Apple trees are incredibly popular and come in a huge range of shapes and sizes. They can be grown as standards, or trained against walls as cordons, espaliers or fans. Dwarf varieties can even be grown in containers.
Whichever type of apple tree you grow, regular pruning is important if you want it to stay healthy and produce lots of fruit. Here’s how and when to prune your apple trees.
|'Cox's Orange Pippin' has an aromatic flavour and crisp, juicy texture
Image: Apple 'Cox's Orange Pippin' from T&M
Standard apple trees are mainly pruned in winter, between November and early March when the plant is dormant. Winter pruning stimulates root growth.
Trained apple trees should be pruned in summer, with just a tidy up during winter if required. Mid- to late-August is ideal.
Most apple trees produce fruit on spurs – short shoots that sprout on older wood. However, a few varieties, known as tip-bearers, fruit at the end of long shoots that were produced the year before. Identify which type of apple tree you have to avoid accidentally removing all the shoots that will produce next year’s crop.
|Aim for an open goblet shape that allows plenty of sunlight to reach and ripen the fruit
Image: Apple 'Appeltini' from T&M
To prune your apple tree you’ll need a good set of steps, a pruning saw and sharp secateurs. It’s important to make clean cuts that will reduce the risk of introducing disease.
For standard apple trees you should aim to create an open, goblet shape that allows the maximum amount of light down into the tree and good air circulation.
|Remove any unwanted vertical growth in summer
Image: Andrew Fletcher
Apples grown as cordon, espalier or fans should be pruned from mid-August. The aim is to maintain the desired shape and allow as much sun as possible to ripen the fruit. However, once the trees are mature, you may need to thin any congested spurs over the winter.
We hope we’ve given you plenty of tips to help you prune your apples trees and enjoy many years of delicious fruit. For more advice on growing fruit trees, check out our dedicated fruit tree hub page.
Banner image: Zhukovskyi/ Shutterstock