How to prune pear fruit trees

Pruning & Training Apple & Pear Trees

Training and pruning are essential for growing fruit successfully. Fruit size, quality and pest management are influenced by training and pruning. Untrained and unpruned trees become entangled masses of shoots and branches that produce little or no fruit and harbor insects and diseases.

Consider the following tips when training and pruning fruit crops:

  1. Before training or pruning a plant, visualize the results of the action. Once a branch is pruned out or removed, it cannot be replaced.
  2. Train as much as possible and remove as little as possible. Bending and tying shoots instead of cutting them out, especially on apple and pear trees can induce early fruit production.
  3. Use sharp pruning tools to make clean cuts.
  4. Discard or compost pruned out shoots and branches. These plant parts will serve as dwelling sites for insects and diseases and should be removed from the area to reduce pest populations.

Training begins at planting and may be required for several years. Pruning is an annual management practice. Two basic pruning cuts are heading and thinning. Heading or heading back removes the terminal portion of shoots or limbs. Thinning removes an entire shoot or limb to its point of origin on the main branch or lateral. Light pruning can be performed throughout the growing season to remove broken, injured or diseased branches and to improve air circulation to control foliar diseases. Major removal of twigs and branches should be done during the dormant season, preferably before active growth begins in the spring. Training and pruning procedures vary according to the type, age and variety of fruit crop. The types of branching involved in pruning are illustrated below.

Suggested Pruning Cuts

A. Suckers.
B. Stubs or broken branches.
C. Downward-growng branches
D. Rubbing or criss-crossing branches
E. Shaded interior branches
F. Competing leaders
G. Narrow crotches
H. Whorls

Initial Training & Pruning

The day apple trees are planted is the day to begin to train and prune for future production. Too often backyard growers plant apple trees and leave them untended for several years. This neglect results in poor growth and delayed fruiting.

Apple trees are trained to a modified leader system. The tree should be trained with one central leader or main trunk in the center, with several wide-angled limbs spaced around the leader. The tree should mature to a pyramidal shape.

The picture below shows correct and incorrect pruning of an apple tree.

Use “spur-type” strains or grow apples on dwarfing rootstock to make training and pruning easier. Spur-type and dwarf trees produce fruit at an earlier age than full-sized trees. These trees are also easier to manage and harvest than full-sized trees are.

If one-year-old unbranched “whips” are planted, head to the desired height – about 28 to 32 inches for standard and 30 to 35 inches for spur-type and semi-dwarf trees.

When the buds grow out to 4 to 5 inches, select a central leader and scaffold branches. Scaffolds (side branches) should be spaced at least 6 inches apart vertically and at equal intervals around the trunk. Between three and six branches may be selected as scaffolds during the first summer or may be left to grow throughout the season and selectively pruned out during the dormant season.

If young trees are branched when they come from the nursery or garden center, remove any broken branches and those that form angles less than 45° with the main trunk. Eliminate competing leaders by removing the less desirable branch. Head-back the central leader by one-third in the second year. Make the cut close to a bud that is growing in a suitable direction or to a lateral branch. Keep pruning to a minimum during the early years to encourage the trees to produce fruiting wood.

Pear trees naturally develop narrow angled, upright branches. To train properly angled scaffold branches, either weight the branches, tie branches to pegs in the ground or brace the branches apart with spacer sticks.

Pruning Bearing Trees

Prune bearing trees to maintain a balance between vegetative growth and fruit production. The first three years should be spent on training only, but by the fourth and fifth years, the trees can be allowed to produce a light crop.

Pruning bearing trees is critical to maintain healthy fruiting wood. Remove weak, “shaded-out” wood, diseased or dead wood, watersprouts and root suckers. Control tree height by cutting back the top portion of the tree to weak lateral branches.

For flower buds to develop well, all branches of the tree should be exposed to adequate sunlight. This can be a challenge in the lower portion of the tree. On the lowest whorl of secondary scaffolds, merely tip the terminal shoots of these branches rather than cutting them back to laterals. If the fruit quality and yield diminish in older trees, some heavy pruning may be done carefully to restore tree shape and allow more sunlight to penetrate into the tree.

