One of the best things about medlar trees is how easy they are to look after. Only in their first few years do they require any real pruning, after that it’s just a case of very minimal attention to ensure they stay healthy. Here we will take a look at how to correctly prune and maintain a medlar tree.
What You'll Learn Today
- How To Prune Medlar Trees?
- When To Prune Medlar Trees?
- How To Prune A Weeping Medlar Tree?
- How To Prune A Fruitless Medlar Tree?
How To Prune Medlar Trees?
Like other fruit trees, medlars benefit from shaping while they are young to ensure they grow in an open, easy form that makes the fruit accessible to harvest and keeps the branches of the tree as strong and healthy as possible.
Pruning a fruit tree to encourage an open shape is beneficial because not only will it make fruit picking easier, but it will also permit light and air to circulate more freely, helping keep the tree free from disease and the fruits to ripen evenly.
When you plant your young tree, the first thing to do is start promoting the shape you want it to take. Medlars are by nature sprawling trees with an open shape and often branches that tend to hang down in an almost weeping form.
1. Select branches you want to keep
Select four or five branches you want to keep on your young tree, these should be growing in an upward direction from the trunk and be fairly evenly spaced around the tree. Look for those which appear to be the strongest and are not too close together, then remove all the rest.
If you want to keep the growing habit low to make fruit more accessible, you can also top the tree by cutting the top off the central leader at the same height or just above the highest of the branches you have retained. This will give your tree a domed shape and is common in this type of tree.
2. Remove any branches that are near the ground
Coming into the third year you will have noticed that during the first and second years of growth your tree has put on lots of new branches.
The leaves on these will have helped your young tree to grow strong, providing additional opportunities for photosynthesis.
Now is the time to remove any branches that are below about 3 feet from the ground depending on the type of tree you have.
For dwarf varieties, this could be lower, while in standard ones you may want the lowest branches to be a bit higher. Also, cut off any suckers.
3. Remove any thin branches
Remove any thin branches that have appeared on the trunk so it is kept clean with just the main branches you want to keep coming from it.
4. Remove any badly positioned new growth
In the following years, just remove any badly positioned new growth such as crossing branches, or those that are too close. Also, remove any diseased, damaged, or dead wood in early spring and any suckers.
Keep in mind that your medlar fruits won’t ripen until all the leaves have fallen off the tree. In early winter.
Other pruning tips
- Avoid pruning on a rainy day, as this can leave your tree susceptible to fungal problems.
- When pruning, always consider the health of the tree first before aesthetics. You want to cut off any parts that are diseased or dead before thinking about making the tree’s shape look pretty. Getting rid of these will help the tree put its energy into healthy growth and will help produce a better fruit crop.
- Think of the branches of the tree as being a scaffold to hold the leaves and fruits. If the scaffolding is too weak it could break under the weight, particularly in wet or windy conditions.
- Always make angled cuts to help water drain off easily and prevent rot. Also when cutting off branches from the trunk remove the entire branch rather than leaving a stub.
- You can also use heading cuts by cutting the tips off of branches to help address any shape imbalance. Remember that heading cuts can reduce the amount of fruit that will develop on the branch that year.
- Always prune a heading cut just above an outward-facing bud as this is where a new branch will develop. Making too many heading cuts will cause the tree to become overcrowded, as it stimulates two branches to grow where once there was only one. This is also known as tipping.
- Thinning cuts when you’re taking out any congestion in the growth helps let more light and air into the heart of the tree. By increasing air circulation you can help to prevent fungus and mold problems.
- Whenever you prune a tree, it’s important to only use sharp, clean tools. The easiest way to ensure your tools are sterile and won’t spread or cause disease in your trees is by wiping the blades over with rubbing alcohol splashed on a clean rag. Ideally, this should be done between each cut.
- Don’t forget to clean, sharpen and oil your tools after use to keep them in good condition and ready for use next time.
In this video, you can see how to grow a variety of fruit trees in very small spaces. this can be used for medlars or any other type of fruit tree you want to grow:
How To Prune An Overgrown Fruit Tree
When you move into a new property you could be lucky enough to find some overgrown medlars or other fruit trees. It can seem a little drastic, but these can usually be brought back to good health and given a better shape by performing some aggressive pruning.
For a very overgrown tree, it’s better to plan your attack over several years to help the tree heal in between. The general rule is to not remove more than 30% of the tree’s crown at once, or the stress-caused risks killing the tree.
Start by removing the dead, diseased, or damaged branches, and then take out any large unwanted ones and any suckers.
The following year, improve the shape further and again remove unwanted growth until you end up with a pleasing appearance.
When To Prune Medlar Trees?
Medlars are best pruned just before the sap starts to rise when they come out of dormancy in late winter to very early spring.
If you are pruning to control the tree’s size, only do so every three to five years. Keep in mind that you want to maintain the medlar’s shape and keep it open. Pruning encourages new branching which isn’t ideal once the shape of the tree has been established.
Always keep your pruning as light as possible.
How To Prune A Weeping Medlar Tree?
As a medlar tree ages, it can take on a weeping appearance as the branches tend to bend down towards the ground. This can be attractive, giving additional ornamental value.
Pruning of your medlar tree once it gets older and naturally adapts to a more weeping shape is to only cut out any dead, diseased, broken, or crossed branches as pruning isn’t generally beneficial for a medlar tree.
How To Prune A Fruitless Medlar Tree?
If you live in a particularly cold climate, then it is possible that your medlar tree will not produce any, or at least very few fruits. They also don’t do so well in tropical climates as the winters don’t get cold enough to stimulate flowering.
Despite this, the trees are still very attractive and make good ornamental specimens, there are even varieties with variegated leaves.
In the United Kingdom at Grimsthorp Castle, there is an ornamental kitchen garden. There are a variety of medlar trees and quince trees planted in the lawn there that have been topiaried into neat ball shapes on their thick, twisted branches.
These trees are allowed to flower in the spring, but as soon as flowering is over they are trimmed back into their uniform, neatly clipped shapes. Despite this annual pruning, they do still produce some fruits.
There is no real need to prune a fruitless medlar tree if you want it to grow naturally into its drooping form. Only pruning to keep it healthy is necessary as explained in detail above.
The ancient medlar is a hardy tree, requiring very little by way of maintenance once it has become well established.
Full pruning of the tree is only necessary when young and to keep it healthy. The less you prune medlars the better in most instances. This is because you want to create an open shape that allows light and air to easily penetrate and circulate.
The leaves of the medlar tree are large and oval, not too dissimilar in shape to those of a chestnut tree. Over pruning causes more shoots to grow with these large leaves and very rapidly the possibility for light to penetrate and air to circulate is restricted.
The only time when a real annual pruning is carried out is when you are growing the tree for ornamental purposes and wish to produce a particular shape.
Learn more about growing medlar trees and what you can do with their fruits by reading our other medlar articles.