Fresh apples in the fall taste so delicious, especially when you grow them yourself! For many home gardeners, self-pollinating apple trees can make things a whole lot simpler.
Keep reading if you’re wondering if a self-pollinating apple tree might be right for you. In this article, you’ll learn the basics of apple pollination and see why self-pollinating varieties make a practical choice. You’ll discover some self-pollinating apple tree varieties to try and get some ideas for growing your own!
All About Apple Pollination
All apple trees require some pollination to produce fruit, even self-pollinating apple trees. The difference is in whether or not you need more than one tree to pollinate the apple blossoms.
How Apple Trees are Pollinated
In the spring, apple trees produce blossoms. When pollen is transferred from one flower to another, the flowers become fertilized and develop into a fruit. Without that fertilization, no fruit develops.
Bees are the most common pollinators for apples, especially honey bees, solitary bees, and bumblebees. They fly between apple blossoms carrying pollen from flower to flower, sometimes from tree to tree.
Apples can also be pollinated by hand. Take a small paintbrush or cotton swab and swirl the tip gently from the center of one flower to another. The best time to hand pollinate is in the first 1-3 days after the apple blossom opens.
Most apple trees require cross-pollination. That means the blossoms must be fertilized with pollen from another apple variety to produce fruit.
For apple trees to cross-pollinate, they must be planted fairly close to each other. Somewhere around 25-100 feet apart. That way, bees can fly between the trees carrying pollen from one variety to another.
Some apple varieties are better companions than others. What makes it even more complicated is some apples produce sterile pollen and cannot be used to pollinate other varieties at all. These types of apples are called triploids and include varieties like Jonagold and Winesap.
Self-pollinating apple trees don’t need another variety nearby. As the name implies, this type of apple tree pollinates itself.
The pollen still needs to move from one flower to another, but no other variety is required to produce fruit. The blossoms on a self-pollinating apple tree fertilize each other (with a little help from the bees or a gardener using hand pollination).
If you’d like to learn more about apple pollination, check out this article that goes into more detail.
Why Choose a Self-Pollinating Apple Tree
Self-pollinating apple trees have a lot of advantages. You don’t have to worry about what kinds of apples make good pollinators for each other or figure out how to care for multiple types of trees.
All you need is one tree!
Apple trees need a lot of room to grow. Many home gardeners don’t have the space to plant multiple apple trees.
If space is limited, there might only be room for a single fruit tree. Self-pollinating apple tree varieties are the only type of apple you can grow with just one tree.
Purchasing multiple apple trees can get expensive. Even after your initial purchase, fertilizer, mulch, water, and other ongoing expenses increase for each additional apple tree you have.
Purchasing one self-pollinating apple tree is a good way to keep costs down.
Having a self-pollinating apple tree means you only need one. One tree is easier to care for than multiple trees and doesn’t take as much time to plant or harvest.
Not all apple trees make good pollinating pairs. Choosing a self-pollinating tree eliminates the need to determine which varieties work well together and which don’t.
Multiple apple trees may provide too many apples for one gardener to use. Even with preserving and sharing the harvest, apples may go to waste.
Having a single apple tree is a smart way to keep your harvest manageable while still getting plenty of apples to use and share.
Which Apple Trees are Self-Pollinating?
Now that you know why self-pollinating apple trees are a good idea, here are some varieties to check out!
Reliably Self Fertile Apples
These varieties of apples are excellent all on their own. They reliably produce a good-sized crop without any pollinators nearby.
Grimes Golden apples are a lovely golden yellow on the outside and bright white on the inside. The medium-sized fruit is sweet and crunchy. The trees grow well in USDA hardiness zones 5-8.
Sweet, crisp, and absolutely delicious, the Golden Delicious apple lives up to its name! This variety produces a large crop each year. They grow well in zones 4-9.
Is there a more classic pie apple? Granny Smith apples have a delicious sweet and tart taste when baked into an apple pie.
Stark Jon-A-Red Jonathan
The Stark Jon-A-Red Jonathan variety produces bright red apples on compact trees. They’re the perfect choice for a gardener with limited space. This type grows well in zones 5-8
Starkspur Red Rome Beauty
Another tart apple, the Starkspur Red Rome Beauty, is ideal for baking but tastes fresh from the tree. This variety grows well in zones 4-8.
Partially Self Fertile Apples
Partially self-fertile apple trees will produce fruit all on their own, but you’ll get a larger and better crop with a pollinator.
These varieties can be a good choice if you have a neighbor growing apples or a crab apple tree down the street. Even if not, you’ll still get to harvest apples from just one of these trees.
With a rich, tangy flavor and a deliciously crisp texture, the Braeburn variety is a versatile apple that works well for many different uses. These trees are hardy in zones 5-8.
Cortland apples are ideal for slicing or serving raw in recipes because they don’t turn brown. This variety is cold-hardy in zones 4-8, so it’s a great option for growers in more northern areas.
Disease resistant to fire blight and cedar apple rust, Empire apples are an excellent choice for any home gardener. This variety grows well in zones 4-7.
Ways to Grow an Apple Tree
Are you ready to start growing your own self-pollinating apple tree? Here’s how to get started!
Growing Apple Trees from Seed
Growing an apple tree from a seed is possible, but it’s certainly not easy and takes a very long time.
Apple trees start from seed, and producing fruit takes around 8-10 years. If you’re interested in learning more about planting your own self-pollinating apple trees from seed, check out How to Grow an Apple Tree from Seed
Purchasing Young Trees
A much more common way to start growing an apple tree is to purchase a young tree from a garden center or nursery.
A healthy plant from a nursery will start producing fruit in 2-8 years, depending on the variety and size of the tree. Larger trees usually cost a bit more, but you’ll get fruit sooner.
Once you get your tree home, check out the Complete Apple Tree Care Guide to get your tree off to a great start.
Frequently Asked Questions about Self-Pollinating Apple Trees
Will I still get a lot of apples from a self-pollinating tree?
Yes, you can still get a large harvest of apples from a self-pollinating tree, but you probably won’t get as many as you would if you had a pollinator.
Even though the harvest may be smaller, a single self-pollinating apple tree can still produce more than enough apples for a single household to use in any given year. With some leftovers to share with friends and neighbors!
Where can I get self-pollinating apple trees?
Local nurseries are a great place to look for apple trees of all varieties, including the self-pollinating type. Local stores carry varieties that are well suited to their location, so you can feel confident that an apple tree bought locally will work well for your growing zone.
The hard part about local nurseries is that the selection is often limited. They may carry only a few varieties of apple trees.
If you don’t find what you’re looking for, online retailers like Stark Bros and Nature Hills Nursery have a wide selection of trees available that ship right to your door.
When is the best time to plant an apple tree?
Whether starting from seed or with a young tree, spring is the best time to plant apple trees.
Time to Start Growing Some Self-Pollinating Apple Trees
Whether you plant just one or several varieties, growing self-pollinating apple trees is a great way to save money while still enjoying plenty of apples. For more information on growing and eating apples, make sure to visit the apple trees page.
There you’ll find articles on caring for apple trees, tips on harvesting and preserving apples, apple recipes, and much more. You may even discover a new variety of apples to try!