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Pruning Fruit Trees


  • Scientific Name
    Prunus persica
  • Special Considerations

    Photo: Jason Leung/Unsplash
    Peaches flower along the entire length of the wood formed during the previous year, but only the buds in the central third of that growth are ideal for fruit production. Therefore, it is essential not to cut back the branches retained for this year’s crop by more than one-third. 

    Peaches require heavy pruning. On a healthy tree, it is often necessary to remove 60-75% of all wood that formed during the previous growing season. This is a notable exception to the general rule not to remove one-third of a plant at one time.

  • Fruit grows on:

    Old wood, not on spurs.

    UC Master Gardeners Handbook
    UC Master Gardeners Handbook

  • What to Prune in Winter

    Remove dead, diseased or damaged branches. 

    Remove crossing branches. 

    Remove the wood on which last year’s fruit formed. It will not produce fruit again. 

    Remove or reduce the size of tall branches on which fruit may form out of reach. 

    Keeping an eye on the one year-old growth (on which fruit will form), open the tree to sunlight from above by creating a funnel shape in which the one year-old branches that remain are about 12 inches apart throughout the tree. To achieve this objective, it will be necessary to remove some one year old growth to avoid crowding. This necessarily sacrifices a portion of the fruiting branches, but for the beneficial purpose of creating growing conditions that promote larger, more flavorful fruit. 

    When the tree is properly shaped and thinned, use heading cuts to shorten all of the one year old branches by on-third.

  • What to Prune in Summer

    Reduce the height of tall branches to keep next year’s fruit within reach. 

    Remove or shorten crossing and crowded branches. 

    Remove or shorten lateral branches that are growing upright both to keep them from shading other branches and because upright branches tend not to be fruitful. 

    Shorten laterals that are growing in desired directions to three to five buds or to approximately 10 inches.