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How To Keep Fruit Trees From Blooming Too Early

It’s always an exciting moment when we see our trees finally flourish and bloom. The hard effort of taking care of the plant has come to this moment where we can revel in the fruit it bears! However, it can be the opposite and become more troublesome instead when it blooms too early. You can try to prevent this in a number of ways, which will be discussed below. 

Trees bloom when the weather warms enough that the trees think it is spring. The reasons your fruit trees are blooming early, how to delay them, and how to stop them from freezing over include:

  1. Warmer temperatures, such as a warm winter, can cause trees to bloom earlier.
  2. Water sprinklers have proven to delay blooming of certain fruit trees by up to almost 3 weeks.
  3. Sterilizing the tree can stop blooming all together, or inhibit it to more manageable levels.
  4. Spraying of certain chemicals can delay blooming of some fruit trees.
  5. Evaporative cooling is effective in delaying when temperatures go above 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Using a suitable amount of fertilizer can affect blooming.
  7. Covering up your tree with a blanket or sheet on a cold night prevents frost damage.
  8. Mulching around your tree helps insulate it in the cooler months.
  9. Providing warmth using lights or heaters helps the tree from freezing over.

Your tree’s health is important, so it’s always a good idea to find out as much more information as you can to maintain its blooming abilities. While the above are useful tips in a nutshell, keep reading on to get a better idea as to how your trees can keep bearing fruit for many seasons to come.

image of an orange tree with its flowers and 2 oranges on a sunny day

What Happens if a Fruit Tree Blooms too Early?

Fruit trees that bloom too early risk losing their blossoms (and therefore their fruit) if there is a frost or a significant decrease in temperature. This is most likely to happen during a mild winter with a colder-than-usual spring.

If your tree blossoms too early, then it’s important to keep an eye on the weather so you don’t lose your blossoms.

In our experience, it’s the apricot tree that’s most likely to lose its blossoms in a late-spring frost, followed by the peach tree.

If you would like to know the critical temperatures for the various fruit blooms, which you can see here at the USU extension’s research results. It’s based on nationwide data, so you can see exactly what temperatures you need to watch out for at each stage in a fruit tree’s fruiting process.

Steps to Keep Fruit Trees from Blooming too Early

To know how to stop your fruit trees from blooming too early, you’ll need to know what causes early blooming in the first place. Most notably, warmer temperatures – such as a warm winter – can cause a tree to begin budding. If there’s no sudden shift into colder weather, the tree will bud later in the winter, leaving the buds exposed and prone to frost.

Even so, here are some steps you can take to keep fruit trees from blooming too early.

  1. Pick trees that bloom later in the year, or with warmer temperatures.
  2. Use blankets, warmers, lights, or cooling devices (including sprinklers) to control the temperature around your tree to prevent early blooming.
  3. Use mulch and fertilizers to influence blooming per the instructions on the container.
  4. Use water sprinklers to delay blooms (only works on some tree types).

It’s best to avoid this as best you can, as it can cause unnecessary stress on trees.

Trees with fruit and flowers are the most vulnerable to frost, and the actual tree can incur long-term damage. One way to prevent trees from blooming too early is to simply choose tree varieties that are later bearing, especially for your climate (or zone). These tend to be trees that can take warmer temperatures to initiate blossoms, which often takes up to a couple of weeks to delay blooming.

All in all, it can be a challenge to keep your tree from blooming early. At times, it may be almost impossible to control their blooming time. However, there are still things you can do to try and to also just do what’s best for your tree.

How do you delay fruit tree blooms – with sprinklers?

Overhead water sprinklers can be used to delay fruit tree blooms by 10-18 days, depending on the fruit tree type. For this, you’ll need to have (or install) overhead sprinklers. Then, spray the trees regularly so that they are cooled. Cooling the trees will delay blooming.

