Having an apple tree on your property is a great idea for a variety of reasons. Apple trees are quite popular because not only do they look very good, but they also give off gorgeous flowers.
In the springtime, your apple tree is definitely going to be the biggest attraction in your garden. Proper care of the apple tree is also equally important. If you do not care for the tree, it simply won’t bear fruit or bloom.
Obviously, if all the conditions are met and the soil is ideal, the right tree will give off a gorgeous show of blossoms every time spring rolls in. However, many people are often disappointed when spring comes around.
If your apple tree is not flowering consistently every year, it is probably because you are not doing something right. A lot of people are under the impression that the apple tree will give off flowers on its own.
Obviously, that’s not true. Proper care is required, even more so in some cases than others, if you want your apple tree to bear fruit or give flowers.
There are a number of things that you need to know about growing apple trees. It is the dream of many gardeners to grow their own apple trees and eat fruit from their own gardens.
But, before you start growing the tree, there are a few important things that you need to take into account.
Where Does the Apple Tree Grow?
Climate is one of the most important factors that you need to take into account when it comes to growing apples. As a general rule, apple trees are known as hardy trees, and they usually grow best in hardiness zones 3 to 5.
On the other hand, if you are going for a long-season apple tree, the quality of the apples will be best if your tree is planted between zones 5 and 8. If you have just bought a tree, don’t expect this information on the tag. You will have to go through the catalog to find this information.
Many different varieties of apple also need a specific number of “chill hours” before the tree will flower or bear fruit. If your house is located up north, the tree will receive more chill hours.
This will also help you prevent those freezing problems that usually occur in the late spring. Climate and environment are both critical factors.
The apple tree simply won’t bloom if it is planted in the wrong location, or if the conditions are not appropriate for the tree. If you plant an apple tree that is suitable for hardiness zones 3 to 5 in zone 10 for instance, it simply won’t bloom.
You will also notice that the tree will have an “unhappy appearance.” Remember, cultivars of the apple tree usually need a certain number of hours in a day under 45 degrees F. These are the chill hours, as described above.
If the temperature doesn’t drop enough during the winter dormancy period, the tree won’t bloom. If the tree doesn’t get this temperature, it’s unable to determine whether spring has arrived (their neural network gets confused), and as a result, it doesn’t bloom.
It also happens in places where the weather gets incredibly hot, such as in tropical or temperate regions.
More importantly, you should know that the apple tree prefers full sunlight, so you have to plant it in a location where it will get a maximum amount of sunlight in a day.
If you plant your apple tree in partial shade, it could simply affect the quality of the bloom. There might not be a bloom in the first place.
More importantly, you have to think about spacing. Apple trees like a bit of space, so planting two or three close to each other is a bad idea, and it will affect the trees’ ability to bloom properly.
The apple trees don’t like to be crowded, as this could stifle the air circulating around the tree. It diminishes the amount of nutrients available in the soil, and it also blocks the sunlight.
Cultivar and Age of the Tree
Another thing that you need to know about the apple tree is that it is not going to bloom until the tree comes of age. Blooming basically is the start of the tree’s reproductive phase.
Just like animals, trees need to be of a certain age before they are able to reproduce. If you are expecting the apple tree to give off flowers in the first year of planting, you are aiming too high.
Apple trees will not bloom until they are at least two years of age. Most people think that the age begins from the time they are seeded. That’s not true. This begins from the time when they are planted in the ground.
More importantly, you should know that not all of the cultivars bloom around this time. Certain cultivars tend to flower at different times. For instance, the Macintosh and the Gravenstein cultivars are not going to bloom in the first two years.
They usually start blooming any time between three and five years. More importantly, you should know that dwarf apple trees give off flowers much quicker than the larger trees.
The larger trees tend to utilize most of their energy into rapid growth. As a result of that, they tend to take considerably longer to bear fruit or bloom.
An important thing that you need to consider is that the apple tree needs a precarious balance of soil and food. If the composition of soil is not per the tree’s liking, it won’t bloom.
You have to understand that it is absolutely possible to overfeed or underfeed your apple tree. For instance, if you provide the tree with lots of food but the right mix of soil elements or food elements is not present, the tree will begin to starve.
Similarly, you might provide the right balance of elements, but the lack of food will be a problem. A vast majority or tree owners make the grave mistake of adding too much fertilizer to their tree.
For instance, many people think that nitrogen-based fertilizers are good for their trees. For the most part, they really are. Nitrogen-based fertilizers cause the tree to grow at an unprecedented rate.
While that’s really good, you have to understand that the tree simply channels all of its energy in growth. This can cause problems with blooming.
More importantly, any action that you take that is designed to increase the rate at which your tree grows, such as excessive pruning, will also affect the blooms. It’s one of the reasons why the smaller (dwarf trees) tend to bloom much faster and also bear fruit quicker.
Simply put, their energy is not being expended in vigorous growth, so they are able to utilize it and channel it for blooms and bearing fruit.
The apple tree is capable of growing in a range of different soils, including medium textured clay as well as gravelly sand. The best type of soil is a well-draining medium-clay soil. Even sandy loam fertile soils that teeter toward acidic soils on the pH scale are a great choice.
If your tree is more than two years old and it is not blooming, there are a series of different measures that you can take to try and correct the problem. First of all, you should begin with a soil test.