Summer Pruning

Summer pruning is advised, especially for removing waterspouts, rootsuckers and fire-blight-infected wood. Summer pruning can also be used during the first three years of tree training to produce the desired tree shape. Undesired growth should be removed in early summer or after harvest between late August and early September. Also, note that pruning should be focused on thinning out rather than heading-back

Heading-back cuts may stimulate new growth near the cut. If the trees are heavily pruned, reduce the amount of fertilizer applied in relation to the severity of pruning. Heavily pruned trees may not need fertilizer for a year or two.


Apple and pear trees grown under favorable conditions will set more fruit than they are capable of carrying to maturity. It is essential to remove excess fruit from the trees to assure satisfactory development of fruit remaining on the tree. Failure to remove the excess fruit will decrease flower formation for the following year and cause the tree to produce a crop only every other year.

Fruit should be removed by hand to one per cluster. Space fruiting clusters about every 6 inches along the limb. To remove the fruit without damaging the spur or other pears on the spur, hold the stem between the thumb and forefinger and push the fruit from the stem with the other fingers. This method will remove the pear leaving the stem attached to the spur.

The earlier that hand thinning is completed, the more effective it will be in achieving the desired results. Midsummer thinning will help to improve fruit size, but it will not aid in the formation of next year’s flower buds. Most of the flower buds for next year are initiated during a four to six week period following full bloom, so thin before this time.

Pruning Neglected Apple Trees

Many people will purchase a house where an apple tree was planted on the property several years ago. Often, the previous owners did not take the time to properly prune the tree. The tree has become bushy and weak and will produce very poor quality apples. Such a tree requires extensive corrective pruning.

The main objective in pruning such a tree is to try and open up the interior to allow good light penetration. The first step is to remove all the upright, vigorous growing shoots at their base that are shading the interior. As with the young apple trees, it is necessary to select 3 to 5 lower scaffold branches with good crotch angles and spaced around the tree. Limbs with poor angles, and excess scaffold limbs, should be removed at their base. In some cases it is advisable to spread the corrective pruning over two to three seasons. When severe pruning is done in the winter, the trees should not be fertilized that spring.

Originally published 02/00

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Pruning Pear Trees - Stark Bro's

Pruning is a very important part of proper fruit tree care, but many people find the task overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be! Keep these things in mind:

NOTE: This is part 8 in a series of 11 articles. For a complete background on how to grow pear trees, we recommend starting from the beginning.


When your tree is dug up from our fields to be shipped to you, the root ball loses many of its tiny feeder roots, which are needed to absorb moisture and nutrients. Pruning helps balance the top growth of your tree with the root system, giving the roots time to re-establish in your yard before spring growth.

When your Stark Bro’s bare root tree arrives, our professionals have already pre-pruned your tree for you. Because of this, you DO NOT need to prune them again when you plant. The only pruning done at this time would be any broken branches or roots.

Plan to prune your fruit trees during every dormant season. In Zone 6 and farther north, you should wait until late winter. A good reference book, such as Pruning Made Easy, can be invaluable for answering questions and guiding you through the pruning process.


In addition, cutting the tree back stimulates stronger, more vigorous growth from the remaining buds. After a single growing season, a tree you prune will be bigger than a matching unpruned tree.


Even more important, your fruit tree needs to be shaped. The natural shape of a fruit tree is not always the best for maximum fruit production. Trees you receive from Stark Bro’s have been pruned in the nursery row for proper shaping, but correct pruning must continue at home. If you keep up with your pruning and shaping each year, you’ll make mostly small, easy-to-heal cuts.

Pruning Tips from the pros:

10 o’clock pruning angle.

  • Narrow, V-shape crotches are an open invitation to disastrous splitting later on, particularly when your tree is ripening with a large bumper crop. For your branches: choose wide 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock angles.

Pruning to a bud.

  • Make sharp, clean cuts close enough (about 1/4 inch) so you won’t leave a clumsy stub that’s hard to heal over. Stay far enough above the bud so it won’t die back. Slant the cuts and the new growth will develop beautifully.
  • Every branch has buds pointed in various directions. Since you want vigorous new growth to spread away from the center of the tree, make you cut above a bud that’s aimed outward. This helps your tree grow into a spreading shape.

