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Apple Tree Not Flowering? (Step You Should Take)

Apple Tree Not Flowering? (Step You Should Take)

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Nothing fills me with pride more than a large apple tree, peppered with gorgeous flowers. That’s why it can be disappointing when my apple tree isn’t flowering, keeping me guessing what I did wrong.

After going through all the possible scenarios and determining the causes, I’ll share my findings about what’s hindering your apple tree’s flowering. 

The main causes revolve around improper care, whether it’s related to soil conditions, hardiness zones, trouble with pests, or others.

So, before planting, look at all the factors below to minimize blooming problems in the future and end up with a marvelous apple tree!

Cause 1: Climate-Related Issues

Apple Tree In Frost

Climate is one of the most important factors you need to consider when growing apples. Here are all the specifics about an apple tree’s requirements:

Hardiness Zone

The apple tree won’t bloom in the wrong location or in inappropriate conditions. 

Apple trees are hardy, growing best in hardiness zones 3 to 5. If you’re going for a long-season apple tree, the quality of the apples will be best if you plant your tree between zones 5 and 8. 

Chill Hours and Temperature

Different apple varieties need a specific number of chill hours before the tree flowers or bears fruit. The tree will have an “unhappy appearance” if it doesn’t get enough hours when the temperature should be below 45 degrees F.

If your house is up north, the tree will receive more chill hours and vice versa.

So, make sure the apple variety matches the chill hours your region can naturally provide. This point helps prevent freezing problems that usually occur in the late spring.

If the tree doesn’t get this temperature, it’s unable to determine whether spring has arrived. Its neural network gets confused, and as a result, it doesn’t bloom.

This scenario often happens in places with too hot weather, too, like in tropical regions.

Sunlight Exposure

Next, you should understand that an apple tree prefers full sunlight. That’s why I always plant mine in a location where it will get a maximum amount of sun each day.

Partial shade can affect the quality of the bloom, and there might not be a bloom in the first place.

Spacing

Lastly, don’t underestimate the effects that improper spacing can have on your apple blooms.

Apple trees don’t like to be crowded, as this could stifle the air circulating the tree. Plus, crowding trees diminishes the amount of nutrients available in the soil, not to mention it blocks sunlight.

Cause 2: Not Understanding the Cultivar and Age of the Tree

Macintosh Apple Tree

If you expect the apple tree to give off flowers in the first year of planting, you’re aiming too high. Blooming is the start of the tree’s reproductive phase, so, like animals, trees need to reach maturity before producing flowers.

Generally, apple trees won’t bloom until they’re at least two years of age. Most people think that the age begins from the time they are seeded, but that’s not true. You calculate the age from the moment they’re planted in the ground.

Further, not every cultivar blooms around this time. For instance, the Macintosh and the Gravenstein cultivars typically start blooming between three and five years. 

Also, dwarf apple trees give off flowers much quicker than larger trees. 

That’s because bigger trees utilize most of their energy for rapid growth. As a result, they take longer to bear fruit or bloom.

Cause 3: Not Meeting Soil Requirements

Newly Planted Apple Tree In Soil

The apple tree needs a precarious balance of soil and food. If the composition of the soil isn’t per the tree’s liking, it won’t bloom.

Nutritional Content and Fertilization

Did you know it’s 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 isn’t present, the tree might begin to starve.

In addition, many people think that nitrogen-based fertilizers are good for their trees. While these fertilizers cause the tree to grow at an unprecedented rate, they cause the tree to channel all its energy into growth. This can cause problems with blooming.

Generally speaking, any action you take 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 smaller trees bloom much faster and also bear fruit quicker.

Soil Type and Structure

Naturally, not planting your apple tree in a suitable medium can get in the way of producing flowers.

The good news is that apple trees can grow in a range of different soils, including medium-textured clay and gravelly sand. 

Ideally, you’ll want to go with well-draining medium-clay soil. Even sandy loam fertile soils that teeter toward acidic soils on the pH scale are a great choice, too.

Cause 4: Not Making Adjustments According to Your Tree’s Needs

Pruning An Apple Tree

Sometimes, the problem with an apple tree that isn’t flowering can be a combination of several factors. If you’ve followed all the previous guidelines to no avail, consider the adjustments below to eliminate the problem and find a solution.

Conducting a Soil Test

If your tree is more than two years old and it still hasn’t bloomed, your measures should begin with a soil test. This test will help you determine whether your tree is receiving the appropriate mix of nutrients that it needs to grow. 

For accurate results, I prefer to contact a professional gardening company instead of using a DIY soil test kit. It’s also your best bet if you’re a beginner at gardening.

When you get the results, you can now make adjustments to your garden soil based on the nutrients it lacks.

If you discover that the soil isn’t the problem, you can move to the next step.

Pruning Your Apple Tree

Pruning can promote growth, which can potentially boost the production of vibrant blooms in your apple tree.

When pruning the tree, you need to eliminate only weak, overgrown, or sick-looking branches to protect the stability of the tree. This approach allows the tree to redirect its energy into blooming instead of healing.

Root pruning is another excellent way to encourage good blooms. 

To prune the roots of trees properly, push the spade deeply into the ground, and then repeat this action carefully around the perimeter of your tree. This pruning technique gets rid of smaller sucker roots that continue to sap your tree’s energy.

It also reduces the amount of energy available for the tree in its immediate surroundings. 

After removing the sucker roots, the tree should be able to utilize this energy to bloom instead of expanding the roots.

Cause 5: Pest Problems

Winter Moth On Apple Tree

Pest problems may be the reason why your apple tree is having a hard time producing flowers. Here are some culprits you should look out for:

Winter Moth

The winter moth can cause the tree to completely lose its ability to bear fruit or flower. 

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.

While there are plenty of effective pesticides on the market, the best way to deal with such pests is to create a garden that promotes biodiversity. This way, certain “good” bugs can keep the pest population in check. 

Bullfinch

The bullfinch bug also tends to peck on developing buds on the fruit trees during the early weeks of spring. To keep it at bay, consider setting up a net around the buds for protection.

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, extending to the ground so that the birds can’t get in from below. 

Finally, remember that the best way to deal with pest and bird problems is by keeping a close eye on your trees from time to time. 

If you’re not sure how to keep pests away, I suggest you get in touch with a gardening company. They should be able to help you out if your tree is exposed to pests or other problems.

Cause 6: Pollination Issues

Close Up Of Frozen Apple

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.

Generally, bees and other pollinators may not want 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.

That’s why it’s a wise move to add a bit of screening, such as a hedge to the garden, to allow for greater insect activity. A tulle or a garden fleece also protects your apple tree by covering it from frost, boosting your tree’s ability to flower.

But don’t forget to remove the garden fleece during the day because the trees will need adequate pollination from the insects.

Final Thoughts

If your apple tree isn’t flowering, I hope my in-depth guide has provided all the information you need to know about the causes of this problem. 

Usually, the reason could be related to the climate or weather, pests, soil structure and nutrients, or the tree’s age.

By ensuring all the factors associated with healthy growth are up to your apple tree’s standard, you can help it produce lovely blooms!

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Don McDougall

Tuesday 16th of May 2023

My Grimes Golden apple tree is about 15 years old and has never blossomed. It appears healthy otherwise. I guess I need a soil test, though other apple trees around it are fruiting at much younger ages. I can also try the root pruning. I am in the foothills of the Appalachians at about 2,300 feet elevation. Is there anything else I can do to prod the tree? Thanks.

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. john@thelockes.co.uk

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

Lisa

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

Robert Hamilton

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.

Lisa

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