When to prune apple trees to ensure a bountiful harvest every season

Expert tips for keeping a healthy and abundant tree all year round

Apple tree in orchard
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Knowing when to prune an apple tree is just as important as knowing how to prune an apple tree. If you're looking to keep your apple tree healthy and thriving year after year, then pruning is an essential step that cannot be skipped.

Ideally, apple trees would stand as a plant to prune in November before it got too cold. However, rest assured that time isn't up just yet to get to pruning an apple tree, so long as it's something you keep at the top of your list of jobs to do in the garden in December through to the beginning of the new year.

Apple tree in orchard

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When to prune apple trees

'Like with many other ones, pruning apple trees is a crucial step of their care to make sure they are in optimal health, provide the best fruit production and have an overall good structure,' begins Petar Ivanov, Fantastic Gardeners' gardening and plant expert.

Man with short brown hair
Petar Ivanov

Petar Ivanov is a gardening and plant expert who has been working at Fantastic Gardeners for 8 years. As one of the company's top-performing experts, he now manages over 6 teams of gardeners, delivering stunning landscape results and fostering a deep connection with nature through his work.

'The best time to do that is normally during late winter or early spring while the tree is still dormant just before new growth begins, between late January and early March. The exact time will depend on your specific climate and location.'

In some cases, it would be best to prune an apple tree right when it stops producing fruit, which is around November time. But, anytime between now and spring is better than never getting to the job at all.

Apple tree in orchard

(Image credit: Getty Images)

'Pruning during this dormant season minimises stress on the tree because it's not actively growing and this allows it to focus its energy toward healing and preparing for the upcoming growing season,' explains Petar.

'It also reduces the risk of disease spread because many pathogens are less active or are also dormant themselves.'

Steve Chilton, garden expert at outdoor and garden furniture retailer, LeisureBench even adds, 'You can also prune your apple tree again in March, just before the tree shows signs of new growth. Pruning again in March generally encourages new growth and therefore, more apples.'

Apple tree in orchard

(Image credit: Getty Images)

'Fruit trees can become too tall and unwieldy if left unpruned for an extended period so annual pruning helps manage their size, making it easier to harvest fruit and care for the tree,' says Tom Kitching, executive chairman at Henchman Ladders.

This is why taking on the task of pruning an apple tree – and knowing when to prune an apple tree – is crucial knowledge to keep in your back pocket if you've decided to plant a fruit tree in your garden.


When are you supposed to prune apple trees?

'Apple trees are best pruned after their leaves fall for dormancy and before they wake up before spring, generally between December and March,' advises Chi Chi Dunford, head kitchen gardener at Sculpture by the Lakes.

When should you not prune apple trees?

Where possible, avoid pruning your apple trees outside of its dormant season.

'Timing is crucial when it comes to pruning fruit trees. Doing it at the wrong time of the year can have harmful effects on your plants,' warns Tom Kitching at Henchman Ladders.

'Trimming your fruit tree during summer or autumn can stimulate new growth that doesn't have time to harden before winter, making the tree more susceptible to frost and cold weather, which can weaken the tree in the long run.'

Petar concludes, 'When you're planning to prune an apple tree, avoid doing it during extremely cold temperatures because it can damage the tree. Instead, choose a day with moderate temperatures when the risk of frost is low and the coldest period has passed.'

Jullia Joson
Junior Writer

Jullia Joson is a Junior Writer at Ideal Home. She's always loved all things homes and interiors, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Architectural Studies from the University of Nottingham where her love for journalism blossomed following her internship at ArchDaily. Now focused on home tech, Jullia works on writing features and explainers to help people make the most of their home appliance investments. When she isn't writing, she loves exploring the city, coffee shop hopping, and losing hours to a cosy game.