How to Prune Cultivated Apple Trees


Apple trees provide fresh and nutritious fruits for eating, canning and baking. Although commercial orchards produce the majority of apples across the country, growing a few apple trees in your yard takes up very little space. Many types of hybrid apple trees reach a mature height under 15 feet, making them suitable specimens for many types of landscapes and yards. Unlike many varieties of shade trees and ornamental trees, apple trees require pruning to encourage fruiting for abundant harvests.

Step 1

Prune your apple trees immediately after planting them. Using sharp pruning shears, lop off the branches and shoots along the bottom 18 inches of your apple trees. Cut away any branches broken or damaged during shipment and planting. Do not remove partial sections of bottom growth or damaged limbs. Cut the entire branches off near the trunk.

Step 2

Trim additional branches during the first season of growth. Remove oversized branches from your cultivated apple trees to encourage even growth. Lop off branches with diameters larger than one-third to one-half the diameter of the tree's trunk.

Step 3

Prune your apple trees every spring after the initial year's growth. Thin out lateral branches. These main branches grow out of the sides of the trunks of your apple trees. Cut out entire branches to leave only five to seven laterals as your apple trees grow and mature. Do not allow numerous laterals to crowd the trees and choke out sunlight and airflow. Create a balance by removing branches that grow directly opposite each other. Ensure even growth by removing dense sections of laterals. Cut off any branches that appear along the bottom 22 inches of trunks. Use a limb saw to remove large branches.

Step 4

Check your trees regularly during the growing season for diseased or damaged segments. Cut off branches that display shriveling or blackened leaves. Remove all diseased cuttings from the area of your healthy apple trees to avoid spreading illness.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Limb saw


  • Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet: Pruning Mature Apples and Pears
  • University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension: Training and Pruning Young Apple and Pear Trees
  • "Cornell Guide to Growing Fruit at Home"; Marcia Eames-Sheavly; 2003
Keywords: apple tree, prune apple trees, apple orchard

About this Author

Laura Dee is a writer, artist, and the co-owner of Wallace & Wallace Copywriting,an online business which specializes in providing marketing materials and copy to various companies. She has written for Demand Studios since 2008 and is currently working on a series of childrens' picture books.