When’s the best time to prune fruit trees?

Common fruit trees in the UK are apple and pear trees as well as plum and cherry trees (ornamental or fruiting cherries). Apple and pear trees are very similar, they require pruning from November to early March.

Pruning plum trees can be done from early spring or in summer time. Thinning the plum tree of dead, dying and diseased wood will encourage fruit production.

Young and mature cherry trees also can be pruned in early spring. Mature cherry trees can also be pruned after they bear fruit. Young trees can be pruned as soon as the bud emerges, this helps with training and shaping the cherry tree. 

How to prune fruit trees

As a tree surgeon we have a lot of enquiries of customers who have out of control apple and pear fruit trees, the first place we start is by thinning the canopy out. To do this you:

  • Look for dead, dying and diseased branches. After removing these you can then remove branches that are crossing or rubbing other branches. 
  • Reduce the main branches to the previous years growth point to a bud which faces in the right direction. This helps maintain the shape, it helps develop new branches and encourages fruit production.  Also remove larger branches that are growing in to the centre of the tree.
  • Leave young side branches to continue to grow, these will develop fruiting buds in the next year.
  • Remove new shoots on the main stem which are growing lower down. 

There are slight differences when it come to plum trees, there are different ways to grow a fruiting plum tree, either as a bush tree like an apple/pear tree or a pyramid plum which is smaller in size to a bush plum. You can also fan train a plum tree against a frame work or wall or if you're struggling for space you can train as a cordon.

The most common type is the bush plum tree, and like the apple/pear tree the aim is to thin and let light into the centre of the crown. This can be done by following the instructions above. This will create an open centred plum tree, which should produce good fruit.

Young cherry trees require the same sort of action, thinning out allows good air circulation and light to get into the crown of the tree, this will increase the bloom and produce a good crop of fruit. Remember to keep on top of the suckers, cut these off as they are only taking good nutrients away from the branches where you want them to go.

Mature cherry trees may require harder pruning, remove all the new or old vertical limbs. Remember you’re trying to create an open well balanced canopy. Always have a centre point and make it as aesthetically pleasing as you can. 

To make good pruning cuts so you maintain the health of the tree, check out my blog: How to prune an apple tree?There’s a section about how to cut branch’s properly.

If you are based in Sheffield, Chesterfield or the surrounding areas and would like Silver Oak Tree Surgery to take a look at your fruit tree, click here for our contact details.