Honeycrisp Apple Tree Pollination (Easy Trick) Planting, Grow Honeycrisp Apples

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | September 25, 2023

Person looking at the harvest after learning about Honeycrisp apple tree pollination and following a guide to pollinating honeycrisp apples and companion trees for honeycrisps.

Honeycrisp Apple tree pollination tends to be a bit more challenging in colder states, but it’s very possible if you get the right pollinators.

For the seasoned gardener, there’s only a mild obstacle to overcome, and it’s easier than you might think.

Honeycrisp Apple trees aren’t self-pollinators,33 so you’ll want to surround them with trees that can help when considering the Honeycrisp Apple Tree pollination process. And one of the easiest things you can do is plant a hardy crabapple, which provides plenty of blooms to ensure a healthy harvest of their more delicious brethren.

This guide explains apple tree pollination, particularly Honeycrisps, so that you can ensure your fruit trees flourish.

Apple Varieties That Help With Honeycrisp Apple Tree Pollination

One easy trick for Honeycrisp Apple tree pollination is to plant another apple tree nearby when you first put your Honeycrisp in the ground.

How do you choose which is best? Well, you want to find a tree that flowers at about the same time.

This will allow local pollinators to more efficiently cross-pollinate. It’s best to have another apple tree for this process, but a Crabapple tree will do.24

Apples hanging from a tree surrounded by leaves with other apple trees in the background.

(Image: Hans45)

To further enhance the robustness of your plant, growing Honeycrisp Apples can be done by planting the new tree 30 to 50 feet away from an existing pollinator.24 The following trees are some of the excellent options:

  • Crabapple Trees
  • Fuji Apple Trees
  • Gala Apple Trees
  • Golden Delicious Apple Trees
  • McIntosh Apple Trees
  • Pink Lady Apple Trees
  • Red Delicious Apple Trees

Realistically, almost all apple trees need some sort of cross-pollination with other apple varieties for robust fruit and overall health; not just Honey Crisps.39

Narrowing Down Honeycrisp Apple Tree Pollination Options

If you’re starting from scratch in a colder state, variety won’t be quite as extensive; narrowing down your choices.

The first thing you’ll want to do is get an idea of what your bloom season will be.39

Most apples bloom for around 3 weeks in spring and tend to follow pears. Different sorts bloom at different times, but they tend to have their flowers out for about a week when they do.9

Hot or cold days reduce or expand bloom. So in colder climates, your bloom period tends to be much smaller.

Here’s when several apple tree varieties are likely to see seasonal blooms throughout South Dakota:29

Early SeasonYellow Transparent, Norland, Red Duchess, Royal Gala
Early-Mid SeasonMcIntosh, Honeycrisp, Goodland, Liberty, Empire
Mid-SeasonJonathan, Connell Red, Frostbite
Mid-Late SeasonPrairie Magic, Snow Sweet
Late SeasonRed Regent, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious

This is a “moving target”. Honeycrisp Trees are often late-season bloomers, except in SD.

This is in part owing to the geographical variance of season. Sometimes spring comes in late March, sometimes in early May; Black Hills springtime is later owing to elevation.

In many regions, Honeycrisp Apple trees specifically bloom in the later season. This chart provides an alternative perspective.27

Learning how to grow a tree that will deliver apples for years to come from a seed to its fullest flourish is an undertaking that may require trial and error over a few seasons.

A few tips and tricks for planting Honeycrisp Apple trees here involve the time you plant. Spring or fall is best,20 though you can technically plant an apple tree almost any time of year.

Still, when the ground is less hard, and freezing is less likely, you’ll see better results.

Planting in the fall is a good move; more specifically, right at the end of summer. This way the seeds have time to establish themselves in the ground, sending out roots, and being prepared to grow the following spring.

Follow a guide that explains how to plant a tree properly, particularly, an apple tree from a seed if you haven’t purchased a sapling.

That said, you might want to plant the tree in spring so it can become more established by the following winter.1

What Is the Best Pollinator for a Honeycrisp Apple Tree?

Alright then, just what is the best pollinator for a Honeycrisp Apple tree?

There isn’t a “straight” answer to that question. Which best works for you will depend on your region, and how other trees are doing there.

Trees, like people, bloom at different times. They tend to bloom from April to May, but if you’ve got snow through May, your apple tree may not bloom the same as it did the previous year.

Many apple trees are biennial, which means they bloom every 2 years.23 Since Honeycrisp Apples produce fruit every year,33 a wise move is assuring the pollinator you choose similarly produces an annual yield.

