The Q&A Archives: Sterile (?) fruit plants

Question: There are two 10 year old apple trees (variety unknown) that never bore apples. Never bloomed, just grow and appear very healthy. Recommended by an arborist to wack the trees with a newspaper to make them think there has been damage which then promotes such blooming. Short of being carried away in a white suit, why aren't these two trees bearing fruit?

Answer: Most apple trees are grafted onto vigorous root stocks. Is it possible that your original apple trees died down to the graft, or the grafted (productive) part of the tree was overtaken by suckers from the root stock? If so, the root stock may be the wrong variety for your growing region. Without the correct length of summer, and correct winter temperatures, the trees will not flower and fruit. Or, it could be that the original tree varieties are the wrong ones for your climate. While stressing the tree might cause it to flower and fruit, whacking it with a newspaper won't get its attention. Instead, you'll want to do some root pruning by digging down with a shovel to sever some of the roots. I'm not sure this will work, though, if the variety is wrong for your climate. You might want to graft a few branches from a bearing tree onto your existing tree. Enough grafts and you'll eventually have a bearing tree. Good luck with your trees!

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