apple trees wont blossom

archeryteacherNovember 27, 2013

Hello all,
new to this forum.
I bought 16 apple trees approximately 15 years ago. They were already 4 feet tall. I don't know the types or names of them. Long story short, I have pruned, fertilized and mulched these trees every other year and still have not had one blossom or fruit on them. I also have not had a soil sample as these trees are on my hunting property quite some distance from home. Can any of you give me some advice on this subject. I would really love to have some apples in my life time.

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The pruning may be the issue?

The pruning method/procedure, the size you are maintaining the tree at, is it a standard, semi-dwarf, or dwarf rootstock, etc. are all very important variables.

If you are trying to maintain a standard tree at dwarf size, you will get rapid growth over flowering spurs. Ditto if the pruning method is removing the flowering spurs.

Additionally....full sun and easy on the nitrogen if/when fertilizing.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2013 at 4:48PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Something does sound very weird. Are your apple tree grafted? 4 feet in 15 years is incredibly slow unless they are grafted onto very dwarfing rootstock, but dwarfing rootstock normally results in early fruiting. Are you sure blossoms aren't forming and there's just isn't any fruit. I can imagine a situation where all the trees are the same non-self-fertile cultivar and no wild apples are in the area. In that case, the trees would still bloom but no fruit would be produced. How about the trees receive full sun?

    Bookmark   November 27, 2013 at 4:54PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

where in MI ... kinda a big state... between lake superior and toledo OH ...

late frost/freeze can kill flower buds, prior to fruit formation ... i am thinking you are way up north ...

but no luck on 16 trees in 15 years.... i also wonder what is missing from this fact scenario .... unless... again.. you are UP ...


    Bookmark   November 27, 2013 at 6:00PM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

Maybe a daft suggestion, but if they are some distance from your home is it possible they flower when you aren't there? Or something eats the fruit buds (bull finches do it here). If you don't have daily sight of them all sorts of things could be going on. And, although it sounds silly, are they definitely apples? There are so many variables to eliminate. A picture would establish the id for starters.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2013 at 7:00AM
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My trees are in Jackson, Mi. about middle of state and a little south of center. The trees were 4 ft tall when I purchased them. They are about 10 ft tall now and I prune them according to the videos I have seen on youtube. Most of the trees are full sunlight. I also have same amount of pear trees adjacent to apple trees. Only a few trees have produced pears. I took about 10 ft off of pear trees this year and thinned them out. Got about a dozen pears total.
One wild apple tree about 100 yards away was full of apples this year. This year was a great year for apples in this state. But no blossoms or fruit on my apple trees. I have them in cages so the deer can't get to them so I know they aren't eating the blossoms, if they in fact do blossom.
I will get a soil sample next spring and see what is up with nutritional value of land.
Not sure if these trees are dwarf trees or not. Lost receipt somewhere. But the lone wild tree was just busting down with apples this year...

    Bookmark   November 28, 2013 at 9:24AM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

That is stretching your pqtience for sure!

When does youtube say to prune them?

I am a few zones warmer so everything up north I blame on lack of cold hardiness.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2013 at 9:31AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I don't think a soil sample is going to tell you much about this particular situation. You say that a wild apple nearby is loaded with fruit, and I'd think it is likely to be growing in similar soil. How about other vegetation, especially trees, in the area...are they growing normally?

    Bookmark   November 28, 2013 at 1:00PM
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STOP....ALL FERTILIZING until they do bloom.
If and when that happens, cut back half the blossoms--which will reduce the volume of fruit but increase their size and put up a better fight against what would attack it.

As for pruning, when in difficulty, ask the experts---find an orchard grower in your area and ask his advice.
No need to concern yourself as far as pollination.....apples are so abundant there is no need to look for one to cross pollinate.
Keep lawn fertilizer away from grass that might be growing at its base....but otherwise, do not fertilize your trees AT ALL...until they produce.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2013 at 7:28PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"...apples are so abundant there is no need to look for one to cross pollinate."

In this case, yes (there was one that the OP knew of)...but sometimes that's not the case. Here, we've eliminated that as a possible cause of no fruit (of course if there really are no buds, pollination isn't the issue anyway).

"do not fertilize your trees"

I'd like to hear what's going on with other vegetation in the area before I think this is good advice beyond any doubt. Since the trees are growing so so so very slow, it doesn't sound like excessive vegetative growth could possibly have anything to do with the lack of blooming (if that's what you're thinking). I don't think the OP really needs a soil test, but I do think nearby surrounding vegetation might provide a clue as to where the ground was sufficiently fertile in that spot.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2013 at 11:57PM
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I pruned the trees in early March of this year. Took off all suckers and opened up the middle like they show in videos. Even tried hitting the trunk with the axe handle/baseball bat as one video showed. I know they should be pruned in January or Feb but I could not get into the property with all the snow. (two track for about 1/2 mile).
The trees sit in an opening in the woods about 4 acres in size. Scrub trees and rose bushes are growing in the clearing and the rest is food plots for deer, turkey etc. Clovers/rape/chickoery/alfalfa. Fertilizing is done with those jobes spikes they make for fruit trees and I use one per tree at the drip line. Next time I get out there, (should be today), I will take a picture and post them on here for all of you to see.
As for the pears/// I just pruned them this year for the first time. Didn't know about pruning them. I took off about half of their height and thinned a little. Got pears from about half of the trees and they are planted only 15 feet from the apple trees

    Bookmark   November 29, 2013 at 7:56AM
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Campanula UK Z8

I suggest you do NO pruning this year whatsoever - I am not going to make any assumptions but I suspect your pruning regime is partly to blame here - I sincerely doubt soil tests are going to be terribly helpful but a year of simply observing throughout the entire season may well offer up some revelations. The trees will not suffer in any way if merely left alone. If you can post some pics, this would also be very helpful.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2013 at 2:31PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I would certainly avoid "hitting the trunk with the axe handle/baseball bat"!!!

