Tip Bearing Apples- Does a list exist?

Before I prune my young Southern heirloom apple trees, do I need to find out if any are tip bearers? I could not find this info on the internet. I have seven different limbertwigs, Va Beauty, Keener Seedling, King David, Hall, Magnum Bonum, Benham, Aunt Rachel, Junaluska, Nickajack, Buckingham.


You aren’t going to cut the tips of the fruiting shoots anyway, are you? I don’t see why this would be very important in early training, but tip bearers reveal themselves as soon as they start bearing. Yellow Transparent (and it’s “child” whose name slips my mind) is the only common true tip bearer.

Many varieties either sometimes or always bear some fruit on the tips of at least some of their annual shoots but Yellow Transparent predominantly bears its crop on the tips of new wood.

At any rate, I suggest you prune as little as possible until the trees start to bear, at which point their fruiting habits will be apparent.

Irish Peach leans toward tip-bearing, I’ve heard.

Thanks Alan. Some of the trees have laterals that are wobbly that I figured would stiffen up if I tip pruned them, so that they could eventually support a crop. Also many of these same laterals have not branched and I want to stimulate branching. So leaving them alone as unbranched, wobbly laterals will test my discipline but I will do it.

Even if it is a tip bearer it does no harm to do some cutting into one year wood to stiffen branches if it is needed- even if it sets back fruiting a season or so. If it is to get more lateral branches, wait until they are in bloom and during spring into early summer make sure the straightest shoot near the cuts is dominant by lightly pinching back competing shoots.

Lanky scaffolds are worth stiffening up.

1 Like

Alan- that puts tip pruning for stiffness in context and is exactly what I was looking for. Thank you.

Re: pruning for branching, do you mean wait until bloom to head back? By the straightest shoot do you mean one growing in the same direction as the lateral?

Yes and yes. My most respected gurus say that the hormonal response to pruning cuts is different once trees reach a certain level of growth and heading cuts on annual wood creates more growth further down when delayed. I’ve never actually compared the affect of dormant to mid-spring heading in a methodical way but I trust my sources on this one.

You are always aiming for an economy of wood and the shortest distance between two points… If a scaffold starts out heading east you want it to continue heading east even if there are some stops along the way. Once it fills its space you can cut it to a side branch that veers off course, but it will be removed within a year or two to a smaller lateral as part of continuing maintenance of a mature tree.

I like to prune mathematically because it makes things clearer in my mind as I make thousands of cuts. I treat the scaffolds like the trunk on a central leader tree and I treat the secondary and tertiary branches the same way. Maintain the dominance of every branch over the wood coming off of it. There should never be anything that should be subdominant that is more than half the diameter of the dominant it is attached to. 1/3rd is often even a better rule.

If you want me to send you an article I wrote about the concept of pruning by ratios contact me privately. I spend hundreds of hours thinking about this as I prune thousands of fruit trees every season.


Keener’s seedling is a spur-bearer.

1 Like

Red, Smokey Mtn, Victoria, and Old Fashioned LT’s are spur- bearers.

1 Like

@alan- How often do you find that lanky young laterals on a free standing apple stiffen up on their own just by passage of time? Is that a rarity or more the norm? I want to avoid having to brace up branches loaded with fruit. I realize I can thin aggressively to help prevent that. It’s been so long since I’ve had trees at this early stage I have forgotten how they act, react.

1 Like

I prune so many different varieties of apples, but the only real drooper I manage a lot of is Ginger Gold. I don’t head it back to stiffen the branches at all as a general rule. I simply cut branches back to an upright shoot where I want it to turn up. The trees eventually fill up and branches become stiff but small wood droops and then sets lots of fruit. It is a variety that is something of a challenge to maintain in any form other than a weep.

It is not a bad approach with such a tree to simply train it to a single tier of 10+ high weeping scaffolds that sweep as close to the ground as you want.

I’m forced more often to manage it as a two tiered central leader so it looks similar to other trees in any given orchard.

1 Like

I have a friend with a Wealthy (according to him, don’t know for sure) that weeps a lot. Is that your experience also with Wealthy? They’re pretty good apples, but fire blight resistance is not their strong point.

I don’t know that I manage any Wealthy. Roger Way once identified an old tree in an orchard I manage as such but he was probably mistaken- it ripens in early Sept. I train almost all hundred year old+ apple trees on seedling rootstocks I manage to a weep. Crop load can turn any variety into a weeping shape. Cortlandt is another more prone to this form than most.

1 Like

I was just looking for info on the Deli-Jon apple and came across this list of 1,350 apples. The list doesn’t state whether they are spur, semi-spur, tip or partial-tip for all the cultivars but for many they do. Didn’t look up the cultivars you asked about but I saved a copy of the list and will post it here for you and others to download. It’s from Dec. 2006 by the Home Orchard Society but I didn’t get it off of their website. Apple_spur_tip_bearing.pdf (165.3 KB)

1 Like

Lance- Thanks for that information. Very extensive list! Steve

I fail to see how this list really clarifies very much. Of course most apples bear on spurs but what would be useful is to know which ones spur up young and are less vegetative and which ones actually bear their best fruit on 2nd year shoots. Knowing the relative vigor of varieties is actually much more informative than this list and relative vigor is usually about how spurry a variety is.

Hi Alan, I’d be very interested in getting a copy of your article about pruning with ratios.

It’s in the Guides category. Pruning Guides

That’s a great article Alan. Do you know of any YouTube videos demonstrating those concepts?

I’ve not really researched you-tube videos about pruning, but I doubt there’s one about pruning to ratios. I’ve seen lots of pruning guides from universities and they never seem to break things down to such a specific mathematical formula. That’s why I wrote the article. I got the preliminary idea from a commercial orchard consultant named Bas Van Ende and took it from there by myself. He only talked about selecting permanent scaffolds that way and didn’t include any explanations about relative access to sap.

1 Like