Apples are grown in every one of the continental states of the United States, with Washington, California, Michigan, New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania among the top producers. When growing your own apples, the concern does not center around whether you need male and female trees but which variety of apple tree can pollinate your trees.
Apple trees are considered self-incompatible, which means they need at least one other variety of apple tree to help them achieve pollination. Growers should select a variety to use as a pollinizer that has the same bloom time as their primary choice of apple tree.
For growers with limited space, nursery trees are available that include multiple compatible cultivars grafted onto a single tree, eliminating the need to plant multiple trees. Growers can also perform their own grafts to introduce a new cultivar or a pollinator or to reproduce a specific apple cultivar, as fruit trees do not grow true to seed.
Blooming dates for the pollinizer trees and the trees you hope to pollinate have to overlap. Apple trees tend to bloom early in the season, midseason or late in the season. Additionally, some cultivars have overlapping blooming seasons. For example, Enterprise has a bloom time that extends across midseason and late season.
Anna and Dorsett Golden bloom at the same time. Other varieties that share bloom times and so may be paired for pollination include Jerseymac, Ginger Gold, Gala, Mollie's Delicious, Red Delicious, Fuji, Mutsu, Yates and Granny Smith. Additionally, Priscilla, Ozark Gold, Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Rome Beauty, Stayman and Arkansas Black bloom together. "Some varieties, such as Winesap, Mutsu, Jonagold, and Stayman, produce sterile pollen and should never be used as pollinizers," according to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension.
Cultivars are available that offer disease resistance as well as making good pollinator pairings. Apple scab-resistant cultivars include Enterprise, Goldrush, Gala and Golden Delicious, which all pollinate with one another. Pristine pollinates with Williams' Pride, Redfree, Jonafree and Liberty. Jonafree pollinates with Goldrush or Enterprise. Williams' Pride, Redfree and Liberty will pollinate with a mid- or late-blooming cultivar.
Apple tree cultivars and varieties should be chosen to meet the conditions of your site, soil and hardiness zone, but many other features may guide your selection, such as the type of apples produced and their time of ripening, the tree's disease resistance, the amount of maintenance and upkeep the trees require, whether the trees are standard or dwarf and the rootstock and strain.
- North Carolina Cooperative Extension: Growing Apple Trees in the Home Garden
- U.S. Apple Association: All About Apples
- Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet: Growing Apples in the Home Orchard
- University of Minnesota Extension: Grafting and Budding Fruit Trees
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Apple
- University of Vermont: UVM Apple Program
Alice Moon is a freelance writer with more than 10 years of experience. She was chosen as a Smithsonian Institute intern, working for the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and has traveled throughout Asia. Moon holds a Bachelor of Science in political science from Ball State University.