Pollinating Apples

Apples August 17, 2013 Print Friendly and PDF

Figure 1. Bumblebee on apple blossom (Alan R. Biggs, West Virginia University)

Apples require cross-pollination for optimal fruit set and size.  Cross-pollination involves the transfer of pollen from one apple cultivar to another by pollinating insects, such as bees which are referred to as pollinators.  The cultivar supplying the pollen is called the pollinizer.  For successful pollination to occur, bloom periods must overlap.  Triploids apple cultivars, such as 'Mutsu', 'Jonagold', and 'Shizuka', cannot supply viable pollen and are unsuitable as pollinizers.

Bee hives in apple orchard

Figure 2. Bee hives in a commercial apple orchard (Mike Parker, NCSU)

Apples are generally categorized as having early, mid or late season bloom periods. To assure adequate pollination, select at least 2 to 3 cultivars that bloom within the same time period.  Crabapples can also be used as pollinizers when they are interspersed in the row.  One cultivar commonly used for pollination of many cultivars is 'Golden Delicious', which is considered a mid-season blooming cultivar.


Mike Parker, North Carolina State University
Michelle Warmund, University of Missouri

Connect with us

  • Facebook


This is where you can find research-based information from America's land-grant universities enabled by eXtension.org



Apple Rootstocks

  • All about understanding and choosing the right rootstock

Apple Cultivars

  • Characteristics, descriptions, and how to choose the best to grow and eat

Establishing an Apple Orchard

  • Buying and planting trees

Managing Apple Trees and Orchards

  • Insects, diseases, wildlife and other challenges

Propagating Apple Rootstocks and Trees

  • Grafting, budding, tissue culture, and all about how rootstocks are developed

Regional Resources

  • Links to apple information specific to your area


This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.