of Rhode Island GreenShare Factsheets
Fruit Trees Fail to Bloom
fruit tree will normally begin to bear fruit after it has become
old enough to blossom freely. Nevertheless, the health of the tree
and its environment, its fruiting habits and the cultural practices
used can influence its ability to produce fruit. Adequate pollination
is also essential to fruit yield. If just one of these conditions
is unfavorable, yields may be reduced or the tree may not bear any
fruit at all. The grower can exercise some control over most of
the factors contributing to fruit production.
Nursery-grown fruit trees are usually from one to two years old.
The length of time from planting to fruit bearing varies with the
type of fruit. Trees growing at a moderate rate generally bear fruit
sooner than those grown either too quickly or too slowly. Dwarf
fruit trees usually begin to bear one to three years sooner than
The age trees can be
expected to bear fruit after planting:
||2 to 5
||2 to 5
||3 to 5
||5 to 7
||3 to 4
||4 to 6
||4 to 6
||5 to 6
trees produce good quality fruit. Weak or diseased trees produce
little or no fruit or fruit of poor quality. Preventing insect and
disease damage is critical to tree health. It is often possible
to control insect and disease problems without the use of pesticides
or fungicides; see specific GreenShare Factsheets for more information
and control recommendations. It is also possible to purchase varieties
which are resistant to one or more of the common diseases.
Most hardy fruit trees need a certain amount of cold winter weather
to end their dormancy and to promote spring growth. When winters
are too mild, spring growth is delayed, irregular and slow, the
period of blooming is extended and the possibility of frost injury
cold during winter dormancy, however, may kill the fruit buds. Winter
weather rarely threatens apple, pear, plum and sour cherry varieties.
Sweet cherry trees are relatively sensitive to cold until they become
dormant. Peach trees are very vulnerable to cold weather; peach
buds can be killed by midwinter temperatures of 10 degrees F below
zero. The stone fruits--cherry, peach, plum and nectarine--can lose
cold hardiness due to extended midwinter warm periods. Damage to
the flower buds can be extensive, especially if the warm period
is followed by a very cold period.
the fruit buds grow and open, they become more susceptible to frost
injury. The exposed buds can usually withstand temperatures near
24 degrees F, but blossoms of practically all fruit trees will be
killed if the temperature drops below 24 degrees F. When a heavy
frost is expected, covering the trees will sometimes prevent bud
or blossom injury, provided temperatures do not fall too low and
the cold weather is of short duration. Polyethylene sheets or plastic
bags that reach to the ground are usually effective, but cheesecloth
and even old bed sheets may be used.
spring frosts, some commercial growers heat their orchards, but
this method is impractical for most home gardeners. An alternative
method is to sprinkle the trees with water. Start when the temperature
falls to the low 30s. Keep the water running until all the ice is
melted. Water must be dripping off the ice at all times or the plant
will suffer from frost damage. After a severe frost, injured blossoms
may appear normal, but if the pistils (center part of the blossoms)
are killed, the tree will not bear fruit.
fruit trees need to be pollinated. Without sufficient pollination,
they may blossom abundantly but will not bear fruit. Some species
of fruit trees have perfect flowers, where both the anthers, which
contain pollen, and the pistils, which develop into fruit, are located
in the same blossom. Trees that bear fruit as a result of pollination
from their own anthers are considered self-fruitful. Self-fruitful
tree fruits include quinces, sour cherries, apricots (except Perfection
and Riland), peaches (except the J.H. Hale and several others) and
European-type plums, such as the Stanley, Green Gage and Italian
are, however, many types of fruit with perfect flowers that cannot
produce fruit from their own pollen. These require pollen from another
variety and are called self-unfruitful. Self-unfruitful types include
most apple, pear, sweet cherry and Japanese and American plum trees.
To pollinate adequately, two or more varieties must be planted near
species of fruit trees do not fit conveniently into either category.
Some have pollen-producing male trees and fruit-producing female
trees. To grow these successfully, it is necessary to plant at least
one tree of each gender near each other. When selecting the varieties
of the self-unfruitful tree fruits, verify that the flowering periods
of the different varieties overlap. The following planting practices
are recommended for the self-unfruitful plants.
Plant at least two varieties of apple trees near one another. Golden
Delicious, a self-fruitful type, is one of the few exceptions to
this rule. Poor pollen-producing types, such as Baldwin, Gravenstein,
Stymen, Winesap and Rhode Island Greening, need to be planted with
at least two other varieties to ensure adequate pollination of all.
Pear: Many varieties of pears are completely or partially
self-unfruitful. For adequate pollination, plant at least two varieties
together. Note: Bartlett and Seckel pears will not pollinate each
other and Magness cannot be used as a pollinator.
Since most varieties of Japanese and American plums are self-unfruitful,
plant two or more varieties together.
Cherry: Bing, Lambert and Napoleon (Royal Ann) cherry trees
do not pollinate one another. Plant a pollinating variety, such
as Black Tartarian, Republican, Van or Windsor, or a sour cherry,
such as Montmorency, nearby.
Occasionally certain fruit trees, such as apples, bear heavily one
year and sparsely the next. This is called biennial bearing. The
buds of most hardy fruit trees are set during the previous summer,
and an especially heavy crop one year may prevent adequate bud formation
for the following year. Biennial bearing is difficult to alter or
correct. However, it is possible to induce a return to normal yearly
fruit production by early and heavy thinning during the year in
which the trees are producing their large yield. Thirty to 40 healthy
leaves are needed to produce good quality fruit; within 30 days
after bloom, thin to leave only four to seven fruit per yard along
Fruit trees need full sunlight for best production. Inadequate sunlight
delays the beginning of flowering and may reduce the amount and
size of fruit. Avoid placing fruit trees where they will be shaded
by buildings or by other trees. Trees will grow more vigorously
and bear better if they have adequate space to develop their root
systems. Do not plant where roots of trees or large shrubs will
compete for water and plant nutrients. Cultivate or mulch as necessary
to reduce competition from weeds or grasses.
adequate amounts of fertilizer to produce strong growth. Avoid excess
fertilizer, which will produce weak, leggy growth and delay the
setting of flower buds. Prune young apple trees to develop a strong
framework with a central leader and horizontal branches. Excessive
upright growth will delay fruit bearing and reduce the quantity
of fruit produced.
from Edmond L. Marrotte, Department of Plant Science, University
and USDA Leaflet No. 172
are poisonous! Read and follow all safety precautions on labels.
Handle carefully and store in original containers out of reach
of children, pets or livestock. Dispose of empty containers
immediately, in a safe manner and place. Pesticides should never
be stored with foods or in areas where people eat.
When trade names are used for identification, no product endorsement
is implied, nor is discrimination intended against similar materials.
Be sure that the pesticide you intend to use is registered for
the state of use.
The user of this information assumes all risk for personal injury
or property damage.
information, call the URI CE Gardening and Food Safety Hotline
at 1-800-448-1011 or (401)874-2929 from outside Rhode Island;
Monday-Thursday between 9 am and 2 pm.
of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension provides equal program