Pruning Fruit Trees 101

Updated on April 20, 2023

Pruning trees shouldn’t be a mystery, but uninformed sources make the right pruning answers seem elusive. The best time to prune your trees is largely determined by the objective, and by the kind of tree being pruned. Fruit trees have a few special considerations to keep in mind when it comes to proper pruning.  

When to Prune Fruit Trees

Pruning can impact fruit production. If you’re planning on wowing the family with a home-grown apple pie for Thanksgiving, you want to make sure the tree bears fruit. This means summer pruning is off the table. Additionally, late fall or early winter pruning can lessen the cold hardiness of the remaining stem and buds. So, late winter or early spring is often the optimal timing for pruning trees counted on for fruit. A flowering crabapple, which is not counted on for fruit, can be pruned any time without consequence.  

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How to Prune Fruit Trees

You’ll often hear experienced tree folks talk about thinning trees. This practice often harms the tree and is not advised. If pruning for optimal health and safety of trees, very little thinning should be done. The exception to this rule is trees counted on for fruit. Proper fruit tree pruning removes portions of the upper crown to allow light to shine lower in the crown, where fruit can most easily be harvested. In the case of fruit trees, thinning is also needed to remove young sprouts so that the older branches have the energy needed to bear good fruit.  

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