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Have Arkansas Black... need pollinators.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

I have an Arkansas Black apple tree and need pollinators for it.

The research I've found says it in an early summer bloomer.

I think I would like to add an edible crabapple to utilize as a pollinator.

I want to find a cultivar that is suitable for the southern climate and has a compatible blooming season to the Arkansas Black apple. It also needs to be cedar rust resistant.

Can anyone point me in a direction for choosing the crabapple or even a chart that will tell the blooming times? The PlantFiles is hit and miss on that information.

Lisle, IL(Zone 5a)

A quick search on Google shows that Snowdrift and Dolgo are both mid-season bloomers that will cross pollinate Arkansas Black.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Thanks Frogymon ~ I had been researching and becoming more confused. I had seen a photo of your crabapple on the PlantFiles if I remember.

Are there crabapples that are only ornamental with no fruit? Asking because I want to stay away from that one.

Dolgo was one that I had seen as a suggestion but then another site indicated a different bloom time. I wonder if there is a good reference site for such information?

Lisle, IL(Zone 5a)

The AR Dept of Ag has a chart that shows the bloom time of a number of apples.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Thank you ~ I will look there.

Greensburg, PA

You can find pollination charts in the Raintree Nursery catalog, as well as edible crabs offered for sale.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Excellent, Raintree is one of the sites I hadn't gone to yet. Thanks.

Greensburg, PA

Glad I could help.

La Grange, TX(Zone 8b)


On average, how many chill hours does you area get? Arkansas Black needs over 800 chill hours (Some nursery websites list the hours as between 800 - 900 hours.) Sorry to jump on chill hours before even making an attempt to provide an answer to your question, but you may not have an apple tree for very long if it's chill hour requirement is not met. When I moved from the San Jose to Texas, I brought my potted apple trees with me. Among them were some of my favorite apple trees Cox Orange Pippin and her newer relatives. They lasted between 2 - 3 years here in this area. I get on average between 550 and 650 chill hours, but the apple trees I brought with me required closer to 900 hours. The decline was incredibly fast. Dave Wilson Nursery provides the chill hour requirements for its tree and is as such a great source to remember.

This map gives you an approximation: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/peach/fig1.html
but it's better to consult your AgriLife agent. Golden Delicious and Granny Smith are listed on a number of websites as excellent pollinators for Arkansas Black. Crabapples are also great pollinators, but it could be that the sites were referring to fruiting crabapples rather than to the flowering kind. Ask your AgriLife agent. Make him earn his pay.
From PlantAnswers.com: http://www.plantanswers.com/garden_column/jan_03/1.htm

Apples are a traditional northern crop with relatively high chilling requirements. Thus, special care should be taken to choose varieties adapted to our warm climate.


PS. I came across this link while searching for nurseries that provide the chill hour requirements. The map didn't show up in my window, but if you will scroll down to the 4th paragraph near the end, RainTree mentions a man name Kevin Hauser, who has been able to successfully grow some apple trees that are listed as needing a high number of chill hours in Southern California. Arkansas Black is one of those. You might want to contact him and ask for more information.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

BettyDee ~ as always, I appreciate your taking the time to research and post. And as usual, I ask after the fact.

I did do some reading about this cultivar in particular. I found references to it http://www.kuffelcreek.com/applelist.htm
billed as

***Hot Weather Champs (good for low desert locations like Las Vegas and Phoenix)
with an excerpt from their description
*,**,***Arkansas Black Arkansas, 1870 Thought to be a Winesap seedling, Arkansas Black... ... However, those grown down in the hot inland valleys are wonderful to eat right off the tree, and are the best I've ever tasted. They ripen here around Thanksgiving. Impervious to heat, they are excellent to grow in Southern California, even the low deserts.

I do realize one can find whatever information one wants to find.

But I feel like a dog chasing my tail when I look at the chill hours. Wishing there was a definitive chill map but I know there are too many variables. In fact here, we might have a series of years with proper chill hours and then, it could easily span a few years with too warm winter temps.

