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Successful Fruit Tree Pruning

by Stark Bro's on 01/04/2011

To get a new fruit tree off to the right start, after choosing the right spot and ensuring your soil is suitable for the trees you’re planting, virtually nothing is as important as pruning at planting time. If left unpruned, fruit trees may struggle in growth, and, if you encounter an unfortunate drought, they may not grow at all. More importantly, unpruned trees take longer to bear fruit! All bare-root Stark Bro’s trees are pruned in the nursery row for proper shaping, and our trees are also pruned right before packing and shipping.

Why we take pruning seriously:

• Survival

First, a tree needs pruning to help it survive after planting. In digging, a bare-root trees’ roots have been disturbed. The trees have lost many of their tiny feeder roots, which are needed to absorb moisture and nutrients, but the top is still its full size! This imbalance can cause tree growth to be weak and slow.

• Stimulation

In addition, cutting the tree back stimulates stronger, more vigorous, growth from the remaining buds. After a single growing season, a pruned tree will be bigger than a matching unpruned tree.

• Shaping

The natural shape of a fruit tree is not always the best for maximum fruit production. It’s best to start the shaping process as early as possible, particularly to balance the top portion with the root system.

These are just a few reasons all eligible Stark Bro’s trees are professionally pruned before they arrive at your door: we want to get you off to the best start possible.  :)

Please note: When your Stark Bro’s bare-root trees arrive pre-pruned by our professionals, do not prune them again when you plant. Plan to prune your fruit trees during every dormant season. In Zone 6 and further north, you should wait until late winter. A good reference, such as our Pruning Made Easy book, is handy for addressing questions and guiding you through the pruning process.

Continue Pruning for Success

“The best time to prune is when the knife is sharp,” old-time gardeners say. Well, that’s not exactly true… fruit trees develop better if they’re pruned at the right times, in the right ways. Here’s how:

• Prune trees when they are dormant

Wait until a tree is dormant before pulling out the sheers! This is best for the tree and easiest for you. It’s easier to see where to make your cuts when the leaves have fallen. As mentioned above, pruning should be done in late fall, winter, or early spring. Exact timing will vary by zone, as winter months differ by zone.

Prune fruit trees to certain shapes

Prune into strong, bearing trees following the chart at right.  If you keep up with your pruning and shaping each year, you’ll make mostly small, easy-to-heal cuts.

• Help the tree form a strong framework

Remove weak, diseased, injured or narrow-angle branches (the weaker of any crossing or interfering branches), and one branch of forked limbs. Also remove upright branches and any that grow toward the center of tree. You want to keep your tree from becoming too thick and crowded and to keep its height reasonable. All these objectives promote improved bearing, which is your overall aim. Try to achieve the general shape of the trees in the drawings provided, but be sure to allow your tree to express its own individuality.

Tips for Pruning

• Apple, Pear, European Blue Plums & Cherry Trees

These trees do best when pruned and trained to a central leader tree. This type of tree has a pyramidal shape with a single upright leader limb as its highest point. This leader is the newest extension of a long, upright growing trunk from which all lateral branches arise. As with all strong growing branches, the leader should be headed back each year. The uppermost bud on the leader produces a vigorous new leader, and no other shoot should be allowed to grow taller. Lateral limbs should be selected from shoots growing out from the central leader. These should be spaced vertically 4-6” apart, have growth that is more horizontal than vertical and point in different compass directions from the trunk.

• Peach, Nectarine, Japanese Plums & Apricot Trees

These trees do best when pruned and trained to a vase-shape. This type of tree should have no central leader. The shape of the tree is controlled by selecting and maintaining three to five main scaffold limbs arising from the trunk. These limbs should point in different directions and originate no less than 18” and no more than 36” from the ground.  Prune as shown, balancing growth evenly between the scaffold limbs.

• Miniature Peach, Nectarine & Apricot Trees

These do not require shaping cuts. However, because they grow so densely, they require regular dormant thinning cuts to remove competing and crossing limbs.

• Whips (Unbranched Trees)

Prune back to 28-36” above the ground at planting time. After the new branches have grown 3-5”, select a shoot to become the leader and scaffold limbs

Off-Season Pruning

Sometimes pruning should be done even when the season isn’t the best. Such would be the case if a branch is broken by the wind or by a heavy load of fruit. Emergency treatment is necessary! Prune back the ragged edges, making a smooth cut that leaves no stubby stump. Fast-growing “water sprouts” can be removed as soon as you see them, rather than waiting until winter.