Prune For Success

Fruit trees develop better if they’re pruned at the right times in the right ways. Here’s how:

Help the tree form a strong framework.

Remove weak, diseased, injured or narrow-angle branches, the weaker of any crossing or interfering branches, and one branch of forked limbs. Also remove upright branches and any that sweep back toward the center of tree. You want to keep your tree from becoming too thick and crowded; some thinning is necessary to permit light to enter the tree and to keep its height reasonable. All these objectives promote improved bearing, which is your overall aim. You’ll be pleased with the results.

Prune trees to Central Leader shape.

Trees do best when pruned and trained to a central leader tree. This type of tree has a pyramidal shape with a single upright leader limb as its highest point. This leader is the newest extension of a long, upright growing trunk from which all lateral branches arise. As with all strong growing branches, the leader should be headed at approximately 24-30” above the highest set of scaffolds branches. The uppermost bud on the leader produces a vigorous new leader, and no other shoot should be allowed to grow taller. Lateral limbs should be selected from shoots growing out from the central leader. These should be spaced vertically 4-6” apart, have growth that is more horizontal than vertical and point in different compass directions from the trunk. Any unbranched lateral branches should be headed back by approximately ¼ of their length to encourage side branches and to stiffen lateral branches. All laterals should have a wide branch angle.

Pruning Whips (Unbranched Trees)

Prune back to 28-36” above the ground at planting time. After the new branches have grown 3-5”, select a shoot to become the leader and scaffold limbs.

Off-season pruning

Sometimes pruning needs to be done even when the season isn’t the best. If a branch is broken by the wind or by a heavy load of fruit, emergency treatment is necessary. Prune back the ragged edges; making a smooth cut that leaves no stubby stump. Fast-growing “water sprouts” can be removed as soon as you see them rather than waiting until winter.

Spur pruning

Do not prune a spur tree as aggressive as a regular tree. Spurs allow fruit to form on each limb and bear from the trunk out. Spur type trees grow slower and develop many small spurs rather than long shoots, so fewer should be removed. Sometimes too many fruit spurs grow along a branch and will need to be thinned out to encourage bigger and better fruit on what remains.

Fruit Thinning

There are several reasons to thin fruit:

  • To reduce limb breakage
  • Increase fruit size
  • Improve fruit color and quality
  • Stimulate floral initiation for next year’s crop

Home gardeners thin fruit trees by hand. During May and June, many fruit trees will drop or abort fruit. This is a natural process that allows the tree to mature the crop load.
Trees may bear biannually, that is bear fruit every other year, bear heavy one year, then light the next year. Thin the heavy crop to correct bearing habit.

Apple Trees

The best time to thin apple trees is within 20 to 40 days of full bloom. Space each apple 6 to 8 inches apart on the branch. In clusters, leave the king bloom (the center bloom in the cluster of five flowers) as it will develop into the largest fruit.
On spur type varieties many fruit spurs grow along a branch and will need to be thinned out to encourage bigger and better fruit on what remains.

Pear Trees

Pear trees seldom require thinning. Remove small or blemished fruit as soon as they are seen. Leave two fruits per clusters to improve size.

Cherry Trees

These fruits are not thinned.

Pear pruning in autumn for beginners: clear diagrams, clear tips

Autumn pruning raises many questions for beginner gardeners. Let's figure out which branches you need to get rid of the pear and when is the best time to do it so that the tree survives the winter well and pleases with juicy fruits next season.

Proper pear pruning in autumn will form a beautiful sparse crown, as well as a strong and stable skeleton that can withstand a heavy load of fruits. If you do not consider yourself a professional gardener, you can easily get confused in the flow of information that various sources offer. We have collected the most important tips for you in one article and illustrated them with clear diagrams.

Significance and advantages of pear pruning in autumn

Many novice gardeners refuse to prune young and mature pears for fear of harm. Others believe that the larger the fruit tree grows, the more likely it is to reap a good harvest from it. However, this is fundamentally wrong. The overgrown crown prevents sunlight from reaching the fruits, which negatively affects their juiciness and taste. In addition, leaving old dry branches, you risk that they will damage healthy ones, breaking off in winter under the weight of snow.

