Apple and pear tree pruning


  • To maintain a balance between fruiting and growth
  • To maintain an appropriate shape and size to tree
  • To keep tree healthy as well as productive

General principles:

  • Use clean, sharp tools
  • Take larger branches out in sections
  • Cut cleanly on a slant, leave no snags (so cut to an outward facing bud or sideshoot)
  • Cut weak growth hard, strong growth more lightly
  • Keep the centre of the tree open (so you can throw your hat through!); keep the tree’s shape balanced around its centre of gravity
  • Keep growth low and horizontal
  • Know your shoots: growth buds lie flat to the branch, fruit buds are fatter (and furry later in spring)

Pruning process and steps:

  • Prune trained trees (fans cordons and espaliers) in summer; prune bush and pyramid shaped trees in winter
  • Stand back to look at the whole tree often, as you work methodically around it
  • Remove dead, diseased or damaged wood
  • Remove crossing branches that might rub each other
  • Aim for fruiting branches to be horizontal (so cut out any dramatic verticals – although they may bend when laden)
  • The tree should ideally have about 10 main permanent framework branches, with laterals (side branches) which produce fruit and are eventually replaced
  • Cut sideshoots back by about a quarter to a third each year to make them branch to form fruiting laterals
  • After about four years, these laterals should be removed in favour of new fruiting lateral shoots (this is renewal pruning)