My Apple tree never went dormant, now what?

I planted 4 apple trees last year around March. They took really well, had a great first season. But now it’s February (zone 6) and they still have some of their leaves and are still (very slowly) growing. It hasn’t exactly been a mild winter, it’s currently 8 degrees out, but they won’t give it up.

What do I do? It’s only a few weeks until I planned on pruning, but I’m not sure what to do since they never went fully dormant.


You can prune trees anytime of the year but just try to avoid any extreme weather or any lengthy time of wet weather.


I think that they are dormant but just don’t look like it. At 8 degrees nothing is active (including me)! We had a hard freeze here in western Montana before the trees had a chance to go dormant in the usual way and the leaves held on until after New Years when we finally got some strong winds. It’s pretty ugly but the trees manage OK anyhow.


Late season fertilizing and watering or lots of rain is the usual cause. Apples are tough though, the worst that will likely happen is a few inches of that tender growth that didn’t go dormant will die back. (May die back is probably a ‘safer’ assumption…but die back has happened to me where freshly grafted trees stopped growing in July or August…then put on another spurt of 12 to 18 inches in October or something.)
New sprouts should come out from lower down on wood that was hardened off before winter, if you lose the tip growth.
Some hardiness is lost…but I wouldn’t think you’ll lose those trees…although at minus 15 or something, all bets are off.


Ok that is good to know. I will probably prune those tops back once it’s warm enough to prune.

I only fertilized in may but we had a pretty wet early fall so that may have been the cause.

Hopefully there isn’t too much die off, but sounds like they should mostly be ok.


Yes, on a warm day (above 32), it won’t do any additional damage probably to prune.
But, if I had the time, I’d wait until bud swell myself, and cut right down just above a fat swollen bud. You didn’t specify what rootstock but in zone 6 that should not be an issue.

That tree is dormant. Leaves dont necessarily have to come off for a tree to be dormant, just look at most oaks and young american beech trees. They will hold onto leaves until new buds push the old leaves off in the spring.
Manually strip the leaves off if you’d like, or just prune them off when you start your pruning.


This isn’t just dead leaves clinging on though. There are still new shoots coming out the tips. See below

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Thats the tip of the limb. That is not new growth, that was there months ago. Nothing is growing in zone 6 outside right now.

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A couple of my apple trees that I planted last spring are doing the same, as well as the quince. Zone 6b, western PA. Looks pretty much identical to yours. I don’t think they’ve put on much growth, just holding on to their leaves. No late fertilizing bit it rained pretty heavily here in October. I wasn’t too worried or concerned about this phenomenon.

They are dormant. Some varieties have the tendency to hold their leaves well into winter.


My Queen Cox still has some leaves on it. It is definitely dormant.