In this link http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/peach/fig1.html I am in the 600 chill hours zone.
In this link http://www.sandybarnursery.com/chill-map.htm 600 to 1200 ~ quite a wide spread.
In the map at the bottom of this link, http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/homefruit/apple/apple.html I am in Zone 1.

The chill maps are so different that it is difficult to reach a sound decision. Anyway, I think 600 would be a safe bet for most years.

So putting the apple cart before the horse, I'm going to take a stab at it. I do want to add a fruiting crabapple tree anyway so I'll try for one that has a similar bloom time and will be able to report back with my experience in a few years. I guaranty I'll know more than our county extension agent... sorry but I don't have much faith in this one.

And, I may have to research the CA apple growers and learn their secrets too.

Don't know why I even considered it after this years' never ending drought but I am the eternal optimist. Thanks Kristi

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

I have to agree with Bettydee - You have to have the right chill hours for your area. If the Crabapple and Apple tree both have similar chill requirements, they will bloom about the same time. I found out the hard way with plums that it doesn't do any good to have two "in theory" pollinators that bloom at completely different times. I don't know anything about Apples and Crabapples for "Deep East Texas", except knowing the varieties for the south are limited. You are better off finding a local expert.
But if you can find TWO different varieties that will grow and bloom in your area, then they will probably pollinate each other - most apples aren't that picky about pollinators.
As for Crabapples - We used to live on Grand Forks AFB in North Dakota. The original base landscaping included a lot of generic nameless Crabapples. The fruit ranged from tiny nearly fruitless to some full-sized apples. The flavor also varied from pretty good to pretty tart. With named Crabapples, the old-fashioned ones tend to have better flavor, but the newer ones are more likely to have the disease resistance you need.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Thank you for the advice. I grew up eating one of those old fashioned crabapples. My brothers thought the fruit was excellent for slingshot ammo but Mom made some wonderful pickled crabapples and also jellies.

The bloom time on the crabapples is actually what I was shopping for so it would be compatible with the Arkansas black apple.

If the Crabapple and Apple tree both have similar chill requirements, they will bloom about the same time.

Do you mean the time that apple tree blooms is based on chill hours?
I didn't realize that... I saw many different apples listed that bloomed at different times and ripened at different times but all grew well in a specific chill zone area in Arkansas.

Interesting... Kristi

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

Supposedly, chill hours is how plants keep track of when winter is over and spring is here and it is time to break dormancy and bloom. Calculating chill hours for a particular plant or particular location is NOT an exact science, so you will get a lot of conflicting information. Sources that group things loosely by 1) low chill hours, early blooming; 2) high chill hours, late blooming; and 3) in-between - are probably more reliable than sources that give exact chill hours. I'm in the in-between zone. Plants with too low of chill hours will bloom too early here, before killing frosts are over, and we lose all the blossoms and fruit. Worst case, the tree's USDA cold hardiness is dependent on it being dormant when temperatures are that low and late cold snap could damage or kill the whole tree. Plants with too high of chill hours bloom poorly and may skip blooming entirely.
Apples were originally a very cold hardy northern tree that wouldn't fruit in the southern third of the country. All the varieties that will grow and fruit farther south are relatively new.
Apricots are trees that will bloom too early here. They are more reliable both farther North AND farther South, and do better planted on the NORTH side of a building here (that is why I say it is an inexact science). The plum I mentioned above is a Asian type with low chill hours - it blooms with the Apricots. For a Pollinator I have 2 native wild plums, which will work as a pollinator for Asians plums - but they are cautious blooming on and off over a long period. If and when I can get them to bloom at the same time and between frosts, I get Asian plums. I always get Native plums.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Excellent information ~ thank you so much.
I will keep that in mind while I look at all the different types of fruits.

La Grange, TX(Zone 8b)


A & M's AgriLife online is an excellent source of information. With a live agent, it depends on their expertise. We have added problems here in Texas.

