Fruit trees are a wonderful addition to any home's landscape. There are many different types of fruit trees that can be grown in home gardens, and all provide important benefits to the ecosystem. Whether you prefer trees that produce apples, peaches, plums, oranges, cherries, pears, figs or another type of fruit, pruning is essential for proper growth. Using proper pruning techniques and establishing a pruning schedule are key factors for fruit tree care.

The Importance of Pruning

When it comes to fruit trees, pruning is something that needs to be done throughout the entire life of the tree. Pruning essentially removes growth that is dead, diseased, or stunting healthy development of the fruit tree. Pruning is also done to retain or correct the tree's shape.

Pruning is particularly important when the fruit tree is young. Proper pruning when the tree is first planted establishes its form and structure. Without a sturdy framework, a fruit tree is unable to support and produce fruit.

Throughout the tree's life, pruning ensures that limbs are strong enough to support fruit and that branches are properly angled to allow in sufficient sunlight for flower buds to develop and for fruit to ripen. Pruning also promotes good air flow throughout the fruit tree, which helps prevent common tree diseases.

When to Prune a Fruit Tree

Pruning needs to be done at least once a year. Traditionally, a fruit tree is pruned during its dormant season, which is late winter to early spring. Prune older trees first and wait as close to the end of winter as possible to prune younger trees and early-bloom fruit trees.

Pruning can also be done at the end of summer to remove new shoots or to cut back upright shoots on side branches.

There is no set time of year to prune diseased, broken or dead branches from a fruit tree. Removing them, as well as suckers growing around the base of the fruit tree, can be done at any point during the year.

Proper Pruning Techniques

Proper pruning techniques ensure that the cuts heal quickly and prevent pest or disease damage from occurring. When pruning a fruit tree, make the cut even with the branch or trunk so no stubs remain. Slightly angle the cut so water cannot pool on the pruned area.

Start by cutting back new shoots at the top of the central leader that extend upward from the tree trunk. Next, remove any branches that are directly across from each other. Remove branches that are angled less than 60 degrees from the tree trunk. Branches without a wide angle are weak and unable to support fruit. Finally, remove limbs that are crowding branches that lead out from the tree trunk.

Depending on the fruit tree's growth, you may also need to cut back branches by 1/4 of their length. Remove any long, thin growths in the inner part of the tree, vertical growing shoots and sagging branches.