Spur-Bearing Apple Trees

Updated July 20, 2017

An apple (Malus x domestica) bears fruit either at the tip of the branch, on spurs, or both. Spurs are little branches about 3 to 5 inches long, and they grow on branches that are two years old or older. Most apple trees grown in the home garden are spurring or semispurring types. These spurs are productive for six to 10 years. Sometimes there are both spur-bearing and tip-bearing strains of an apple with the same name.


There are a number of advantages a spur-type apple has over a tip-bearing apple. It is more dwarf than tip-bearing types, averaging about 70 per cent smaller. It is easier to prune, spray and harvest these apple trees because of their smaller size. Spur apple trees begin to produce fruit at a much younger age than the tip-bearing types, so there is less waiting when a new tree is planted. Also, spur types have more fruit per tree than tip-bearing types.


Apple trees should be pruned in the winter before growth starts. Pruning too hard encourages vegetative growth at the expense of fruit growth, and pruning too light will encourage heavier fruiting, which produces much smaller apples. What you want is a tree where light can get in to form fruiting spurs. First, all dead and diseased wood and all waterspouts --- branches that grow straight up --- need to be removed. Next, remove all branches that grow toward the centre, as well as any thin branches that cross over each other.

Green Varieties

Some popular green or yellow varieties include "Golden Delicious," "Granny Smith" and "Crispin." Golden Delicious has yellow skin with light freckling. It is exceptionally sweet and great for fresh eating and cooking. Granny Smith has both spur-bearing and tip-bearing strains. These are green, tart apples good for fresh eating and cooking. Crispin also goes by the name "Mitsu," and is a large, sweet apple similar to the Golden Delicious, one of its parents.

Red Varieties

There are several popular spur-bearing varieties that are readily available. Red-fruited varieties include "Lady," "Red Delicious," "Arkansas Black" and "Idared." Red Delicious is the most popular and the sweetest variety, having little tartness. Arkansas Black is a deep, dark red. More commonly seen are apples that have a green base with a red overlay, such as "Northern Spy," "Cox's Orange Pippin," "Macoun," "Honeycrisp" and "Stayman Winesap." Honeycrisp is a relatively new variety that is in high demand, having an ideal balance of size, sweetness and tartness.

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About the Author

Lori Norris has been writing professionally since 1998, specializing in horticulture. She has written articles for the Oregon Landscape Contractors Association, chapters of the certification manual for the Oregon Association of Nurseries and translated master gardener materials into Spanish. Norris holds a Bachelor of Arts from Linfield College.