This was found by a research project that was done to delay blooming of fruit trees by using overhead sprinklers during early spring. In Central Ontago, New Zealand, this experiment was done to apricot, peach, and apple buds. The fruits were delayed up to 10 days for apricots, 13 days for peaches, and 18 days for apples.

image showing a part of peach tree and a hand while spraying a chemical on it.

How do you Keep Early Blossoms from Freezing?

If you’re not into using chemicals or other substances to delay blooming of your fruit trees, you can still protect them from freezing. Before attempting anything, it’s useful to check your fruit’s temperature tolerance. For instance, newly developed peach buds can withstand temperatures of 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Commercial growers would have costly systems in place to prevent their crop from freezing over. This includes wind machines, which are effective when the temperature only goes down by a non-critical point, as well as smudge pots, which generate heat. If you’re only a backyard grower, here are more affordable things to do.

  1. Temporary sprinklers. On cold nights, you can coat your trees with water. This may seem counterintuitive, as water can make the tree colder on the surface. However, the icy coat that will form on your tree will provide an insulating shield to protect against frost damage.
  2. Blanket. Covering up your fruit tree is another effective option. If you don’t have a blanket large enough, you can easily purchase a sheet or row cover from most hardware shops. Make sure that the cover doesn’t touch the tree and place it above by using a frame. Prior to covering them up, it helps to water them for evaporation to take place, thus providing warm air.
  3. Heaters or light. Just like humans, plants can do with much needed warmth. If there is a power source nearby the tree, it will help to place a small heater next to it to protect it from the frost. When a heater seems out of the question, you can dig up old Christmas lights that are not needed. Installing a string of lights under the tree’s cover will work wonders.
  4. Mulching. Planting new trees around the base of your tree can help insulate it during the colder months. It’s not an instant solution, but think of it as a long-term strategy for your tree.
  5. Chemical sprays. A small application of chemical spray can protect your fruits in a big way. For instance, KDL (potassium dextrose-lactose) is an inexpensive solution to frost damage on blooming fruit trees. When sprayed hours before a frost, it can protect your fruit tree for around 10-14 days. The length depends on how warm the days are following the frost.

Can you Stop Trees from Blooming?

If your fruit trees drop an abundant number of fruits, it can become problematic. The extra fruit can clutter your landscape, attract birds and rodents, and become slipping hazards when they rot. When your fruit trees are causing more of a nuisance rather than a nice addition to your garden, you can consider sterilizing the tree. This stops it from blooming copious amounts of fruit, while it still maintains the beauty of the plant.

Sterilizing your tree can be a one-time thing or a regular thing, depending on your homesteading goals.

How does tree sterilization work?

To sterilize a fruit tree, you’ll need to provide the plant with a hormone regulator. This is generally applied by spraying on the plant as it flowers, but before fruits begin to take shape. There are particular factors that you may need to consider when applying the hormone regulator, such as wind and temperature.

For instance, it’s recommended to apply when there is no wind and when the weather is between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5-32 C.).

Don’t worry – the instructions (and the weather guidelines) are on the packaging of each sterilant.

It might sound strange to sterilize your tree. It may even be a bit cruel to stop it from producing fruit, but plant inhibitors have been used for decades by farmers and other larger scale corporations. Keeping plants sterilized has become common practice, as it allows the plant to keep its desired shape and control its fruiting.

If you’re unsure on how to apply the hormone, you can ask a professional to help. Some hormone controls may not be suitable for your type of tree or plant, and there’s a possibility that it will cause long-term damage instead. Certain chemicals may also be harmful to insects, like bees, which are an important part of your garden’s ecosystem.

image of peach trees at the farm in a blooming season

Frequently Asked Questions about Delaying Blooming in Specific Fruit Trees

Now, there are a lot of frequently asked questions about getting specific types of fruit trees to delay blooming. So let’s go through those. And if you’ve got a question about delaying blooming on a type of tree I didn’t cover? Just ask me via my contact me page – and I’ll get it added here. If I don’t know about it by experience, I’ll at least do the research for you so you’ve got a solid answer.

