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Ashleigh Smith

Dec 30
4 min read
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Fruit Tree Selection and Pollination

If you are interested in planting fruit trees this coming season now is the time to select what you want. With recent shipping issues and plant material shortages along with everything else over the last year you will want to start planning now. As soon as your local nurseries are stocked, start buying your trees. Fruit trees are known to especially start selling out quickly.

Bare Root vs. Potted

When it comes to trees you have a couple of options for how to buy them. Fruit trees are most commonly sold in pots or bare root. Bare root simply means it is a young tree that is sold without a pot.

These trees are rooted out, unburied for shipping, and temporarily stored in a soil pit until sold. You will most likely take your tree home with the roots having been dipped in some water and wrapped in a large bag. This method is often the most cost effective for you and your local nursery or garden center. It costs much less for your local carrier to ship them in and they are much lighter to move for yourself.

This method does require prompt planting within a day for the best results. If it is going to be a few hours before you can get it in the ground, store with the roots in a bucket of water for no more than a day. Because they are shipped during their dormant period no harm is caused due to this process.

If you live in a colder climate bare root is often the best way to purchase a tree as it allows your trees to come out of dormancy with your natural growing season. If you are purchasing potted trees, the spring and fall are the best times to plant to avoid too much summer heat stress while the tree is adjusting to its new home.

Fruit Tree Heights

  • Standard - A standard fruit tree is the largest available size usually being 20-25ft with few going much beyond that. These varieties will produce 250-500 lbs of fruit. Because of its height a ladder will most likely be required to harvest the majority of your crop.
  • Semi-Dwarf - A semi-dwarf variety will give you large yields while being easier to maintain. The shorter the tree the easier it is to completely harvest and service from the ground. These varieties will often yield 200-400 lbs of fruit.
  • Dwarf - The dwarf size is the shortest and the easiest to manage. Because of its size it is often preferred for home gardens and small spaces. Dwarf varieties often yield 25-200lbs of fruit.
  • *yields will vary by fruit type on any given size


If you have been around the gardening world much you have probably heard of self-pollinating plants and others that require cross-pollination. Fruit trees are split between these two categories. Some are self-fruiting while others require another variety of the same type of tree.

For example, apple trees need to be cross pollinated. To achieve this you will want to plant two different varieties of apples that bloom during the same time frame. It is important that they are blooming at the same time for pollination to take place.

You can have two apple trees within a pollinator's travel distance, but it will not happen unless the blooms are out at the same time. Generally pollination is reliable if trees are planted within a quarter mile of each other, but the closer the better. To make sure your selected varieties will work together, check with a pollination chart.

  • Self-pollinating: Peach, apricot, nectarine, tart cherry, few quince, European plum (Stanley and Damson) and sweet cherry (Stella, Lapins and Starkrimson).
  • Partially Self-fertile: These types will produce fruit on their own, but have higher yields when planted with other varieties. These include some plums and pears.
  • Cross-pollinated: Apple, Pears, apricots (Perfection, Riland and Rival), sweet cherries, and plums (Japanese or Japanese/American hybrids).

Pollination Charts

Washington State University Chart


Missouri Extension Apple Chart 1

Missouri Extension Apple Chart 2


Missouri Extension Cherry Chart

Sky Nursery Cherry Chart

MSU Cherry Chart


Sky Nursery Plum Chart


Sky Nursery Pear Chart

Ashleigh Smith's photo

I'm Ashleigh Smith, a native to Northern Utah. I first gained a love of gardening with my grandmother as I helped her each summer. I decided to make a career of it and have recently graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Horticulture from Brigham Young University - Idaho. My studies have focused on plant production while I also have experience in Nursery & Garden Center Operations.


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