The pruning value also depends on the age of the pear. For young trees that have not yet entered the fruiting season, it is important to properly form the skeleton and crown. Those already fruiting need help distributing nutrients in order to achieve a better harvest. But for old trees, the need for rejuvenation comes first.

Pear pruning is most often done in spring and autumn. The advantages of autumn pruning are as follows:

  • The vegetation process is completed, which means that no new shoots are formed on the cut this year.
  • Sap flow is slowed down, so the juice will not flow out through cut wounds.
  • Proper autumn pear pruning and the formation of a sparse crown stimulate fruiting in the next season.
  • More opportunities to get the job done without the hassle and risk to the tree. Spring can come quickly, and you may not have time to complete the work before the start of sap flow. Or, conversely, after early pruning, frosts can occur that prevent wound healing. But autumn pruning can be done at any time after the fruit has been removed. The main thing is to complete it 2-3 weeks before the first frost.

Autumn pruning of pear seedlings in the year of planting is not performed. This can stunt the growth of a young tree and reduce its chances of overwintering successfully. In all other cases, the procedure is recommended to be carried out annually or at least every other year.

Fruit tree pruning tools

To prune a pear or apple tree, you will need the following tools:

  • Secateurs . For cutting thin and medium branches (up to 2.5 cm in diameter), as well as for removing dry knots and young growth.
  • Lopper . In terms of functionality, it is similar to a secateurs, but has longer handles, which means it provides convenient access to high-lying branches.
  • Garden saw . For removing branches over 2.5 cm in diameter.
  • Knife . For pruning shoots, cleaning wounds.
  • Oil paint or garden varnish . for cutting cuts.

Tools must be sharp so that cuts are even and smooth. Before and after pruning, it is important to disinfect the inventory, for example, with a solution of potassium permanganate, copper sulfate, bleach or alcohol.

Bud cut and ring cut - what's the difference

There are 2 main ways to prune a pear - shortening the branches by cutting off the crown of the shoots (bud cut) and thinning (ring cut). Each method pursues certain goals and is carried out according to certain rules.

  • Cutting off the shoot on the ring

If your goal is to get rid of a branch, the best place to cut is in the ring of bark at its base. It is in this place that wound healing occurs faster. It is important to make the cut as close as possible to the trunk or parent branch, but without damaging them. Any "dredging" (deepening of the cut into the trunk) disrupts the flow of juice, due to which the tree loses its strength. Leaving a stump, on the contrary, we will get peeling of the bark, rotting of the wood and the formation of a hollow, which most often becomes a focus of disease.

Thinning by cutting off the shoots on the ring is carried out until the crown is fully formed. At the same time, only a few main branches are left on the trunk, and the rest of the growth is removed.

  • Kidney cut

This type of pruning helps to change the direction of the branch. To do this, a bud is found on a one-year-old stem, which "looks" in the direction necessary for the correct shape of the crown. The shoot is cut above this bud at an angle of 45 degrees. It is important to leave a small stump (about 1.5-2 cm). Too long a stump usually dries up, and the kidney does not wake up in the spring.

Peculiarities and timing of autumn pear pruning

When to prune a pear, every gardener decides for himself. In central Russia, it is recommended to do this after harvesting - in late August or early September. In the southern regions of the country "haircut" can be postponed until October. But you should not delay the procedure too much, because. wounds need time to heal before the onset of cold weather.

Astrologers do not recommend pruning for the growing Moon. At this time, the juices are understood upwards, and the tree spends a lot of time and effort on healing the cuts. It is better to choose the days of the waning moon (ideally, phase 4).

The lunar calendar will help you choose a good day for pruning.

To understand how to prune a pear after the summer, you need to understand that the autumn "haircut" is, first of all, sanitary in nature. From the end of August, the movement of juices slows down, although it is still far from a complete stop. The tree will be able to tighten the cut points, but for this it will have to expend the forces stored up for the winter. In order not to deplete the reserves of the pear and leave it without useful substances, autumn pruning should be extremely gentle.

If you miss pear pruning, it's best to postpone pear cutting until spring. Otherwise, the tree may not cope with stress and will not survive the winter well.

Before moving on to specific pear trimming patterns, it would not be superfluous to familiarize yourself with the general rules and nuances.