Also, save your money on the snake-oil Jobes spikes. They are a complete waste of money and effort.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2013 at 2:37PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i am in adrian MI ... 20 miles to the SE from you ... [for the others.. i know you know where adrian is] ....

there are dozens of orchards.. between us ... its inexplicable ... they should be plant and forget trees for you ....

it is one of the garden centers of MI ....

you should never need fert.. in any abundance ... though a little of this or that wont matter ...

did you lose track of them.. in the ensuing years???? .. can you affirmatively state ... that these are not understock????? .. some deer came along the first year.. and nibbled them to the ground??? ...

you might want to ask the same question in the FRUIT FORUM ... and see if they can come up with any logical answers ... link us on that.. if you do ..

i am 2 miles from that archery shop on 52 and valley ...


    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 9:22AM
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Campanula UK Z8

Um, I can't see how the reversion to rootstock would prevent either blossom or fruit set - rootstocks are merely cultivars of apples (or other fruit such as pears, plums etc.) selected for the eventual size according to innate vigour of the stock....which must be compatible with the scion. Even if the scion failed, surely the rootstock would grow and 15 years is long enough for any pome to reach flowering fruiting size.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 1:58PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

You mentioning you took 10' off the pears all in one go does suggest you may be over-pruning the apples also. The flower buds are formed the previous year and if you come along and cut away most of the top in March you are going to severely reduce the amount of flower buds that will be left to open that spring. But if there are any side branches left at all after you do your You Tube pruning then there should be at least some flowers still left.

This is one of those times where if there were pictures included in the post or if it was possible to visit the site of the planting and discuss the trees in person it would probably become immediately apparent what is going on.

Otherwise the discussion could just go around and around indefinitely without you finding out what you need to know. Unless you come up with some key information that opens the door for the other people here that are trying to answer your question.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 9:12PM
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Whatever else you do, since you presumably still have quite a number of apple trees, I recommend committing to leaving, oh, say, 3 of them strictly alone for, oh, say, 3 years. No pruning, no fertilizing, no nothing. Be interesting to whether anything comes of it.


    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 10:05PM
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Went back thru all of my records and found out a few important things that should help out.
The apple trees are red delicious s/d, and the pear trees are Bartlett dwarf..
They were actually purchased in 2004, so my first estimate was off quite a bit. This would make the trees approx. 13 or 14 years old as I was told they were 2/3 year old trees. I purchased these from the national arbor day foundation.
I am ignorant as to what the s/d on the red delicious stands for...
So now that I have finally recovered the info on the trees, maybe some of you smart and kind people can help me out.
I was thinking of buying either yellow delicious or jonathon apple trees this year to help with the cross pollination. Any suggestions?

    Bookmark   December 5, 2013 at 9:07AM
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treebarb Z5 Denver

I think the s/d is semi dwarf, meaning the tree should grow to 12-15 feet tall as opposed to a full size, standard tree. Red delicious appears to be self-sterile or self unfruitful, meaning it needs a cross-pollinator. You've picked two, golden delicious and jonathan, that will both work as cross pollinators. Another red apple will not work as a cross pollinator.

I think you've got it! I'd look for trees as least 3 or 4 years old so you can get some production going in the next few years. You've waited long enough!

I'm no expert, for sure, I just have 3 apple trees, a golden delicious, a granny smith and a honeycrisp. The golden, supposed to be self-fertile, grew for 10 years without once giving an apple. The year after I planted the granny smith I got a bumper crop from the golden. I think it just wanted a new friend, lol!

I think Ken gave you some good advice, head over to the Fruit and Orchard forum. They may be able to give you some good tips. They've really helped me with spraying programs.


    Bookmark   December 5, 2013 at 10:53PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"I think the s/d is semi dwarf, meaning the tree should grow to 12-15 feet tall as opposed to a full size, standard tree."

If semi-dwarf, it should grow 12-15 feet within a few years. The number of years depends on various things including climate, which could slow things up some in this case. After that, it should keep growing. 12-15 feet certainly wouldn't be the "ultimate height" with that type of rootstock.

"Another red apple will not work as a cross pollinator."

That is incorrect, even if you changed the word pollinator to pollenizer.

It would be interesting to know if the "wild" apple tree might not be so "wild" after all. If it were, you'd expect the chances of it being about to be a pollenizer to be reasonably high, and you'd think there would probably be other wild apple trees in the area.

Maybe planting some other cultivars is a good idea. They might do the trick, AND, they'll give you some variety.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 1:10PM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

The title of the post is 'apple trees won't blossom'. If the trees really aren't blooming then pollination isn't the issue.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 2:18PM
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Ok folks,
now for an update...
we had a very long and hard winter here. I could not even get into my property until mid April.
I did not prune my trees this year as it seemed too late. I did purchase three golden delicious trees that were considered mature according to the nursery. I planted them In late April. Yesterday was my first return out there. All of the new apple trees are in bloom, Yeah, however, none of the red delicious trees are in bloom. Not sure if they bloom later or earlier or same time, but it looks like no blooms.. I am totally confused by this. Plan on going back out in two weeks to check again. Any ideas, suggestions?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 10:32AM
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famartin(z5 NE NV)

Can we get pictures? Pictures are worth a thousand words...

    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 1:15PM
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