Experts say to use either the red or yellow delicious varieties, Granny Smith, Fuji, or Gala apples.20

Profusion Crabapple also works well and tends to be an option that is effective in colder climates.6

Close-up shot of a bunch of Honey Crisp apples.

(Image: Michele Dorsey Walfred40)

Look where you happen to be on a plant hardiness zone map.35 Ideally, you want a pollinator that really fits your region; especially if you’re in a bit colder than Honeycrisp Trees generally prefer.

Where To Find the Best Honeycrisp Pollinator on an Apple Pollination Chart

When you know where you can find the best Honeycrisp pollinator on an apple pollination chart, you can encourage more effective pollination overall.

For the Honeycrisp Tree, you’ve got over 160 varieties of trees to choose from. Some of the best varieties include:

  • Akane
  • Crabapple
  • Centen
  • Dolgo
  • Early Pink Lady
  • Empire
  • Liberty
  • North Pole
  • Scarlet Sentinel
  • Williams Pride
  • Wynoochee Early
  • Yellow Transparent
  • Zestar

Of these apples, Williams Pride and Zestar are early bloomers, so if you’re pairing your Honeycrisp Tree with these for pollination, you want to be sure the “early bloom” in your region will match when your Honeycrisp sends out its flowers. In a lot of regions, early bloomers aren’t the best choice.

Tips and Tricks for Planting Honeycrisp Apple Trees

The hotter the climate, the easier it tends to be for you to grow trees. For example, fruit trees in Texas that do very well include:36

The best trees to pair with Honeycrisps are apple tree varieties that bloom on a similar schedule; several intersect.

There are different varieties of trees in each “sub-group”. The better the pollination potential in an orchard, the better overall your Honeycrisp Apple tree pollination will be.

A white flowering trees identification chart can be helpful. Most apple trees have pinkish-white blooms, so keep an eye out year after year to see when your local fruit trees decide to put out blossoms

Within a week or two of that time, Honeycrisp Apples will likely bloom in your region.

Tree Genders

This is a complex subject: do trees have genders? Well, sort of: most trees are hermaphroditic, and they’re called monocotyledons; they have “both genders” represented in their varying blooms.28

Image showing leaves and fruits of a Honeycrisp Apple Tree set against a blue sky.

(Image: MikeyMoose41)

However, there are trees that have a gender determined by their parents, and those that can switch gender based on environmental conditions like Striped Maple Tree, which switches year over year.

Dioecious trees have all flowers in one gender; hence the need for pollinators like different types of birds and bees. Some studies have concluded that trees that get more light are most often female, while those that receive less light tend to be predominantly male.

Honeycrisp Trees are technically clones;22 every Honeycrisp Tree is derived from an original variety. Apple trees have flowers that contain male and female “parts”.37

Some can self-pollinate, but most can’t.5 The majority of apple trees are considered to be “dicots” rather than “monocots”, but there’s a deep debate in the botanical community.15

Dicots, or dicotyledons, have a pair of leaves (designated as cotyledons) in the seed’s embryo.7

Monocots, or Monocotyledons, develop massive trunks bearing branches that may almost be leaves themselves. A palm tree is a monocotyledon.34

At the technical level, there are different ways of approaching what apple trees produce. Semantics plays a part here, and the issue gets increasingly complex the deeper you explore it.

Further compounding confusion is the shifting definition of “gender” in modern scientific communities. Some are of the opinion that trees have no gender, but are rather “co-sexual”.

This may be the most simple way to describe apple trees.8

What’s worth taking away here is that plant sexuality is complex, and the best minds in the field have differing opinions based on valid data. The issue here is, that there’s a lot of data, and the nature of plants allows them to match environmental needs to an extent that can severely change how they express themselves in terms of annual flowering.

Think of apple trees as co-sexual, and assume your Honeycrisp Tree will require a cross-pollination partner in the form of a crabapple tree, a gala tree, or one of the others listed earlier in this guide.

Do Apple Trees Self-Pollinate?

Just because Honeycrisp Apple trees do not self-pollinate doesn’t mean one won’t grow in isolation.20 However, it’s not going to do as well as it would otherwise, and it will very likely never have fruit.

So, do apple trees self-pollinate? Well…that’s a sticky wicket, as the saying goes.

Some studies have concluded that, no, they don’t.21 However, there are at least 7 varieties of apple tree listed as self-pollinators.16

How Long Do Honey Crisp Trees Take To Produce Fruit?

Your Honeycrisp Tree likely won’t produce fruit for 5 to 10 years after planting,3 if you grow it from a seed.

