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Traditional winter pruning of apples and pears can result in the tree getting a little bigger each year. To prevent this happening and avoid the need for occasional renovation consider winter regulated pruning.
Pruning out an apple branch
Regulated pruning is carried out to control the size of apples and pears trained as free-standing bushes (or standards) that have reached the optimum size for the rootstock that they are grafted on. This pruning technique is suitable for both spur- and tip- (including partial tip-) bearing apples and pears, as sections of the branch framework are removed rather than individual shoots.
If you are new to fruit pruning or are not feeling very confident, you may like to continue with traditional winter pruning or try our pruning made easy page instead.
For young apple and pear trees start with our guide on initial pruning, followed by winter pruning.
Trees that are very overgrown will require renovation.
The ideal time to prune is any time from leaf fall to late winter, typically November to March in the British Isles. The tree is dormant at this time.
Once your apple or pear tree reaches the height it should be for the rootstock, carry out regulated pruning as follows:
As sections of the branch framework are removed the pruned tree is likely to produce watershoots - i.e. tall, upright branches, that produce no flowers or fruit. Minimise the risk of numerous watershoots by pruning no more than twenty per cent of the canopy in one year.
If watershoots arise, there is no need to remove all of them but they will need thinning out;
Apples: stepover (horizontal cordon) training
Apples: choosing cultivars
Apples: growing and training as cordons
Apples and pears: pruning made easy
Apples and pears: pruning new trees
Apples and pears: renovating old trees
Apples and pears: winter pruning
Espalier training trees
Fan-trained trees: initial training
Fan-trained trees: pruning established fans
Fruit: unproductive trees
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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.
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