Join the RHS today and support our charity
Free personalised gardening advice
RHS members get reduced ticket prices
RHS members get free access to RHS Gardens
Reduced prices on RHS Garden courses and workshops
020 3176 5800
Mon – Fri | 9am – 5pm
Make a donation
I have forgotten my password
Keep me signed in
Register for free to receive our newsletters, add comments to blogs/articles and to save content.
See what events are on near you and browse your bookmarked pages.
Don’t miss out - book in advance and save
Young apple and pear trees need good formative pruning to establish productive trees with a balanced branch system. Pruning is not difficult and taking the time to get it right in the early years should lead to fewer problems later on.
This method of pruning is suitable for one- and two-year-old apple and pear trees that are to be trained into the traditional shape of a free-standing bush. Correct formative pruning of young trees creates an attractive specimen, with a balanced branch system, that is easy to manage and has a long and productive life.
This pruning form can also be used for training half-standard and standard apple trees, the crown simply being developed on a taller clear trunk - about 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft) for half-standard and 1.8-2.1m (6-7ft) for standard - than the normal bush tree. Vigorous rootstocks are required; MM111 or M25. Though mostly found as mature trees in gardens, such tree forms may be needed for filling gaps in old orchards or for specimen trees in new gardens.
For information on restricted forms of training see our pages on cordons, stepovers and espaliers.
When buying a new apple or pear always select plants with a good root system and sturdy stems, or buy mail order from a reputable nursery.
One-year-old trees are called ‘maidens’ and are sold as feathered or unfeathered.
Pruning should be carried out when the tree is dormant, between leaf fall and bud burst (usually between November and early March).
When pruning, always use sharp secateurs to make pruning cuts, just above and sloping away from a bud.
In future years, following winter pruning of established apple and pear trees. If you are new to pruning or are not feeling very confident, you may like to try our pruning made easy guide instead.
There are few problems associated with pruning. However, problems you may encounter include apple canker, blossom wilt, brown rot and frost damage.
Young fruit trees can be prone to poor establishment and rabbit damage.
ApplesApples and pears: growing and training as cordonsApples and pears: pruning made easyApples and pears: summer pruningApples and pears: winter pruningApples: identifying fruit budsApples: stepover (horizontal cordon) training
the RHS today and get 12 months for the price of 9
In this fully revised edition, you’ll find updated advice by the RHS experts on what, when and how to prune.
RHS members can get exclusive individual advice from the RHS Gardening Advice team.
Register for the site or sign in to share your experiences on this topic and seek advice from our community of gardeners.
We're a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. We want to enrich everyone's life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.
Join the RHS today and get 12 months for the price of 9