Pruning Small Fruits and Fruit Trees

Pruning Your Fruit Trees

 Most fruit types should be pruned regularly beginning at planting. Pruning consists of cutting, removing or repressing certain living parts of the plant to modify and use its natural habits for the benefit of the grower.The purpose of pruning young, non-bearing trees is primarily to shape the tree so scaffold limbs will be well distributed up and down and around the trunk. This is the best way to avoid narrow crotches and limb breakage later. Careful selection of scaffold limbs early will eliminate the need for larger cuts later, reducing the hazard of the entrance of wood rotting fungi into older trees.

Apple and Pear

Many types of fruit trees are grafted onto size controlling rootstocks.
Young Trees –– The popular form of the apple and pear tree is the central leader type. Its chief characteristic is the central trunk with scaffold branches growing from it. One of the best examples of the central type is the pine tree.

The trunk should be definitely larger than the branches, and the branches should be well separated up the trunk. The lowest branch should be 2 to 3 feet from the ground, but this is a matter of personal choice. A variety with wide-spreading branches should have the first branch starting higher than one with upright branches.
Young 2-year-old trees received from the nursery will have several branches, each not more than 3 inches apart. They may have one, two or more leaders – the upward top shoots of the tree. Cut off all but one of these leaders. If there are two or three leaders, they form narrow V crotches where they join. Such crotches are weak and tend to break in a storm or under a heavy crop load.  After selecting the leader, select the first or lowest branch for your tree. It is important that all scaffold branches have wide angles where they join the trunk.


Peach trees bear fruit on 1-year-old wood, and pruning is one of the ways you can be assured of an annual supply of this essential fruiting wood.
Among the recognized methods of training, the 3-limb “open center” method is best for peaches grown in Louisiana. The training procedure during the first two or three years is largely that of developing the proper framework. By the third year trees will begin to bear and the type of pruning changes accordingly.

Within a few weeks after growth begins in the spring, select three vigorous shoots (when about 6 to 12 inches long) arising from near the same point on the main trunk, at a height of 18 to 24 inches. These young shoots, which ultimately become the primary scaffold limbs, should be evenly spaced, with each pointing in a different direction. Cut back all other shoots by 1/2. The short stub of the main stem above the junction of the scaffold limbs can be removed or left intact. If this stub is left, keep all shoots short. The advantage in leaving the stub is that it serves as a spreader and helps to prevent the top scaffold limb from becoming the dominant growing branch.  During the first winter, remove all branches arising from the main stem except the three primary scaffold branches.

Plum Trees

There is a distinct variation in the habit of growth among varieties of plums, some being more upright while others are especially low and flat growing. No one type of pruning applies to all varieties. Plum trees in general should be pruned rather lightly.
Some heading of branches may be necessary the first few years, but the later pruning consists mainly of a light thinning out of interfering branches throughout the top. Cutting back the top of a bearing tree is seldom done except to preserve the height of the tree by heading back unusually long shoots.
To maintain tree vigor, it may become necessary to prune more heavily about every third year. Light pruning will result in extremely heavy yields of medium-size fruits. More severe pruning increases fruit size but reduces yield. Plums will generally remain productive for about the same number of years as peaches.