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Winter Pruning Apple Tree

I planted this apple tree about 5 years ago and have tried pruning it but I'm afraid I really don't know what I'm doing. It is a Cox's Orange Pippin and has suffered with a variety of things, hairy aphids, codling moth and brown, curling leaves. It has a lot of growth on it from last year and I'm wondering what I can do to bring it into better condition. Any advice would be much appreciated. 


  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 21,908
    The trick to pruning apple trees is not to give them a surprise. They don’t appreciate being hacked and chopped. They answer back.

    Any pruning of a tree of this age should be aimed at keeping the centre open and airy BUT by only removing a few branches each year. Removing more than a few causes the tree to react by growing even more branches.

    I see that a large branch has been taken off already. Leave it at that this year. Next winter remove about 30% maximum of the branches that are growing inwards or across the centre of the middle of the tree. Then, again, stop and wait until the next winter.

    Apple trees can live for hundreds of years. Consider life from their point of view and don’t be in a hurry to achieve “a result”.
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • Thank you for your helpful advice. Should I also cut the whippy growth back or leave that too? 
  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 21,908
    The whippy growth is the result of over enthusiastic pruning in previous years.

    Again, take out up to a third of them if they are clogging up the free flow of air within the tree or getting tangled in structural branches.

    But no more than 30% this winter. 
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • treehugger80treehugger80 Posts: 1,923
    prune in winter for growth and in summer for fruit,
    the harder you cut in winter the more whippy growth you will get,
    so remove anything rubbing, dead or damaged, i'd also take the top down, as you want the apples at picking height, you can cut back to a side branch, then in August reduce any new growth the three leaves, this should reduce the whippiness, you can also remove any unfruited/unwanted growth then too
  • Yes as said above, summer pruning for fruit and also to reduce whippy growth is very important. It is good that you have a picture of it now it is bare as it will be easier to see what you want to take off then. The other trick is to put some tape or coloured string round branches that you want to prune in summer. This is a long term process.
    AB Still learning

  • Thanks for all the advice. Does this sound sensible:

    - do nothing more now (except perhaps take out up to 30% of whips)
    - in summer remove the top of one of the two main uprights down to a side branch 
    - remove tops of two remaining uprights in the following two summers. 
    - remove 30% of inward growing branches each winter 


    - remove anything rubbing, dead or damaged
    - cut down one main upright to a side branch this winter 
    - in August reduce any unwanted/unfruited new growth to three buds
    - repeat the reduction of the main uprights for each upright in following two winters
    (or do I cut all three down this winter and trim back all new growth in August?) 

    yes, I'm still quite confused! 
  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 21,908
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • Excellent, thanks!
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