Summer Pruning: Apple Trees, Wisteria, and Other Shrubs

By Andy McIndoe

The wet weather this summer has resulted in plenty of leafy growth on most woody plants including fruit trees, shrubs and climbers (especially wisteria!).  I must admit I have not got around to pruning some of my shrubs as soon after flowering as I would normally.  However, I think leaving pruning for a while, until some of the new growth shoots are more developed, almost makes it easier to see where you should be pruning the shoots that have flowered back to.  I find I have to be a bit more careful not to damage the new growth when pruning cut out branches, but the finished result is just as good.

Pruning Apple Trees

So now it’s time to think about summer pruning apple trees.  Mine are grown as ordinary bush trees; in other words a branched head on a stem of less than 1 metre (3 feet) in height.  In late summer, or early autumn, I cut back the strong vigorous shoots that have developed over the summer months to around three leaves from last season’s growth.  Over the years this builds up the fruiting spurs which blossom and produce next years fruits.  Most text books will tell you to prune now, and to prune again in winter when the leaves have fallen.  This is the ideal situation, if you have time.  Personally I do most of my pruning now, and then I give the trees a quick once over in winter if I get around to it.

Summer pruning apple trees should not be done too early; it can result in a late flush of weak shoots if the autumn is long and warm.  Of course the other benefit of summer pruning apple trees is that it clears away some of the foliage from the ripening fruit, allowing the sun to get to the apples and develop the natural sugars.


Summer pruning wisteria is similar to summer pruning apple trees:the objective is to shorten back the new shoots, and encourage flower bud development on woody spurs.

Pruning Wisteria

DSC_0926-001My wisteria is draped over the front of a small summerhouse, so it needs to be kept in check.  This year my wisteria produced remarkably long shoots which need shortening back to 4 or 5 buds. Again advice the advice on summer pruning wisteria is to cut its shoots back to 15-20cm (6-8 inches), and then to prune wisteria again in winter to 2 or 3 buds.  In reality most of us are likely to get round to summer pruning wisteria only once.


Pruning Shrubs

While I had the secateurs out I decided that I had to reduce the width of a large choisya growing along the pathway.  This has now spread beyond its boundaries, so a little summer pruning was essential.  Rather than cutting back the tips of the shots all over the shrub I like to be selective, and maintain the natural habit of the plant.  I cut back some of the longest stems right back into the heart of the plant to allow new shoots to develop from inside the shrub.  This should help to promote a nice, bushy plant of reduced proportions.

Andy McIndoe

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