Contact Us800.325.4180

Growing 2-N-1 Fruit Trees

by Patti on 01/11/2011
Double Delicious®

Do you live in suburbia, surrounded by chain link fences and neighborhood sprawl? Are you currently downsizing, or perhaps moving closer to the convenience of the city? These are some common reasons people never consider growing fruit trees. Patti Moreno (of Garden Girl TV and co-host for Growing A Greener World TV) has a very different take on the matter, as she blogs about compact, self-pollinating Stark® Custom Graft® 2-N-1 fruit trees – the perfect pick for small space growing!

– Meg

2-N-1 Fruit Trees

Growing fruit in your own backyard is quite rewarding, but many of us can’t because we don’t have enough space for fruit trees. For homeowners with small backyards, it can be a challenge to plant fruit trees due to their spacing requirements.

The perfect solution? Plant 2-N-1 fruit trees for small spaces!

What are multi-grafted fruit trees & why grow them?

2-N-1 fruit trees are great choices for small-space gardeners — you only need one tree to grow several kinds of fruit. These trees are grafted to grow multiple varieties of the same fruit on one tree. Some fruits require more than one variety in order to cross-pollinate and produce fruit, making 2-N-1 fruit trees technically “self-pollinating”. In addition, many of these fruits may ripen at different times, allowing you to extend the harvest season. (See examples below.)

What is grafting?

Don’t worry, 2-N-1 fruit trees are not genetically altered! Grafting is a simple process in which a live branch from one tree is cut and inserted into another tree. The woods merge naturally and soon the new branch grows with the nutrients from the primary tree. Grafting is actually the most common way to propagate strong, healthy, true-to-name fruit trees. The only difference in the case of 2-N-1 trees is that the grafted branches are not from the exact same variety of tree.

How to care for 2-N-1 Fruit Trees

Caring for your multi-grafted fruit tree is similar to growing any fruit tree, but there are some things you will do differently.

  1. Make sure that your tree is planted in full sun, with well-drained, fertile soil.
  2. Pruning your 2-N-1 tree is key. You want to make sure that you balance the pruning of branches between varieties, making sure not to take off more of one kind than the other. If one variety begins to overgrow the other, be sure to prune back the more-vigorous variety so that both are growing proportionally. Be extra careful not to completely remove one of your varieties when pruning. Read the tag that comes with your 2-N-1 tree for more information.
  3. The primary reason for growing a 2-N-1 fruit tree is to get the most fruit possible, so its a good idea to fertilize your trees when you plant them, and repeat about once a year in early spring. Be careful not to over fertilize for risk of injuring the tree or the environment.

Choosing 2-N-1 Fruit Trees for Small Spaces

Stark Bro’s is a leader in growing high quality multi-grafted fruit trees. They offer a variety of great Stark® Custom Graft® 2-N-1 fruit trees, such as:

  • 2-N-1 Asian Pear: New Century pears ripen in late August and Starking® Hardy Giant™ in mid-September.
  • 2-N-1 Cherry: Deep-red Van Sweet Cherries and Golden Stark® Gold™ cherries, both for fresh eating and desserts. Harvest in mid-June.
  • 2-N-1 Pear: Starkrimson® ripens in mid-August; and the classic Bartlett pear ripens late August.
  • 2-N-1 Plum: Shiro Japanese Plums ripens starting in mid-July. Dark-red Redheart Plums ripen in August.

2-N-1 Asian Pear 2-N-1 Cherry Tree 2-N-1 Pear Tree 2-N-1 Plum Tree

  • Stark® Double Delicious® Apple: Starkrimson® Red Delicious and Stark® Golden Delicious — great for fresh eating and baking. Ripens late September to mid-October.

Enjoying the Fruits of my Labor,
Patti Moreno
the Garden Girl

Topics → Planting & Growing, Tips


  1. Jerry Hadley permalink

    Are these large trees or will they grow in containers?

    • Meg permalink

      Jerry, these 2-N-1 trees are all semi-dwarfs, so probably not optimal for container-growing. They work well in small yards because of their combination of varieties on 1 tree – most fruits need 2 trees to pollinate each other, but these trees are grafted so that only 1 tree is needed. If you’re interested in planting trees in containers, look for dwarf size or colonnade trees.