You already know about the apple cedar rust. The appe cedar resistant trees are not immune and resistance varies. It infects crabapples as well. You may still have to do some spraying. A&M lists apple trees as high maintance trees because even with resistant trees, you will probably end up spraying for one thing or another. Codling moth comes to mind. If you don't want wormy apples, you will have to spray several times just for that pest alone. You must not have much of a problem with grasshoppers. Here in central Texas, apple trees are already high maintenance trees, but grasshoppers make it even harder for trees to survive. They will even eat the bark off the trees girdling them. After losing a number of young trees to them, I finally gave up in defeat. Besides we are surrounded by Eastern Red Cedar.

Different institutions have different ways of calculating chill hours. I may be wrong, but I believe here in Texas, the formula includes subtracting hours from the accumulated total when warm days are added to the mix. So the first thing to do, if you haven't already spoken to your local AgriLife agent is to get a more accurate average number of chill hours remembering that this is only an average. When I spoke to our agent, he recommended sticking to fruit trees that averaged about 100 chill hours less than what we average. So in your case, trees that require 500 hours or less.

One thing the agent forgot to tell me and I have since found out the hard way is to get late blooming varieties of whatever trees I bought. Because we can have late freezes, early blooming varieties, even when they get the chill hours they need, will suffer fruit or flower damage resulting in no fruit that year. I have a peach tree that gives me wonderfully sweet and juicy fruit on the rare year we don't have a late freeze. My plum trees are more reliable, but it depends on the cultivar. I have 5 plum and 1 pluot trees. My most reliable fruit setter is a Fuyu persimmon tree which blooms in early May. Once it started blooming, I have had fruit every year. I almost lost it this year due to the drought. It went completely bare, but it kept all its fruit. I put a sprinkler on it for 24 hours on it once a week and it put out a new set of leaves. In early October, it became a feeding station for Baltimore Orioles and a few other fruit eating birds. So I won't get persimmons this year. Since you are in zone 8a, you will have more of a problem with late frosts. I'm on the southern end of zone 8b, a few miles from 9a and the early blooming/late frost issue is still a big problem.

Womack Nursery, located west of Waco, http://www.womacknursery.com/apples.html sells a small handful of apricot trees, but they wouldn't be appropriate for most of Texas. They do sell some apple trees, but the downside of their nursery is that they don't include the chill hours or for which parts of Texas a particular variety is recommended. Neil Sperry's Complete Guide to Texas Gardening includes for which growing areas each variety is best suited, but the book is slightly dated so newer varieties are probably not included.

"Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore." LOL. Before we moved to Texas, I had a smallish yard, but because of the number of chill hours we got and living on a hillside at an elevation of 440' meant we seldom got freezing weather and I could have grown just about any fruit tree I desired. I grew a large number of dwarf fruit trees and grape vines. Texas was a brand new experience and I had to learn to garden all over again and in two harsh environments to boot. I had never heard of summer dormancy before. Now I have all the space I would ever need for a garden, but my choices have shrunk considerably. No apricots, no almonds, no apples, limited number of citrus, same for most pluots and apriums, nectarines, etc. Now I look for low maintenance fruit trees.

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

A little more information about winter hardy fruit trees and frosts:
The buds before opening and the small fruits after blossom drop can tolerate a light frost. The open blossom pollination stage cannot tolerate frost. I have gotten fruit when the trees bloomed between frosts. Dry frosts are more damaging than frosts when the leaves are wet/damp - spraying the plant the evening before an expected frost really does help. After a frost, you can tell if the blossoms were killed by whether or not the bees are still visiting them.

La Grange, TX(Zone 8b)

We don't have any mountains to shield us from Canadian or Arctic air so we get wide swings in temperatures. There is often no such thing as a light frost. Temperatures easily plummet down to the low 20s with swings in temperature varying some 50F or more. So usually the first late frost kills buds, flowers and small fruit.

Deep East Texas may be slightly different, but here in the central part of Texas, the freeze may shoot all the way down to the valley in South Texas. For that reason, this area of Texas is mostly cattle country or hay pastures when there is rain.