  • Choose dry days for trimming . Rainy weather increases the risk of wound infection. After the onset of frost, pruning is no longer carried out. The optimum air temperature is not lower than 8°C.
  • Use garden ladder . Pear wood is denser and harder than that of an apple tree, but at the same time it is more fragile, and therefore prone to breakage. This means that it is strictly forbidden to climb the skeletal branches during the sanitary procedure.
  • Don't cut too hard . Do not remove more than 25% of the total wood weight at one time. If the tree needs major pruning, postpone the procedure until early spring, and only shorten the branches a little in the fall (about a quarter of their length). The cuts are susceptible to freezing, which means that severe pruning can cause the tree to disappear. In addition, strong pear pruning at a young age delays the onset of fruiting.
  • Cut skeletal shoots larger than 5-7 cm in three steps . First, make an inscription from below, otherwise, under its own weight, the branch will break, and the bark will tear. Then file the branch on top, leaving a stump. When you have already got rid of the main part of the branch, you can proceed to the leveling saw cut.

  • Treat all cuts . Slices need to be covered with garden pitch or linseed oil-based compounds. Adult dry branches are treated immediately, and young ones need to be given about a day to dry.
  • Do not leave cut branches in area . Autumn pruning is often associated with the release of a tree from branches affected by pests. Therefore, it is better to immediately get rid of them, for example, burn them.

What and why to cut: step-by-step pear pruning instructions

We offer detailed instructions with illustrations for sanitary pear pruning in autumn. Everyone can understand our schemes.

1. Remove dry and diseased branches

Removing dry, damaged and diseased wood is where to start pruning not only pear trees, but also apple trees in the fall. This is important to eliminate the risk of breaking healthy branches when diseased branches collapse under the weight of snow in winter.

Cut branches affected by pests, starting from the point of spread of the disease. "Dead" wood is easy to distinguish from healthy: during the summer period, neither foliage nor fruits appeared on it. It may also vary in color.

2. Cut off the young rootstock

Young wild pear growth can be removed both in spring and autumn. These shoots have nothing to do with the fruit crown, but are, in fact, a continuation of the root system. Break off non-lignified shoots at the base, lignified ones - cut with secateurs or dig up to the place of growth. But it is better to get rid of thick basal shoots only in late autumn. This is a favorite wintering place for aphid larvae and powdery mildew spores, so you should not postpone this work for later.

3. Cut the tops

Tops are powerful fattening shoots, most of which grow vertically. They appear most often within 1.5-2 m from the trunk at the base of large branches or directly from the trunk. These branches do not give fruit, but they take a lot of strength from the tree. Cut the tops as close as possible to the point of their growth on the main branch.

4. Thin out the crown

a-branches growing too close, b-branches looking down, c-branches looking down, d-crossing branches

Autumn pruning of pear is not the main goal of crown formation. But if possible, why not take care of the formation of a beautiful crown (at least partially) in the fall. If two or more shoots grow from roughly the same spot at a slight angle to the main branch, they will compete and thicken the canopy, preventing sunlight from penetrating the lush summer foliage. Therefore, leave the healthiest of them, and delete the rest. It is desirable that the branch that you leave grows at an angle of 60 degrees to the main one. A sharp angle can cause the branch to break off when the fruit ripens on it.

Don't forget to prune branches that grow down towards the trunk, as well as 90-degree angles and cross shoots.

5. Shorten branches to be removed in spring

Since major pruning is not carried out in autumn, it is worth limiting yourself to shortening branches that you can get rid of in spring so that the tree puts all its strength into new shoots during the growing season. Make shorter branches that seem superfluous to you. If the tree needs extensive pruning, it is best to extend this process over 2 or 3 years.

6. Trim the annual growth per kidney

For a good harvest, the annual growth is cut to about a quarter of the original length. Be sure to leave a few buds on annual shoots for further development in the spring. The cut is made under the kidney, counting two more from it, we will get a kidney directed to the periphery of the crown. This is due to the fact that a shoot grows from the first (closest to the cut) bud, "pressed" against the mother branch. From the second kidney - an escape directed to the center of the crown. And it is the 3rd shoot that gives the optimal angle for the formation of a pyramidal crown shape. It should be left afterwards.