Dwarf trees bloom quickly. Also, you can transplant healthy trees; this may be best.

It can take a few years for transplanted trees to begin blooming, but often they can be fruitful in as little as two; especially if you’re planting a dwarf tree. Robust pollination will help.

Close-up shot of apple blossoms and a single bee acting as a honeycrisp pollinator.

(Image: Thragor42)

Planting such trees near similar varieties helps with cross-pollination, but something else that is essential is the types of bees in a given region. Large Mining Bees are best for apples.19

Such bees tend to flourish in woodlands and prairies, which are abundant in the northern regions of the United States. You can certainly husband bees toward greater pollination overall, but it’s worth noting that Mining Bees, also called Chimney bees, Digger bees, and Solitary bees, aren’t the type that rally around a queen in a hive.

So among tips and tricks for planting Honeycrisp Apple trees, fostering Miner bees tends to be a tall order. However, if you’re in a region where they are abundant, that can help.

Also, a hive of Honeybees will almost always help with any flora in a garden;17 whether you’re husbanding trees or something else.

Why the Honeycrisp Apple Tree Is So Popular

There are a lot of reasons why the Honeycrisp Apple tree is so popular. One has to do with longevity overall.25

They’ve been on the market since the 90s and retain crispness. In fact, if you store Honeycrisp Apples in a cold place, they can retain their flavor and freshness for many months.

Additionally, because they are a type of tree that tends to do well in colder climates, northern horticulturalists have success with them.

Planting such a tree is a long-term process. If you go from the seed to the fruit-bearing season of the tree, that can be a 5 to 10-year wait; though dwarf varieties will be producing apples within several years if you take good care of them.

That said, with over 160 viable “pollinators” for Honeycrisp Trees,18 it’s easy to pair this variety of apple producers with local “relatives” that may already exist in your area.

Also, beyond the sweet and tart flavor which represents a complementary combination, as the name suggests, Honeycrisp Apples have a rather pleasant crunch.12

Things You Can Do With Crab Apple Trees

There are a lot of things you can do with Crabapple Trees.

What many don’t realize is that crabapples are indeed a type of apple.26 A pineapple isn’t an apple just because “apple” is in the name, and crabapples are quite dissimilar to regular apples.

Still, they’re a type of apple.

To make this easier to understand, imagine a Honeycrisp Apple as a Golden Retriever, and a Crabapple as a Chihuahua. They’re both canines, even though they’re vastly different dogs.

As a Chihuahua is a much better lapdog than a Golden Retriever, crabapples have other uses that traditional apples aren’t ideal for.32

Crabapples are great for making applesauce more flavorful owing to their tartness. Crabapples are also good for pressing into juice and for varying fermentation purposes.

A lot of people use crabapples in apple butter. Altogether, you don’t have to only use your Crabapple Tree as a cross-pollinator for your Honeycrisp Tree. It can also represent a fine harvest to be used in other ways.

Can a Crabapple Tree Produce Preservable Fruit?

Crabapples are a fine fruit for preserves, jellies, jams, and other culinary combinations. They’re not best by themselves because, as an ornamental, they tend to be favored for their collateral properties rather than their productive potential.13

Crabapples produce fruit less than 2 inches in diameter. That fruit is very sour and isn’t favored unless it has been combined with sugar, or is being used to provide a tangy counterpoint to other fruits.

If you have an especially sweet yield of apples, you might combine crabapples with them in the jam you make to add tartness. It will depend on your preferences.

Really, you want crabapples as cross-pollinators more than anything else. However, they are edible.

So if you’re wondering, “Can a crabapple tree produce preservable fruit?”, well, the answer is a resounding yes, but you want to make sure you get the balance right and follow associated recipes. This one can help you make a delicious crabapple jam.2

How To Make Apple Trees That Produce Honeycrisp Apples Flourish

When determining how to make apple trees that produce Honeycrisp Apples flourish, you’ll want to look at the details.

You might not be able to foster a population of Chimney bees on your property, but you could get a hive going somewhere on the premises, and that will likely help. Such bees will also help with lemon tree pollination, plum tree pollination, and pear tree pollination; so you get more out of them than simply one tree’s betterment.

It’s important to plant at the most ideal time. This may be early spring or early autumn, depending on where you are in the country. Honeycrisp Trees like the sun.10

You can follow guides on how to grow an apple tree from seed; however, you probably want to plant a young tree as opposed to putting the seeds in the ground yourself. If you do, make sure to choose loose, loamy soil.

