Guide: Pollinating Fruit Trees

Pollinate fruit trees
Planting fruit trees in the garden sounds great. But you have to make sure that the fruit harvest will live up to your expectations! Apart from certain varieties of trees that are said to be self-fertile, other fruit trees need two things to bear a lot of fruit:

the presence of a pollinator tree in the vicinity;
and, equally important, the presence of insects that carry the pollen from the flowers to the tree.
This fact sheet describes the essential steps for pollinating fruit trees.
Focus on cross-pollination
In order for a fruit tree to be fertilized, and therefore produce fruit, it is necessary for the pollen produced by the female organs (ovaries in the flower stigma) to be fertilized by the pollen from the male organs (flower stamens).

One or the other is found :

in the pollen of the same tree if the variety is self-fertile ;
in the pollen of another compatible tree if the variety is self-fertile (most common case).
When the fruit tree is self-sterile (apple trees, pear trees, plum trees, peach trees, hazelnut trees, some cherry trees…), it is essential that there is another compatible variety in its vicinity, called the pollinating variety. This is called cross-pollination: the pollen of the pollinating variety is carried by foraging insects (domestic or wild bees, bumblebees, wasps, butterflies, hoverflies, flies…) to the stigmas of the variety to be pollinated.

Note: in fact, fruit trees are rarely completely self-sterile but, in the absence of cross-pollination, produce very little fruit and often of poor quality.

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1.Plant a pollinator tree

When considering planting a fruit tree, or if you have a fruit tree in your garden that is not producing much of a crop:

Find out what other trees might serve as pollinators:
see our pollination chart ;
Ask your nurseryman.
Find out if there is a pollinator tree within a 30 meter radius (perhaps from your neighbors?).
If there is none, select a pollinator tree: rely on your nurseryman’s advice or on a cross-fertilization chart, as choosing a pollinator tree is tricky.
When possible:

Choose two trees that pollinate each other.
Choose a tree that can also pollinate several others.
Example: among the pear varieties, the Passe Crassane and the Beurré Hardy pollinate each other. For its part, the Passe Crassane pollinates, in addition to the Beurré Hardy, the following main varieties: Williams, Conference, Beurré d’Hardenpont, Doyenné d’Hiver.

Plant the chosen tree at a maximum distance of 30 meters from the tree or trees to be pollinated, the closer the better, facilitating the work of the pollinating insects.

2.Attracting insect pollinators

Cross-pollination from one tree to another can be done by the wind, but it is more likely to be done by foraging insects, which must be attracted to the garden. Here are the best ways to attract these insects to your garden:

Do not use, or as little as possible, chemicals, pesticides or other products.
Leave an uncultivated area of your garden or natural meadow, which is full of nectar-rich flowers such as wild carrots, daisies, dandelions, meadowsweet, poppies, primroses, yarrow, blueberries, wild clover…
Preserve a small corner where nettles grow, which feed the caterpillars of certain butterflies.
Plant flowering hedges, composed of different varieties that are particularly attractive to insects: hawthorn, Japanese quince, holly, lilac, hazelnut, seringat, black elder, privet, viburnum…
Plant melliferous flowers: columbines, anemones, asters, heathers, bellflowers, lilies, snapdragons, forget-me-nots, reseda, hollyhocks, marigolds, sunflowers…
Plant melliferous climbers: honeysuckle, clematis, wisteria, ivy and Virginia creeper.
Plant aromatic plants such as fennel, sage, savory, thyme, rosemary, mint, marjoram…
Plant buddleia or “butterfly trees”.
Avoid certain species of sterile or double-flowered plants offered in horticultural catalogs.
Finally, install “insect hotels”.

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  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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