How to Prune Apple Trees

Apple trees can be a great addition to any garden, in spite of its size, because they are so versatile. However, Apple trees flower and the fruit grows on strong stubby twigs known as spurs. It is because of these spurs that the apple trees need regular pruning. If you aren’t sure how to go about pruning your apple tree, this guide should help!

Which tools should I use?

You will need a pair of very sharp secateurs; blunt tools will damage the branches and make them more susceptible to diseases. You will also need a pruning saw to cut off larger branches that secateurs cannot cut.

When should I Prune the Tree?

You should ideally prune your apple tree during late winter or very early spring. The only type of pruning you should do at any other time of the year is removing suckers; any other type of pruning could damage the plant’s growth.

What should I Prune from the Tree?

You’re probably a bit dubious as to what you should remove from the tree, especially if you aren’t a very experienced gardener. Here’s a list to make sure you don’t remove anything unnecessary:

  •  Suckers
  •  Stubs or Broken branches
  •  Downward-growing branches
  •  Branches that rub on or cross one another
  •  Interior branches that grow upwards
  •  Competing leaders
  •  Whorls

How do I Prune a Young Tree?

You should prune and train your apple tree from the very day that it’s planted. Failure to do so will result in poor growth and fruit that is both delayed and under-sized. You can either prune these young trees to grow as a ‘central leader’, where the tree grows in the shape of a pyramid. Alternatively, you could train your tree to with an ‘open centre’, where the tree grows in a sort of vase shape. You could also opt for the Espalier or Cordon. This involves growing the apple tree up against and along walls and lattices; this style is the best for dwarf varieties of the trees as they grow slower and will require less pruning than other varieties.

How to Prune a Mature or Neglected Tree?

Providing that your mature tree has been well-trained into shape, pruning you simply involve maintaining their shape and size. You should also: remove any broken or diseased branches; shorten any branches that are too long; remove any weak stems; thin out new growth to allow light to filter in and help to ripen and colour fruit properly.

With regards to neglected apple trees, pruning can be a much more difficult task. The most important thing to do in this situation is to open up the interior to let light filter into the centre. The first step to doing this would be removing all of the upright and vigorous growing shoots at their base to prevent them from shading the interior of the tree.


Do you have any tips on the best ways to prune apple trees? Perhaps you could recommend some tools to use! Tell us in the comments section below!

[Photo Credit: Rovanto ]