When Is the Best Time to Prune a Fruit Tree?

The best time to prune your fruit trees will largely depend on your goals. Keep reading to learn exactly when you should prune YOUR fruit tree.

You can prune a fruit tree in Spring, Early Summer, or Winter. Seasonal pruning will affect the productivity and health of your tree in different ways. In this post, we will explore the impact of seasonal pruning, season by season. 

The best time to prune your fruit trees will largely depend on your goals. If you want to try and encourage a younger fruit tree to flourish or perhaps, you’re trying to decrease the size of an overgrown tree, then understanding the right time of year to prune your fruit trees is crucial.

Key Considerations for Fruit Tree Pruning

  • Is your fruit tree diseased? 
  • Are some of the branches on your fruit trees already broken?
  • Is your tree producing low-quality fruit?
  • Is your fruit tree growing too tall to be easily harvested?
  • Do you want your new fruit tree to grow quicker?

As you can appreciate, there are many moving parts to consider. Although summer-time fruit tree pruning can help you to keep your trees small, winter pruning is often considered best for younger trees as it can help keep them small and manageable. 

Read on to find out more about the different times of year to do pruning. 

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Fruit Tree Pruning in the Summer

Once the growth-phase of Spring starts to slow down, and any nutrients that were previously stored have been used, your fruit trees will utilize the rest of the summer period to rebuild their stockpile of nutrients.

At this time of the year, the fruit tree will also be fully-leafed out, and there will be an abundance of energy being produced via photosynthesis.

photosynthesis works pruning fruit trees

This energy will fuel your fruit tree’s growth during the Summer, with any remaining supply being drawn back into the roots during the Winter.

Is the Summer a good time to prune fruit trees?

For some fruit trees, the Summer is a good time to do pruning. Unlike during the Springtime, when there is a large stockpile of nutrients built-up, your fruit trees will not grow as quickly as a direct result of the pruning. As such, this can enable you to reduce the size of any larger trees.

prune cherry trees summer california

Even if you’ve already done some pruning in early Spring or during the Winter, you can continue to prune in the Summer. 

Cherry trees are prime for pruning during the summer months as they will often grow exceptionally tall without this type of management. 

Fruit Tree Pruning in Spring

With its long days and the start of warmer weather, fruit trees emerge from their dormancy. Throughout the cooler months, the trees will have stored a host of nutrients in their roots. 

This energy will power-up the growth of the tree during Springtime. New buds will open, leading to more blossoms, leaves, fruits, and shoots. 

Is Spring a good time to prune fruit trees?

If you grow some of the more tender varieties of fruit trees in your orchard, such as apricot or peach, springtime pruning is a great way to improve the quality of the fruit from your trees.

Once the blossoms, buds, and leaves have emerged, you can easily spot and remove any branches that didn’t make it through the Winter. 

When to prune your plants

Springtime pruning will not spur on growth as much as Winter pricing would, but it is not without its benefits. By the time Spring arrives, most fruit trees will have started to use-up their stores of energy in order to fuel the growth of their shoots, leaves, and blossoms. 

If you want to make a larger tree more compact, springtime pruning is best. 

Fruit Tree Pruning in Autumn

Following a whole season of sunshine, your fruit trees will have produced a vast amount of food for themselves through the process of photosynthesis.

The light of the natural sun is transformed into sugars that are stored inside of the leaves. When the cooler weather arrives, the tree will move those stores of sugar down to its roots to store them throughout the Winter. 

Is Spring a good time to prune fruit trees?

Generally, pruning in the Autumn isn’t recommended, particularly for those living in cooler conditions. When you cut a branch from a tree during its growing phase, the tree will naturally ‘heal’ with its in-build protective cells.

During the cooler months when the tree is essentially preparing for dormancy, the growth of the tree is significantly slower, and in some cases, it will not heal itself from any so-called pruning wounds. 

Fruit Tree Pruning in Winter

Generally speaking, pruning fruit trees during the Winter will lead to vigorous growth spells. While this is mostly due to something called the seasonal cycle of energy, it means that when you get your timing right where pruning a fruit tree is concerned, it helps you to manage the energy of a fruit tree more easily. 

During the Winter, fruit trees will naturally draw-out the energy from their leaves and push them through to their root systems in preparation for storage.

As soon as the energy has left the leaves, they will usually turn brown and fall from the tree. While the roots of a tree may continue to grow, the trees themselves won’t really grow at all during these Winter months.

Is Winter a good time to prune fruit trees?

During the Winter, you’ll find it much easier to prune your fruit trees. Not least because they are free from flowers, leaves, and fruit, but because the structure of the tree will be far easier to see as well.

Generally speaking, the later you can wait, the better. Early Winter pruning can leave pruning wounds that the tree will be unable to heal from itself.

However, late-Winter is thought to be optimal, as Spring and all of the regrowth it brings with it are not too far away. 

Pruning in the Winter will help to spur-on vigorous growth. At this point of the year, it’s easy to spot which branches are of high quality and should be kept vs. those which are not.

As a result of this, when the tree springs into action pumping out its stored-away stockpiles of nutrients, it will only focus its energy on fuelling the best branches and their fruits. 

Consider a fruit tree with 250 branches that each require fuel and nutrients in order to grow. Then, consider the impact of removing 100 of those branches, leaving the fruit tree with only 150 branches to fuel by comparison.

This helps the healthy branches get quicker access to more food, and this action of late-winter pruning should help you optimize your fruit-growing efforts significantly. 

When is the best time to prune a diseased fruit tree?

Diseased fruit trees aren’t uncommon. However, it’s important to know that you can prune a diseased fruit tree at any time of year; without having to worry about any additional injury. Winter does make it easier to spot disease on a tree; at this point, trees are usually quite barren and free from their leaves, fruits, and blooms. 

prune diseased trees

For some, they may prefer to wait until later in the Winter to prune away any disease.

Aside from the fact that the majority of tree diseases are dormant during the Winter months anyway, there is also the added advantage of knowing any pruning wounds will be able to heal themselves more effectively when the pruning is done towards the end of the cooler seasons. 

If you do see any signs of disease on your tree, particularly during the Spring or Summer, it is usually a good idea to try and get it removed as quickly as possible.  After all, you need to do everything you can to ensure the disease does not spread to other nearby fruit trees. 

Fruit Tree Pruning is an essential part of caring for your orchard. If you need any help guidance or hands-on assistance with pruning, planting, or anything else, please get in touch with our friendly tree services team. 

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Contact our landscaping team today for an honest and accurate quote for your next landscaping project.

Paradise Is Possible

Contact our landscaping team today for an honest and accurate quote for your next landscaping project.