Apple tree bonsai pruning

Care Styling

Apple tree bonsai (Malus) grow quickly and vigorously. At the beginning of June we have to cut back the apple bonsai to keep the shape and to refine the branches. If the bonsai bears fruit (especially plentiful with most ornamental apple varieties), pruning is not so easy.

The reason for this: In apple trees, the flowers are often formed at the tip of the new shoot in spring. Even if the shoots are often shorter, we have to remove fruit if we want to prune this new growth on an apple bonsai. This becomes a problem if we want to leave the fruit on the bonsai tree.

How should the apple bonsai be pruned if I want to keep the fruit ?

Ornamental bonsai (Malus): After the spectacular flowering in spring, numerous fruits are normal. It can be much more than what is shown in picture 1.

Variant 1: Removal of all fruits and pruning of all short and long shoots

It is advisable to forego apples every 2-3 years and to focus on the drastic pruning of the apple bonsai while removing all fruits.

After a strong pruning at the right time (early June is perfect), a healthy apple bonsai will sprout vigorously. The fine branching improves.

It may then be possible to cut back again at the beginning of August. Advantage of this variant: In the next year the apple bonsai will have a much more compact crown. Then we can enjoy the fruits even more.

Variant 2: Cutting of all long shoots and keep all fruits and short shoots

The flower buds and then the fruits (here in the example of a crab apple) usually form at the end of short shoots (Fig. 2, red line). These short shoots can (if you like) be left on the tree.

You can prune the disturbing long shoots (picture 3, red line) at point A (picture 3) without having to remove the fruits.


Variant 3: Pruning of all long shoots + cutting of a part of the short shoots with fruits

All long shoots have been removed (= variant 2). In addition, individual short shoots with fruits are completely removed (see picture 4), other short shoots are left on the tree.

Variant 4: Pruning of the long shoots and part of the short shoots + removing individual fruits

In addition to variant 3, individual fruits are removed from the remaining short shoots (picture 5). For the new shoots next spring it is beneficial not only to remove a part of the fruits but also to cut the tip of the short shoot. If 20 apples remain on the bonsai tree, it is still very decorative.

The result (picture 6): Apple bonsai pruned according to variant 3 on the left and variant 4 on the right.


Advantages (and also disadvantages) of the variants of pruning an apple tree bonsai with fruits

  • Variant 1 - Advantage: Much better fine branching after the drastic cut back. Disadvantage: No fruits on the tree for the rest of the year.
  • Variant 2 - Advantage: all fruits stay on the apple tree bonsai. Disadvantage: Many fruits cost the apple tree a lot of energy. Hardly any improvement in fine branching.
  • Variant 3 - Advantage: enough fruits stay on the tree and the fine branching improves. Disadvantage: Still costs the apple tree energy for fruit ripening.
  • Variant 4 - Advantage: best option. Almost all the shoots have been pruned, fine branching improves and there are still some fruits on the tree.