      Patti has another great article with photos on container-planting a tree:

      Hope that helps! :)

  2. Patrick permalink

    I have a cottage in the thumb of Michigan, right near the top on the shores of Lake Huron. i would like to plant some 2 in 1 fruit trees, wil they grow in a sandy soil, land do they require a lot of chemical maintenence?

    • Meg permalink

      Thanks for stopping by, Pat! :) First, I’d always recommend amending your soil with peat moss & organic compost… it enriches the soil & will help the roots take hold in a more sandy environment.

      Make sure you pick trees that will grow well in your hardiness zone. All except for our 2N1 Asian Pears grow in zones 5-8/9, which may be too warm for your location.

      As far as chemicals, there are always ways to take care of your trees with minimal use. I’d recommend the Stark Tre Pep fertilizer to get the trees off to a strong start, but don’t use after June. :)

  3. Robert Couture permalink

    I purchased some dwarf &simi-dwarf trees,among them are starkspur trees. My question is how do you prune the spur trees.

    • Meg permalink

      Robert, sorry it took me a while to get back with you on this– had to do some research!

      According to Elmer, the spur trees should be pruned *less vigorously* than other trees. Typically, just the pruning of dead/diseased branches & cross-branches will be needed with the spurs. I hope that helps!

  4. Jayne permalink

    Can you do nut trees….LOve me some Nuts!

    • Meg permalink

      Wouldn’t that be fun, Jayne?! A 2-n-1 Nut tree… hmm. Which nuts would we pick? :)

  5. Dave Fouke permalink

    I wish you would tell us the best time to plant the trees for our zones?? And print planting times in your catalog for our zones for other plants. It seems as if none of various does!!!!

    • Meg permalink

      Dave, great question. Really. :) Since I don’t have a chart to give you (yet!), here’s the basic rules of green thumb:

      -If you can, plant when the trees are still dormant.

      This is going to vary by zone, as you well know! We recommend zones 6-10 actually plant in FALL, after the trees have gone dormant. But zones 2-5 get cold too early for fall planting. Spring works well for most ALL zones – trees will begin to break dormancy in early/mid spring.

      -You want to plant at the beginning of your spring weather, after the last predicted frost for your area. This is so incredibly specific to each area, down to small sub-sections of zones! Even your weather varies year to year, so while you might have planted in, say, mid-March 2010, the winter might hang around longer this year and prevent planting until late-March/early-April 2011! So keep an eye on your local weather, check for frost schedule, etc.

      -If you can’t plant at the beginning of your spring, plant as soon as you can. :) The earlier those trees/plants get in the ground, the longer their roots will have to establish in the soil before dealing with summer sun/heat/etc.

      We should have a post by Elmer on here soon, on why its important to plant earlier than later… check back in the next couple of weeks!

      If you’re interested in when we start shipping to your area (these are the dates specified by the USDA when each zone could potentially begin planting):

      Let me know if you have any other questions! :)

  6. Clare Nelson permalink

    “Don’t worry, 2-N-1 fruit trees are not crossbred or genetically altered!”

    No, what worries me is that someone associated with a breeding company writes such nonsense. ALL fruit trees are “crossbred”. It is the only way to improve them. ALL breeding is genetic alteration.

    • Meg permalink

      Clare: you are absolutely right. Thank you for catching that. :) Per our hort expert Elmer, we don’t do any genetic alterations/engineering/manipulations (which is what I believe Patti was saying), but as you pointed out, ALL sexually-reproducing fruit trees are crossbred. Thank you for commenting & clarifying that word choice– greatly appreciated.

    • Meg permalink

      Clare, I have some more specific info from Elmer on this matter & thought I’d post it out here. Thanks again for bringing this up! :)

      “1. Crossbred – All trees that come up as chance seedlings or are deliberately crossed by plant breeders are crossbred. When we consider the apple and pear families that require pollination to fruit, it’s a requirement. So, Clare is right on this matter.

      2. Genetically altered is a plant produced by changing the gene structure of a plant to alter its tolerance or build its resistance to something, i.e. Roundup Ready Soybeans was developed by splicing a gene from peas into soybeans, thus giving them resistance to Roundup. The result is you can spray Roundup right over the top of the beans, killing every weed in the field without harming the beans.

