Flowering Habits of Apples and Pears
Tree fruit have two types of buds, terminal and lateral buds. Apples and pears flower and fruit primarily on terminal buds. A terminal, sometimes called the apical bud, is one located at the tip of a shoot. A lateral bud develops along the developing shoot at the base of the leaf blade.
The flower/fruit buds in apples and pears can be terminal on long shoots (greater than 4 inches) or more commonly on short shoots called spurs. A spur is a short shoot (4 inches or less) that only grows a very small amount each year. Spurs usually take 2 years to develop; that is, in the first year the bud is formed as either a lateral or terminal bud. If the bud is terminal, it may flower the next year or it may not. Lateral buds formed the first year may produce a flower, but the fruit that develops is small and of poor quality. More often, the lateral bud may thicken and grow only a small amount and develop as a spur, which may flower in the subsequent years.
The spur and terminal flower buds can have both vegetative and flower components. The buds usually produce about five to eight flowers and a similar number of leaves. Occasionally, a new vegetative shoot will develop after the flowers set fruit.
Pruning and training as described below will affect the amount and type of buds formed by apples and pears. Trees that are very vigorous, whether due to pruning or overfertilization, form fewer flowers.