Pollination for Successful Fruiting

Pollination of fruit trees entails the transfer of pollen from the male part of the flower, the stamens, to the female part, the stigmaApple flower and then to the ovule where the two parts fuse and fertilisation takes place. This happens naturally without any planning on our part by bees and other pollinating insects such as hoverflies. However if you are planning to grow a few fruit trees you can give nature a helping hand by considering a couple of things.

Fruit trees can generally be placed into three categories:

Self fertile - can pollinate themselves and include some plums, some cherries, very few apples, all quinces. Self fertile varieties also tend to be very good pollinators of other varieties.They will always fruit better if grown with other fruit trees where cross pollination can take place.

Self sterile - cannot pollinate themselves. Most apples are self sterile, as are all pears, many plums and quite a few cherries. These trees need to be pollinated by another tree of the same Genus / type, ie apples pollinate apples, Pears pollinate pears, but by another variety NOT the same. For example a James Grieve apple will not pollinate another James Grieve but will pollinate a Spartan.

Triploid - cannot pollinate themselves or another variety because their pollen is mostly sterile. The most well known triploid variety is Bramley. Very few of the varieties we grow are triploid ie Ribston Pippin, and they are  detailed in the individual tree details. If growing two fruit trees and one is triploid then the other will not be pollinated so that variety needs another variety to pollinate it. So three trees will ensure successful pollination.

The above has been written as if there are no other fruit trees in the area or already planted. In residential areas there are very likely to be fruit trees about even if you are not aware of them. So if you are interested in one or two trees for a small garden there are most likely to be other trees nearby to help with pollination.

Bear in mind that Apples pollinate apples and not other fruit trees species ie Pears. The same goes for Plums, etc. So for successful pollination if no other fruit trees anywhere in the vicinity select varieties - two or more of the same species.

Flowering times

For pollination to be successful the flowers need to be flowering at the the same time. Each variety has a flowering period, which ranges from A (early) to E (late). A variety can be pollinated by another of the same flowering period or one to either side. Understandably pollination will be successful between varieties in the same group. However because flowering is spread out over a few weeks varieties in adajacent groups make perfectly acceptable pollination partners with the flowering periods overlapping. So there is always plenty of choice when selecting trees. 

A summary of the Pollination group for the varieties we grow is on this page and also detailed in the catalogue alongside each variety

Apples

Apples require a pollination partner growing nearby, either fruiting or ornamental, that flowers at a similar time. A few apple varieties are Triploid(T) and will receive pollen from other varieties, but not pollinate them. Crab apples are very good pollinators of fruiting apples because of their long flowering periods. The varieties below are dessert unless otherwise indicated.

Group B

  • Adams Pearmain
  • Beauty of Bath
  • Betty Geeson (culinary)
  • Cevaal / Early Windsor
  • Egremont Russet
  • Keswick Codlin (Culinary)
  • Lord Lambourne
  • Rev W Wilks (culinary)
  • Ribston Pippin (T)
  • Yellow Ingestrie

Group C

  • Blenheim Orange (T)
  • Bountiful (culinary)
  • Bramley (T & culinary)
  • Bramley 20 (T & culinary)
  • Catshead (culinary)
  • Charles Ross
  • Cox’s Orange Pippin
  • Dabinett (cider)
  • Discovery
  • Early Victoria (culinary)
  • Fiesta
  • Fortune
  • Greensleeves
  • Grenadier (culinary)
  • Herefordshire Russet
  • James Grieve
  • Jonagold (T)
  • Katy
  • Kidd’s Orange Red
  • Lord Hindlip
  • Madresfield Court
  • May Queen
  • Michelin
  • Pitmaston Pineapple
  • Rajka
  • Red Devil
  • Red Falstaff
  • Resi
  • Rosemary Russet
  • Rubinola
  • Rubinstep
  • Saturn
  • Scotch Bridget
  • Spartan
  • Sunset
  • Ten Commandments (cider)
  • Tom Putt (cider)
  • Tupstones
  • Tydeman’s Early Worcester
  • Worcester Pearmain
  • Wyken Pippin
  • Yarlington Mill (cider)

Group D

  • Annie Elizabeth (culinary)
  • Ashmead’s Kernel
  • D’Arcy Spice
  • Ellison’s Orange
  • Gladstone
  • Howgate Wonder (culinary)
  • King Coffee
  • Laxton’s Superb
  • Lord Derby
  • Orlean's Reinette
  • Pixie
  • Topaz
  • Winston

Group E

  • Court Pendu Plat
  • Edward V11 (culinary)
  • Newton Wonder (culinary)
  • William Crump

Pears

Pears require pollination by neighbouring pears. Though in the same group Onward will not pollinate Doyenne du Comice and vice versa. Three varieties are triploid and like triploid apple varieties will receive pollen from other varieties, but not pollinate them.

Group B

  • Doyenne D'Ete
  • Emile D'Heyst
  • Louise Bonne of Jersey

Group C

  • Beurre Hardy
  • Beurre Superfin
  • Concorde
  • Conference
  • Merton Pride (T)
  • Pierre Cornielle
  • Worcester Black

Group D

  • Beth
  • Catillac (T)
  • Doyenne du Comice
  • Onward
  • Pitmaston Duchess (T)

Plums & Damsons

Many of the Plums & all Damsons are self-fertile (SF) but will produce more fruit if they too have a pollination partner. They flower from early April onwards so shelter is advisable for plums & gages in particular for good pollination when the weather is colder than when other fruit tree flower,

Group A

  • Jefferson's Gage

Group B

  • Coe’s Golden Drop
  • Warwickshire Drooper SF

Group C

  • Czar SF
  • Denbigh / Cox's Emperor
  • Early Rivers
  • Heron
  • Merryweather SF
  • Opal SF
  • Pershore Emblem
  • Purple Pershore SF
  • Sanctus Hubertus
  • Swan SF
  • Victoria SF
  • Yellow Egg SF

Group D

  • Cambridge Gage
  • Count Althans Gage
  • Farleigh Damson SF
  • Oullins Gage SF
  • Shropshire Prune SF

Group E

  • Belle de Louvain
  • Blue Tit SF
  • Marjories Seedling SF

Cherries

Some varieties are self fertile - Sunburst, Stella & Lapins. Other varieties are pollinated by self fertile and other self sterile varieties.  ‘Summersun’ is considered to be partially self fertile.

Quinces

Quinces are self fertile and produce very attractive white/pink flowers with large petals.

Crab Apples

Crab Apples

Crab apples are very good pollinators. They have a long flowering period which means they will pollinate a wide variety of fruiting apples that flower at different times. Commercially they are often used in orchards of few varieties to assist with pollination.

At blossom time...

Nice calm warm dry weather at flowering time will provide the best chance of good pollination - bees and other insects will be about in force. However the weather cannot be guaranteed and cold wet weather at blossom time can reduce the yield later on.

Late frosts can damage flowers so avoid planting in frost pockets. If uncertain avoid planting early flowering varieties.

To improve conditions for pollination plant trees in as sheltered position as possible with plenty of light. If planting in an open situation consider planting a natural hedge to slow down wind. Cold northerly and easterly winds in the spring can be harmful.