Summer Pruning Of Fruit Trees

There are many advantages to pruning in the summer – it can be done in several goes up to the end of August. We recommend pruning in dry weather so that the cut edges dry up more quickly and heal better.


In the summer you can put right anything that went wrong in the winter pruning. The young unusable shoots that have appeared since then can now be removed.

In the years when a fruit tree produces little or no fruit, it can put on a lot of growth. To slow this down a little, remove a large number of the shoots. In most varieties of fruit trees, the fruit grow on short or medium-length shoots.

The shoots that remain after pruning will get more exposure to light than before, which will result in a greater likelihood of the tree or shrub bearing fruit the following year. This extra exposure to light also gives diseases less chance to spread.

While carrying out your summer pruning it would also be a good time to check whether the plants have been infected by fungus – you can get rid of any affected branches at this time without doing too much damage to the tree.

Tips for pruning stone fruit and pip fruit trees

Not all fruit trees are pruned in the same way. We have a few tips below for pruning stone fruit, by which we mean plum, peachapricot and cherry and for pip fruit, for example apple and pear trees. For woody soft fruit varieties, such as grapesraspberries and currants, there is a different method of pruning. 


Branches that grow below the graft line are known as ‘suckers’. They grow from the roots and from the lower trunk instead of from the graft and these wild shoots take away nutrients that should be going to the grafted tree. You should therefore remove all branches and shoots from the lower trunk. You can cut them with pruning shears or simply pull them out.

After spring grafting or grafting of lower stems you will often find numerous wild shoots of the old variety around the lower stem. Don’t remove these all at once – take them off in several goes.

Back shoots

These are generally herbaceous shoots that can be broken off by hand, which should discourage their regrowth, which is more likely to happen when they are cut off with secateurs. These shoots grow on the upper side (back) of the fruiting spurs, also known as whip branches.

Pinching out fast-growing shoots

If you want to discourage the growth of these shoots, you can cut them off or pinch them out in early August, which will give you short fruiting spurs.

Saw wounds from winter pruning

Where saw wounds remain from winter pruning you may find a few shoots have appeared.  Of these, it is best to leave one horizontal shoot and break the rest off.

Lateral branches

Cut back lateral branches that have grown too long. These don’t bear fruit and just use nutrients that the tree could use elsewhere.

This guide should help you keep your fruit in tip-top condition! The trees will look great and later on you can enjoy the fruits of your labour!

You are probably looking forward to sitting in the shade under your fruit trees this summer. However, a delicious crop of healthy fruit is important too - and good, careful pruning stimulates cropping. Here are some tips for pruning the most common fruit trees.

Five leaders on apple and pear trees

Through the years you should keep five main branches (leaders), that sprout at different heights from the trunk and point in different directions. If necessary the branches can be bent down and secured with rope or tape. This can be removed the following year. The side branches should then be cut back to half their length each year.

Summer pruning for standards and semi-standards

To encourage the crown of a tree to fill out, you can start pruning in summer. Cut back three quarters of the shoots. The shoots that grow as a continuation of the leaders can be left. Bend the branches out horizontally and secure them. This will encourage the formation of buds. Twigs that grow inwards should all be removed. 

Maximum of four leaders for plum trees

Plum trees are treated in more or less the same way as apples and pears. The difference is that plums are pruned in summer and three to four leaders should be left. If necessary, the branches can be bent out farther by wedging a stick between them. Plum trees need maintenance pruning once every two years. The shoots that grow straight up parallel to the trunk should be removed completely to keep the heart of the tree open. For the rest, just prune the shoots that block out the sunlight.

Spindle shape ideal for cherry trees

A cherry develops into a substantial tree that could easily outgrow an average sized garden. If you want to grow cherries to eat, you should prune your tree into a spindle shape. This is done as follows:

  • Do not prune the tree after planting.
  • Keep the spindle shape to a height of about 2.5 to 3 metres.
  • Prune the tree in August so the pruning cuts will heal better.
  • Keep five to six leaders, spread out along the trunk in such a way that the lower branches get sufficient sunlight.

Rejuvenation pruning

Old fruit trees can be rejuvenated by completely removing all branches that grow inwards as well as all damaged and diseased branches. The following winter the leaders can be tackled. Cut all these to about the same length. If the pruning wounds are large they can be treated with a protective agent.

Maintenance pruning for mature trees

It is important to maintain the balance between the number of fruit-bearing branches and growing branches. You should also make sure the side branches that grow on the leaders (the branches that form the skeleton of the tree) do not become heavier than the leaders themselves. The main frame of the tree should remain approximately the same size.

Check out our collection pruning tools.