How to Prune Your Young Fruit Trees

Published on
March 21, 2020 2:19:00 PM PDT March 21, 2020 2:19:00 PM PDTst, March 21, 2020 2:19:00 PM PDT

Prune young, non-bearing fruit trees to give them a desired shape and develop a strong framework that will support the fruit in later years.

When to prune fruit trees?

We suggest late winter or very early spring before growth starts.

Prune young fruit trees lightly. Too much pruning tends to dwarf the trees and slow down fruit bearing. A tree that is pruned heavily each year will be smaller, come into bearing later, and bear smaller crops — at least for the first few years — than one that is pruned lightly.

Prune only enough to develop a strong framework of scaffold branches. After the framework is established, the trees need little pruning until they come into full bearing.

Tools Needed

  • A sharp pruning knife with a curved blade
  • Strong hand shears
  • A small, fine-toothed pruning saw
  • You will also need long-handled loppers for fifth-year pruning.

NOTE: Keep your tools sharp and clean.

Making the Cut

When removing a branch or shoot, make a parallel cut as close to the parent branch as possible. Use shears with the cutting edge next to the parent branch. Avoid bruising or tearing the bark. Use a saw to remove branches more than half an inch thick.

If two branches of about equal size and length start from the same point, head back or shorten one of them considerably more than the other so that is will become a side branch of the larger one. Take advantage of this “unequal cut” to avoid having forks and weak crotches develop.


Thinking about adding another fruit tree? Learn about the best time to plant fruit trees.