Pruning Apple Trees

You should be pruning apple trees in the late winter or early spring.

Pruning Apple Trees


  1. When you cut a tree, it leaves an “open wound”. It takes some time for the tree to create a “scab” over the cut area. The raw wood is less susceptible to bug infestation in the early spring.
  2. It’s easier to see the shape of the tree when there aren’t blossoms and leaves on it.
  3. The direction of the tree needs to be set before it starts its growth spurt in the spring.

A Few Basic Guidelines:

Learn how to prune apple trees by following these simple guidelines. Remember that when pruning apple trees you're directing its growth.

  • As you prune your apple tree continually walk around tree. Is the tree balanced? How does it look from this angle? Now change your point of view and ask the same question.

Pruning Apple Tree Pictures #1

  • When pruning apple trees, you’ll want to train up one central leader. The central leader is the main truck / branch that goes up the middle of your apple tree. All the other branches come off this central leader.

    Some apple trees have two main limbs that branch off the main trunk and go up the center of the tree. They usually help balance each other. One leans a little bit to the left and the other one leans to the right. Each tree has its own personality.

Pruning Apple Trees Pictures 2

  • This year’s growth will carry next year’s apples. When you’re pruning apple trees don’t cut off all the new growth. The apple blossoms will form on the new budding twigs.
  • Remove the suckers. These are the shoots that are growing up from the roots of the tree.
  • Cut out all the dead branches. If you have a struggling apple tree, you’ll want to prune it when the leaves start growing. This is because it’s easier to see which limbs are dead and which ones are alive.

    Prune dead limbs out of the tree anytime of year. You can easily spot dead branches during the spring and summer.

  • Prune out any of the branches that are growing vertically. These branches don’t produce fruit, don’t support the shape of the tree, and use nutrients that could be used for fruit production.

Pruning Apple Trees Pictures 3

  • Cut out branches that are growing horizontally. The branches should angle upwards. When the fruit gets heavy, horizontal branches can’t hold the weight of the fruit and bend and crack. This can cause severe damage to the trunk of the tree.
  • Trim out branches that are growing toward the ground. They’re going the wrong direction.
  • When you have two branches that are crossing over each other, keep the one that best supports the shape of the tree.

Pruning Apple Trees Pictures 4

  • Crop all the apple tree branches off and a certain height. I stand on the ground and cut the branches off as high as I can reach with the clippers.

    Picking Fresh Apples

    You don’t want the apple tree to get too tall. You should be able to easily pick apples from a medium sized ladder.

    If you let the tree grow tall not only is it hard to pick the fruit, but the energy from the tree goes to tree growth instead of fruit development and production.

  • The last thing to do is to look at the openness of the tree. Can the sunlight get down to the developing fruit? If the branches are too crowded, you’ll need to cut out some of them.

Remember each tree is its own unique piece of art. Pruning apple trees can be compared to good parenting. You need to keep working at it every year. Work with the tree and guide its growth. Feed it. Nourish it, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Have fun. Use common sense and good judgment. Trees are very forgiving. If you make a mistake, next year you can fix it when new branches grow back.

NOTE: If you’re having problems with mice, rodents, and small animals that want to eat the tender bark of your young fruit trees, you can protect the tree. Buy some ¼” Galvanized Hardware Cloth and wrap the bottom of your tree. We lost about 2/3 of our orchard one year to mice. This meshed wire solved the problem. When the tree gets its tough bark, you don’t need the hardware cloth anymore. Remove the wire mesh before the tree grows around it.

The deer love young tender fruit trees. If you have a lot a wild life coming into your yard, you might want to build a deer fence around your orchard.

Canning Applesauce Dehydrating Apples Storing Fresh Apples Growing Apple Trees Homemade Apple Cider Homemade Apple Juice

Return To:

Growing Apple Trees from Pruning Apple Trees
Growing Fruit
Canning Applesauce
Dehydrating Apples
Homemade Apple Juice
Making Apple Cider
How to Store Apples

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