Non-furtilization frustration

I examined my pluots again today only to walk away in great frustration. I have 2 trees in my small garden, that are 6 years in the ground. I bought them as bare root plants, one being a Flavor Grenade and the other being a 4 in 1 with four different varieties grafted to a common trunk. The grafting was done by Dave Wilson Nursery, not me. The trees are healthy and flowered profusely again this year and again this year developed no fruit. I realize I might not have honey bees in my area but I do have lots of other insects that I assume will pollinate the pluots. I should note that I have several peach varieties in the same garden and they produce. I am about to give up on these but can anyone suggest a solution?

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I don’t know. I haven’t gotten a single pluot from my 4-in-1 in 2 years either.

Some plums really take a long time, but they are usually Euros. And I’ve only grown Euros, so I can’t help. But someone here will have and answer! Fertilizing?

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Not an expert, but it would help if you can tell what pluots you have (other than Flavor Grenade). Santa Rosa plum pollinates most of them, so grafting it to a lower branch as a pollinator can help, if that’s your problem. The other hypothesis is availability of excess nitrogen. What’s your fertilization schedule and what fertilizer do you use on these trees?

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In addition to the FG the 4 in 1 has Flavor Supreme, Emerald Drop, Flavor King and Dapple Dandy. I believe they are all Zaiger developed varieties. I generally use 8-8-8 and furtilizer and do not stake but scatter furtilizer at the drip line once around bud break and again in July. If I am doing something wrong please let me know.

Ok, they should pollinate each other. Also, it’s not just bees. With enough blooms there has to be wind pollination. But it doesn’t hurt to add a Santa Rosa graft and try some hand-pollination for a few flowers next season. Next one, try holding off the fertilizer this season. If your trees are getting excess nitrogen, it will help them hold on to the fruits. Tagging @fruitnut to see if he wants to add anything here.

I don’t think wind does much pollinating for pluots. The pollen doesn’t blow around like peach/nectarine.

Those will pollinate each other. What you need is bees. Those other insects won’t do the job. Maybe hire in a beehive or buy a bumblebee hive. Bumblebees set pluots wonderfully in my greenhouse but they can’t fly off like they could outdoors.

Hand pollination is tedious but might help identify in your mind if they will set.


I see, ok. I can smell the pluot blossoms from far. So, I assumed the wind does carry the pollen as well.

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The aroma of pluots is massive and beautiful. But the pollen is sticky so doesn’t blow around.

Flavor Supreme is difficult to set even with bees. I’ve resorted to hand pollination which can give a full crop on whatever you can work hard at getting pollinated. It’s also the best fruit. F King, second best fruit, is a light setter but adequate for a full crop. F Grenade oversets massively and in the greenhouse and requires 90% fruit removal. Most of the others require a lot of thinning some as much as Grenade.


These trees have been kept small intentionally so I can reach most of the tree standing on the ground (about 7.5-8 feet) so I could try hand pollinating. Can I use a cosmetic brush ( soft hair) or is something else recommended? Also, what technique do you recommend?

Loel, do you have any pollinator friendly flowers other than your fruit trees in your area? I would suggest starting a pollinator garden with flowers native to your area. We have thin leaved mountain mint, echinacea, a few aster species, lupine, wild bergamot an some other mints (amongst others) that all bloom at various times to keep a continuous food supply for our pollinators. I highly recommend seeing what you can add to your area. Bees and other pollinators need food all season long, not just when we want them around to pollinate fruit.

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Californicus, did you mean excess nitrogen helps HOLD fruit or cause FRUIT DROP? Just trying to clarify. It is unfortunately too late for this season. All buds here have already dropped. Next year, if I am still alive (lol).

I use a small artist brush. Any small brush could work. You need to read the bloom and try dabbing at them to collect pollen as it sheds. So my approach is to move around the tree moving from variety to variety and collect pollen. While collecting you will pollinate at the same time. A flower is receptive when it is shedding. The pollen builds up on the brush to the point that it needs washing off every couple of days. An hour a day should show results if you can manage that much. I think they start maturing pollen as soon as it warms up some but I’ve tried early, mid, and late day.

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I have read of commercial fruit growers frustration with poor fruit set of pluots, but as FN says, flavor grenade is no shy bearer. I’ve had Flavor King set fruit on small nursery trees without any special effort but cold weather at the wrong time has doomed my pluots the last couple of years just because they are among my earliest flowering plums. Last year I got almost no plums of any kind, getting killing hard frost after a Mother’s day snow on a season when spring otherwise came early. Mother nature showing her displeasure with us on her day, I guess.

If Flavor Grenade isn’t setting I think the problem must be something we aren’t seeing. If flowers are being tended to by pollinators it shouldn’t require any hand effort to get it pollinated.

If pluot pollen is as sticky as FN says and difficult for the bees and flies to transport, a single Santa Rosa branch should straighten out the problem, at least with pluot varieties flowering at the same time. The stickiness of the pollen is probably only a problem if you don’t have other pollen available.

Keep in mind that FN’s experience is primarily within a greenhouse which not only blocks pollinators but may even change the quality of the pollen. It’s usually very humid within one and very hot, especially if its located in TX.

My hypothesis (and I have seen this in other fruit species) is that excess nitrogen tend to make trees abort their fruits.

Lavander and Sedum. Bee magnets!

Thank you all for your help and suggestions. It is too late this year as all the buds have already dropped. If I can find a bud or scion for Santa Rosa I will try grafting to both trees. I will avoid fertilizing next year at lease with any nitrogen. Finally, I will selectively hand pollinate some branches of each variety. That should show if I am getting any natural pollination on the branches that are not hand pollinated. Sad that I have lost another season but at least thanks to your help I have a plan for next year. With regard to budding/grafting which do you think is the best approach for Santa Rosa and how old should the scion be?

If there’s anyone nearby with plums, next year you can take some flowering sticks from them and put it in a plastic bottle with some water and tape it to the most centric of your pluots. I’ve made this work for trees needing another variety for pollination and it’s really easy.

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I have read in a few posts here that nitrogen is more geared towards vegetation growth and not fruit growth in most cases.

It’s a little more complicated than that. Commercial growers often time N applications early in spring with fast release so the N is utilized by spur leaves to produce larger, higher quality fruit. It actually helps the tree to hold a larger crop, as well. By late spring ample N, if there is good moisture in the soil as well, will spur greater vegetative growth which will affect the quality of the fruit more by shading spur leaves than anything else. But also the carbs are used to make wood and leaves instead of making sugar for the fruit.

I’ve not read of excess N forcing trees to abort fruit, I would expect that would come from the salt burning roots. If it was that easy to get apple trees to abort their fruit it would be used by homeowners that like their apple trees but hate the messy fruit (not a rare thing, believe it or not).

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