Far too many people - and gardening writers - get worried about the subject of Apple Tree Pollination! For the vast majority of gardeners - certainly in the UK - pollination of you apple tree will not be a problem. I have worked in many hundreds of gardens that had a single apple tree and most bore fruit. If I had asked the owner, about how it had been pollinated, the answer would probably have been a shrug of the shoulders!
But, there are exceptions, so the following will give the know-how about apple tree pollination and good cross-pollinators.
Most apple trees are not self-fertile. This is to say, that they cannot pollinate themselves. Many plants are self-fertile, and can pollinate themselves either with pollen from the same flower, or with pollen from another flower on the same plant. Apple trees cannot. There are a few exceptions which are listed below.
Apple trees normally depend upon insects carrying pollen from one tree to another. Bees are the best pollen carriers. They fly for miles, collecting and depositing the microscopic particles of pollen! The bugbear is, that it has to be a different type of apple tree as well. For instance, the pollen from one Laxton's Superb apple tree, will not pollinate a different Laxton's Superb Apple tree.
If you live in a well populated area, the likelihood is that there will be a suitable apple tree pollinator for your apple somewhere in the locality. Don't worry, you do not have to go hunting around. The honey bees will do that for you. It does not have to be growing next door. Anywhere within a mile will normally do!
What makes for a little problem - and a lot of writing - is the fact that different types of apple trees flower at different times in the spring. If they all flowered at the same time, a lot of writers would be out of a job, for any apple would then pollinate any other apple! (A Laxton's Superb will probably need the pollen from something like an Ellison's Orange Apple to pollinate it.)
The main thing - for most people - is to trust the bees. A big problem, is the decline in the number of bees in the UK!
Malus John Downie
In spite of everything written so far, there is also help with the fact that there are several types of 'self-fertile' apple varieties. But even these can do with a bit of help from other pollen bearers!
If you want to be doubly sure, then your problem is solved with the provision of a 'family tree'. This is simply a combination of three or more different types of apples grafted - or budded - onto the same tree. They will all flower at the same time - so any perceived problem is solved.
Another bit of genius supplied by Mother Nature, is that there are two ornamental crab apples, that will pollinate virtually any apple normally grown - Malus Golden Hornet and M. John Downie. Both, or either of these, deserve a place in all but the smallest of gardens for they flower for a long time in the spring, and then are laden with red fruits for the John Downie and Golden fruits of course for the Golden Hornet. They both have good autumn foliage colour as well.
Early Flowering Group .....Beauty of Bath,
Self Fertile ....Egremont Russet*
Mid Season Flowering ......Bountiful,
Discovery, Fiesta (Red Pippin), Katy, Kidd's Orange Red,
Winter Gem. Lord Lambourne,
Self Fertile .... Arthur Turner, Cox's Self-Fertile, Charles Ross, James Grieve, Red Windsor, Royal Gala, Scrumptious, Worcester Pearmain, Sunset, Herefordshire Russet, Arthur Turner, Cox's Self Fertile,
The Following are
also in this group and MUST be pollinated, but are of
little use as pollinators themselves owing to the fact
that they are 'Triploid' genetically.
.....Blenheim Orange, Bramley Seedling and Bramley Original.....
Flowering Mid to Late Season..... Ashmead's Kernel,
Bardsey, Cobra, Court Pendu Plat, Howgate Wonder.
Self Fertile ....Braeburn, Ellison's Orange, Laxton's Superb,
******All of the above can be pollinated by either the ornamental crab apple - Malus, Golden Hornet, Butterball or John Downie*******
And of course nothing in life is simple! the flowering period of all of the above apples can be affected by various climatic problems, and even if they are planted in different parts of the garden. So basically, don't worry. Just buy the apple you want, and sit back. If in the rare it fails to pollinate and set fruit - THEN - you can worry about finding a pollinator.