How to Prune a Peach Tree (Arborist Guide)

Last Modified

February 23, 2023 by Hirah Ehsan

Peach pruning is a labor-intensive and difficult practice you can avoid or compromise. If peach trees aren’t trimmed, they’ll be weak, overproduce, get sick, and most importantly, die. The fruit of the peach tree ripens in the second year of its growth.

Therefore, to guarantee a crop for the following year, trees must grow well in the spring and summer. In the winter, a lot of 18- to 24-inch red shoots have to be present as fruiting wood.

Without annual pruning, fruiting wood shrinks every year, and fruiting shoots grow higher and higher, making them difficult to reach. Pruning excessively every alternate year leads to excessive growth the following year.

Hence, pruning moderately and annually is essential for the control of tree vigor and fruit production over the long term. It is important to know how to prune a peach tree properly to achieve the optimum growth rate.

The pruning of your peach tree can enhance its fruit production and increase the harvest. It’s easy and you’ll get the juiciest peaches.

Right Time to Prune Peach Trees

Timing is very significant in every aspect of our lives. It is often recommended to prune fruiting plants when they are dormant. However, this is not true of peach trees. Pruning them in the winter makes them more susceptible to death and less cold-resistant.

Ideally, peach trees should be trimmed annually in spring, just before the buds begin to swell and turn pink. The best thing to do is to prune a little late rather than too early.

However, the shoots growing in the middle of the tree can be removed at any time since they will block sunlight and air from reaching the fruits. Plus, removing them during the summer means fewer will need to be removed in the spring.

The tree should be pruned after it has reached three years of age and is mature enough to produce a good crop of fruit.

Pruning should only be done after the tree’s basic shape has been established. However, you can trim your peach trees at planting if you want.

Basics About Pruning Peach Trees

The best way to prune peach trees is to shape them into an open “V” or vase shape, ideally with three to five main branches evenly spaced.

There should be a 45-degree angle between the main scaffold branches and the trunk so that the center can be exposed to light and air. A mature peach tree can be pruned extensively since it bears fruit on one-year-old wood.

Every year, prune around 40 percent of the tree (for mature trees) to encourage new growth, so the tree will produce fruit. Generally, you should remove old gray shoots since they won’t fruit. Just leave the reddish ones, which are one year old.

Equipment Required

  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • Long-handled pruners
  • Bypass shears
  • Pruning saw
  • Thick gloves
  • Stepladder
  • Refuse bags

How to prune a Young Peach Tree for the First Time

Pruning your peach tree at planting will help start its growth in the right direction. When you plant in the fall, wait until spring to prune.

Trim so that the lowest branches are 15 inches above the ground

As the tree matures, make sure the branches don’t get too high. It is recommended that the tallest branch is approximately 30 inches (76.2 cm) above the ground. If your branches are too long, trim them. The ideal angle for all branches is 45 degrees.

In case your tree doesn’t have any branches near this measurement, cut them all to a single bud and let it grow.

Scaffold limbs Selection in Summer

A scaffold limb is the largest branch on a tree, starting from the trunk. Selecting 2-3 scaffold limbs at first is recommended, but this number may increase to 4-6 over time.

Each scaffold limb should face away in a different direction from the trunk. The scaffold limbs will support the tree’s lateral branches, which will grow outward as the tree matures.

Cut close to the trunk of the tree

If you want to prevent decay, cut the branches near the trunk and leave only a small collar. Make thinning cuts on trees younger than one year old, or cuts that start at the root.

Heading cuts remove part of the branch instead of the whole branch. If you’re doing this in a young tree, you’ll get suckers and water shoots near the top.

Year Two

Now is the time if you didn’t decide on scaffolds during the first pruning. For scaffolds, the crotch angle should be at least 45 degrees and preferably 55 degrees. A typical location is about 6 inches below the heading cut made during planting.

Remove all scaffolds above the uppermost scaffold by making one cut to the tree’s trunk. If any other lateral branches are undesirable, eliminate them.

It is also recommended to perform a heading cut to branches left as scaffolds and remove approximately 1/4% of them. Make this cut on an outward-growing bud.

Year Three

As of the third year, the tree will be pruned the same way every year. Identify any damaged, diseased, or sucking wood, suckers, or water sprouts on the tree and remove them.

The open-center concept needs to be maintained and scaffolds need to be trained to the correct angles. Branches that have grown from a scaffold toward the center should be removed. Then, remove all upright growth.

Normally, this will be an upward growth that will shade the shoots below it. Furthermore, removing growth that is not getting enough sunlight is important. Give an outward-growing bud a heading cut to help it grow.

It’s important to thin out excess fruiting wood, which will make it easier to thin the fruit and create a more open canopy.

Pruning a Mature Peach Tree

Get rid of all decayed and unhealthy growth

The following growth can be removed at any time of the year:

  • Branches that are dead or infected with fungus
  • Shoots that sprout near tree roots
  • Water shoots
  • Harvested fruit that has been dried

Shape and train

In pruning, this step is of the utmost importance as it affects the tree’s growth patterns and fruit production. Pick out four to six main branches and cut the rest. Make sure all the branches you cut grow up 45 degrees.

When the tree starts bearing fruit, you need to remove vertical or horizontal branches. Your tree should be pruned in a V shape. There should be a V shape on all branches. Cross-over branches block sunlight, so cut them off.

Ideally, peach trees should be in an open vase with a clear center. You need to remove any branches where new growth is growing up. It’ll be hard to pick the fruit this way.

Trees should be pruned near the branch’s base

The tree should be cut at the same angle, about 1/4 inch from the lateral buds. Make sure that the branch is not cut too steeply or too close to the collar at the base, as this will expose it to infection.

If a branch exceeds 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter, prune it with three cuts. Starting from the underside, cut the branch halfway up.

Make a further cut about one inch down from the top. Branches with heavy weight are more likely to break easily. Next, cut the branch near its collar.

Why prune a peach tree?

Pruning peach trees has several benefits:

  • Develop the tree shape you want
  • Keep the tree at the right size
  • Allowing sunlight and spray materials to get inside
  • Strengthening trees and encouraging new shoots
  • For better air circulation and less disease
  • Getting rid of dead or broken branches.  

Peach Tree Pruning Tips

First dormant season  

Make three or four strong scaffolds to direct the tree’s growth. Make sure that the branches are evenly distributed around the trunk of the tree.

Ensure that the scaffold branches remain at least six inches apart from each other, with the lowest branch no closer than 18 inches to the ground.

It is a good idea to leave some branches on the lower trunk to strengthen it. Trim scaffold branches back to one-third of their original length.

Second dormant season

Pruning new shoots will keep the fruit-bearing wood (on most peach trees) but remove fast-growing new ones. If you need more scaffolding, choose it and encourage it.

Third dormant season

Once the tree has produced a good crop, you can prune off any broken limbs or cross branches. Mature-tree pruning: When you’ve established your peach tree’s basic shape, prune based on which branches are bearing fruit.

Fruit usually grows on long stems from the previous year and short branches (spurs), and each of them will produce fruit for several years. Every year, get rid of some of the older fruiting wood to keep it rejuvenated. Take each stem from last year and cut it in half.

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