For more information, browse Stark Bro’s Growing Guide Plant Manuals.

Topics → Fruit Tree Care, Tips


  1. Jean Taylor permalink

    Thank you for Information on peach tree pruning. I have a tree that came up on its own. First year had two good Peaches ,did not prune It last winter was filled with peaches last summer but they were small. Any help?
    Many Thanks,
    Jean Taylor

    • Meg permalink

      Thank you for stopping by, Jean! Glad you found the pruning information helpful. :) If your peaches were small last year, that may be due to the fact that the tree was a volunteer that sprouted up on its own. That may be the size of the fruit (you never know with seedlings!). However, you may also want to pluck a few buds this spring – it will take away some potential fruit, but also let the rest of the fruit grow to full size without competition. Peach trees tend to “overbear” by nature.

      Pruning also opens the tree up to light and improves fruit size and quality. Try these things and let us know how it goes.

      Best wishes!

  2. von permalink

    i have a orange tree and i need to prune it when is it best to prune it

    • Meg permalink

      Hi Von :)

      If your orange tree has a tendency to grow too densely, try thinning the branches in summer or late winter. Otherwise, citrus trees don’t need much shaping/pruning!

  3. Thanks for this article! We are pruning our backyard trees soon and I will share it with gardening friends of my blog Hounds in the Kitchen.

    • Meg permalink

      Hi Rachel! Great to see you on ‘this’ side of the internet. ;) Glad you found the information helpful, & yes, please feel free to share it!

    • Painda permalink

      Thanks for the Information, it was helpful, if there is any catalog to sent me appreciate it


  4. JAMES BEASLEY permalink


  5. JAMES BEASLEY permalink


    • Meg permalink

      Hi James! If you have a few trees that were not ‘properly’ pruned, your best bet is to let it grow a bit & then prune it evenly yourself. Wait until the tree is dormant to make these cuts, though, so the shock is lessened.

  6. Christine permalink

    I have a dwarf weeping cherry tree that we got last year from Stark Brothers. The branches got so long last year that they were draping on the ground. We just cut them off, but I’m not sure that was the right way to do it. Could you give me some advice on whether or not we should cut them off in the future and also, how and when I should prune it before the growing season? Thank you!

    • Elmer permalink

      Christine, when you’re pruning your weeping cherry, you can just trim the skirt evenly at the desired height above ground. :)

  7. Robert Couture permalink

    I have a dwarf starkspur apple ,do you prune them the same as a regular apple tree. Thank you.

    • Meg permalink

      I just learned this myself the other day, Robert: spur-type trees will be pruned less than normal trees, because they don’t grow as vigorously. If there’s any dead branches, prune those off; if there are any crossing branches, prune one back lightly so they don’t cross each other any more. Your fruit is coming from all those spurs, though, so keep as many of them as possible! :)

  8. Herb Fogelberg permalink

    I purchased four apple, two cherry and a peach tree from Stark Brothers last year and they all did great. I actually kept them alive in spite of the deer using them for their salad plate. I am in MN zone 4 and am planning on trudging through the snow next week and do the pruning. I am so appreciative of your information on pruning and the pictures alomg with the instructions (yes I can read :-) ) as they clarify things that much more.
    A VERY satisfied Stark Brothers customer.

    • Meg permalink

      THANK YOU for stopping by, Herb! What an encouraging comment. I am so glad your trees are still growing strong, despite the critter-issues. :) We’d love to see pictures any time!

      Best wishes on pruning in the snow! ;)

  9. Rick permalink

    Love the article on pruning. Getting ready to do that this weekend. I have apple, peach, pear, plum and cherries. Thanks.

    • Meg permalink

      You got it, Rick! Sounds like you’ve got enough variety for a yummy fruit salad! ;)

  10. Carol Milhorn permalink

    When should I prune my knockout roses and how much should I leave?

    • Meg permalink

      Roses should be pruned when dormant as well, Carol. :) Unless they’re growing out of control, I’d not prune them too far back. Remember, the pruning will stimulate the roses to produce new growth this spring. Just prune far enough back to maintain the size that suits the space, and remove any dead/damaged/diseased stems. While you’re there, especially if the rose bush is too dense, prune out the smallest, weakest stems to leave room for the strong and robust ones to thrive.

  11. Glenna Goodwin permalink

    Today is the 21 of March and we have not pruned our apple or peach trees. Is it to late to prune this year? Thank You for your time Glenna

    • Meg permalink

      Glenna, it’s been warming up a bit where I’m at (zone 5), but I would say you’re probably still safe to prune if your trees have not started budding or leafing out. :) If you’re in zone 5 or colder, you should be just fine!

