It’s time to think about pruning your apple trees

Pruning apple trees is beneficial for many reasons.

A variety of caladiums, cannas and elephant ears are getting their start.
John Zvirovski / The Jamestown Sun
Ashley Wolff 2023.jpg
Ashley Wolff
Contributed / NDSU Extension

With the snow melting (slowly) we are able to finally see the condition that our apple trees are in. One of the highest success factors for apple trees is how often you prune them. Pruning apple trees is beneficial for many reasons. Tree pruning promotes growth, encourages fruit production, treat disease, prevents safety hazards and much more.

The best time to prune the tree is in late winter, specifically in March and April. This is the best time to prune for several reasons:

  • The tree is dormant and will suffer less shock.
  • Minimizes the exposure of wounded tissues to the ravages of winter.
  • Diseases are less active in winter, and you are less likely to spread diseases on your pruning tools. Wound dressings are not needed when pruning in the dormant season.

Another important fact is that reducing the height of the tree will make it easier to manage and will make it easier to harvest. The recommended height of your tree is 15 feet or lower. To keep a strong framework, you will have to trim just above vigorous, sturdy branches. The most vigorous branches will have glossy bark not old, scaly bark.
One goal from pruning apple trees is to get more sunlight and air movement in the tree. This will improve fruit color and reduce humidity that promotes diseases in the canopy. Start by removing the water sprouts. These are vertical, pencil-thick shoots. Water sprouts are unproductive and clutter up the canopy. Remove broken branches, branches that rub one another and inward facing branches.

Be patient. To avoid sunscald damage and shocking the tree, avoid removing more than 25% of the tree’s wood at any one time. Its best to give yourself at least two years to rejuvenate an old tree.

For more information on this topic, contact Ashley Wolff, NDSU Extension agent in Stutsman County, at (701) 252-9030 or


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