Apples and pears: summer pruning

Summer pruning apples and pears allows sunlight to ripen the fruit and ensures good cropping the following year. This is the main method of pruning for restricted forms such as cordons, espaliers, fans and pyramids.

Apple summer pruning

Quick facts

Suitable for: Apples and pears trained as restricted forms
Timing: July to September
Difficulty: Moderate

Suitable for...

Summer pruning is mainly for apples and pears trained as restricted forms: cordon, espalier, fan, pyramid, spindlebush. Trees grown as standards or bushes are managed with winter pruning.

When to prune

Summer prune when the bottom third of the new shoots is stiff and woody. Generally, this will be from late-July for pears and mid- to late August for apples and about ten days later in the north. To reduce the possibility of secondary growth it can be delayed until Sptember, when larger terminal (end) buds have formed at the shoot tips and the shoots have stopped growing.

Judge the exact timing according to the vigour of the plant, the weather and locality.

How to prune

Summer pruning involves cutting back new shoots to allow light to reach the fruit.

New shoots are stiff and woody along their bottom third, with dark green leaves and a cluster of leaves at the base.

  1. Cut back new shoots (laterals) more than 20cm (8in) long growing from the main stem to three leaves above the basal cluster of leaves. Do not prune new shoots that are less than 20cm (8in) long as they usually terminate in fruit buds
  2. Cut back new shoots growing from existing sideshoots (sub-laterals) to one leaf above the basal cluster
  3. Remove any upright, vigorous growth completely
  4. If secondary growth occurs after summer pruning, prune back any re-growth in September (or October if pruning later) to one leaf beyond the previous cut.
  5. If this is a persistent problem, leave some longer shoots unpruned as these will draw up the sap and grow at the expense of secondary growth elsewhere. Cut these back to one bud in spring, as well as any vigorous growth projecting above the level of the supporting wire


Although pruning shouldn't cause any particular problems for the plant, you may see some other common issues:

Apple canker

Apple canker

Apple scab and pear scab

Apple scab and pear scab

Fruit: biennial bearing

Fruit: biennial bearing

Fruit: protecting from frost

Fruit: protecting from frost

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