  12. Vina permalink

    We bought 8 fruit trees this year, got them planted well, (peach, pear, apple, plum) and they now have a few leaves on them. I’m wondering if it’s too late to prune them? If so, how much can they be pruned next year? Thanks! I want to give them the best start.

    • Hello Vina! Your trees will have arrived pre-pruned so you won’t need to worry about pruning them until late winter/early spring. When the trees are dormant is the best time to get any pruning done, and each year you will want to prune 1/3 of the new growth. That means 1/3 of what grew the previous year, as well as anything diseased/damaged, gets removed. :)

  13. Amy permalink

    I have two plum trees, one is a Stanley, and neither of them have produced any fruit just lots and lots of leaves. My Asian pears next to them are great producers. They were all planted at the same time. I have never pruned them, mostly out of fear fo too much or wrong pruning. What am I doing wrong with my plums?

    • Hi Amy! I’m not sure how old or developed your plum trees are, but they take about 3-6 years (on average) to begin bearing fruit after planting. Asian pears are a completely different kind of fruit tree so they won’t determine the expected activity of your plum trees.

      Asian pears also tend to bear prolifically even without pruning (although pruning improves fruit size and quality). Plums, and most other fruit trees, on the other hand can be encouraged to set fruiting buds on limbs that are pruned because they receive more sunlight and air circulation — important factors in fruiting.

      Your plum trees may simply need more time to mature but, if they have never been pruned, it will benefit the trees to be pruned as well. If you’re hesitant about doing something wrong, just remember: it’s better to prune than not to prune! It’s easier to avoid pruning off “too much” if you prune a little bit every year when the trees are dormant. When trees are dormant, it is easier to see the limbs that should be removed when the leaves have fallen, and it is also less stressful on the tree.

      What you should target when you’re pruning are damaged/diseased limbs (these can be completely removed — they do the tree no good) and also limbs that grow inward toward the center of the tree. These block light and air flow which are important to fruit production and fruit quality. This includes limbs that cross over one another. :)

  14. Bryant permalink

    I planted some peach, apple and cherry trees in the fall when they arrived. They are now budding out nicely. It would appear from the article above and my Stark planting guide that I don’t need to prune this first year–with the exception of suckers and growth within a foot of the ground. Is that correct? Just let it be for this year and prune in the dormant season in the fall?

    • That’s correct, Bryant! When your trees arrived, they were professionally pruned by our experts here. You don’t need to be concerned with pruning them again until their second dormant season with you (during winter/early spring). :)

  15. Daniel Ortone permalink

    I would like to puchase a dwarf weeping cherry. I am not sure if this would be ok in Florida. I live in the middle of the east coast. Please bew good enough to send me a catolog.

    • A catalog is on its way, Daniel! In the meantime, feel free to check out our online selection of Flowering Trees, including Weeping cherries, to see if they’ll suit your zone (based on your zip code).

  16. G. M. Park permalink

    I purchased a Winesap apple tree from you last year. Sproutzs are coming from the base of the tree. I cut them off in early spring, but they are coming back more profusely. Do I continue to cut these sprouts off? Thanks Park

    • You should continue pruning off these suckers as they appear, Park. Some trees have more of a suckering habit than others. I have one like that, so I just consider it a regular pruning process to remove them whenever I see them appear. You don’t want to leave them or let them get very large (more difficult to remove) — suckers are from the rootstock and will steal nutrients that should be going to your Winesap apple tree!

  17. Mike permalink

    I live in Aurora, Co and have a Green Apple tree that has yet to flower or bear fruit. The tree is about 6 years old and appears to be very healthy. I prune annually in late fall After the leaves have fallen. There are no other apple trees close by. Help….what can I do to encourage fruit production?

    • If your apple tree has yet to bloom in the spring, it may be getting too much nitrogen (either naturally from the soil, or from adding fertilizer). Nitrogen helps a tree put on green growth, but doesn’t encourage it to bloom. Another thing to consider is that the tree may not be mature enough to flower or fruit yet, and there isn’t much you can do to speed up that process! You can read more about the things you can control to get your tree to bloom and bear fruit in our article, Fruit Tree Blooming and Bearing Problems – And How to Solve Them!

      Your tree is more than likely going to need another apple tree planted and blooming nearby to produce fruit. Most apple trees are not self-pollinating so they need another kind of apple tree planted in the area to cross-pollinate with — usually within 50 feet as an ideal distance. You can read more about pollinators for fruit trees in our article, The Importance of Fruit Tree Pollination.

