MANHATTAN, Kan. — Planning to plant a single fruit-producing tree, shrub or vine this spring may not be enough — even for gardens with ideal growing sites. Some fruit-producing plants are called “self-pollinating” — although bees usually do the actual pollen-carrying.
Nonetheless, a self-pollinator can serve as its own source for the pollen it needs to produce fruit. Home gardeners only have to grow one plant, said Ward Upham, horticulturist with Kansas State University Research and Extension.
In contrast, other fruit-producing trees, shrubs, and brambles require a pollen source that’s a second cultivar — a different variety that produces the same general species of fruit.
Among these are the cultivars that produce pears, blueberries and elderberries.
“You’ve got to remember that when planning what to buy. Otherwise, you may be awfully disappointed,” Upham said.
“A Fuji apple tree, for example, can’t pollinate another Fuji and enable it to set fruit. To produce, a Fuji needs a different variety nearby — one that blooms at about the same time, such as the Braeburn apple.”
Nursery catalogs often recommend varieties to use as pollinizers or include compatibility charts. University of Missouri Extension also provides charts for most apple varieties, Japanese plums and most sweet cherries in its Pollinating Fruit Crops guide at http://extension.missouri.edu/explorepdf/agguides/hort/g06001.pdf.
Although apricots will produce fruit without a pollinator, a second variety helps insure larger crops.
Just one plant is adequate for both pollination and fruit development with the Golden Delicious apple, blackberry, tart (pie) cherry, Stella sweet cherry, currant, gooseberry, grape, peach, European plum, nectarine, raspberry and strawberry.
“Even so, when they’re growing fruits that don’t need one, some gardeners still will plant a second cultivar. They’ve found that many of our self-contained plants will also cross-pollinate whenever they can. These gardeners believe providing for that helps keep self-pollinators from becoming too inbred,” Upham said.
Fool Mother Nature
Gardeners who’ve already planted a single cultivar that truly requires a pollinator can fool Mother Nature.
“Find another gardener who’s growing a different cultivar of the same species. The two of you can then exchange bouquets of blossoms every two to three days through prime bloom time.
“You’ll need to place each new bouquet in a container of water and hang it on the sunny side of your tree. Bees will visit the bouquets’ flowers and take pollen from there to flowers in the tree.”