If you have any questions, look for more information in the pear pruning video in autumn.

Peculiarities of pear cutting

Columnar pear pruning principles in autumn differ from the general rules, because these varieties do not have a highly branched crown.

  • The central conductor, or trunk, is cut for the first time not earlier than 5 years after planting. With proper care, it will grow by 12-15 cm every year.
  • If the apical bud is damaged and several competing shoots develop on the tree, one of them is cut under the ring, leaving the healthier one.
  • The main care of the columnar pear is to thin out the side branches. It is necessary to remove only weakened, dry and damaged branches. Thinning is also performed if the quality and quantity of fruits have decreased markedly.

We hope that pear pruning in the fall for beginners in pictures is a convenient way to understand the not too complicated, but not the easiest process of forming a tree crown. And if, following our recommendations, you correctly prepared your plants for wintering next year, then you will definitely get a good harvest of juicy fruits.

How to trim a pear. Pruning pears in spring and autumn.

In order for a pear to reward you with a bountiful harvest, it must be pruned annually. The main thing is that you need to prune the tree during the period when the plant is in a state of sleep, that is, early in spring or autumn with the onset of cold weather.

Types of pear trimming

There are several types of trimming:

1. Sanitary trimming. Involves the removal of damaged and diseased shoots. In this case, a little wood is usually removed so that the disease does not go further. Held mainly in autumn.

2. Shaping cut. It is held both in spring and autumn. Depending on the goal, there are several types of shaping:

  • Postplant pruning. Time for work - spring. Young plants are subjected to this procedure in order to properly form the crown.
  • Pruning is necessary to prevent overgrowth of shoots. Thanks to her, the seedling becomes more bushy. Usually pruned young pears.
  • Maintenance pruning - remove branches that grow down, sideways or that have become too long. As a result, the crown becomes more ventilated, and the plant "breathes" better. This procedure is necessary for mature trees.

Pear cutting rules

1 . You can not cut the pear too much at one time. The plant activates all the forces for an urgent recovery, and you should not expect a good harvest. It is better to divide the whole procedure into two stages - remove part now, and cut off the rest only for the next year.

2. First of all, remove shoots growing from the trunk at an acute angle, and vertical ones that are directed parallel to the trunk.

3. When removing branches, it is important not to leave stumps or cut off excess. The reference point should be the annular influx of bark, which is clearly visible at the base of the shoot. It is there that tissues are located that can quickly heal and restore the tree. If you leave a protruding stump or make a deep cut, then the wound will be difficult and long to overgrow (Figure 1).

Fig. 1 – scheme for pruning branches “on a ring”

4. The technique for cutting shoots thicker than 3 cm should be as follows - first, an inscription is made from below, and then it is already possible to saw from above. Otherwise, the bark under the branch may be damaged when the incompletely cut branch breaks under the weight of its weight.

5. After cutting the pear tree, the saw cuts must be processed immediately (Rannet, Sadovy Var). Otherwise, the tree will begin to secrete juice, and this will lure harmful insects and weaken the plant.

Pear pruning in spring

Pear pruning is most popular with gardeners in spring. Spring formation of the crown can be carried out before the leaves bloom.

1. Annual seedlings are pruned in spring at a distance of 50 cm from the ground level, this promotes the formation of shoots from the lower buds.

2. In 2-3 year old pear seedlings, the central stem is shortened by 1/4 of its length, and adjacent branches are cut off under the ring.

3. Lateral shoots that serve as the basis of the trunk are left, but not more than 4, the rest are removed. They should leave the trunk at a 45° angle (Figure 2).

4. Shoots with ovary are bent down, leaving them in a horizontal position.

5. The remaining branches are folded over and tied with twine.

6. Over time, the plant matures, and young shoots form less and less in spring. To increase the speed of their formation, a shortening pruning of the old pear is carried out along the entire crown. Give a pyramidal shape.

Fig. 2 - Scheme of bending and tying pear branches.

It is undesirable to prune pears in summer. In the warm season, the leaves accumulate glucose and other useful substances. Pruning leads to a large loss of young foliage and, as a result, nutrients.

A year later, this work is repeated, while making sure that the second-order shoots do not exceed the growth of the main ones.

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