Are Two Apple Trees Needed For Fruit?

Is it really necessary to plant two apple trees in order to get fruit? And are they supposed to be the same variety or different? Will crabapples work? How close do they have to be?

Apples are well-adapted for home-yard growing. But to get fruit, certain pollination requirements must be met. Apple trees are self-sterile, which means that a tree’s own pollen doesn’t work on its own flowers to yield fruit. In fact, two trees of the same variety don’t even work. Two separate Honeycrisp trees aren’t able to successfully pollenate each other.

To produce fruit, apple flowers must be pollenated by pollen from a different apple variety. For example, a Honeycrisp apple tree can be pollenated by a Sweet Sixteen apple.

How close in distance do the two different apple varieties need to be? Must they be within the same yard? As long as the two varieties are within several hundred yards pollination can occur. But for best pollination, the two trees should be within one to two hundred feet. Apple pollination is accomplished by bees, and although they can fly for miles, the closer the better. Often a neighbor or someone down the block has an apple tree of a different variety, and that works also.

Does it have to be an apple tree? Will a plum work for the necessary cross-pollination? No. It must be a member of the Malus botanical genus. But flowering ornamental crabs are members of the same Malus genus, and as a result, they are good pollinators for fruiting apple trees. Chances are great that the neighborhood has a number of flowering crabs.

So if our yards have room for more than one apple tree, it’s wise to select two different varieties. But if our landscape has room for only one, chances are a neighbor has either an apple tree or a flowering crab that will result in the proper pollination needed for a good crop of fruit.

Happy Gardening, and enjoy the apples!

2 Responses

  1. Nicole

    The house that I bought two years ago in Harwood has one single dinky little apple tree that produces maybe 8-10 small apples each Fall, and a sideways growing apricot tree that has an almost 90* bend about 4 feet up from the roots. It makes more sense now why they aren’t thriving, thank you!

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