How to cut column fruit correctly - pruning care tutorial

How to cut column fruit correctly - pruning care tutorial

Column fruit types and dates

The steep career of column fruit began with the apple. It didn't take long before gardeners with a lack of space were able to look forward to high-yielding columnar pears. Column cherries and plum columns in large buckets have long been commonplace in trendy urban gardening. Small space requirements and uncomplicated pruning have made columnar fruit so popular. The right cutting time plays a key role. Before you familiarize yourself with a type-compliant cut in this tutorial, please take a look at this table with recommended dates:

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Fruit typebest datealternative date
Appleearly spring (February / March)after harvest
pearSummer (mid / end of June)none
cherryafter harvestFebruary / March (aging column cherry)
Plum, plumafter harvestafter the leaf fall (October / November)

The Federal Nature Conservation Act also has an influence on the choice of dates. As long as it is a light maintenance cut that could not disturb any nesting birds, it can be carried out in summer. The legislature allows extensive pruning measures from October 1st to February 28th, provided that no wintering animals are in the wood.

Seldom cut apple pillar

A columnar growth is only naturally preprogrammed in the genes of apple varieties. In fact, all apple pillars can be traced back to a progenitor who thrives as a natural mutation . The short fruit wood arises directly from a strong, tightly upright central shoot. Individual growth as a so-called cord tree rarely requires horticultural intervention with scissors or a saw. How to properly cut a columnar apple:

  • Cut apple pillar only when necessary
  • The best time is in February with frost-free, dry weather
  • Cut off long side branches without fruit set near the trunk on astring
  • Cut back excessively long side branches with fruit roots to 1 cm above the future apple
  • Prune steep shoots and dead wood at the base
  • Do not leave stumps and do not cut into the trunk bark

If the cut leaves a stub that is more than 5 centimeters long, the apple pillar will sprout strongly at this point. If your column fruit is affected, remove all over-long and inward-growing young shoots. Short, well-positioned shoots leave you standing as future fruitwood. If such a short shoot grows too steeply, regulate the direction of growth with a wooden spreader or cord at an ideal angle of 60 ° to the column trunk.

Video evidence for a short and meaningful explanatory video for the cut on a pillared apple:



Cut on Astring - this is how it works

Branches that are too long or steep will impair the harvest yield and fruit quality of your columnar apple. If you can not see any fruit on the shoot in question , it is cut away on astring . With this cutting technique you use scissors or a saw so that the small bulge between the branch and the trunk is not damaged. If there is no such astring, cut parallel to the column trunk. Important: do not cut into the trunk bark and do not leave a stub.

Cut pear pillar annually

A pear pillar grows stronger than an apple pillar. Furthermore, pears as columnar fruits are not a natural growth form, but a selection of particularly slender spindle trees that are grafted on a weak base. Both requirements require a different incision than on the pillar apple. After a few years without pruning, long side shoots form , which sabotage the slender growth of the tree. How to complete the perfect pear pillar cut:

  • The best time is in the second half of June
  • Cut long side branches protruding from the column back to 10 to 15 cm
  • Apply scissors over a downward or inward-facing bud

On this occasion you should clear out all steep shoots that are in competition with the column trunk . Prune these branches to short cones as well . In the following years several young shoots sprout here. Select up to three flat short shoots that are suitable for the fruit wood. All other young shoots have to give way.


You can master the pruning of column fruit with bypass scissors. The particular advantage lies in the two sharp cutting edges that run against each other and create smooth cuts. Anvil shears are made up of a sharp cutting edge and a blunt counterpart, the anvil. This reduces the effort; In return, there is a risk of bruising on the drive with a variety of negative consequences.

Cut column cherry if necessary

A column cherry should originally thrive as a spindle tree. Because the tree stood out in the school with strong central shoots and extra short side shoots, it was chosen by the master gardener as a column fruit and refined on a weak base. Over the years, a cherry pillar tends to shoot sterile long and steep shoots, which run counter to the high-yielding pillar growth. With a summery maintenance cut you bring the growth back into balance. How to cut properly:

  • The best time is at the end of June
  • Cut long shoots protruding from the column to 10 to 15 cm
  • Make a cut a short distance from one eye

As the illustration below demonstrates, the conservation pruning is also dedicated to steeply upright branches. These make themselves unpopular as competition for the column trunk and should be removed . Also cut on short tenons here. This cut enables fresh shoots which, with a little luck, will produce new short shoots that can be useful as fruit wood.

Column cherry pruning


Cut aging column fruit in stages

A premature aging in the lower half is characteristic of many column fruit species. At this point in time, there are no signs of age in the upper area. By cutting aging columnar fruit in stages on different dates, you compensate for the shortcoming. You prune the weaker lower area in February in order to force growth. You cut the stronger, vital upper area in summer. The strategy for pear, cherry and plum is recommended. As the only real pillar tree, the apple does not tend to age prematurely and does not need this pruning measure.

Occasionally cut the plum column

Cutting plums and cherries in a columnar shape is no different. Both stone fruit types benefit from occasional care and maintenance pruning after the harvest. If you miss this appointment, you can take care of the pruning during the leafless autumn and winter time. Slim down the middle of your columnar plum by cutting back the long side branches to a short cone. Steep shoots are also not desired in a plum column and are thinned out.