How do you delay peach trees from blooming?

Peach trees can be delayed from blooming via cooling or certain chemicals.

Peaches incur more of a severe damage than pome fruits like apples and pears during cold weather. According to the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension and the University of Florida, stone fruits like peaches flower earlier than pome fruits, which means they’ll be more impacted by cold nights in the early spring (source and source).

A peach tree is more vulnerable than others, as it tends to bloom earlier in the year, meaning they are more likely to be damaged by late spring frosts.

Certain chemicals can help delay the blooming of fruit trees, such as concentrations of ethephon (source). However, too much of this can have harmful effect on the tree. Other research has shown that other compounds can help delay peach trees from blooming. The University of Tennessee has successfully delayed the date of peach bloom by using soybean oil (source).

Generally speaking, we don’t worry too much about our peach tree blooming too early – if only because it’s not a dwarf (when it was supposed to be), so we usually get more fruit than we can handle even when there is a late frost that affects the blossoms of our other trees.

How do you delay apricot trees from blooming?

Apricot blossoms can be delayed via evaporative cooling or other delaying techniques.

According to a research paper published in the New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research, apricots are the most susceptible to damaging freezes because they blossom 2 to 3 weeks earlier than most other deciduous fruits (source). It was also discovered that apricot bud had similar temperatures to those of peach, which means they can be delayed by using the same methods as peach trees.

Other effective methods include evaporative cooling. This can be done by wetting the tree every few minutes when the temperature goes above 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Accompanied with a well-drained soil to avoid it from getting too wet, this method can delay bloom by about two weeks according to some forums I’ve read.

In our experience, it’s really easy for apricots to bloom too early and then lose their potential fruit. We love our apricot tree, but it’s mostly a fancy shade tree. We consider ourselves lucky to get fruit from it once every 2-3 years. We could definitely get a more reliable crop by using evaporative cooling to delay the blossoms.

How do you save cherry trees from frost?

The best way to save cherries from frost is by using heating or evaporating cooling techniques, like misters to spray the buds and fruit. That way, the water will pull the cold away from the blossoms. And further misting will keep the ice from damaging the buds.

Cherry trees are at their most vulnerable stage just before their white flowers blossom at their water bud stage. When their blossoms don’t last on a cold night, there’s no chance that the trees will bear fruit (source).

During a cold night, moisture retained inside the blossom will freeze, which ultimately breaks the cell wall. Similar to other fruit trees, cherry trees can be protected from frost damage through various methods.

In Utah, our cherry trees don’t usually have big problems with even late frosts in April or May. Let’s hope I didn’t just jinx myself for next year!

image focused on part of blooming orange tree with it's beautiful small flowers

Frequently Asked Questions on Getting Fruit Trees to Bloom

Now, what about if you’re trying to encourage a fruit tree to bloom? Here are some frequently asked questions on getting blooms to happen. But if I didn’t cover the fruit tree you are wondering about? Just ask me via my contact me page – and I’ll get it added here. If I don’t know about it by experience, I’ll at least do the research for you so you’ve got a solid answer.

How do you Get a Pear Tree to Bloom?

Temperature has a huge role to play in when your pear tree will bloom. Warm climates can cause flower buds in the pear tree to open prematurely. Without flowers, pear trees cannot produce fruit. With this in mind, it’s ideal to put just the right amount of fertilizer, as too much can cause to grow branches instead of flowers.

In other words, the pear tree will bloom on its own when it thinks it’s spring. If you want it to bloom early, it’ll need to be warmed with blankets, fertilizer, lights, and other heating methods. Just know that by encouraging early blooms, you’re risking losing those blooms if there’s a frost.

How do you Get a Citrus Tree to Bloom?

