How to prune apple trees

Fruit Tree Picker

Fruit trees require regular pruning during the winter to maintain a healthy, productive crown.  Because most apple trees usually fruit on 2 year old spurs, pruning the tree whilst maintaining a crown of productive branches can seem daunting. However by following a regular pruning schedule, the growth of apple trees can be controlled to ensure a great harvest every year. The ideal shape is an open goblet of around 5-6 main branches.

General maintenance

- Always use the appropriate tools and ensure they are clean and sharp.
- When pruning any tree always remove any diseased, dead or dangerous branches first. If you remove diseased branches with any tools, ensure that these are thoroughly cleaned before the next use, otherwise this could spread infections.
- Tidy up the crown by removing any crossing branches or any that have been rubbing together during the summer.


Spur pruning

 - Prune growth from the previous season back by a third to a healthy bud. You can either use a pair of sharp scissors, loppers or a pruning saw.
- Sideshoots will continue to grow in the following season, so prune any back to 4 or 5 buds if there is no room for them to develop. Any badly placed shoots should be removed.

When pruning your apple trees, have a close look at their general health. When choosing which branches to prune, look for any that have begun to develop cankers - these are patches of sunken bark were fungus is attacking the tree bark. Cankers will eventually grow into a ring around the branch and kill it. Unfortunately there is no treatment for cankers other than to remove the infected branch.

Prepare your tree for winter by installing glue bands around the trunk to stop winter moths from climbing into the crown of the tree and laying their eggs.

If you have any questions about your apple trees, please give one of our Gardening Angels a call on 0845 602 3774 or send us an email

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