When is the Best Time to Prune Fruit Trees?


    By entering your email address you agree to get a weekly email newsletter.

    Growing a fruit tree in your garden and wondering when is the best time prune a fruit tree?

    Pruning your fruit bearing trees is key to strong growth and an overall healthy plant but cutting at the wrong time of year can cause lasting damage or kill the tree!

    When to Prune Fruit Trees

    There are a few different opinions on the best season to prune fruit trees. We think the best time to start pruning branches is in the early spring. It is important to start cutting before the buds break and the tree becomes active for the warm months of the year.

    Apple Tree

    Pruning when the leaves are dormant and the branches are bare allows you to get a clear view of the entire tree and find dormant buds, disease and dead wood. If you can break the branch with your finger it is likely a good choice to prune! Scaffolding branches are also a popular target so the tree grows in the direction you want – and not into your fence!

    Waiting until the summer to prune your trees causes fruit growth to slow and even get burned by the sun! We only recommend pruning from June to August if you need to slow growth!

    Why Prune Fruit Trees?

    One of the main reasons arborist prune fruit trees is to promote growth by removing things like dormant buds, dead branches and bark as well as disease. Some other benefits to pruning early in a fruit tree’s life also promotes a healthy root system and balanced branching as the tree grows. If you are not comfortable making a pruning cut we recommend calling a local tree service.

    When to Prune after Year 1

    When a tree is younger than 1 year we recommend regular pruning to promote consistent growth and health. Keep a careful eye out for disease, insects and other potential problems with bank, branches and buds during this time!

    When to Prune Mature Fruit Trees

    As a fruit tree ages so should your pruning strategy. While you still need to keep an eye out for things like disease, bugs and dead wood you should focus more on promoting fruit growth.

    To promote fruit growth try to make sure all branches are receiving sunlight by pruning upper horizontal branches and removing competing vertical branches.

    Benefits of Pruning Fruit Trees

    We like to prune our fruit trees because it:

    • Promote tree health in young and old trees
    • Allows trees to produce bigger fruit
    • Keep away disease and pests
    • Encourages growth of new and existing buds
    • Removes dead, damaged, diseased and broken branches
    Tree TypeBest Season to Prune
    Apple TreeLate Winter
    Orange TreeEarly Spring in warm climates, late Spring in cool climates
    Pear TreeLate Winter
    Plum TreeEarly Spring or before the Summer heat
    Cherry TreeWinter or early Spring except for black cherries

    Pruning in the Spring months allows you to remove branches and buds that may have died or become damaged over the winter but it will inhibit growth due to wasted energy. Also, new leaf growth from March to May can also block your view making cutting difficult!

    Summer Pruning

    Summer is the best time for “corrective pruning” since most of the growth for the year ended in Spring. During the Summer try to prune any problem branches and buds before too much damage is done!

    Fall Pruning

    During the Fall we try to prune our fruit trees as little as possible so they can prepare themselves for winter! During the Fall months your fruit tree will be moving nutrients produced via photosynthesis to the roots and will have little energy to support your pruning cuts.

    Winter Pruning

    The best season to prune your fruit tree is in the Winter. From November to February your tree will be dormant, making pruning much easier! Pruning during the Winter also promotes growth because you can pick and choose the branches that look like they will produce the best fruit and cut away the rest!

    Fruit Tree Pruning Tips

    • Always use sharp shears for the best cut and safety
    • Create compost from clippings as long as there is no disease
    • Make quick, clean cuts about a quarter inch from the bud
    • Got a large tree? You might need to use a chain saw for the bigger branches (we recommend Echo)

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the best time of year to prune fruit trees?

    Experts agree the best time to prune fruit trees is before they bud and the trees are still dormant from the winter.

    How do you prune a neglected fruit tree?

    Start by removing the diseased and broken branches then thinning other low hanging and weak branches starting at the bottom.

    What time of year do you prune peach trees?

    The best time of the year to prune your peach trees is early spring, usually around March or April depending on the weather.

    What time of year do you prune plum trees?

    Prune your plum trees before the buds break in early spring time. In our experience the best months are March or April.