It is fine to prune fruit trees in frosty weather. If it's when you have most time, prune hardy foliage plants now, too. Remove any snow-damaged branches from shrubs and small trees, cutting cleanly back to a healthy branch or the trunk. Oxygen will still be available for wildlife and plants.
The rule of thumb when pruning fruit trees is to do so when the tree is dormant during the winter. Cutting back sweet cherries is an exception to this rule. Sweet cherries are more susceptible to fungal and bacterial diseases, especially on recently cut limbs, so it is best to prune them in the late summer.
When to winter prune apples and pears. Pruning should be carried out when the tree is dormant, between leaf fall and bud burst (usually between November and early March).
Overgrown, large trees
- First, remove all dead, diseased and broken branches.
- Lower branches that receive little light and obstruct passage should be removed entirely or pruned to a more upright shoot.
- Remove branches growing into the centre of the crown and also any crossing branches.
Choose the proper spray for the intended purpose or you can accidentally harm your apple trees.
- Dormant Oil. During the apple tree's dormant stage, apply dormant oil to control overwintering pests.
- Insecticidal Soap.
- Bacterium Insecticide.
Begin training a plant during the dormant season following planting.
- Prune to shape young trees, but don't cut back the leader.
- Remove crossing branches and branches that grow back towards the center of the tree.
Apple trees benefit from proper pruning, spring and summer. CORVALLIS, Ore. - You can prune an apple tree any time of the year without hurting it, but late winter, just before spring, is probably best.
The best time for pruning fruit trees is at planting and, in subsequent years, in early spring before buds break and trees are still dormant. Pruning should be undertaken at planting time where you cut the new stem off 24 to 30 inches from the ground and remove any side shoots.
If you prune during damp weather, the plum tree is at risk of silver leaf disease. Use pruning paint on cut branches to prevent disease. The best time to prune plums is early spring or early summer during a dry day.
Remove fruiting canes after harvest. Tip prune new shoots in early spring 3-4 inches to encourage branching. Top these canes again 3-4 inches in summer. Then after harvest, remove all dead canes and those smaller than ½ inches in diameter.
Remove diseased or broken branches. Remove suckers, water sprouts and most competing branches growing straight up into the tree. Downward bending branches (beyond 90o) eventually lose vigor and produce only a few small fruit; cut off the part hanging down.
Once your tree is established, it's important to prune only branches that have not produced fruit in that year. Remove all dead wood and dispose of it. Trim all side shoots to six leaves from their parent branch to encourage fruiting next year. Keep the central stem no more than 3 feet from the highest branch.
Part 2 Through the Following Years
- Do most pruning during the winter.
- Remove suckers growing on the base of the tree.
- Cut away dead and diseased wood.
- Remove branches that do not come from the fruiting wood.
- Trim down the secondary branches.
- Consider cutting back the main branches considerably.
Pear tree pruning also begins at planting time. Cut back young, unbranched trees 33 to 36 inches above the ground to encourage good branching. If your new tree has plenty of branches, remove those that are less than 18 inches from the ground and those with crotches of less than 60 degrees.
*Some fruit trees, like pears, have more of a conical (narrow but tall) growth habit – these trees naturally won't have much of a wide spread: Dwarf pear trees will be 8-10 feet tall and spread about 6-7 feet wide; Standard pear trees will be 18-20 feet tall and 12-13 feet wide.
Here are the steps in pruning a newly planted apricot tree:
- Remove all damaged or broken shoots and limbs.
- Remove all branches with a narrow crotch—those that grow up more than out.
- Remove all branches that are within 18 inches of the ground.
- Shorten the main trunk to a height of 36 inches.
A branch collar is the often visible swelling in a woody plant that forms at the base of a branch where it is attached to its parent branch or to the tree's trunk. The top of the branch collar consists of dense interlocking wood grain, which provides mechanical support to the branch attachment.
Water sprouts are shoots that arise from the trunk of a tree or from branches that are several years old, from latent buds. The latent buds might be visible on the bark of the tree, or submerged under the bark as epicormic buds. Vigorous upright water sprouts often develop in response to damage or pruning.
When you prune an apple tree (Malus domestica), the tree fights back. Take one branch away and the tree tries to grow multiple branches in its place -- forming buds around the wound site that grow straight up into whip-like water shoots, usually referred to as water sprouts.
Renovation should also be done over two or three years and trees can be slow to recover. Prune branches back to a natural fork to avoid leaving unsightly stubs. Cuts bleed if pruned in late winter or early spring so pruning should only be done between mid-summer and early autumn.