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Pruning Fruit Trees

For most forms of fruit tree, we recommend pruning it for the first few years after planting to ensure a balanced shape develops. Apple and pear trees are best pruned between November and March, whilst it is important to prune cherry, plum and peach trees in early summer to avoid canker infection. Individual product pages will give more detailed pruning advice.

Left to right: silhouette of single stem tree, cordon trained tree, espalier trained tree and fan trained tree.

Maiden Fruit Trees

Fruit trees bought as one year old maidens can be trained into any of the forms below, but it is much easier to purchase a slightly older tree that has already received formative pruning to create the form you desire.

Pruning Single Stem Fruit Trees

The majority of our fruit trees are supplied after having undergone initial formative pruning to turn them into a single stem tree with a bushy head. To encourage the formation of a well branched crown, cut each shoot from last seasons growth by a half, always cutting to a bud. Thin out any overcrowded or crossing branches. In the following years, remove any shoots growing out of the trunk to maintain a clear stem and trim the head of the tree to maintain its shape and to keep it to the size desired. Also remove crossing, diseased or damaged branches.

To grow this form from a maiden tree, when planting, prune off the lower laterals up to the height you wish the lowest branches to start. The following two years, repeat the directions above to create a bushy head.

Pruning Standard Fruit Trees

Most of our semi-mature and mature fruit trees have had the feathers removed up to a height of 1.8-2 metres and are called standards. The crown of the tree has formed and only maintenance pruning is required by removing any crossing, damaged or diseased branches. Trim the head of the tree to maintain its shape and to keep it to the size desired.

To grow from a maiden tree, the lowest laterals should be removed when the tree is planted and the remainder cut to 10-15cm, always cutting to a bud. After the first year the laterals on the lower half of the trunk should be removed. Check for, and remove, double leaders. In subsequent years remove laterals on the trunk until you have the height of clear stem you require.

Cordons and Pillars

Commonly used for apples and pears grown on a dwarfing rootstock (such as M9 and Quince 'C'). Cordons can be planted at a 45° angle and tied to strained wires, or planted upright and pruned as pillars.

To grow from a maiden tree, cut all laterals back to 4-5cm at a bud when planting. For the first few years tie in the leader and reduce all laterals to three buds in late summer. Once the leader is the required height, prune the new growth each year to 3cm.

Espaliers and Fans

See our espalier training guide and fan training guide.