What tropical fruit trees ever bear

Cutting columnar apples - it's that easy!

How do I cut a columnar apple? That is the question that arises for almost every column tree after a few years. On the one hand because almost every apple tree has to be cut at some point, on the other hand because the columnar apples get too high at some point, or because two, three or even four shoots grow steeply upwards and fight for supremacy. Before we can answer the question about the pruning and - even more - about the correct pruning, we must first define what a real columnar apple tree is - and what is not. And we also show how and why the so different growth of a columnar apple tree comes about and what the consequences are for pruning. Of course, you can buy a large number of new columnar apple varieties in the Lubera garden shop, all from the Lubera® cultivation. Finally, we also show which of these varieties have a rather slender growth and which varieties develop more side shoots.

What is a real pillared apple

A real columnar apple tree has short internodes, i.e. short distances between the buds, much shorter than with normal apple varieties. This property is also combined with an extremely strongly developed apical dominance, which means that the highest bud, which is actually always the tip of the central shoot, the central axis of the tree, is promoted much more strongly than side buds, which are actually inhibited in budding. As a result, fewer or almost no side shoots develop. And as a common result of the apical dominance and the short nodal spacing, the typical columnar growth arises almost automatically.

Column apple Malini® Pronto® Fire blight tolerant tree with sweet apple harvest

Image: Column apple Malini® Pronto® - fire-blight-tolerant tree with a sweet apple harvest

This trait comes almost exclusively from the Wijick variety, which was found in Canada in the 1950s as a mutation, a spontaneous genetic change - the old American McIntosh variety. In almost 30 years of apple breeding, I have never seen a case in which the real columnar growth in the apple really came from a different variety.
Why we now emphasize this origin and the topic of the real columnar tree - when it is actually about the pruning - is easy to explain: Unfortunately, there are a lot of fake products on the market: Annual apple trees that, because of their tender age slim growth can be explained straight away as a columnar tree, varieties with close-fitting, upwardly directed poplar-like shoots, which are also sold as columnar trees…. In the end, it is not that easy to distinguish the real from the fake pillar trees, but an important practical note is that a real pillar tree can never grow over 1m as an annual (it often only becomes 30-60cm high), which is the case with normal-growing trees Apple varieties is the case very quickly.

Notes: All of the columnar apple varieties that we offer in the Lubera apple range come from this Wijick breeding line, which we have since improved over 4 generations so that the fruit quality has become more interesting and valuable, and the resistance of the trees has also been improved. All Lubera columnar apple varieties that we call Malini® are scab-resistant.

The difference between columnar apples and pagoda trees

The so-called cord trees are forced through cultural measures, especially through the cut, to a columnar, slender growth. You start with a slim, annual apple tree, a so-called Easytree®, and in the following years you repeatedly cut back all the longer side shoots on short wood in order to bring the tree into the desired columnar shape. This also works if they are refined on a weakly growing substrate such as M9. In contrast to the string trees, the columnar apple tree naturally has a beautiful columnar growth due to genetics, which is only supposed to be kept and strengthened by pruning. Incidentally, this only applies to a limited extent with stone fruit columnar fruit: Most of the varieties are offered that have no shortened internodes and that simply show a kind of poplar growth through a strong apical dominance.

Why do columnar apples actually not have to be cut - or do they?

Back to pruning a columnar apple tree. If you look again briefly at the above explanations, the inclined reader will quickly find the fundamental contradiction in my argumentation: If columnar trees, thanks to the combination of apical dominance and compact, short internodes, only keep a columnar shape, why do you have to cut them? Isn't one of the main arguments in favor of the columnar apple tree that you don't actually have to prune it? Isn't that also a main goal of a Säulenbaum buyer: not to have to cut any more? Yes, but unfortunately biology is not logic or mathematics, what should be theoretical, turns out to be a little different in reality.

Column apple Malini® Subito® Pre-ripe column apples with a spicy aroma

Image: The blossom of the pillar apple Malini® Subito® - an early ripening pillar apple with a spicy aroma

Where do side shoots develop in the columnar apple?

