Why No Fruit?

Why No Fruit? - Solution Guide

Fruit trees must grow to a specific maturity before they can bear fruit. Different varieties reach their fruiting age at different times, and specific rootstocks directly correlate with how old a tree needs to be to begin bearing fruit.

For example, for Apples, full-sized trees or Standard trees will generally take 4 to 6 years to reach a mature age. Semi-dwarf rootstock trees typically start producing in about 3 to 4 years from planting, and Dwarf trees will bear in about 2 to 3 years from planting.

Other than maturity or age, the main reason fruit trees do not flower or bear fruit is improper tree vigor, which can be either too little or too much.

  • Fruit trees with vigorous growth are putting their energy into making new and more foliage at the expense of producing flowers or fruit. If the tree is past the above years to maturity, you can initiate fruiting by girdling or scoring the trees. Contact our customer service experts to get the details of this procedure.

Typical causes

  • Over-fertilization. Too much nitrogen in the soil. Have a soil test done to know for sure.
  • Are fruit trees surrounded by turf/lawn? Does the lawn get fertilized? If so, with what?
    • Most lawn fertilizers contain high amounts of nitrogen, which can cause adverse issues.
      • Create a turf-free zone around the base of trees just past the drip line.
    • Non-bearing trees should produce an average of 18 to 30 inches of new growth annually.
    • Trees of bearing age will slow down and produce 12 to 18 inches of new growth per year, with their remaining energy allocated to produce flowers and, eventually, fruits, which consume much of the tree's energy.
    • Trees of either age that produce more growth than this are either over-fertilized or over-pruned.
  • Heavy pruning or pruning in winter can cause excessive growth.
  • The lack of proper pruning can also result in trees staying vegetative, which means little to no blooms.
  • Thinning cuts create less vegetative growth and encourage more flower/fruit production.
    • Thin out damaged, diseased, and crossing branches to open the canopy.
  • Heading cuts stimulate non-fruiting vegetative growth and delay proper flowering.
    • However, apples, pears, European plums, and cherries perform best when trained as a central leader tree. The central leader should be headed back when the leader is about 4 to 5 feet high. This will encourage lateral branching that broadens the side branches, thus opening the tree to more sunlight, making more and sweeter fruits.
  • Peaches, nectarine, Japanese Plums and apricots require both heading and thinning cuts.
    • These varieties perform best when pruned into a Vase Shape with no central leader. They tend to have more excessive branches that need to be thinned out.

Other causes of trees not producing fruit

Cold Temperatures. Was there a late spring frost? Temperatures at 29°F or below will damage flower formation. Once flower buds begin to swell and develop, there is a risk of frost damage. If there was a possibility of frost, wait one day, then check blooms. Dark brown-black centers mean no fruit set that season. Extreme temperatures in mid-winter can also damage tissue and foil flowers. Apricots are extremely sensitive to late frosts, for example.

Poor pollination. What do your trees require for pollination partners? Bees are the primary pollination method; any interference with bees, rain, cold, wind, or pesticide use will affect bee activity. A minimum of 3 to 4 bee visits per flower daily is required for adequate pollination. Even if fruits are set, poor pollination can cause premature fruit drops, leaving gardeners disappointed and bewildered.

Some pesticide products. The insecticide Carbaryl (Sevin) applied during apple or pear bloom to one month after bloom has been shown to cause fruit drop. This can also happen if Carbaryl is sprayed too frequently or at a too high rate. READ the label.

NOTE: No Flowers on sexually mature trees usually means a combination of adverse issues may exist. Investigate all the possibilities and make necessary changes to keep trees happy, healthy, and productive. Having fruit every other year may mean the trees are over-fruiting one year, which depletes the tree's reserves and prevents it from setting blooms so it can recover the following year. To fight this situation, thin the fruit in early July when the fruit set is too heavy.