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What are water shoots in fruit trees and why are they formed? Do they need to be removed and if so, why? In the post below, you will learn what you need to know about it and get a guide on how to remove the water shooter.

Water shoots on fruit trees

Thin shoots on fruit trees that grow vertically upwards are referred to as water shoots or water shoots. They usually grow inside the crown from a dormant bud, which can be recognized as a scar-like thickening on the branch. If they are not removed, the shoots can reach a considerable length of more than one meter. The tissue of these shoots is quite soft. The bark is still smooth and lighter in color than the rest of the tree's bark. If fruit trees form such shoots, there are various reasons:

  • excessive pruning in the previous year
  • strong growth of the tree
  • too much fertilizer
  • low fruit formation

If the tree has been cut back too much, it tries to compensate for this deficit by forming water shoots. If a fruit tree has only borne a few fruits for several years, it wants to stimulate fruiting with the water shoots, but this is rarely successful.

Remove water shooter

You should remove the shoots that grow vertically upwards, as they are unproductive. They rarely bear fruit and can limit the fruit yield of the tree. Since the fruits get too little sunlight, they only grow small and are of inferior quality. The vitality of the tree suffers as these shoots are susceptible to disease and consume valuable nutrients. The quality of the crown of the tree is greatly affected by such shoots.

tip: To avoid diseases of your fruit trees, you should always harvest all fruit completely and remove fruit mummies from the previous year. They are an ideal breeding ground for fungi and other pathogens.


This is the right time to remove water shoots late spring after the ice saints in May. If you cut back the tree as part of the summer pruning, you can eliminate these shoots. At this point, these shoots are still soft and do not yet have dormant eyes. Winter is the wrong time:

  • Fruit trees have dormant eyes in winter
  • Water shoots sprout directly from sleeping eyes
  • more of these unwanted urges arise
  • stimulates vigorous sprouting of the tree

In winter, you should only prune your fruit trees to encourage the growth of new wood. You should check the fruit trees for unwanted shoots every year.

notice: Did you know that if you keep pruning trees to keep them small, you will encourage water shooters to bud? Trees that are kept short on purpose react to this measure with many water shoots.


Before you start getting rid of water shoots, you should make the right choice. You should not proceed too radically, as the tree will respond with increased sprouting, which should actually be prevented. The instructions should help you to choose the right water shoots:

  • Do not remove slanting branches and shoots as they will produce fruit
  • Do not cut diagonally growing shoots
  • only eliminate a third of the shoots

If a tree has only produced low yields for a long time, the water shoots can even be effective in stimulating fruiting. Tie the shoots diagonally down and bring them to the juice scales. By tying them tightly, they can be converted into leading branches.

tip: Sweet cherries form many fruit shoots on the straight water shoots. However, removing too many of these shoots will result in lower yields.

Removing water shoots: instructions

Remove water shooters when they are young, do not need scissors as they can snap them off with their hands. The shoots must not yet be lignified. You should therefore only cut older water shoots. For thinner shoots, you need pruning shears so that the cutting point does not fray too much. For thicker shoots, you should use a handsaw, as it prevents the shoots from being crushed. When tearing unwanted thin shoots, use the following guide:

  • select shoots to remove
  • Capturing water shooters with your hand
  • Pull the shoot down with a strong jerk

If there are several water shoots close together, you can pull out several shoots at once. This method may seem brutal, but it has a number of advantages:

  • prevents formation of new dormant buds
  • after tearing, the tree recovers faster than after cutting
  • removes existing by-eyes

If you cannot do without cutting, the cut must be made directly above the knot ring. No matter which way you remove the shoots, you do not need to dress the lacerations with wound sealants. Because the wound heals on its own within a short time.

avoid errors

To get good yields and get a well-formed crown, avoid mistakes:

  • Leave the stub of a branch on which new shoots will form again
  • too much pruning
  • Cut in late autumn, favors frost damage
  • unclean cut by blunt tool
  • Remove the water shoots in winter

If you've never trimmed a tree before, don't be too rigorous. You should not remove more than a third of all shoots and be careful when selecting these shoots.

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