GARDEN TIME with DOUG – Pollination Q and A

Virginia is bursting with color right now!!

Here we are in mid-April and what a beautiful time to be living in Virginia with all the shrubs and trees in bloom or coming into bloom.

Just to re-cap our weather: Approximately, April 20, is our average last frost date. So far in April, we have not had a frosty night. Our extended forecast looks to be safe from frost damage, so what does this mean to me with my plants? Good question! Last year we had frost on April 28, so we are not out of the realm of still having some damaging frost to our flowers. Let’s all just hope that we have seen the last of cold nights.

Some of the color that we are seeing is coming from our fruit trees and shrubs. So many people are adding fruiting trees and shrubs to their landscape and for good reason. This is a strong gardening trend. Why not plant shrubs and trees that not only give you beautiful color with their flowers but also continue to grow and produce edible fruit. Because this is an active gardening trend homeowners are trying to learn as much as possible about growing edible fruits.

Some homeowners have planted fruiting shrubs and trees and are frustrated with the lack of production. I usually get this common question: “I’ve had this plant for a couple of years and it has never produced any fruit at all. What am I doing wrong?”

In order to answer the above question, you need to look at some different variables that may be the factor for the plant not to produce fruit. If it is planted in a poorly-suited location or incorrectly pruned, it is possible that a fruit-bearing plant won’t reliably produce any fruit. Also, late frosts can damage the flowers and reduce the amount of fruit they produce. However, one of the biggest variables that homeowners do not understand comes down to pollination.

Many fruiting shrubs and trees are considered self-sterile. This means that they will not reliably produce fruit unless another compatible plant is planted nearby; furthermore, these plants often need bees or other beneficial pollinators to help ensure pollen makes it from the male to the female flowers. Plants that fall into this category include apples, blueberries, sweet cherries, hardy kiwi, pears, and plums.

Homeowners sometimes do not realize that they need room to plant more than one fruiting tree in order to have fruit production. You need to find another compatible variety to plant nearby to ensure that cross-pollination occurs. Here at the Great Big Greenhouse, we do our best to ensure that all of our customers are aware of this information.

If a customer is looking into a fruit tree and doesn’t want to fuss with cross-pollination, we do have plenty of fruits that are self-fertile. This includes sour cherries, hardy figs, grapes, peaches, apricots, and goji berries. As I always tell customers, if you have the room, planting more than one self-sterile plant normally will produce a higher yield of fruit.

Here are a few other important tips when making a selection:

  • Sour cherries cannot pollinate sweet cherries and vice versa.
  • European and Japanese Plums are incompatible as pollinators. You need to make sure you pick two different European or two different Japanese plums.
  • We have a selection of 3 and 4 fruit trees grafted together for espaliering. These special trees have multiple grafted branches where each branch is a different type of the same fruit. This all but guarantees cross-pollination will successfully occur.

Yet, another culprit to low fruit production could be because of the low population of our beneficial pollinators. We all need to be mindful to do whatever we can to protect and encourage beneficial pollinators.



3 thoughts on “GARDEN TIME with DOUG – Pollination Q and A”

  1. Please advice me what I should do with my apple tree I have a apple tree
    my house for about 4 years Fist time last year got 3 apples this year I put moor fruit tree what I have to do to get the fruit ?

  2. We were interested in a paw paw, but I had 2 concerns. First, are the ones marketed as self-pollinating ok on their own, or do they need a second tree to improve the fruit?
    Second, are there enough flesh flies in northern Virginia’s suburbia to pollinate properly?

    • Liz,
      I believe that I have already responded back to you through email. If I am wrong please send me another message. Happy May to you, Doug

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