How to properly prune a columnar apple tree

How to properly prune a columnar apple tree

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Columnar apple trees are the result of a natural mutation of the common apple tree. A Canadian gardener discovered on his very old apple tree a thick branch that did not form a single branch, but was covered with ripe apples.

This happened in 1964, and since then, biologists and botanists, interested in such an unusual phenomenon, have comprehensively investigated the causes and consequences of such a metamorphosis. Agronomists and gardeners were interested in this case no less than theoretical scientists and, in turn, began breeding work to develop new varieties of columnar apple trees.


In recent years, the popularity of columnar apple trees among gardeners either flares up or fades away, there are both positive and negative reviews. Our article is for those who nevertheless decided to grow such small, but very productive trees in their garden. Today we will talk about how and at what time to prune columnar apple trees.

In order to perform pruning such a seemingly simple job, it is necessary to know the morphology of the plant, to determine which parts of the tree will be priority in development, and which should be constantly pruned. The main morphological features of columnar apple trees:

  • columnar trees have a certain gene, which led to such an unusual structure;
  • the growth of hybrids differs depending on the classification of the stock on which it is grafted, these are five groups: superdwarf, dwarf, semi-dwarf, medium and vigorous;
  • roots - underdeveloped, superficial, their depth in the soil is up to 1 meter;
  • branches of a columnar apple tree - located, in relation to the main trunk, at an acute angle, their growth occurs along the main trunk, without pruning, the apple tree will look like a pyramidal poplar, lateral growths of columnar apple trees are always thinner and shorter than similar branches of ordinary trees;
  • the trunk is thickened, covered with many small twigs, which are densely overgrown with leaves, flower rings are formed at the ends of the processes;
  • the upper bud of growth is a priority, due to its correct development, the entire vegetation of the columnar apple takes place, it cannot be cut off, it is necessary to protect it from winter frosts and rodents (mice, hares, rabbits).

Attention! When buying seedlings, pay attention to the classification of the rootstock and the preservation of the buds on the plant.

Some apple hybrids can be grafted onto vigorous rootstocks (Antonovka, Anise). This is permissible, but you need to know: such trees later form a greater number of side shoots and take up a relatively large amount of space in the garden. When planting such seedlings, this nuance should be taken into account.

Cutting and shaping rules

The columnar apple tree is always a short plant, reaching a height of 1.5 - 2.5 meters. It is formed into one main trunk, sometimes for insurance at the beginning of the growing season it is recommended to leave 1-2 of the lowest lateral branches in case of loss of the apical bud. If this happens, then the tree is formed from the lateral shoot, which is closest to the trunk. In this case, a slight bend of the apple tree will not be noticeable. The damaged tip is cut off.

First year of planting

Over the many years of their existence, old trees are overgrown with many branches, their tops become inaccessible, since the plant sometimes reaches very high heights. The lateral branches of such giants are thick and long, the lowest of them cover a large space around the trunk, the roots occupy a significant part of the territory. Nothing grows under such trees, even a major pruning does not help. Today's gardeners do not want to put up with this state of affairs, they are trying to remove the giants who have taken possession of large areas in the territory of their garden.

On the vacated plot, instead of one ordinary apple tree, you can plant up to 30 columnar hybrids, which will painlessly replace the old giant: they will not reduce the yield, ensure annual fruiting, reduce the time for obtaining the first fruits to 1-2 years instead of 5-7 years for the old varieties of apple trees that are familiar to us ... Weigh all the pros and cons of growing columnar apple trees in your garden, think over a plan for planting seedlings, calculate the required number depending on the free area.

Seedlings of columnar apple trees are acquired in early spring, just before planting in a permanent place. They are planted according to a pre-planned scheme: in one row (with an interval of 40-50 cm from each other), in several rows (50-70 cm are left between the rows) or in a separate column with formation on trellises (see photo). Most seedlings do not bear fruit in the first year, but there are super early varieties that manage to please gardeners with the first apples before autumn.

The first rule for pruning pillar-shaped apple trees is that in the first year, pruning is not done, allowing the tree to adapt to a new place, to grow stronger and by autumn to give the necessary growth of 20-30 cm. The main task of this period is to insulate the seedlings for the winter in order to preserve the apical bud itself, still a weak plant, from frost.

Pruning in the spring of the second year

Next spring is coming. Columnar apple trees in your garden have survived the winter well. It's time to start your annual tree pruning. Pruning is carried out during the period when the buds are still sleeping, but the trunk and small lateral branches have already warmed up and acquired the necessary elasticity. Prepare your tools, pruners or sharp knives, and go out into the garden, just like the amateur gardener did in our video.

