How to Care for Baby Dwarf Apple Trees


True dwarf apple trees grow only 8 to 10 feet tall at maturity and need to be planted only 8 to 10 feet apart. Dwarf apple trees are generally much easier to care for than standard apple trees. They are easier to prune because they are smaller, but they're also less fussy about soil type, require less feeding and usually produce sweeter fruit earlier in the season. Plant your baby dwarf apple trees in the early spring, in full sunlight and well-draining soil with a pH around 6.5.

Basic Care Instructions

Step 1

Water your baby dwarf apple tree deeply once or twice each week throughout the first two growing seasons. Afterward, water the tree once every week or two to supplement rainfall, ensuring that it receives about 1 inch of water each week during the growing season.

Step 2

Feed the tree 1/2 lb. of granular 10-6-4 NPK (Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium) fertilizer in the spring of its first year. Spread the fertilizer granules around the tree's drip line in the canopy area.

Step 3

Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of bark mulch on the ground over the root zone of the dwarf apple tree, replacing it with fresh mulch in the early spring every year or two.

Step 4

Spray dormant horticultural oil on your tree in winter or early spring to prevent aphid, mite and scale infestations. Treat fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew, black rot and leaf spot, by spraying the dwarf apple tree with an appropriate fungicide, following the directions on the label.

Pruning and Training Dwarf Apple Trees

Step 1

Cut off the top main stem or trunk of the baby dwarf apple tree immediately after planting it, so that the tree is about 24 inches above ground level.

Step 2

Prune out the lower branches during the first winter so that the lowest branches are about 2 feet above ground level.

Step 3

Train the main scaffold branches that grow from the trunk by pruning out all but the strongest four to six branches. Space the scaffold branches evenly and at least 9 inches apart.

Step 4

Prune away any dead, diseased, damaged, crowded or inward-growing limbs on the dwarf apple tree every winter. Cut back the central leader stem to no more than 18 to 24 inches above the top set of branches.

Tips and Warnings

  • Watch out for common insects invading your dwarf apple tree, such as the codling moth and apple maggot. If you see codling moths or their larvae worms in and around the fruits, spray the tree with diazinon or malathion right after the flower petals drop. Control apple maggots by spraying the tree with the same type of insecticide but in midsummer and again once every two weeks as directed on the label.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden hose
  • Granular 10-6-4 NPK fertilizer
  • Bark mulch
  • Dormant horticultural oil
  • Fungicide (optional)
  • Pruning tools
  • Diazinon or malathion (optional)


  • SavATree: Apple Tree Care: Dwarf Apple Trees
  • Gardening Site: On Tending Apple Trees

Who Can Help

  • Ohio State University Extension: Growing Apples in the Home Orchard
Keywords: dwarf apple tree care, growing dwarf apple trees, plant apple trees

About this Author

Sarah Terry brings 10 years of experience writing novels, business-to-business newsletters, and a plethora of how-to articles. Terry has written articles and publications for a wide range of markets and subject matters, including Medicine & Health, Eli Financial, Dartnell Publications and Eli Journals.