Citrus trees need to bloom in order to produce fruit later in the year. You may not be able to control exactly when your citrus tree will bloom, but there are steps that you can take to get it to bloom efficiently. This includes watering them sparingly in the early winter, controlling temperature (if possible), and fertilizing them around three times a year.

For more information on planting and care, make sure you read my article on How to Plant Citrus Trees: the Soil, Spacing, Light, & Food.

Final Thoughts

While it may be hard to stop nature in its path, there are a few things that you can do to delay your fruit trees from blooming early. Sprinklers and chemical sprays are the most popular methods when it comes to delaying the blooming of fruit trees. On the other end of the spectrum, is sterilization as a solution. This is most effective when your tree is producing too much fruit, which becomes an inconvenience in your garden.

When the temperature is on the warm side, especially when it’s nearing winter, your tree will naturally want to bloom. When this happens, the only thing you can do is to help your tree from frosting. Once you’ve identified the temperature tolerance of your fruits, you can take on various methods of frost prevention. Watering your plant before covering them up on a cold night helps with evaporation, which provides the tree with warm air, thus preventing frost. Other affordable methods include using heaters or light to avoid the tree from freezing over.

However, any of those methods are hard to use in a backyard homestead, unless you’ve got a good system set up. In the case where you’ve only got a few trees, it may be easier to just use tree wraps (blankets), fertilizers, and food storage to make up for the years when you do lose blossoms to frost.

That’s what we do – we try not to worry too much about it. Because when we do get a bumper crop? We use our freeze dryer to save as much fresh produce as we don’t want to eat right away – that way, we’ll have plenty of apricots for the years when frost kills the early blossoms.

We learned a new trick this year. Plant your trees in the lee of a fence. It seems to protect the delicate blossoms from the cold winds that can worsen damage during surprise spring frosts. We actually ended up with a good number of apricots this year – after a late frost that would otherwise have destroyed all the blossoms.

This site uses referral links from advertising partners. As an Amazon Associate, I can earn from qualifying purchases.

In any case, having a backyard orchard is an amazing thing. But seriously – make sure you’ve got a Harvest Right freeze-dryer to store all that delicious produce for whatever the future may hold. Then make sure you check back here for all of my best freeze-drying tips and secrets. I’ve gotcha covered, friend.

Cite this article as: “How To Keep Fruit Trees From Blooming Too Early!” Backyard Homestead HQ, 16 July 2021, backyardhomesteadhq.com/how-to-keep-fruit-trees-from-blooming-too-early/.

Resources

It’s important to learn from your own experience, but it’s also smart to learn from others. These are the sources used in this article and in our personal research to be more informed as homesteaders. 🙂

  • “Applying soybean oil to dormant peach trees alters internal atmosphere, reduces respiration, delays bloom, and thins flower buds.” Journal of The American Society for Horticultural Science, http://botanicaloils.tennessee.edu/myers.pdf
  • “Combating Spring Frost With Ethylene.” Frontiers in Plant Science, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6831720/.
  • “Frost Protection – Stone Fruit – University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences – UF/IFAS.” (C)Copyright 2018, UF/IFAS, hos.ifas.ufl.edu/stonefruit/production/frost-protection.
  • “Fruit Growers Try Tricking Mother Nature To Prevent Crop Damage.” NPR, https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/04/23/401531585/fruit-growers-try-tricking-mother-nature-to-prevent-crop-damage.
  • Murray, Marion. “Critical Temperatures for Frost Damage on Fruit Trees.” Utah State University Extension, https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1643&context=extension_curall.
  • Schalau, Jeff. “Backyard Gardener – Freeze Damage in Fruit Crops – April 20, 2016.” Cals.Arizona.Edu, cals.arizona.edu/yavapai/anr/hort/byg/archive/freezedamageinfruitcrops2016.html.
  • “Water sprinkling to delay bloom in fruit trees.” N.Z. Journal of Agricultural Research 23, 1980, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00288233.1980.10417877