Per­fect­ing the plant­ing of trees

The Palm Beach Post - Residences - - Front Page - Jef­fRugg

Ques­tion: A few years ago we bought sev­eral fruit trees from a lo­cal hard­ware store. We bought a va­ri­ety of ap­ple, cherry, pear and peach trees, plus a lemon and an or­ange tree for in­doors. We did not ex­pect to see much fruit grow­ing for the first cou­ple of years, so we were happy to see a few pieces of fruit.

Fi­nally, more fruit ap­peared last sum­mer. But sev­eral trees pro­duced dif­fer­ent fruit than was shown on the tags at the store. There were sup­posed to be two kinds of red ap­ples and two kinds of golden or yel­low ap­ples, but all four trees had golden ap­ples. I think we might have the same prob­lem with the cher­ries, but we haven’t seen enough of that fruit to get an ac­cu­rate as­sess­ment. Are the trees planted too close to­gether, caus­ing the pollen to mix and form mutt fruits? Can I move the trees be­fore spring?

An­swer: What you are sug­gest­ing doesn’t ac­tu­ally hap­pen bi­o­log­i­cally. But be­fore I ex­plain that, I will tell you what I think hap­pened to your trees. I hate to say this since you’ve al­ready had the trees for so long, but some­how the trees were tagged wrong at the store. They all bear the same fruit be­cause they’re all the same tree. If you look at trees at dis­count stores, you can find ap­ple tags on pear trees, and so on. If you re­ally want spe­cific trees, I sug­gest that you get them from a nurs­ery that spe­cial­izes in sell­ing that tree.

The ed­i­ble part of a fruit that sur­rounds the seeds comes from the mother tree. Like a child, the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the off­spring fruit are de­ter­mined by the mother tree and father tree.

If you crossed an or­ange and a lemon, the next gen­er­a­tion fruit could ei­ther be or­anges or lemons, de­pend­ing on which tree sup­plied the fe­male flower. If you plant the seeds of the crossed or­anges and/or lemons, the new tree’s fruit might have a mix of or­ange and lemon fla­vors.

An­other part of your prob­lem is that the abil­ity to self-pol­li­nate is very im­por­tant when grow­ing fruit trees. Trees take up a lot of space. Of­ten­times the grower wants to grow more than one fruit. If the trees you have re­quire cross-pol­li­na­tion, then more trees — of the same species but dif­fer­ent cul­ti­vars — need to be planted to take up more room. Ev­ery va­ri­ety of fruit tree pol­li­nates in its own way. You need to be care­ful when pick­ing va­ri­eties to get the best match for the most fruit. Two of the same tree doesn’t help; they must be dif­fer­ent kinds.

Few ap­ple cul­ti­vars are self-fruit­ful. Even those that are self-fruit­ful will bear more fruit if crosspol­li­nated. Crabap­ple trees may be used as a pollen source. The only botan­i­cal dif­fer­ence be­tween ap­ple and crabap­ple trees is that ap­ple fruit is larger than 2 inches in di­am­e­ter.

Some apri­cots, nec­tarines and peaches are self-fruit­ful and some are self-un­fruit­ful. Some are also not good pol­li­na­tors and should be avoided.

Sim­i­larly, some plums are self-fruit­ful and some are self-un­fruit­ful. Euro­pean and Ja­panese va­ri­eties have dif­fer­ent bloom­ing times, which makes cross-pol­li­na­tion dif­fi­cult.

An­jou pears and Bartlett pears are par­tially self-fruit­ful. How­ever, they pro­duce bet­ter fruit through crosspol­li­na­tion. Some pear va­ri­eties pro­duce fruit partheno­carpicly, that is, with­out fer­til­iza­tion.

All sour cher­ries are self-fruit­ful. In con­trast, most sweet cher­ries are self-un­fruit­ful. And some va­ri­eties are cross-un­fruit­ful. Cherry va­ri­eties bloom over a longer pe­riod than most fruits. Cross­ings must be taken into ac­count.

Cit­rus trees used to be mostly self-fruit­ful, but newer va­ri­eties are of­ten self-un­fruit­ful. Seed­less cit­rus trees may pro­duce fruit partheno­carpicly, but if the trees are crosspol­li­nated, the fruit may ac­tu­ally have seeds. To help your in­door cit­rus trees, use a small paint­brush to pol­li­nate the flow­ers.

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