How to Prune Northeast Apple Trees


Apple trees grow well in the Northern Hemisphere because they prefer dry soil and warm climate. Thus, the northeast is home to many apple orchards. In addition to producing fruit, apple trees are also flowering trees, producing the pollen needed to grow fruit. They should be planted between November and March. Pruning apple trees will allow them to develop the proper shape and form needed to produce strong, delicious fruit. The practice is most successful if done in the winter, during the dormant season.

Step 1

Choose a scaffold whorl in the first year, which is comprised of three or four branches. They should be spaced around the trunk uniformly, not directly above or across from one another. Leave a space of between 18 and 24 inches without branches, to let light reach the center of the tree.

Step 2

Head (cut) the tree's central stem 24 to 30 inches above the top of the first scaffold whorl with pruning shears or a pruning saw. If there is more than one stem competing to be the leader or central stem, remove it.

Step 3

Clip off any branches that grow from the leader stem at an angle of less than 60 degrees. Angles of between 60 and 70 degrees are ideal. Remove all branches that are growing directly across from one another.

Step 4

Prune uniformly throughout the Northeast apple tree, to create spaces between lateral branches. This will prevent the limbs from crowding one another as they grow.

Step 5

Cut the leader every winter 24 to 30 inches above the highest whorl of scaffolds. This will encourage branching and development.

Step 6

Eliminate diseased, dead and damaged wood annually by clipping them off where they meet the leader stem. Cut off 1/4 of the length of lateral branches that are unbranched to stiffen them up and promote side growth.

Things You'll Need

  • Ladder
  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Pruning shears
  • Pruning saw


  • Beautiful Easy Organic Gardens
  • About Apple Trees
  • North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
Keywords: northeast apple, tree, prune

About this Author

Based in New York State, Kelly Shetsky started writing in 1999. She is a broadcast journalist-turned Director of Marketing and Public Relations and has experience researching, writing, producing and reporting. She writes for several websites, specializing in gardening, medical, health and fitness, entertainment and travel. Shetsky has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Marist College.