A 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. Perhaps the tree will not bear
fruit at all. The grower can exercise some control over most of the factors
contributing to fruit production.
Nursery-grown fruit trees will probably be 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 standard-size trees.
The age trees can be expected to bear fruit after planting:
||Time in Years
2 to 5
2 to 5
3 to 5
5 to 7
3 to 4
4 to 6
5 to 6
Healthy trees produce good quality fruit. Weak or diseased trees produce
little or no fruit or fruit of poor quality. The first step in fruit production
is to keep the fruit trees healthy. A University soil test will give you
accurate information about your soil as well as lime and fertilizer recommendations.
Two of the main problems involved are insects and diseases. Typical diseases
attacking the leaves and fruit on apple and pear trees are scab fungi.
The fungus, which causes brown rot on apricot cherry, peach and plum trees
can also attack the blossoms.
Diseases and insects can be controlled through the periodic applications
of the proper insecticide and/or fungicide. Do not spray insecticides
when the trees are flowering, as this will kill the bees needed for pollination.
These materials, if used properly, can be effective against most fruit
tree pests. When fruit trees are not sprayed properly or are left untreated,
disease and insects may restrict the size and quality of the yield, although
the tree itself usually continues to bear fruit. It is also possible to
purchase varieties that are resistant to one or more of the common diseases.
Contact the Cooperative Extension Center for control fact sheet for specific
Climate and Weather
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. These factors extend
the period of blooming and, thereby, increase the possibility of frost
Extreme cold during winter dormancy may kill the fruit buds. Winter weather
rarely threatens apple, pear, plum and sour cherry varieties. Sweet cherry
trees, however, are relatively sensitive to cold until they become dormant.
Peach trees are very vulnerable to cold weather. Midwinter temperatures
around 10°F below zero can kill their buds. 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.
As the fruit buds begin to grow and open, they become more susceptible
to frost injury. The exposed buds can usually withstand temperatures near
24°F. However, the open blossoms of practically all fruit trees will
be killed if the temperature drops below 24°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. Cheesecloth and even old bed sheets
may be used. During 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 most 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.
All 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. Both the anthers, which contain pollen, and
the pistils, which develop into fruit, are located in the same blossom.
If they bear fruit as a result of pollination from their own anthers,
these trees are called 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 prune.
However, there are 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 each
Some species of fruit trees do not fit conveniently into either category.
Some have pollen-producing male trees and female trees that produce fruit.
To grow them successfully, it is necessary to plant at least one tree
of each gender near each other. Fruits grown in Connecticut fitting this
category are the hardy kiwi and persimmons. When selecting the varieties
of the self-unfruitful tree fruits, make sure 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, Staymen, Winesap
and Rhode Island Greening, need to be planted with at least two other
varieties to ensure adequate pollination of all.
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.
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 have been set during the previous summer. Therefore,
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.
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 them where roots of
trees or large shrubs will compete for water and plant nutrients. To reduce
competition from weeds or grasses, cultivate, use mulch or carefully apply
a properly registered herbicide. Avoid excess fertilizer that 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. Prune out water sprouts as excessive upright growth will delay
fruit bearing and reduce the quantity of fruit produced. About 30 to 40
healthy leaves are needed to produce a good quality fruit. Within 30 days
after bloom, thin fruit to leave only four to seven fruit per yard along
For pesticide recommendation, call UConn Home and Garden Education
Center at 877-486-6271
This information was developed for conditions in the Northeast.
Use in other geographical areas may be inappropriate.
The information in
this material is for educational purposes. The recommendations contained
are based on the best available knowledge at the time of printing.
Any reference to commercial products, trade or brand names is for information
only, and no endorsement or approval is intended. The Cooperative Extension
system does not guarantee or warrant the standard of any product referenced
or imply approval of the product to the exclusion of others which also
may be available.All agrochemicals/pesticides listed are registered
for suggested uses in accordance with federal and Connecticut state
laws and regulations as of the date of printing. If the information
does not agree with current labeling, follow the label instructions.
The label is the law.Warning! Agrochemicals/pesticides are dangerous.
Read and follow all instructions and safety precautions on labels.
Carefully handle and store agrochemicals/pesticides in originally labeled
containers immediately in a safe manner and place. Contact the Connecticut
Department of Environmental Protection for current regulations.The
user of this information assumes all risks for personal injury or property
damage.Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of
May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, Gregory J. Weidemann, Director, Cooperative Extension System,
The University of Connecticut, Storrs. The Connecticut Cooperative
Extension System offers its programs to persons regardless of race,
color, national origin, sex, age or disability and is an equal opportunity