Skip to content
Pre-Order for Fall & Spring Now! Demand is high, order early! Our Garden Center is currently closed.
Pre-Order for Fall & Spring Now! Demand is high, order early! Our Garden Center is currently closed.

5 Reasons Your Trees Won't Fruit

5 Reasons Your Trees Won't Fruit


By Raintree Nursery Horticulture

It's happened to everyone at some point; you've done everything right and your favorite fruit tree isn't giving you any fruit! You've tested the soil, you've piled on heaps of compost and mulch, maybe you've even taken to playing soothing music for it, but every year it leaves out and flowers and... that's it. What the heck is going on?! We'll you're in luck today because we're here to deliver to you the real secrets behind what's causing your trees to hold onto their sweet bounty.

Improper Fertilization

Most people are surprised to hear that they reason they aren't getting the fruit they want is because of improper fertilization - and that can mean too much OR too little of the good stuff.


Trees only have so much energy and many places to put it, a fact which sometimes inspires home growers to try and help out with a little fertilizer. Unfortunately nitrogen based fertilizers will inspire the tree to make a bunch of wood at the expense of making flowers. Over fertilization also happens accidentally when home owners try to fertilize their lawns and inadvertently fertilize their trees too. Because most fertilizer products are water soluble, the nitrogen doesn't stay where it was put and can enter the tree's root zone if it is applied anywhere within 5 feet of the branch tips of the tree.


All that said, it's possible that your trees aren't getting enough of what they need either. Actively bearing fruit trees should average 12-18 inches of shoot growth per year, while non-bearing younger trees should average 18 to 30 inches. If your trees have less growth than that they may benefit from a balanced fertilizer that also contains phosphorus and potassium to support flowering and tree health in addition to wood growth.

Improper Pruning

Trees need pruned, but they do not benefit from severe or indiscriminate pruning. It's very important that your trees are not only pruned at the right time of year, but that they are pruned properly to avoid too many heading cuts. A heading cut is when a cut is made along the middle of the branch and not all the way back to the branch collar. Branch tips contain auxin, which is a growth regulator hormone in trees of all kinds. When the branch tips are removed, so is the auxin and the behavior of your tree's growth will be affected. The most common side effect is water sprouting, small branches that start growing from previously regulated nodes on the tree, but another is a delay, or even total lack, of flowering and no flowers means no fruits.


Another common pruning issue is around fruit spurs. Apples and peaches, for example, are pruned differently to preserve the parts of the tree where the flowers will naturally be produced. Obviously if the fruiting spurs of a tree are removed it cannot flower and fruit the following year!

Frost Damage

Unfortunately one of the most common reasons trees don't fruit is frost damage. The flowers of fruit trees are very sensitive to late spring frosts and temperatures much below 29 degrees F will prevent fruit formation. It can be a source of confusion for many growers, because the frost does not have to occur during full bloom for the damage to occur. Once the flower buds begin to swell and develop there is a risk of frost damage that you may not even see, because the flowers may open normally but will unable to actually set fruit! If you suspect that you've had a frost, wait till the following day to examine the flowers. Dark brown to black centers are damaged and will probably not set fruit that year.

Poor Pollination

Unfortunately one of the most common reasons trees don't fruit is frost damage. The flowers of fruit trees are very sensitive to late spring frosts and temperatures much below 29 degrees F will prevent fruit formation. It can be a source of confusion for many growers, because the frost does not have to occur during full bloom for the damage to occur. Once the flower buds begin to swell and develop there is a risk of frost damage that you may not even see, because the flowers may open normally but will unable to actually set fruit! If you suspect that you've had a frost, wait till the following day to examine the flowers. Dark brown to black centers are damaged and will probably not set fruit that year.

Heavy Cropping the Previous Year

Finally, the last common reason fruit trees do not bear fruit is the effects on the health of a tree from the last year's crop. In apples and pears this can be a serious and difficult problem to correct, causing trees to lapse into a biennial bearing pattern and leaving you with whole years of missing fruit production. The solution is thinning, which is to remove some of the fruit while it is immature to encourage the tree to save some energy for the next season. With apples and pears, thin the fruit down to one or two per cluster and allow only fruit bearing clusters every 6 to 10 inches along a branch. Asian pears are even more important to thin regularly as they over-bear naturally and if not managed well can expend all of their energy, stop growing, and ultimately die.


Too heavy a crop load on peaches and nectarines can reduce shoot growth and the result is shorter shoots for next year's flowers. With peaches and nectarines, thin the fruit so that it is spaced one fruit every 8 to 12 inches along the branch. Typically other tree fruits, like plums, do not need to be thinned because their fruit comes off earlier in the growing season and doesn't impact the tree's ability to flower again next season.


We are Here to Help

Successfully growing plants is a journey and here at Raintree Nursery we want to do whatever we can to help you meet your goals.


Checking out our Growing Guides is a great place to start, but if you need help you should always feel free to e-mail hort@raintreenursery.com or call us at the nursery with any questions you might have about any of the dozens of factors that go into successful fruit growing in your home orchard.



Next article The Raintree Nursery Guide to Pollination