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

I was just reading about Central Texas weather in a garden book. It more-or-less said its very hot except when it is very cold, and fairly wet except when there is a drought - and it did mention those huge temperature swings. Here we have the high desert effect where there is a big difference between day and night temps - but I gather your temps from one day to the next are even more extreme.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

I appreciate all the knowledge you have both shared on this subject.

Yes, I was aware of the cedar rust and its' effect on apples. We do not have much cedar in this area but do receive lots of cedar pollen with the winds that blow hard in springtime so that could also be an issue with apples.

I do have plums, a fig and an amazing peach tree. I have gone too far to back up on the apple so will go for a crabapple and think I will also try a more suitable apple. Meanwhile, I will add a crabapple. Do I understand correctly that the crabapples don't need a pollinator?

Hard to imagine such a drastic changes in temperature when in the south but Texas has the rest of the south beat on that.

La Grange, TX(Zone 8b)

Some crabapples are self fruitful, it depends on the variety of crabapple. Be sure to check. Native crabapples are self sterile.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

A couple more questions that have occured to me while I have been reading on this:

Will it hurt to have more chill hours than a fruit tree requires?

How closely do I need to plant the pollinator to the tree which needs it to produce?

Not sure if I worded these questions correctly... Kristi

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

Chill hours is ball park - a little more chill hours probably won't hurt. I have seen sources that group them into low, medium and high without numbers. Really high chill hours, the tree may not bloom at all in your area - this includes some apples.
Distance apart? - there is probably a more scientific answer - just guessing I would say under 100 feet and within sight of each other, closer would be better. A bee needs to find its way back and forth between them. I have heard of people having trouble with a tree planted on the opposite side of a building out of sight, even though it wasn't that far distance-wise.

PS - Remember trees in your neighbors yard will work as pollinators, too. I didn't have enough room for two apples, so my neighbors crab apple is my pollinator. I didn't have enough room for two cherries either - I kept buying cherry trees with multiple cherries grafted to them and kept killing them. I finally planted two cherries too close together, which may not work out. I would say that not planting them right next to each other is better than planting them too close together.

This message was edited Oct 31, 2011 9:35 PM

La Grange, TX(Zone 8b)


You mention having trouble with cherry trees dying on you. They are particularly sensitive to heavy clay soils. It is also possible that the root stock grafted onto the trees you purchased were not compatible with your soil. Since you don't have room for two trees, have you considered Lapins and Stella which are are self fertile. You might also consider using a tree grafted onto dwarfing root stock. Regular cherry trees are way too tall and too big for use in most backyard gardens, but you can keep dwarf cherry three shorter than 12 - 15'. My mother tried to keep her dwarf Bing Cherry less than 10' tall.

Podster, My mother had only 1 apple tree planted in her yard and still had plenty of apples on her tree, but there were plenty of neighbors with an apple tree or two and a few with flowering crabapple trees. They provided the pollen. Bees can also travel quite some distance. I had several apple trees back home that developed fire blight. There were no other apple trees in my neighborhood, but there were some Bradford pears and pyracanthas about 1/2 mile away. Not long, maybe a couple of months, after I spotted fire blight on those plants, my more susceptible trees also developed fire blight. I spent the next few years removing all the buds off them until the host plants died and were removed. The perils of living in a neighborhood. Look around your neighborhood for possible pollinators, but as pollengarden has said, the closer they are the greater then chances of pollination.

The danger of buying a tree that requires a small number of chill hours is that the tree may come out of dormancy way too soon. The tree won't be harmed, but you may not get any fruit because it would bloom in winter well before your last frost. There is a way around that if you can find a variety that blooms late. Persimmons require only 100 - 200, depending on the cultivar, but they bloom very late so late frosts after they break dormancy has never been a problem. Calculating chill hours is not an exact science which is why there can be a wide variation in the number assigned to each variety. Microclimates can also affect the number of chill hours a tree gets and you can use them to your advantage.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Thank you ~ I didn't think about trees coming out of dormancy too quickly due to short chill hours. That makes perfectly good sense and was exactly the kind of information I was looking for. That will narrow down my search even further.

