When Prune Fruit Trees – The Correct Way (Pictures)

In this article, we will explain when to prune fruit trees and how to prune them correctly. Pruning fruit trees has its differences concerning pruning conventional trees in the garden.

This is because the objective of pruning these trees is to obtain good-quality fruits, so we must prevent small and poor-quality fruits, taking into account that if the pruning is excessive, we can damage the production of the tree. For this reason, we must seek the exact balance between growth and production.

How to Prune Fruit Trees

It is convenient to prune and guide fruit trees when they are young since doing it when they are bigger requires more effort, time, and tools, besides it is easier to get young specimens to adapt to new situations.

We should try to achieve a more open shape of the branches, making them develop more towards the width of the tree, and eliminate the vertical branches and offshoots since they are the ones that take away the vigor of the tree and make the fruits grow worse.

It is also possible to guide those vertical branches to a more horizontal position, reducing their growth speed and encouraging the formation of flower buds and fruits.

When we have given the young fruit tree an adequate structure, pruning can begin. Pruning is done every year and the unproductive wood must be removed, keeping it at an adequate size so that we increase the amount of light that the rest of the branches receive.

With annual pruning, we keep the wood productive and fruitful and we get the tree to develop healthy and vigorous. Once the tree begins to fruit, its growth will slow down and so will the pruning needs. When pruning is performed, the tree itself adapts to the change and its response depends on the location of the cut.

To know how to prune fruit trees, it is necessary to take into account the type of pruning to be done, since the amount of thinning and where to cut the branches will depend on it.

  • Thinning: thinning the tree removes some branches and allows the other branches to gain energy and grow more vigorously.
  • Topping: topping consists of leaving more buds on the branches so that they generate a more compact, branched, and dense growth.

Normally it is cut above the buds, as we will see below, depending on what type of bud is cut, one effect or another is achieved in the growth of the fruit tree and its production.

how to prune fruit trees

The Parts of a Fruit Tree

Understanding the parts of a fruit tree helps to carry out proper pruning. It is necessary to find a balance between fruit and leaves to achieve good pruning. Approximately forty leaves are enough for quality fruit to develop, so we must take into account the number of flower buds to achieve this balance. In addition, knowing these parts and what they are used for will help you to know better how to take care of fruit trees. These are the different parts of these types of trees:

  • Terminal bud: the terminal bud is the fattest final bud on the branch. This bud grows at a faster rate and forms vigorously. Cutting it causes the activation of the buds behind it.
  • Foliage buds: Foliage buds are triangular and flat buds located on the side of the branches. If we cut just above, these buds will be activated and the branches will produce leaves.
  • Flower buds: these are fat buds that swell in early spring. These buds will form flowers.
  • Spurs: these are small branches with flower buds that develop on the older branches. These branches should be kept, as they guarantee annual fruiting.
  • Seasonal scar: this is the ring that forms on the branch and signals the beginning of a period of growth after a period of rest.
parts of a fruit tree
The parts of a fruit tree.

When to Prune Fruit Trees

After the dormancy period, at the end of winter and just before the spring bud break, is the right time to prune. In addition, if pruning is done at this time, the wounds caused by pruning will heal better and faster. We can even delay pruning until a week after the tree has flowered, with minimal damage to the plant.

We can also carry out a small pruning during the summer and autumn and pinch off the most vigorous shoots to encourage the appearance of more vigorous lateral branches with flower buds.

To reduce the vigor of certain fruit trees, when they develop too much, we can do it during the beginning or middle of August. If we want the fruits to be of higher quality, we will eliminate the leaves that shade the fruit. What we must consider is that pruning in late autumn or early winter is the worst, since in this case, we will leave wounds on the tree exposed until late winter, which can cause fungal attacks and more damage due to frost at these times.

pruning fruit trees

Tools for Pruning Fruit Trees

The tools must allow a clean-cut, without tearing the branch, for which they must be well sharpened. After use, they should be cleaned, disinfected, and lubricated for better conservation.

Disinfecting the tools once they have been used is important to avoid the transmission of diseases from one plant to another. You can keep your tools clean by simply wiping them with ethyl alcohol or 50% bleach water.

Cutting surfaces larger than 2″ (5 cm) in diameter should be sealed with water-based paint with fungicides or a healing product. Some mixtures that can be used are:

  • Copper oxychloride (Order it here).
  • Latex paint.
  • Latex paint + fungicide.

At The Garden Style we have selected some tools that will be very useful for pruning your fruit trees.

Corona Tools 13-Inch RazorTOOTH Pruning Saw | Tree Saw Designed for Single-Hand Use | Curved Blade Hand Saw | Cuts Branches up to 7' in Diameter | RS 7120
Corona Tools 13-Inch RazorTOOTH Pruning Saw | Tree Saw Designed for Single-Hand Use | Curved Blade Hand Saw | Cuts Branches up to 7" in Diameter | RS 7120
IDEAL FOR LARGE BRANCHES: 13 inch blade ideal for cutting 7 inch diameter branches; LONG SERVICE LIFE: Impulse-hardened teeth extend durability of the saw sharpness
$28.70 −$2.21 $26.49 Amazon Prime

We hope that this article on when to prune fruit trees will be of great use to you and that you will have excellent fruits in the next harvest.

About Henry Morgan

We are the Morgans, Henry, and Julia, both agronomists from the University of Michigan, where we met. We are experts in putting our hands in the soil and developing organic foods and improving production processes for decades. Likewise, we have worked for companies such as Mondelez International, BASF, Monsanto, etc. currently in our role as science writers for TheGardenStyle.com as well as advisors in promoting large scale food growing in urbanized areas. In this website, we share what we are most passionate about, gardening and farming. Enjoy and see real photos on our website.