If asked to pick a fruit that tastes like summer, my guess is peaches would score pretty high in the answers! Farmers’ market vendors have baskets overflowing with fragrant peaches for pies, cobblers, and homemade ice cream. Yum!
Everyone loves thinking about eating homegrown peaches, but have you ever thought about peach tree pollination? Have you struggled to coax measly yields from your tree?
If so, this is the place to be! Keep reading to learn all about pollinating peach trees and what you can (and can’t) do to facilitate successful pollination each year.
Do Peach Trees Need Cross-Pollination?
There’s good news here – most peaches are self-fertile, meaning one tree planted all by itself will produce fruit. There are some varieties that need pollination partners, but most common peaches fall into the self-fertile category.
What Does Self-Fertile Mean?
Self-fertile, or self-pollinating, peach tree flowers have a male part (the anther) and a female part (the stigma) that the pollen passes between, which results in fruit forming in the ovary.
The pink blossoms of peach trees attract two groups of insects: those in search of pollen and those in search of nectar. This increases the odds of visits to the blossoms by insects that cause the pollen to drop from the anther to the stigma – the more, the merrier when it comes to pollinating peach tree blossoms!
It’s worth noting that even self-pollinating peach trees will produce more fruit if another of the same tree is planted within 100 feet. So if you want a heavy yield and you have the room, consider planting two peach trees.
Peaches That Need Pollination Partners
Some varieties require pollination partners, which means planting more than one variety of peach. You can even plant a self-pollinating peach nearby to pollinate a non-self-pollinating peach tree.
But there’s more to it than just planting two types to successfully pollinate peach trees. You have to make sure that both peach varieties bloom at the same time. To make sure you select two peaches that are good pollination partners, spend some time doing online research. Orange Pippin Trees has a handy pollination checker feature on the website that displays recommended pollinator peaches for the peach tree name you specify.
Help! I have a small garden that doesn’t have room for two peach trees!
If you’ve got your heart set on a non-self-pollinating peach, but your yard can’t accommodate two peach trees, all is not lost! You can get peach trees that have one, or up to four, pollination partners grafted onto them. The tree provides its own peach tree pollination via the different varieties growing on the same tree.
To learn more about multi graft trees, read our blog post on 4 in 1 Apple Trees.
Which Peaches Are Self-Fertile?
Some of the well-known self-fertile peach varieties include:
- Carolina Belle
- China Pearl
- Contender (can be pollinated by Carolina Gold, Intrepid, PF8 Ball)
- Elberta (but can be pollinated by Red Haven)
- Red Haven
- Summer Pearl
Which Peaches Need Pollination Partners?
Some non-self-fertile peach varieties to look for are:
- Dwarf Frost
- Hal-Berta Giant (any other peach tree can be a pollination partner if the bloom times coincidence)
- J.H. Hale
Remember to do your homework to find the best pollinator peaches for any of these.
Best Practices for Peach Tree Pollination
While pollination is often up to the mercy and good pleasure of Mother Nature, gardeners do have some degree of control over the process – by following best practices that encourage ideal conditions for successful peach tree pollination.
Best Planting Practices
Plant your peach trees at the right time – in spring or early summer.
Plant your trees at least 20’ apart.
Select a planting with well-draining soil – avoid rocky or clay soils. Rocky soil runs the risk of your tree drying out and clay soil is prone to holding water and causing root rot.
Conduct a soil test and amend to provide proper minerals and nutrients.
Best Watering Practices
Water properly. Peach trees need 36” of water a year.
Spread a layer of mulch to retain moisture (mulching also helps with weed control).
Best Pruning Practices
Prune your peach tree properly for the time of year. You’ll prune differently in late winter and early spring than you will once fruit begins to form.
Best Tree Care Practices
Remove all blooming weeds from your garden. The pollinator insects don’t need extra flowers luring them away from your peach tree blossoms!
Prevent Fungal Diseases
Some diseases will affect the fruit of your peach tree. Keep your tree healthy of fungal disease by following a good watering schedule and picking up debris after pruning. Fungicides are another defense against disease and there are great organic options on the market.
Guard Against Pests
How annoying will it be to lose the harvest you’ve anticipated to greedy, destructive pests? Know how to spot the signs of critters attacking your peach tree early and have a plan for eliminating them by reading our Peach Tree Pests guide.
Bonus Best Practice
Consider having a beehive! It’s simple math – the more pollinators visiting your tree, the more blossoms get pollinated.
Lending a Hand to Peach Tree Pollination
If you’ve done all the best practices, but your tree is still putting forth puny yields (or no yields) then it’s time for a peach tree pollination intervention. Things like bad weather conditions or low insect populations in your area during peach bloom time are out of your control but remember – you know how pollination works so you can help it along.