If there are other pollinator trees in this neighborhood, it would be a wild fruit tree growing in the woods. I am pretty rural, the nearest neighbor is 300 yards through the woods but I've never seen fruit trees there.

I guess my question on distance planting was regarding a mixed orchard. The pollinators wouldn't be distracted if other fruit trees were interplanted and should bloom at the same time?

In this area, I occasionally hear tales of someones' apple tree but no one knows a cultivar as they are vintage. Likewise with crabapples which are more common. Most often grown are peaches and pears ( a hard native pear and not my favorite ) . So the search continues... K

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

Podster - I was lazy yesterday answering your questions. Today I decided to actually do some research (probably because I should be cleaning the house)
Distance: Indiana says 100-200 feet max for fruit trees, 50 for nuts - I still say have a line of sight/flight if you are going for max distance. Do allow minimum distance for the tree to reach mature size. Don't worry about bees getting confused - My 10 trees are planted by size (where they would fit) and my parents 30+ trees willy-nilly, and if we don't get frozen we get pollination. MO show pollinators planted every 5th tree in an orchard, they had some info on bloom times for apples - here is their web site:
Another site in Austin Texas has this on chill hours:
Choose apple varieties that do well in mild winters and require less than 600 chill hours (number of hours below 45 degrees). Among the low-chill hour apple varieties are Fuji, Gala, Mollies Delicious, Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Anna, and Dorsett Golden. (I have Pink Lady planted here in Colo and so far I haven't had problems with it blooming too early)

Bettydee RE my poor cherries: My soil is clay but I made sure the trees all had good drainage especially the cherry. I put in my first trees in spring 2002 as bare-root mail order which I've used other places with no problems. 2002 was a record-breaking drought here - I couldn't pour enough water on the roots to keep the tops from desiccating. I lost all my trees except the native plums (Prunus americana) Suppliers replaced in fall for free with the same results. I waited a year and mulled things over. I started replacing my trees one by one with pot grown trees from local nurseries - and if I could plant fall instead of spring, that is even better. Cherry #3 started okay but then failed from the top down - there was supposedly a virus affecting cherries in Colorado that year, so I kept cutting back a few inches behind the wilt. It finally died and I took it out. Well, the ID tags were still on the trunk - and it turned out there was another tag underneath that I couldn't see. It was too tight and slowly girded the tree as it grew. I am still kicking myself for doing something so Stupid! I guess I bought Tree #4 while distraught over tree #3 because it was poor tree from the beginning - I never should have bought it and the nursery never should have sold it. Most of the grafts died leaving me with a half-healthy Bing. I saw a healthy Rainier at the nursery and ripped out the Bing (that was my re-think and rip-out year). I was out of room so I was going to graft onto my lone cherry and pear. Changed my mind again and ripped out an ornamental to plant a second pear and planted a second cherry too close to the first - that may not work out, but I'm better at pruning than grafting so I thought I'd give it a try. Those last two trees just went in this past fall. The puppy chewed up the new pear and the cherry is sulking just like all the other cherries did.

This message was edited Nov 1, 2011 7:14 AM

La Grange, TX(Zone 8b)

pollengarden, You have my deepest sympathy. Since moving to Texas my experiences have been different from yours, but the results were the same dead fruit trees. Not knowing anything about cattle when we moved onto the ranch, we were too dumb to fence in the yard. Additionally, I have a DH who is garden challenged. The cows either ate the leaves off my fruit trees or used them as scratching posts. What the cows didn't trample or eat, my DH mowed down with the small Kabota tractor. I finally had to drive metal stakes next to the trunks of any plant I didn't want mowed and got my DH to put up a hot wire fence to keep the cows. Almost 2 years ago we put up a hogwire and barbwire fence because our small calves were still getting in and acting like a marauding hoard of 25, they ate or trampled everything within reach. Accidents still occur when we forget to close the gate.

