Are water sprouts ever good to keep?

Asked September 16, 2014, 1:13 AM EDT

I have an snow white transparent apple tree. It has been severely pruned for overgrowth and fire blight. I have many water shoots and few main branches left. Can I develop new branches by saving the most promising water shoots. There are many water shoots; often in clusters. Is it too late to do such severe pruning: Sept.16? I am in northern Michigan. Is it better to leave this work for late winter to avoid wound icing damage, or do I still have time? I can shoot a picture tomorrow and upload it to clarify.

Charlevoix County Michigan pruning apples pruning trees horticulture

1 Response

I would wait until late winter or early spring. Too much risk of winter injury if you did a heavy pruning job in the fall. My rule of thumb is to remove most of the vertical shoots (maybe 8 out of 10) and leave some of the uprights to grow next year and then decide which to save and which to remove. If you take them all off you will get lots growing back at the site. If you leave a few most of the growth will be focused on those shoots making it easier to prune. You are leaving a path for all the vigor in the tree. I would also save shoots that are coming out to the side and plan on developing new limbs from these and the branches that develop on the uprights. I woul not tip any of the uprights you leave and this will result in wide branch angles on the developing shoots.