A soil test will help you determine whether your tree is receiving the appropriate mix of nutrients that it needs to grow. You should get in touch with a professional gardening company to get the soil test done.
This is critically important because you have to eliminate issues that can prevent the tree from blooming. Once you are sure that the soil is not the problem, you can move to the next step.
When pruning the tree, you need to eliminate only those branches that are required to protect the stability of the tree. This is going to allow the tree to redirect its energy into blooming instead of healing.
More importantly, root pruning is another excellent way to encourage good blooms. Using a spade is a great idea for proper pruning.
To prune the trees properly, you need to first push the spade all the way into the ground, and then repeat it carefully around the perimeter of your tree. You should know that there are smaller sucker roots that continue to sap your tree’s energy.
This also reduces the amount of energy available for the tree in its immediate surroundings. Once you have removed the sucker roots, the tree will be able to utilize this energy to bloom instead of expanding the roots.
Dealing with Pest Problems
Another issue that can prevent your trees from flowering or bearing fruit is a pest problem. Certain insect pests such as the winter moth can cause the tree to completely lose its ability to bear fruit.
If you notice grease bands on the trees over the winter, you should take care of the problem quickly. Unfortunately, most people don’t, and this is a prime spot for wingless winter moths (females) to lay eggs in the branches.
There are plenty of steps that you can take to take care of the problem. While there are plenty of pesticides out in the market, you should know that the best way to deal with the problem is to create a garden that promotes biodiversity.
This way, certain “good” bugs will be able to keep the pest population in check. Also, you need to understand that certain bugs, such as the bullfinch, will peck on and seal the developing buds on the fruit trees during the early weeks of spring.
If the trees are relatively small, you might want to place a few stakes or canes to support the netting. You must ensure that it doesn’t touch the foliage too. Also, the net needs to extend all the way to the ground so that the birds can’t get in from below.
Dealing with pest and bird problems is very important, and the best way to do that is by keeping a close eye on your trees. Make sure that you closely observe the trees from time to time to ensure that there are no pests.
If you are confused, it is best to get in touch with a gardening company. They will give you a better idea about whether your tree is exposed to pests or other problems.
A lack of pollination is one of the major reasons why your apple trees might not flower. This usually happens due to a lack of insect activity, and it’s something that you need to take seriously.
Bees and pollinators are generally not willing to pollinate the flowers when there’s a lot of wind in the air. Similarly, if the weather is cold or there’s rain, you can’t expect much pollination.
If the weather remains bad for a considerable period of time, you should know that insects are likely to remain and move about within a sheltered garden rather than moving about in an exposed garden.
If you can add a bit of screening, such as adding a hedge to the garden, it could allow for greater insect activity. It’s a wise move and definitely worth trying.
You should know that frost in the spring can also kill the blooms. If there is a forecast for frost, the best thing to do is cover them up. You can use a tulle or a garden fleece to protect your apple tree.
Don’t forget to remove the garden fleece during the day because the trees will need adequate pollination from the insects. Leaving it covered is not a wise move.
More importantly, you should use natural pesticides to get rid of harmful pests from your trees. These are just a few ways to promote flowering on your apple tree.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.
Mr John Locke
Sunday 31st of July 2022
I would Like to know how far from the point the trunk enters the soil I should insert my spade at spade depth in a circle around my appletree.I assume the aim is to restrict the root system to the deeper roots so reducing the production of excessive foliage at the expense of no blossom. email@example.com
Mr John Locke
Sunday 31st of July 2022
A lot of interesting detail, thanks. Root pruning around the tree to encourage blossom is new on me, it presumably makes the tree use its deeper root system and inhibits excessive foliage growth,but HOW FAR FROM THE POINT WHERE THE TRUNK ENTERS THE SOIL do I insert my spade in a circle around the tree?
Something I read elsewhere was to avoid excessive pruning.So in my winter pruning should I only remove main branches that crowd the tree excessively and take care not to remove those short spurs that leave horizontally from the main stems?
Many thanks John
Monday 1st of August 2022
Hi John, Thanks for the questions. This article by MSU goes into great detail about root pruning, including the distance from the trunk to cut based on the size of the trunk and what you are trying to achieve: https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/root_pruning_guide_for_apple_trees_to_reduce_excessive_vigor
As far as branch pruning goes, I would prune about 20 to 30% of the new growth back each season, along with any branches that grow in towards the center of the tree or cross another branch.
Happy Planting! Lisa
Sunday 17th of July 2022
Well looks like my apple tree wanted to live, good. I tried everything to wake it up. Thought it was gone for due to animals eating it’s base . I put on bark repair paste, and covered the tree with a tube… waited a few months scratched the limbs to see if they were green inside, they just kept all getting gray. Today I opened the tube thought the tree was gone for good. Nope I noticed it has a branch growing by the soul with fresh leaves on it, and it wants to live. So when the rest of it died, the base wanted to try one last time.
Friday 22nd of July 2022
Hi Robert, The growth that comes out of the base of a fruit tree is usually what's called a "sucker". If it is growing from below the graft line of the tree, it will not end up growing the same type of apple that your original tree would have, if it ends up growing fruit at all. Unfortunately, it may be best to replace the tree if the rest of it is dead.
Best of luck! Lisa