Then I discovered that droughts bring on another disaster grasshoppers thousands and thousands of them and they are worse in a drought. Apple and citrus trees are among their favorites although they will eat anything, bark and all. In January, I planted 10 new bareroot fruit trees. None made it through the exceptional drought we have been in since October 1, 2010. It's a good thing we live outside the city and have well water because more often than not, I have the water on. You should see the number of birds that attracts. I switched to a sprinkler with rather course drops and move it around the yard. The wider watering pattern has also helped to get water to my older fruit trees' roots and most seem healthier. I put out a number of feeders to provide some food for them. My cats enjoy watching them.

The following link offers descriptions of the more common rootstocks use by the nursery industry. Scroll down to the section on cherry rootstock. http://www.davewilson.com/roots.html Getting young trees established is alway difficult, but more so during a drought. A neighboring rancher decided to diversify this year, the worst single year drought in recorded history and it may last another two years from what I am told. He has set up a very sophisticated watering system. Given that it took a while to get all those trees planted in spring, the survival rate is very high. Here the best planting time is October. January is the next best month for planting trees and shrubs. He wasn't through planting until sometime in April, but his watering system has made all the difference in the world.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

You are both such a wealth of information. I really appreciate you sharing your experiences and expertise.
Sadly, now I am looking at cherries. Have to rein myself in and focus on the initial plans.

Thanks for sharing the links above. I am sure after I read through them, I will be thoroughly confused but thanks much. Kristi

La Grange, TX(Zone 8b)

You may want to hold off on cherries at least until A & M has completed its evaluation of all the low chill varieties. I asked them about it about a year ago and they still hadn't completed it.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

LOL ~ yes... I think I'd better hold off on them.
I did find a selection of low chill cherries but was resisting temptation.
Shouldn't even be looking!

Just wishing I had planted fruit trees years ago but gave up when I'd plant
a row of plums and DH would say he wanted to build there. So I'd dig
and relocate till I finally gave up.

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

Winter is good time to plan. I do my best gardening in winter, in my easy chair, with a pile of books and catalogs. And I do better when I stick to my plan - I buy too many things because I fall in love (or envy) and just have to have them, then I don't have a place to put them. If they get left in the pot, eventually I forget to water them - then they are an expensive DEAD plant I thought I had to have.

One more comment on apples. Avoid Apples trees with pink bark, sometimes listed as an ornamental quality. It indicates susceptibility to some disease - I forget which one.

This message was edited Nov 6, 2011 1:24 AM

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

podster, are you near Douglass, TX? If so Legg Creek Farms may also be of help. http://leggcreekfarm.com/default.aspx

I got my apple trees from them. I called and they were very helpful and answered all the questions I had. They helped me pick pollinators based on my zone, soil type and the fact that I live in the middle of a big hay field and have no shade at all. I had my heart set on one particular apple tree and they steer me away because my average last frost date would allow for the possibility of early bloom. They didn't just sell the tree to make the money...

Anyway, I don't know how deep you mean when you say deep east Texas, but I thought Legg Creek Farms might be close to you.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

I am almost as far east as you can get. East of Nacogdoches and near Toledo Bend.
I have never been to Douglass but have seen the road signs.
Thanks for the link. I will check them out.
Do you recall what type of apples you planted? Have you had successful harvests yet?

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

Podster, we have approximately 800 chill hours in Rains County. I have Pink Lady and Dorsett Golden right now. They were only planted this past spring and were only 2 - 3' trees (I'm planning on using them for my espallier project). So they aren't old enough to produce yet. I think I want another apple tree to mix in there, so I will consult with Legg Creek for more advice. I had initially ordered a couple of other apple trees and Trey (from LC nursery) e-mailed and advised me towards those two as he felt they would be a better fit based on the average chill hours in my county. So they didn't just sell whatever I wanted, they sold me what they felt would work best for me in my area (and what I wanted to do with the trees). I thought that was pretty good customer service so that is why I thought if you were close to the nursery you might want to visit or e-mail. You might be able to pick up and then not have to pay for shipping.

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