When it comes to pollinating peach trees that need cross-pollination from another variety, there’s an easy technique you can use. Cut branches with blossoms on them from one tree and hang them in watering containers in the other tree to encourage cross-pollination by insects or wind.
Self-Fertile Tree Method
Low pollinator insect population means the manual labor isn’t showing up to do the work on your peach tree. So you have to fill in and do their job.
Manually pollinating peach tree blossoms is done by using cotton swabs or balls, an artist’s brush or another type of small paint brush to gather pollen from one flower and gently dust the next flowers with it.
The word to focus on is gently! Peach blossoms can be fragile and if you tap them too hard or swipe at them, you’ll knock them off the tree and no fruit will come from a flower that’s not on the tree.
While you can get by with doing this one time, you may need to make a second pass during nice weather to pollinate peach tree blooms that opened late.
You may also need to experiment from year to year with different “pollinator tools” and which week in the blooming season works best.
If this sounds like a lot of work, you’re right. This isn’t a technique for pollinating peach tree orchards. It’s best used for small-sized trees or if you just have one tree. Enlisting people to help you with your peach tree pollination, rather than going it solo, is a good idea, too. Why not make a Pollination Party out of it?
Why Aren’t There Any Peaches on My Tree?
There are many obstacles standing in the way of peach tree pollination! Some of them you can account for and others you just have to endure and hope for better next year! Some common pollination problems are:
Bad (or no) Pruning
The right pruning techniques encourage fruit, not new growth. Peach trees that don’t get pruned won’t produce flowers and fruit as they should. Once fruit forms, fruit thinning results in the best fruit harvests (leave 6-8 fruits per branch)
Not Enough Chill Hours
If you have an especially mild winter, you might not get any peaches the following summer. Fruit trees need to go into dormancy which can’t happen if it doesn’t get the minimum required chill hours below a certain temperature.
Temperatures Too Low
Peaches flower early so late cold spells can result in flower buds not opening. Just as you don’t want winter to be too mild, you also don’t want it to be bitterly cold either. Winter temperatures that drop below -20 degrees can spell disaster for peach trees.
Soil is Mineral Deficient
Peach trees need 10 minerals for optimal health. A soil test is an easy way to know if you need to add anything and it was also let you know if there’s too much of anything you need to lower in the soil.
Tree Got Too Much Nitrogen From Fertilizing
What you feed your lawn also goes into any trees planted in the lawn. Lots of nitrogen gives you lush, green grass to walk barefoot on, but if you happen to have a peach tree planted in the middle of that lush, green grass, it’s unlikely you’ll get any juicy peaches to enjoy in the late summer.
Low Pollinator Insect Population
As mentioned before, pollinator insects are the winged day laborers who do the job of moving pollen around. If you have a worker shortage, the result is a fruit shortage.
Peach trees need proper spacing for their mature spread. The rule of this is 10’ apart for dwarf trees, 15’ apart for semi-dwarf trees, and 20’ apart for standard trees. These are the spacing minimums for each tree size.
Poor Watering Schedule
True for most plants, underwatering or overwatering a peach tree is bad for the tree in general and affects fruit production.
Lack of Sun
Peach trees need 6-8 hours of full sun in order to form good fruit.
Spring wind storms can damage buds before flowering or damage the blossoms once they’ve bloomed.
It’s unlikely you’ll run into this one if you’ve planted a tree you bought from a nursery. Peaches start producing fruit when they’re 3-4 years old, so if you’ve grown a peach tree from seed, you’re going to need the patience to wait a few years before you can expect to bite into homegrown peaches!
Heavy Crop Last Year
Be careful what you wish for! A heavy yield of peaches one year takes a toll on the tree’s energy for producing fruit the next year. After an especially bountiful peach crop, the tree won’t produce blossoms the following spring.
Maybe you’ll be okay with every-other-year peach harvests. But if they’re really good peaches, you’ll probably want to use fruit thinning to keep the fruiting under control so they’ll show up each year.
Bad Neighbors in the Site Selection
If your peach tree has to compete with other plants for water and nutrients, it won’t be able to direct energy into producing fruit.
Using this particular insecticide can cause part or all of the fruit to drop after application.
Know Your Tree and Know When It Needs Help Pollinating
We hope this guide has been helpful in educating you about peach tree pollination and all the factors that impact it. Peach trees are actually some of the most low-maintenance kinds of fruit trees if you opt for the self-fertile varieties. But even when you select the best trees and grow and care for them under the best conditions, peach tree harvests can fail for various reasons.
If that happens to your tree, you’ll be able to troubleshoot why and be on guard next growing season.
To learn even more about peaches, visit our Peach Trees page for all our blog posts and guides on this fruit.