After watching this short video, you have already learned in practice how to prune young columnar apple trees. Our diagram shows how it looks theoretically, here we show a plant of the first, second and third years of life and, accordingly, schematically shows the sequence of pruning lateral growths.

The second rule for pruning columnar apple trees is that this work is done before the buds bloom, the top is preserved in its original form.

Starting from the third year of life, the overgrowth of the apple tree with lateral growths weakens and gradually stops altogether. The life cycle of columnar apple trees is not very long (8-15 years), it depends on the type of scion and the varietal qualities of the hybrid. Given that the tree begins to bear fruit almost from the first year of planting and bears fruit every year, this period can be considered normal.

Further formation and care

It is possible to use trellises to form columnar apple trees in the early period, when the trunk has not yet gained sufficient thickness and cannot withstand the winds itself. For this, temporary pegs are used, which are removed as the trunk is strengthened. It's another matter if gardeners want to form some kind of decorative figures from apple trees to decorate the garden. In this case, the tapestries are necessary to create the intended shape.

Experienced gardeners know the secrets of this formation, which, however, is also available for beginner amateurs.

Caring for columnar apple trees is not difficult, there is nothing unusual about it. The third rule - like all plants in the garden, they need: feeding, watering (if necessary), prevention from diseases and treatment from pests. The main thing is correct and timely pruning in the spring and protection from the cold in winter. Observing these rules, you will achieve the expected result - every year there will be beautiful and healthy fruits on your table.

Features of the

  1. Fruits on columnar apple trees form close to the main stem. Their formation begins on the lowest branches, which are literally strewn with apples. In the future, this happens along the entire tree trunk from the bottom to the very top, only around the apical part small shoots are formed in the form of a panicle of leaves.
  2. Apple trees begin to bear fruit already in the second year (sometimes during the planting season).
  3. The yield at the stage of an adult tree is up to 30 kg from one plant per season, taking into account the density of planting of columnar apple trees, from 1 m2 can be collected from 130 kg.
  4. On one hundred square meters of land (100x100 m), you can place a whole apple plantation, or plant the same number of seedlings along the fence. They do not take up much space and do not interfere with other plantings in the garden.

Advantages and disadvantages

Gardeners who planted their apple trees at the beginning of the period of popularization of clone-like apple trees can judge the advantages and disadvantages (in detail) even now, in their opinion, such trees have their pros and cons. They include the following qualities as undoubted advantages:

  • early maturity of apple trees - you do not need to wait long for the first fruits to appear;
  • annual fruiting - there is no periodicity, as in ordinary varieties;
  • compacted planting - take up less area compared to tall and branched apple trees;
  • simplicity and convenience in harvesting - apples are at the level of human growth, ladders and stairs are not needed.

There are also significant disadvantages:

  • fragility - columnar apple trees cease to bear fruit for 8-10 years;
  • the taste of apples is inferior to the old, proven over the years, varieties of ordinary apple trees;
  • neglected apple trees cannot be restored.

Breeding work continues

The first wave of gardeners' enthusiasm for columnar apple trees passed, conclusions were drawn, sometimes completely disappointing, but work on breeding and improving the quality indicators of such apple trees never stopped. New varieties and hybrids have already been bred and tested, the breeding of which took into account many shortcomings in the creation of the first columnar varieties of apple trees.

Such varieties as: Vasyugan, Ostankino, President, Currency, Iksha and many others are more winter-hardy, their resistance to scab and pests has increased, the palatability of the fruit has improved markedly, and the pruning of branches has been reduced to a minimum. There are varieties and hybrids of different ripening periods from super early to winter species. Scientific institutions and simple amateur gardeners, not only in Russia, but all over the world, are interested in creating the best varieties of columnar apple trees.


After reading our article, you can draw certain conclusions: is it worth growing columnar apple trees in your garden or are you afraid of the work associated with annual pruning of trees. We assure you that the work of pruning trees is not difficult, it is carried out only once a year, and then throughout the summer and autumn you will enjoy their beauty and abundant harvest.

Your little child will independently pick ripe and juicy fruit from a small tree, taste the apple, find out where and how it grew, and did not appear from your purse after visiting the supermarket. You yourself will be pleased that you were able to grow this miracle in your beautiful and amazing columnar apple orchard. Remember, every person in their life should plant at least one tree.

Watch the video: Dont Prune Fruit Trees Until You Watch This - Raintree