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When Is The Best Time To Prune An Apple Tree?

Publish Data: September 11, 2021

by Mumtahina Piya

Pruning is a must thing for the proper growth of a tree. But people prune the tree at the wrong time, and as a result, they can’t get the best out of pruning. So, when is the best time to prune an apple tree? 

The dormant season is the best time for pruning the apple tree. You can either prune the tree in late winter on in early spring. It is better to prune the tree between the leaf falls and buds blooming. 

The result of pruning my apple tree surprised me when I prune it for the first time! I prune my apple tree at the suggestion of my friend at that time. I was a little bit confused about pruning. It was like how cutting the tree can help in the growth of the tree.

You should know the best time for pruning since it is essential for the growth of the tree. By this, you can prune the tree at the proper time without damaging the tree. So, here I am going to talk about the best time for pruning. Let’s dig in deeper!

best time to prune an apple tree

The pruning time is here!

Without pruning, the apple trees get stuck with old branches and lose their fruit production ability. That’s why pruning is essential for growing new fruit branches on the tree. Pruning not only helps to shape the tree but also encourages new growth and higher fruit production. 

Late winter or early spring is the best time for pruning. If you want to resize the plant, early spring is the best for it. Again, if you desire to prune the tree for growth, late winter is the best time for it. But you can prune the tree during summer too! So, let’s know more about pruning times.

SeasonPruning results


For active growth

Spring, Summer

For shaping the tree

Fall, Autumn

Damage the tree’s life cycle

Pruning in winter

Usually, during fall, the trees suck out all the energies from leaves and store them in the roots for winter. That’s why the leaves drop off the tree in winter. Though the tree does not grow during winter, the roots keep growing. So, the trees do not use much energy during winter and remain dormant. 

During the dormant season, there will be no leaves, flowers, or fruit and so it will be easier for you to detect the branches that need cutting. However, it is good to avoid pruning in early winter as the trees have minimal growth at this time. So, the tree cannot recover from the pruning cuts. On the other hand, if you prune it in late winter, the tree can heal the plant cuts in spring. 

Moreover, pruning trees in winter is helpful for both identifying branches, and this pruning encourages dynamic growth for trees. When you can remove the low-quality stem from the tree, there will be the best branches only. So, that means there will be no low-quality branches left on the tree for wasting energy. Rather than that, the tree will focus on growing high-quality stems.  

Also, after pruning, there will be fewer limbs on the tree for using energy. For example, there might be 70 branches on the tree earlier. But after pruning, the tree may have around 40 stems left.

So, you can notice how much the branches number has reduced. As a result, each branch will receive a lot of energy than earlier and produce better fruits. 

Pruning in spring

During spring, the tree comes out of its dormancy and gradually starts growing using the stored energy. The buds will bloom, and leaves, baby fruits, and shoots will grow. 

Some gardeners like to prune the apple tree during spring when the leaves and new shoots develop. Pruning in spring is beneficial to remove the dead, dry, and old branches from the apple tree. 

However, pruning in spring does not encourage dynamic growth for trees. Like the tree would have if you pruned them in late winter. As you can see, the tree has used some energy such as for blooming, growing leaves, shoots, or new fruits.

So there will be less growth of wood limbs. That’s why spring pruning is best for shaping the tree size and not for dynamic growth. 

Pruning in summer

During summer, the trees are busy collecting nutrients and energy. Since it has used all of its nutrients and energy during spring, it will need to collect nutrients and energy for summer growth. As the leaves are regrown, they can produce energy using photosynthesis.

Using this, they continue their growth in summer. Once the summer growth ends, they start to restore energy for winter.

Summer pruning is beneficial for apple trees for shaping the tree. The tree may not have a dynamic growth as it does not have much energy restored. But the large fruit trees can turn into smaller ones by summer pruning.  

If you don’t prune the fruit tree in summer, you can do it in summer. Also, this time you can remove the newborn damaged or diseased branches that you couldn’t do in spring.

Pruning in fall and autumn

Pruning in fall and autumn is not a good idea as it can hinder the natural timing of the tree’s dormancy. Fall and autumn are the seasons when the apple trees prepare themselves for the dormant season. 

Since the tree prepares itself for the dormant season, the growth rate falls. So, if you prune the tree during this time, it will accelerate its growth for healing the prune damage. As a result, the tree will much of its energy and delay the natural process of dormancy.

That’s why it’s not the best time for pruning during fall or autumn. 

Time for pruning the diseased plant

There is no specific time limit for pruning the diseased apple tree. You can prune the tree as soon as you notice the diseased branch. During winter, the disease problem may rise as the limbs are in a bare state. But it is better to prune the branches during late winter to recover from the cut as soon as possible.

Besides that, new diseases can attack the plant using the cut as an entrance to the plant. So, it is better not to cut in winter. 

Though most of the diseases are dormant in winter, they can affect the tree. So, it is wise to remove the diseased limb as soon as possible. But before pruning, you have to identify whether pruning can help to remove the disease or not. Also, to which extent do you have to cut the branch.

Temperature is a fact!

When we cut a limb, the tissues around the cut become more sensitive to cold. The more you will make cuts, the higher sensitive the tree becomes. Especially the newly planted trees cannot take the tension because of these cuts. Besides that, you should avoid cutting the old and weak mature trees during a time of extreme cold. 

If the pruners can handle the cold, your tree will also be able to endure it. The chill sensitivity of the limbs may last for ten days after cutting. After that, the branch starts to regain its winter hardiness and return to its old state. However, the moderately cold temperature doesn’t harm as much as the suddenly dropped temperature harms.

Such as the weather is warm or slightly chill for a few days, but the weather suddenly turns intensively cool. This time your trees need extra protection and no winter injury on the limbs. 

If you want to protect the apple tree during intense cold days, you can check the long-range forecast. If the weather forecast shows the prediction of having 0° F or below than that, you should stop all pruning at least a week before the date. 

Besides that, you should prune the trees based on tree health. You cannot prune weak or young trees during the winter season. But you can prune the mature, healthy apple tree of your garden. 

Some simple tips for pruning!

You can either prune the mature apple tree or the younger one. But the following simple pruning tips will help you: 

  • Always use hand pruning shears or pruners for proper pruning. 
  • Prune the newly planted tree in spring or summer by cutting it from 20 to 30 inches above the ground. Also, cut the other shoots and branches to 6 inches.  
  • During summer, select three branches evenly arranged on the tree that will serve as the scaffold branches. The branches should be at a 45-degree angle with the trunk. The scaffold branches should be cut back to 24 inches, and the other shoots and branches should be cut back to 12 inches. Also, you have to make sure the limbs have enough vertical distance between them. 
  • During the second growing season, select several vigorous lateral branches on the scaffold branches. The lateral branches should be at a 60-degree angle with the central leader. Cut the scaffold branch back to the lateral branches and remove all the larger branches or dead wood.
  • Prune the tree every following year. It is essential to keep the tree canopy open to the sunlight and manage the vigorous growth of the upright shoots. Annual pruning will also help to keep the tree in a manageable shape. 

Few last words for you

Pruning at the proper time is as crucial as pruning the tree. Pruning at the wrong time can put the tree’s life in danger. There are several times when the trees cannot recover from the cutting.

Also, fungal diseases can attack effortlessly from the cutting place if the place does not recover quickly. That’s why it is essential to prune the tree when the tree can recover fast.

I hope you understand why the timing is so crucial in pruning & when is the best time to prune an apple tree. This information on pruning will help you during your apple cultivating journey. All the best!