Gardening Help FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

Can I prevent my tree from producing messy fruit?

Occasionally, fruits, nuts, and seed pods of certain trees present nuisance problems. These trees include the various fruit trees, apple trees in particular, as well as several ornamental and shade trees, such as hawthorne, sweetgum, mulberry, wild black cherry, the various oaks and hickories, horse chestnuts, persimmon, ginkgo, catalpa, honey locust, and Kentucky coffee tree.

The nuisance these trees produce is usually little more than the mess they create on the ground. However, fruits may clog drain gutters and, on some occasions, stain driveways, sidewalks, and patios as is the case with the wild mulberry and black cherry fruit. They can sometimes present a more serious problem. Rotting apples and crabapples on the ground can attract unwanted yellow jackets in late summer. Fallen, decaying apple and crabapple fruits can also make sidewalks slippery, posing a hazard for pedestrians.

Unfortunately, there are few methods available to remove unwanted fruits and nuts from trees. No sprays are recommended to control sweet gum balls and the few chemicals registered for use on other ornamental trees must be used with care. If applied at the wrong time they will not be effective, and if applied improperly they can drift onto other plants in yours or your neighbors yard and cause unplanned-for problems.

Since many of the fruits and seeds gardeners may find a nuisance provide food for birds and other wildlife, regularly picking up the fallen fruit and placing gutter guards in rain gutters may be the best solution. If this is unacceptable, consider replacing the tree with a different tree or with a variety that does not produce problem seeds or fruit. Some of the more desirable varieties; for example crabapples, have small fruit that are decorative, do not drop and provide late winter food for songbirds.