How to prune apple trees

Written by c. giles Google
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How to prune apple trees
A well pruned apple tree can produce fruit for many years. (Apple-tree image by Beausoir from

One of the aims of pruning apple trees is to achieve a balance between the side shoots grown in the previous year and the side shoots grown in the current year. This should produce a crop of apples in the current year and enough shoots for the following year's crop. After four years of pruning, an apple tree should have an established shape. Make sure you know whether you have a tree that is 1 or 2 years old when you plant it, so that you can follow the correct pruning instructions.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Sharp secateurs
  • Pruning saw

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    Pruning a 1-Year-Old Apple Tree

  1. 1

    Prune a 1-year-old tree immediately after planting. Check that the bottom half of the trunk contains a minimum of four buds or formed branches.

    How to prune apple trees
    A one year old apple tree should have a few buds. (apple tree 3 image by Przemyslaw Koroza from
  2. 2

    Cut off the top half of the tree trunk with secateurs.

    How to prune apple trees
    Make sure your tools are sharp. (secateurs image by hazel proudlove from
  3. 3

    Make the cut higher, above the fourth bud, if there are not at least four buds on the bottom half.

    Pruning a 2, 3 or 4-Year-Old Apple Tree

  1. 1

    Prune the black side shoots back by one-third, between December and February.

  2. 2

    Leave the pink parts of the tree alone; these show growth in the previous year.

  3. 3

    Cut immediately above an outward-facing bud when pruning; this bud will grow a side shoot away from the tree's centre in the spring.

    Pruning a 5-Year-Old Apple Tree

  1. 1

    Remove all weak or diseased branches.

  2. 2

    Keep the centre of the apple tree clear of growth to open it up to sunlight and allow air to circulate.

  3. 3

    Trim the tree to keep it in the shape that has been established over the previous four years.

  4. 4

    Leave at least 50 per cent of the previous year's growth, as apples grow on wood grown the year before.

    How to prune apple trees
    A mature apple tree should produce a good crop every year. (Apple on the tree image by Nikolay Lapitsky from

Tips and warnings

  • Use a pruning saw instead of secateurs for thick branches in mature trees.

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