Column fruit too high - what to do?

Vital growth at a young age causes columnar fruit to grow to undesirable heights. In this case, please do not be tempted to simply cut off the tip of the central drive. Removal of the top bud causes massive lateral buds to sprout as the sap pressure is redirected there. The following rule of thumb applies to the premises in the pruning of column fruit: capping the top of the trunk is taboo .

However, you do not have to sit by and put up with unwanted height growth on column fruit. How to regulate the trunk height using a derivation cut:

  • The best time is on St. John's Day (June 24th) or the end of February
  • Look out for an unbranched, vital side shoot below the top of the trunk
  • Place scissors at the fork between the top of the column and the side branch
  • Ideally, cut 2 to 3 mm into the old wood
  • Remove excess competitors to the top of the trunk

From now on, the previous branch takes over the leadership position. On strongly growing fruit pillars such as pears or cherries, please wait with the derivation cut until the growth has calmed down after a few years. Until then, the desired final height will be temporarily exceeded. A premature pruning itself leads to massive budding, which spoils your enjoyment of columnar fruit.

frequently asked Questions

Is column fruit self-fertile?

Column fruit is predominantly dependent on a second variety as a pollinator. With apples, pears, plums or cherries, this task can be taken over by a normal fruit tree in the neighbor's garden. Balcony gardeners simply plant two different varieties in one large tub. Although tree nurseries and garden centers offer some self-fertilizing species in columnar form, crop yield and fruit quality are mostly disappointing without a neighboring pollinator.

The tip of our column cherry has dried up over a length of 30 centimeters. Otherwise the plant makes a healthy impression. Should I cut off the tip or not?

A look inside the drive helps with the decision. Scrape off the bark a little. If brown tissue appears, the wood in this area has died. If the shoot below the bark is still green, the cherry tree is probably suffering from drought stress and sprouting again. Cut the tip of the shoot back into the healthy wood.

I want to plant column fruit in a tub for the balcony and terrace. What to look out for

The severely limited root space in the tub makes the cultivation of columnar fruit a horticultural balancing act. Like any fruit, column fruit should also be planted in the bed if possible. Successful bucket keeping is largely dependent on ensuring that a regular supply of water and nutrients is ensured. We also recommend a large bucket with at least 20 liters volume at the beginning. Over the years, the pot should grow with it. Repot your column fruit every 2 to 3 years in a new bucket with fresh substrate or replace the soil completely.

My columnar plum is 3 years old, is growing splendidly and productively. I am unsure about the care of the cut. When and how should I cut?

As long as your columnar plum meets all expectations, pruning is not necessary. In general, column fruit should grow almost uncut. Only overlong side shoots are shortened to a length of 15 to 20 centimeters. On this occasion you clear out dead wood and steep shoots.

My column cherries are now 14 years old, almost 5 meters high and very expansive. Can I restore my slender shape with one cut? Is it still worth it with such old column fruit?

Gardening practice has taught us that column fruit can definitely live for 25 years. Consequently, a rejuvenating pruning for your column cherries is definitely worth it. Since the incision goes beyond a normal conservation cut, we recommend an appointment in February, in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Nature Conservation Act. Trim all side branches back to 2 to 4 eyes. You thin out dead wood and steep shoots. If you want to shorten the height, divert the trunk tip onto a lower, healthy side shoot. In March give an organic fruit tree fertilizer or a mixture of compost and horn shavings to strengthen it. (€ 6.39 at Amazon *)

The 3 most common mistakes

If a columnar pear is cut like a columnar apple, the cutting error will reduce future harvests to a minimum. To forego pruning altogether is punished with a cord tree, which is only vaguely reminiscent of slim, high-yielding columnar fruit. The following table draws attention to the three most common cutting errors, provides information on the typical damage pattern and offers tips for prevention:

Cutting errorsDamageprevention
Pear column cut like an apple columnless fruit wood, massive crop failure next yearAlways cut long side shoots on pear pillars on cones
never cutshapeless growth, dense network of branches, few flowersBlend column fruit every few years
Lead shoots cut too earlystrong budding of sterile steep shoots, decline in flowers and fruitsShorten oversized main shoots from the 5th year at the earliest using a derivative cut

Home gardeners make another common mistake in pruning when choosing an appointment. The many advocates for a cut in cloudy weather tempt you to cut columnar fruit in rainy weather. Pathogens have been waiting for wounds in damp wood. Primary wound parasites are to be mentioned, which cause the dreaded fruit tree cancer. The cunning fungal spores can only germinate in damp wood. For this reason, you should always prune columnar fruit in dry, cloudy weather.


In every steep shoot there is the potential for fruit wood. Do not simply cut off a stiffly upright branch on column fruit. Check in advance whether it is positioned so favorably that it is worth spreading. Tie the shoot with string at an angle of about 60 ° to the central shoot. Growth can also be directed in the oblique direction with a spreader or clothes peg. Blossoms and fruits will then not be long in coming.