The columnar apple tree does develop side shoots, even if not nearly as many as the normal growing apple trees. If you take a closer look, you quickly discover that side shoots arise mainly in one place: They arise at the so-called 'base', that is the tip of last year's shoot, at the same time the base of the next year's shoot, from which the middle and sometimes some rival branches continue to grow.

Image: Here you can see the base with the growing central shoot and two competing branches

And this is how you can explain the ramifications and competition shoots: The particularly strong apical dominance (= peak promotion) of a columnar apple means that in spring, especially at the beginning of budding, not only the terminal bud is promoted, but also the one next to it and Competitor buds that are only a few millimeters lower and which then also sprout.

What happens if columnar apples are not cut?

If you let these side buds drift through and grow just below the central bud, something like a Jewish tree chandelier arises in many columnar apple varieties, in which several branches that rise steeply upwards argue with the center for dominance.

Image: Column apple Malini® 'Gracilis'® - the smallest, most compact column apple, ideal for the bucket

Cutting columnar apples: It couldn't be easier!

If you want to prevent this and maintain the column growth, you have to cut the columnar apple so that the column is evenly covered with fine fruit wood and does not consist of a multi-column system that grows steeply upwards. Ultimately, the cut is very simple - and does not require any specialist knowledge:

All side shoots that are longer than 20 cm are cut back to 15-20 cm twice a year, once in February and once in March. This enables you to reach both the early and extremely fast-growing shoots, especially in the tip area, as well as the later regrowing side shoots, which can also arise from older fruit wood, for example.
Danger: NO branch may ever be cut away completely, a cone of 10-15cm must always remain. In this way you can ensure over the years that the tree is clad with fruit wood and that it bears fruit along its entire length. If side shoots are cut away completely, this leads to bald spots that will never again develop wood and fruit.

Image: Column apple tree before the cut

Image: Column apple tree after the cut; Since many flower buds are already visible on the lower side shoots, it was possible to cut a little less strongly.

Prevention of too many side shoots

If you want, you can also take preventive measures against too many side shoots by taking a closer look at the tip of the columnar apple tree at the beginning of March and masking the side buds closest to the central bud, i.e. removing them with your fingernail. This means that the most important candidates for competing instincts are eliminated even before budding.

Limit columnar apple trees in height

At Lubera, we refine the columnar apple trees on the M26 base. The Lubera Malini® varieties are between 150cm (Malini® 'Gracilis') and 220cm (Malini® 'Subito') and 300+ cm (Malini® 'Mannequin') long after 10 years. Many other producers, however, refine columnar apple trees on strongly growing bases in order to obtain a stronger, better-to-sell young plant. These then, however, easily grow up to 4 or 5m high. The question then often arises as to whether this increase in height should go on forever or how one could limit the height of the columnar apple trees. Here, too, the basis, the separation of two annual drives, plays a decisive role. The base is usually recognizable by one or more clearly visible rings around the branch. It is best to cut the too high part of an apple pillar tree relatively brutally about 5cm above such a base. As soon as the shoot has got going in spring, the most beautiful and possibly the straightest shoot can be selected, which is then to form the new trunk extension. The other branches are simply torn off or - if you also want to harvest more fruit at the top - they are subjected to the annual pruning regime and cut back to 15 to 20 cm twice a year, in March and June. The process can be repeated every few years, ideally every 3-4 years, so that the newly developed tip can also bear fruit in between and does not take on the troubled Peter habitus due to the permanent cut back.

Image: Height limitation in a columnar apple tree: The central shoot is cut back a few cm above a base. The basis, the demarcation between two annual shoots, can be recognized by the horizontal rings.

Image: Slender columnar apple tree with height limitation.

