University of Maryland Extension

Fruit Tree Pruning - General Information

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Terms used in fruit-tree pruning

Prune your trees at planting time and yearly thereafter. If you train your fruit trees properly you will need to perform only moderate pruning in later years to keep tree growth from becoming too thick and to correct minor structural weaknesses. In addition, a properly trained tree should not require large pruning cuts, which provide an entrance for disease organisms. In early training, keep an ideal tree in mind, and do the best you can to attain that ideal. 

Prune fruit trees in the dormant (winter) season. March is generally the best month to prune fruit trees. However, you can prune apple trees anytime after leaf drop in the fall. Prune peach trees from the beginning of the bloom period to two weeks after petal fall.

Why Prune a Fruit Tree?

Fruit trees should be pruned for several reasons:

  • To develop desired tree shape;
  • To maintain tree at a desired size;
  • To allow sunlight and spray materials to enter the center of the tree;
  • To improve tree strength and encourage new shoots;
  • To improve air circulation within the tree and reduce the potential for disease; and
  • To remove dead or broken branches.
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