7000 feet in elevation), self-fertile and a heavy producer. Most Japanese plums, which actually originated in China, require a pollinator to produce fruit. That pollinator can be another Japanese Plum or an American Plum or a hybrid of Japanese and American plums. The Toka plum, AKA Bubblegum plum, is one of these hybrids. On its own it is a heavy producer of sweet medium sized plums and it will produce even more with another Toka nearby. It is one of best pollinators for Japanese plums, such as the Santa Rosa, and Japanese American hybrid plums. American and Canadian plums are usually self-pollinating large suckering shrubs that produce small (less than one inch) tasty fruit. They can be managed into more tree like forms and some varieties, such as the Princess Kay, are more of a defined tree form.