      3. Grafting – is asexual production (apart from sex). Actually, grafting is a method of cloning. It helps produce a tree using the material from true-to-name trees, avoiding the two parent scheme by cutting wood from one tree and placing it into another.”

      Most all of Stark Bro’s trees (including all of our 2N1′s) are all grafted. :)

  7. I keep hearing about these trees! I’m thinking of buying some. Can they be grown in large containers?

    • Meg permalink

      Hi Caren (with a “C”!) :) — to answer your question, YES these trees can be grown in large containers! Patti wrote a fantastic post on that exact topic (with great step-by-step pictures, too):


  8. ALLEN HONAKER permalink

    Please send catalog.
    Thank You;
    Allen Honaker

    • Meg permalink

      Allen, I sent your address over to our Customer Service Team — they’ll get a catalog sent out to you within a couple of weeks! Thanks for your interest! :)

  9. Jen permalink

    I am drooling over these trees. I live in Bethesda MD and have a small back yard. Exactly how much sun light (hours) do they need? How much space to grow? Type of soil (we have clay). How long till they produce a harvest? the best method to keep pests (squirrels raccoons) away?

  10. I am doing espalier with a peach tree. It is the horizontal espalier. The branches have reached the max length and now they are sprouting the shoots. I am only getting shoots near the end of the branch on the new growth of this year. Should I pinch that off so I get shoots off the older growth. Also am I supposed to train these shoots. Not sure how I would do it on the upper branches. Can’t find any info on this stage of doing espalier. I’m loving the process so far.

  11. Brenda permalink

    I have several columunade apple trees 3 of 1 type and 1 pollinator the 2 types are blooming at differt times !
    This year we had lots of blooms but none on the pollinator the trees are now about 7yr old and only 1 apple in all this time. why?

  12. genet permalink

    So if I plant these 2 in 1 trees. . . . .how long will it take for them to bear fruit ?
    Say I plant them in the early early spring ?
    Will it take several years for the apples and pears to bear fruit?
    Or can you pay extra to buy “bigger” trees?

    • Hello, Genet!

      The 2-N-1 fruit trees are the same age as the individual variety fruit trees we ship — about 2 years old! The apples and pears will all take at least 2-3 years to begin bearing fruit for you. The benefit is that you have two varieties, and pollinators, all on one tree. A great space saver!

      Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to planting fruit trees. The important thing is that they get established in their new home — your yard! Bigger/older trees may produce fruit the year you plant them, but they really struggle along after that because fruit-production takes a lot of energy, and their roots aren’t established enough to systematically replenish that energy.

  13. Sybil permalink

    Do they make grafted nut trees to b 2 n 1 or 3 n 1??

    • I’ve looked around to see if these exist, Sybil, and I haven’t had much luck finding any. I’m willing to bet that it’s either not practical to have a multi-grafted nut tree, or the industry is just not there yet. There aren’t very many nurseries that offer grafted nut trees to begin with, as most are sold as seedlings. Which nut trees were you thinking would be nice to have as a 2-N-1 or 3-N-1?

  14. Bob Herbert permalink

    I have a 2 in one plum where the Shiro plum is way dominant. If the Methley plum doesn’t make it, will my plumcot be able to pollinate the Shiro plum? (I know the converse is true)

    • Hi Bob! That is a common occurrence with 2-N-1 trees: one variety tends to have a higher vigor than the other and it may try to establish its dominance. You can counter this by pruning the vigorous variety to maintain balance and encourage the other one to grow.

      If you find that your Shiro “takes over”, your Plumcot should take care of pollination and you’ll still see fruit — as long as both are of fruiting maturity and blooming at the same time.

  15. Bob Herbert permalink

    I have two, 2 in 1 fruit trees and not impressed with either one. The pear tree had the dominant main stem take over & is now about 12′ tall, while the side branches look crippled and never bloomed. The other tree is a “Supreme 2 in 1 Japanese Plum” where the Shiro side branches are dominant & the Methley center stem has only grown about a foot total in four yrs. I am hoping my newly planted Plumcot tree will take over for the Methley plum if it says byebye! Bob H.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Tweets that mention Small Space Growing: 2-N-1 Fruit Trees | Growing with Stark Bro's --
  2. How to Grow and Care for the Optimal Rose Garden |

Leave a Reply

Note: XHTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

What is 2 + 4 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the above simple math (so we know that you are a human).