How to Prune a Fruit Tree

Опубликовал Admin
6-06-2019, 20:00
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Updated: April 15, 2019 Pruning stimulates tree growth, enhances fruit production, and gives a tree a proper shape. Wait until your tree is dormant to prune it. Always get rid of diseased, damaged, or dead branches. Discourage the growth of multiple trunks and inward-facing branches. Ensure your fruit tree gets adequate light to all its branches and avoid thick tangles of branches that inhibit fruit growth.

Knowing When to Prune

  1. Prune fruit trees in the winter. In the winter, your fruit tree is dormant (and therefore not producing any leaves or fruit). This makes it easier to target the areas you want to prune and promotes the best production possible.
    • Most fruit trees are best pruned during winter.
  2. Prune dead or damaged limbs in the summer. While it's a good idea to routinely prune your fruit tree during the winter, you also want to do some light pruning in the summer if you see dead or damaged branches. This will keep your fruit tree healthy all year round.
    • Some fruit trees, like Cherry and Apricot trees, require summer pruning.
    • Don't prune too much during the summer or you could slow down the fruit’s ripening process and expose the fruit to sunburn.
    • If you're not sure whether your tree needs summer pruning, consult a botanist. Botanists are specially trained experts who know a lot about plants. They can help you determine whether or not summer pruning is appropriate for your tree.
  3. Prune young trees right after you plant them. After planting a new, young tree, trim the main trunk down to between 24 and 30 inches (61 and 76 centimeters) high. Trim any side growths down to no longer than two buds. This will equalize the tree’s top with its root system.
    • If you’d like a taller tree that is good for sitting under in summer and fall, make this initial pruning cut at a higher point on the young tree.
  4. Trim young trees that aren’t growing well. If you have a young tree that is not growing well, prune it heavily for its first three years. Heavy pruning during the first few years means a lower fruit yield at first, but in the long run your fruit trees will be strong and productive.
  5. Trim healthy young trees less frequently. If your young tree is growing well, allow it to continue doing so. Trim it irregularly or not at all.
    • Irregular pruning does not have a universally constant definition. It refers instead to the practice of trimming the tree to a lesser extent than you would a normal, mature tree. You might trim it once each winter, or not at all.
    • There are some physical signs that your young fruit tree is ready for pruning. Look for healthy growth characterized by a strong framework of permanent branches. Absent this framework of branches, prune your young fruit tree more often.

Choosing How to Cut

  1. Use a heading cut to create a nicely shaped tree. Cut above an outward facing bud at a 30-degree angle. This will encourage the branch to grow up and out in a direction that will give your tree a red wine glass-like shape. If you cut above an inward-facing bud, the branch will grow incorrectly inward toward the tree, which you don't want to happen.
  2. Make a thinning cut. A thinning cut is used to thin out the tree branches and allow more sunlight to reach the limbs. Perform a thinning cut by clipping a branch as close to the collar of the tree as possible, taking care not to leave an exposed node.
    • Perform thinning cuts on branches that are at least 50% smaller than the diameter of their parent branch.
  3. Perform a bench cut. A bench cut is used to thin out the center of the tree and get rid of strong upright shoots and branches. To perform a bench cut, identify horizontal branches, then cut the branches and shoots coming out of their top side (especially those close to the trunk).

Maintaining Your Fruit Trees

  1. Choose the right tools. Use sharp shears on young trees with branches that are 1/2 inch (1.27cm) in diameter or smaller. Use pruning saws or long-handled loppers for pruning mature trees.
    • If you don’t have pruning tools of your own, you might be able to rent some from your local hardware store – a good option for a tool you might use for only a few hours each year.
  2. Sanitize your tools to prevent infection. After pruning a particular tree, dip the blades of your shears or pruning saw in a solution of one part alcohol and one part water for at least 60 seconds before moving on to the next tree. This will prevent disease from spreading to other trees. Alternately, you could use a solution of water and commercial cleaning solutions like Pine-Sol, chlorine bleach, or Lysol. Just mix one part cleaning solution with a volume of water five times that of the cleaning agent and dip your pruning tools in it for at least 60 seconds.
  3. Select which branches to prune. Always cut dead, damaged, and diseased branches (the “three D’s”). Additionally, cut any suckers – short, new branches sprouting from the trunk. Watersprouts – branches that grow straight up from an outward-facing limb and typically appear in spring – should be pruned, too.
    • Remove competing and downward-growing branches. Downward-growing branches generally do not produce a very high fruit yield.
    • Generally, do not prune branches that are growing out of the trunk at about a 45-degree angle. Anything growing at a much smaller or larger angle should be pruned.
  4. Develop a single leader. If the trunk of the tree splits into several parallel and competing trunks, your tree will have trouble growing and will be more difficult to prune. Prune your tree in such a way that discourages direct upright growth, except from the central trunk. Only the uppermost bud of the leader should be allowed to remain during pruning sessions.
    • This system is appropriate for most trees, and crucial for apple, pear, cherry, and European blue plum trees.
    • For a few fruit trees – peach, nectarine, apricot, and Japanese plum trees – pruning to a central leader is unnecessary.
  5. Ensure all branches receive adequate light. Try to prune the top of the tree more heavily than the undergrowth. This allows more sunshine to reach the shaded branches, encouraging them to produce fruit. Additionally, cut branches that are too close together. Every branch should have six to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) of space around it. If you have a cluster of close branches, prune the thinnest of the bunch.


  • If you live in Northern California, prune apricot trees in the summer.
  • Peach, nectarine and kiwi trees grow quickly. You will need to remove half of the previous year's growth.
  • Apple, pear, cherry, and plum trees have slower growth rates and only need about a fifth of the previous year's growth pruned away.


  • Make clean cuts and don't leave behind stubs.
  • Improper cutting techniques can lead to disease and pest infestations. Cuts that allow for standing water enhance the possibility of rot and mold growth.
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