Columnar apple varieties with more side shoots and very slender columnar apples

Of course, there is also a difference in the tendency of the varieties to develop side shoots in the Malini® columnar apple varieties from Lubera. Above all, Malini® 'Mannequin' and 'Topmodel' have a very conspicuous slim stature (no wonder with the names!). With few side shoots and accentuated height growth, after 8-10 years they also belong to the varieties 300cm and more in height. Conversely, Malini® 'Subito' and 'Pronto' are much more compact, but also develop significantly more side shoots. This difference also has its inner logic: The more compact trees of Subito and Pronto are more dammed or slowed down - and accordingly more side shoots are created. The Malini® 'Mannequin' and 'Topmodel' experience more top funding, grow accordingly more in height, with fewer side shoots. Column apple logic is that simple!

Image: Column apple Malini® 'Mannequin' - elegant and slender column tree with sweet apples

Image: Column apple Malini® 'Topmodel' - slender column apple tree with aromatic apples

FAQ: Cutting columnar apple - the most important questions and answers
When do you have to cut columnar apples?

The columnar apple trees are cut in February-March and June; all side shoots that are longer than 20cm are cut back to about 15cm.

Where does the columnar growth of columnar apples come from?

All true columnar apple varieties go back to the Wijcik variety, which is a spontaneous mutation of the American McIntosh variety. The compact columnar growth type goes back to a strong apical dominance (tip promotion) with short internodes at the same time.

You have to have young columnar trees & # 8211; e.g. after planting & # 8211; to cut?

Not really. If there is already a side shoot on the young tree, it is cut back to 15 cm. You must definitely NOT cut the middle, which should grow through undisturbed upwards.

How can you limit columnar apple trees in height?

For this, the tip is cut back 5cm above a base, the end of an annual growth. The shoots that occur in spring are removed except for one, which then serves as a trunk extension.

How do you cut columnar apples?

Cut back all side shoots that are over 20cm long to 15cm.

Do you have to cut columnar apple trees at all?

Yes. Competitive shoots often arise from last year's shoot peak. Also in other places & # 8211; albeit rarely & # 8211; Side shoots arise. These are cut twice a year, around the longest day and in February / March back to 15-20cm.

In the Lubera® Shop you will find a large selection of suitable plants in the Buy columnar apple tree category.
5% quantity discount from 3 pieces


Markus Kobelt
Markus Kobelt is the founder and owner of Lubera.
In his "previous life" he studied German - that was a while ago. But Markus still likes to write for his life today!

Dear reader, the Lubera garden department writes and publishes 3-6 new texts every week. You will receive this free of charge with the garden letter every week.Markus Kobelt, founder of Lubera.
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Guest - August 6th, 2020
Second transmission,
In February March cut back the second shoot to 15 cm or remove it completely ??

Please answer.

(Lubera) - August 07, 2020
Cut back to 10-15 cm so that there is fruit wood again.
With kind regards
Your Lubera team
Guest- August 10, 2020
Prune columnar apple
I have been pruning my columnar apples for 3 years and not yet. This year there was no fruit because of frost in the bloom. But the trees have grown a lot. Can I cut back now or do I have to wait until February / March?
Kind regards

(Lubera) - August 12, 2020
Wait until February / March, then you will immediately know which shoots have survived the winter and can make a nice cut.
With kind regards
Your Lubera team
Guest - December 20, 2020
Column apple 5m high
We have columnar apples in the garden that have never been 'worked' on and that are now 5m tall / high, with all the associated side shoots.
How can I stop the height gain and / or how far can I trim the trees and remove the side shoots ??
Incidentally, trees are excellent!

Markus Kobelt- January 1st, 2021
- Remove side shoots to 15-30cm in February
- At the same time, cut above a base, i.e. above the last or penultimate year growth
-In May or June, reduce the upper shoots to one shoot.
Markus Kobelt
Guest - December 26, 2020
Column apple with 'chandelier'
Hello, I have a problem similar to that of the guest in front of me. In our garden that we took over, the columnar apples are also 4-5 m high, and they would also be cut in height once (and presumably sealed), underneath many rungs have formed, which have now all grown in height. To what extent can and can one prune the trees?
Many Thanks

Markus Kobelt- December 31, 2020
Cut back all side branches consistently to 10-15cm, once now in January / February and then again in the middle of the year.
Markus Kobelt

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