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I bought an apple tree (sapling) on sale in the garden centre. I wanted the particular species because of local connection/history and the only one I could afford was the sale one. 

The trouble is that it's been in the pot for an eternity. I made sure to ease the roots out well before planting and added lots of well rotted compost to the hole. However, it has about 5 main branches which have all become quite long and whippy where it's been in the pot so long I guess. So it's sort of tall and thin instead of medium and we'll rounded. Should  I cut these back a bit or leave it alone this year? It has buds all over. 


Thanks Dove! it's Sussex Mother on a dwarfing rootstock....

How much would you prune off?




Can you post a picture so we can get some idea of where it's at?

If you've not posted a pic before click on the green tree icon on the toolbar above where you type your post, and follow the instructions.


Steve 309

Depends (amongst other things) on what shape you want it to end up.  Your choices on a dwarfing rootstock are bush, pyramid, cordon, espalier or fan.

Does it need/do you have another variety as a pollinator?


Thanks everyone. Picture attached. It looks taller there - the top of the tallest branch is 5ft. 

It is not self fertile but there's quite a lot of apple trees in the area in gardens and local woodland so I thought I would see for a couple few years and get another  one of an appropriate variety if it doesn't fruit? Not sure if that's the right approach ....


I think I might have said dwarfing when I don't mean dwarfing. I remember when I was choosing it the rootstock description was "won't grow taller than 6 feet".... 

In terms of shape basically I want the most natural looking shape.

Thank you very much for your help.

Hi Phasmid,

I know you say you want the most natural looking tree and there's nout wrong with that, but that certainly looks like it has the potential to become a brilliant espalier? 

But if you do want to keep it "Natural" then i would suggest to prune by a third of last years growth and not much more. Although i would also recommend sacrificing all this years crop to focus the trees energy into vigorous root growth. Especially if when you teased the roots some broke off which is very often the case.



Hi Liam

Doesn't an espalier have to be up a wall though? Meaning I would have to move it? (I don't know very much about all this, clearly!).

Thank you, I will definitely sacrifice the crop too.


Hi Phasmid, Even though it's slightly late, I agree with Dove and Lw and would cut all of those branches back by a third.  This will stimulate them to grow side branches and fruiting spurs.  It's really important to prune young apple trees properly to develop a good shape.  5 main branches is ideal.  Prune back to an outward-facing bud.

Thank you! I will get snipping..

Hello! We are getting an apple tree for our allotment & plan to train it as an espalier between two stout posts connected by a wire framework. I saw whole living walls of espalier apples  trained in this way at a garden I visited. I've also seen 2 year old potted espaliers trained on a framework of canes. So, no you don't necessarily need a fence or wall.

Steve 309

6 feet is definitely dwarf.  Apples on their own roots, or full size rootstocks will grow to 20 feet or more - which makes picking difficult!

I agree absolutely with Liam: 1/3 of the new growth BUT you need to keep the centre open, so I'd also cut the leader out.  This should (eventually) produce a 'bush' the shape of a wine glass, or a hand as if it was holding a tennis ball.  Looks good, stays healthy (cos the air can move right through it) and crops well.  Not this year though, as everyone agrees.

If there are lots of other apple trees nearby you should be OK for pollinators.  Let's hope we have a decent summer and the bees can get busy.


Love that idea Pipistrelle; great if you have the space.  There are some great free-standing espaliers at Tatton Park.

Fab, thanks for that. Will nip out the leader too then. I've already reduced by a third so hopefully I'll have a nice shape in a few years.


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