I have a row of 5 beautiful espalier apple trees (Jonagold, Granny Smith and Gravenstein) that are about 4 years old, and they put out huge amounts of growth over the summer. I've been pruning the first growth back in late June, but when should I prune the growth from the rest of the summer? Is it better to do it in September when there's still light and the trees still have some leaves, or wait until mid-winter (February?) when they have lost all their leaves?

I'm north of 45 degrees latitude, so winters are dark, but we do not get down to freezing for more than a few days in the winter, and there is frequent rain.

I've read the excellent answers in this post When is it ok to prune an overgrown apple tree? but I'm not sure how I need to think differently about espalier trees.

  • Espalier tree's are "special" when it comes to pruning. Without some pictures I would be hesitant to make suggestions.
    – Rob
    Nov 16, 2018 at 16:35
  • @Rob they are "special" in the sense of "different" - i.e. you can't just hack away to reduce the tree's size and hope for the best - but unless they have been left unpruned for a few years and have run amok, it's not "difficult."
    – alephzero
    Nov 16, 2018 at 19:29
  • @alephzero I meant "special" in the sense that pruning will depend on how they are being grown. Also, from what I remember, you really shouldn't be pruning them for size. i.e. if they are overgrown then you have selected the wrong tree or have grown them incorrectly.
    – Rob
    Nov 16, 2018 at 20:20

3 Answers 3


The end of the growth season (i.e. in September) is the best time. It's easier to see what you are doing before the leaves have fallen.

You missed that deadline, so do it right now.

If you prune in mid winter, you run the risk of frost damage and/or broken branches if you try to cut frozen wood. If you leave it till spring, the tree will have started next year's growth so it will be too late to do a proper job without spoiling a year's crop of fruit.

Here's a quick guide: https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=319


It's not too late to prune, especially if it hasn't frozen over yet. Try to avoid pruning right after a rainy period to avoid disease and rotting.


Fruit tree pruning should be done in the dormant season. And please take the time to sharpen and maintain your pruning tools. It will help you and the plant.

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