The pH range is important to consider. You want the soil to be “basic” or “alkaline”, and somewhere between 6.0 and 7.0;30 if the soil is much below or above that range, it adversely affects your tree.

You’ll want to “train” the tree until it becomes strong. Learning how to stake a tree can help keep it growing evenly.

Definitely prune the tree annually, with emphasis on removing apples from lower branches as the tree begins to mature. Heavy apples can weigh down and eventually break the furthest branches, gradually leading to lowered health for the tree overall.

Close-up shot of a Honeycrisp Apple with leaves in the background.

(Image: MikeyMoose43)

Harvest is often in late September or early October, depending on the climate of your area.

Bloom in The Black Hills of South Dakota will differ from bloom in the “East River” portion of the state around Sioux Falls, where humidity is greater, as are seasonal temperature swings. Different states have similar idiosyncratic bloom periods.

Watch for fungal diseases,38 Honeycrisp Trees can be prone to them.

There are also pests like coddling moths. You’ll have to decide whether to use pesticides or other methods to keep them healthy.

There are methods of discouraging pests that include oil-based treatments, peppermint-based treatments, and hot pepper options.4 You might want to think about these over chemical alternatives.

Lastly, if you’re dealing with a drought or something of the kind, there are options to help keep it healthy. Recently, IV bags including nutrients were tested on apple trees.14

This can be an option if you’re having difficulty keeping a Honeycrisp Tree healthy enough to produce a predictable harvest.

Growing Honeycrisp Apples on a Dwarf Honeycrisp Apple Tree

Growing Honeycrisp Apples from a dwarf Honeycrisp Apple tree is definitely possible and may be desirable to growing the same tree from seeds.

Dwarf trees produce fruit in just a few years (2 to 6),33 whereas you’ll likely have to wait for 5 to 10 (with an average of 7 to 8) if you husband the tree from a seed to a sapling, to maturity.

However, when you transplant a tree, it tends to take a little while to be productive; usually about a year for every inch of width in the trunk.11 It takes that long for the tree to establish a strong root system.

Test the pH of the soil, plant properly, keep the tree watered, ensure that it has lots of sun, and keep a cross-pollinating partner no further than 50 feet away; up to 30 feet from the Honeycrisp dwarf.

One last note on this subject, if you’re going to plant a dwarf Honeycrisp, it’s wise to have a cross-pollinating partner that is also of the “dwarf” variety.25

Honeycrisp Apple Tree Pollination: Key Points for Your Trees To Flourish

If you want your Honeycrisp Apples to flourish, and you’re in a colder climate, you’ve got a good chance of seeing the results you seek. You’ll do better to plant a sapling grafted from a healthy Honeycrisp Tree than to try and grow one from seeds.

Eye-level shot of a Honeycrisp Apple orchard during a sunny day.

(Image: Andrew44)

Additionally, you’ll want to have cross-pollination solutions available. You’ve got 160 to choose from, crabapples, Pink Lady apples, North Pole apples, and Empire apples are some of the best.

You’ll want to plant the sapling in soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0, ideally. Expect a dwarf Honeycrisp Tree to produce fruit in 2 to 5 years, a larger tree will take 6 to 8, up to 10.

If you plant a Honeycrisp Tree and take proper care of it from seed to maturity, it may not produce fruit for 5 to 10 years.

You’ll want to plant either in early spring or early autumn, depending on the climate where you are. There are good reasons to plant at either extreme.

Be sure to plant in an area that gets plenty of sunlight. You’ll want to keep the tree nourished with water and proper fertilizer,31 as is par for the course regarding most horticulture.

In a drought, an IV bag might be in order.

All in all, when considering Honeycrisp Apple tree pollination, always plan for the long term and you’ll ensure that your harvests are delicious!


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40Honey crisp apples Photo by Michele Dorsey Walfred / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) . Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Flickr <https://www.flickr.com/photos/dorseymw/29134523604/>

41Honeycrisp apple tree in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley Photo by MikeyMoose / Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0). Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Wikimedia Commons <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Honeycrisp_apple_tree.jpg>

42Photo by Thragor. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/photos/bee-apple-blossom-flowers-honey-bee-6241306/>

43Ripe Honeycrisp apples on the tree Photo by MikeyMoose / Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0). Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Wikimedia Commons <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Honeycrisp_apples.jpg>

44Honeycrisps Photo by Andrew / Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0). Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. From Flickr <https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrew/4012032410/>

45Photo by Hans. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/photos/apples-apple-tree-fruit-red-fresh-693995/>