What Is a Spiral Apple Tree?


Apples are a versatile fruit that grows in most regions. There are a huge number of varieties, sizes and shapes of apple trees. The apple is the most widely grown fruit in the U.S., and you don't need an orchard to enjoy these in your backyard. A spiral apple tree is simply one that has been cut in a certain shape to ensure maximum health. Spiral pruning is a classic way to take out dead wood and extra branches, increasing the production of the tree.

Apple Pruning

Apple trees provide spectacular bloom shows in spring. These blooms are the future fruit, and a densely packed tree means lots of apples. To get your fill of apple pies and applesauce, take care of your tree the season before. In addition to fertilizer and insecticide treatments, an apple needs careful pruning. Apples form on spurs, or the old growth, so the previous season's newer growth needs to be pruned out. Also the tree needs to have air flow to prevent mildew and mold problems.

Time Frame

Pruning should begin the first winter you plant a new apple tree. On a badly neglected tree, pruning should be done over the course of several seasons. Pruning in late autumn or winter ensures that you do not remove any leaf buds and that the tree is mostly dormant, or not actively growing. It also prevents introduction of toxins and disease that are more rampant in warmer seasons.

Spiral Apple Tree Pruning

Apples can be pruned in many ways, but the spiral method increases the air flow and provides an attractive skeleton when the leaves have fallen. First, any vertical growth should be cut back by a third. Limb up the tree so that you can mow and weed under it--ideally anything 2 feet from the ground should get cut. Cut out any suckers around the base of the tree. Make sure that there are two to four branches per level that point in a different direction. Start at the bottom and work your way around the tree in a spiral direction.


Spiral pruning will leave the tree without branches that are right on top of each other or criss-crossed. When apples are forming, branches that are brushing each other will bruise and scar the fruit. The method also ensures that leaves will be exposed for easy foliar feeding, water absorption, photosynthesis and air circulation.

General Apple Tree Care

Apples are prone to diseases of the leaves and are also troubled by a variety of pests but are tolerant of some damage as long as it is not widespread. Most apples need a partner to cross pollinate them and start the flowers, but there are a few self-pollinating varieties. To increase your yield, the tree needs to be pruned annually, and spiral pruning is an effective method. Apply fertilizer in early spring before growth has begun. Thinning is important when fruit begins to set to reduce the number of apples per branch and increase the distance between apples.

Keywords: Pruning, Apple Tree Care, Fruit Trees

About this Author

Bonnie Grant began writing professionally in 1990. She has been published on Web sites like GardenGuide and eHow. Grant recently earned a Bachelor of Arts in business management with a hospitality focus from South Seattle Community College.