Pruning fruit trees


I’m pretty new to gardening. I’ve recently bought a house with a mature garden and am trying my best to stay on top of it (although I have plans to turn half into a physic garden next year).

I have two trees which need a bit of a trim but I’m not sure where to start:

  • a small apple tree which has only produced a couple of apples this year. I’ve just cut it away from its stake as I’d noticed the cable was strangling the tree. Should I try to keep it small so it can build up some strength?

  • a mature plum tree. It’s fruited really heavily this summer but I think I’ve picked the last of it now. It was once trained against the fence but this has now rotted away so it’s freestanding but quite linear. I haven’t pruned it at all yet and don’t really know where to start.

Any advice would be much appreciated



Hi Rhona, I always recommend that people go on a pruning course if they possibly can (obviously a bit difficult at the moment). There’s a few basic principles of pruning I found much easier to grasp in person rather than from a book. Also, best to get expert advice rather than generalist opinion from someone like myself :wink:.

You need to keep the stake on the apple tree if it’s a dwarfing rootstock (the rootstock determines the height & vigour of the tree, for more info Orange Pippin Fruit Trees. Also, the cable ought to be a thick, soft pliable plastic that doesn’t strangle the tree! (something like this).

Generally, you prune an apple tree in winter for the shape, although you can prune now. The 2 main shapes are ‘goblet’ and ‘xmas tree’; xmas tree is single central leader used more in commercial orchards, whereas a goblet is a prettier shape with nicer branches for climbing!

With a plum tree, never prune in winter because of diseases, always prune just after fruiting.

Hope that helps!

Hi Rhona,

Welcome to the community! As Jake says, pruning is a fairly big topic so a course is well worth the money, I studied in books and online but it was only when someone showed me in person that I really got it. That said, Youtube videos are almost as good.

I found the RHS Encyclopaedia of Gardening had the best instructions, and they have written guides for apples here:
Explaining the two points in the year that you prune apples and pears.

But before doing anything with your apple, as Jake says, it’s good to try and find out what rootstock it is because that will tell you the size you need to allow it to grow to. Cutting off the tie will certainly help as that can’t have been good for it.

Plum trees should only ever be pruned in mid summer (July) to avoid silver leaf. Again though, before doing anything next year, research the plum tree itself a little and then decide what sort of shape you want it to be. It sounds like a natural tree shape would make sense and this will be easier to manage. More info can be found here:,infection%20by%20silver%20leaf%20disease.

Good luck! :slight_smile:

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Hi both

Thank you so much for your help. I didn’t even know that pruning courses were a thing so will definitely look into it!

Will enjoy reading the rest of the message board and learning lots more :slightly_smiling_face: