Apple trees not producing

Asked October 9, 2017, 12:54 AM EDT

Hi, i have 3 apple and two pear trees and 2 have not produced any apples in the last 2 seasons.. (possibly longer as I have lived here only through 2 seasons). The other apple produces poorly. All trees have trunk damage and significant rotting. Can you tell me what is going on or if you need pictures? Thanks

Clackamas County Oregon apples fruit trees horticulture

8 Responses

Yes, in order to determine the problem and suggest appropriate management, we will need to see pictures. Please attach the images when you reply to this email.

Please send several images for each tree. Most useful are (1) the tree and its surroundings; (2) the tree by itself; and (3) a close view of the damage. (Note: Even though the limit is 3 images per reply, you can send multiple replies with 3 images each.)

I look forward to receiving your pictures.

Hi and thanks for your reply. Here are the 3 apple trees. Tree #1 is front left #2 is on the right. Neither have produced in years.

Pics from #1 attached

Tree #3. This one produces low quality fruit and has had what I think is coddling moth in the fruit. Last fall I started treatment with Neem oil as I want to be organic. I used that through blooming. So it’s possible I interfered with pollinators.

And here is some fruit from #3. And one pear from the adjacent pear trees

thanks so much for your help!!!

Thank for the excellent series of images. It appears that this may be an old orchard with injuries which began long ago. In order to adequately cover the many issues in these old trees, I’ve supplied multiple links to fill in the details.

Even though large, old wounds are on the trunks, the trees are trying to cover the exposed, dead, underlying wood – the evidence is the rolls of tissue coming in from the sides of the lengthwise wounds. Then, too, the trees appear to be growing well.

A number of reasons can account for poor fruit set among apples. Among them are unsuitable weather at bloom time; excess shade; less than 6 hours of sunlight daily; no pollinator tree; excessive fertilizer (increases green growth but decreases flowering); incorrect, or no, pruning. (See “Why Plants Fail to Flower or Fruit” (, also “Growing Tree Fruits and Nuts in the Home Orchard” (

Appropriate and timely pruning is important to sustaining fruit production. You’ll find helpful guidelines in “Training and Pruning Your Home Orchard” ( and “Pruning to Restore an Old, Neglected Apple Tree” (

The cut fruit might be over-mature (left on the tree too long) but doesn’t show damage by codling moth. See “Picking and Storing Apples and Pears” (

The image of the whole fruits suggests several possible problems. You may be able to verify by cutting through them vertically or you could simplify the process by visiting the Clackamas County Master Gardeners, see info below.

The dimples on the apples may be caused by bitter pit (a physiological problem due to a water shortage) or feeding by brown marmorated stinkbugs, Halyomorpha halys, which also go by the abbreviation BMSB. Both problems produce a small, dry, brown area in the flesh. Damage from bitter pit is just below the skin, whereas similar damage from BMSB is deeper, a quarter inch or more.

The pear may also have been damaged by BMSB.

The small hole near the apple’s stem end may be from codling moth. If so, you’ll find a trail through to the core; the core may be black and/or moldy.

To obtain further assistance with your trees, contact the Clackamas County Master Gardeners, 200 Warner-Milne Rd., Oregon City, OR 97045. Phone 503-655-8631. Hours weekdays 9 AM – 12 Noon and 1 PM – 4 PM, except holidays.

Jean, I am delighted at your thorough and thoughtful response. (I’m an engineer so the technical detail is quite welcome.)
So after a review, I think my problems lie in improper pruning or the lack of a pollinator tree.

However tree # 2 was not pruned 2 years ago and didn’t produce. Then was pruned last summer. Still no fruit.

Cam you tell me more about a pollinator tree?? What is that??

thanks again for your great advice.


Apples must be cross-pollinated. That is, they must receive pollen from a different kind of apple in order to set fruit. Unfortunately, not all kinds successfully pollinate all other kinds. “Pollination of Fruit Trees” is one example of such a document. (

Resources for determining the names of the apples include a friendly chat with the neighbors and/or asking the seller or the real estate agents involved with the sale or the property. (Although, after 2 years, it may be too late for the latter.) However, it’s good to know that crab apple trees can often supply the pollen, too.

I do wonder about the condition the trees were in several years ago. Sometimes trees are seriously overgrown, then heavily cut back – referred to as “hacked back” -- to “improve” their appearance for the sale of the property. The unfortunate response is that the tree grows excessively during the next year or two; it’s also likely to skip bloom during those recovery years.

The general guide for pruning any tree is to remove a maximum of 20 percent live wood in a single year. The older the tree, the more conservative the pruning should be. Review, and follow the guidelines, in “Pruning to Restore an Old, Neglected Apple Tree” (

Good luck, and enjoy this new adventure!