  18. Colleen permalink

    Hello. I would appreciate some advice. We have a beautiful black walnut tree that is 21 years old and holds special meaning because it was planted the year our daughter was born. It was huge and bearing many wonderful nuts. A bad ice storm hit our area and when we visited our camp we were saddened to see that the tree broke right at the main branch about a third of the way up. Is there anything we can do to save it now? Thank you for anyhelp you can give us.

    • I might not have a good idea of how much damage was done, but a broken branch a third of the way up an established and otherwise healthy black walnut tree shouldn’t do the tree in. I recommend contacting a licensed tree-care professional in your area to come out and inspect the tree. They will be able to advise you on what needs to be done to preserve the tree (if it is off-balance or a danger to itself and surrounding structures). Your tree is probably fairly large, so I would suggest seeking an arborist or tree-care professional in your area for any maintenance needs.

      Here’s an example of what they will likely assess with your tree: How to Care for Ice-Damaged Trees

  19. Norman permalink

    I have a 2 year old dwarf 5 in 1 peach tree that I will be trimming. I assume since these are grafted onto dwarf stock that they will have to be trimmed differently to maintain the different varieties of fruit. Where can I find information on doing these so the tree will remain productive.

    • There aren’t really separate pruning instructions for dwarf fruit trees. The biggest thing you will have to look out for is that you don’t remove one of the 5 peach variety branches that have been grafted onto your 5-in-1 peach tree. I’m hoping they were somehow marked for your reference.

      The different varieties will likely have different growth rates, so you might find that at least one variety is more vigorous than the others. In this case, prune to keep all 5 varieties in balance. This way, you won’t have one that is dominant over the rest. Along with pruning growth that points inward toward the center of the tree (to keep your tree open to light) and pruning dead, damaged, and diseased limbs, this will keep your tree maintained and productive!

  20. Kim permalink

    We just purchased a moonglow pear. We planted it in the ground and it has tones of small fruit. Someone told me I need to knock all of these tiny fruits off now so I don’t stress out the tree and it’s roots grow properly. I am so excited about my fruit that I really don’t want to do this, but understand it may be necessary for future growth. What so you suggest?

    • Fruit production takes a lot out of a tree. It actually stops growing so that it can use its nutrient reserves to sustain a fruit crop. Often when an older tree that already has flowers/fruit on it is transplanted, it will drop the young fruit before it can mature. Transplanting is a stress on the tree, especially the older/larger a tree is, and fruit drop is a tree’s common response to stress.

      The goal of any newly planted fruit tree its first season should be to grow and establish roots in its new environment.

      The tree you just planted has not had time to establish and grow its roots. If you allow it to put its energy into the tiny fruit you’re seeing now, it will delay it becoming properly established, which can even cause the tree to drop the fruit before its harvestable.

      I know it’s difficult to have to remove the fruit, since that’s why you planted the fruit tree in the first place, but you have to consider your long-term goal of planting your tree: you want it to have a solid foundation so that it continues to produce fruit in years to come! :)

  21. Phil permalink

    Hi, thanks for all the info here! My wife and I bought a house last summer that has a tall neglected pear tree. Not sure on the variety, but we didn’t think to prune it in winter and we’re wondering if it is better to wait until this winter, or if it’s OK to do a little pruning now in late April. We never got to try any from last years production because we think squirrels got to them all, but hopefully we can avoid that and try some this year.

    • Congratulations on inheriting a pear tree, Phil! :) It’s probably a good idea to wait until winter when the tree is sure to be dormant before you do any intensive pruning. You can remove any damaged, diseased, or dead limbs that you see now — or any time.

      You can also prune out any branches that are growing in toward the center of the tree or its trunk, and any limbs that are touching/rubbing. Your tree will be better off if they are removed sooner than later.

      Since you mentioned that the pear tree is neglected and fruit bearing, I’m guessing it’s mature and could be fairly large. In this case, you might consider contacting a local licensed tree-care professional to assess what the tree needs, especially in the event that it has large limbs that should be removed. I hope this helps!

  22. Matt permalink


    I have newly planted trees (this past fall) which were pruned by Stark prior to shipping. What should I be doing during this season when they are starting to show growth and after the season? Should I just let everything go for a couple of years until the trees get larger?


    • You can let the trees grow for now, Matt. You shouldn’t need to prune anything until the trees are dormant this winter. When the trees are dormant, you’ll have a good view of the existing structure without leaves in the way. It’s best to do a little pruning every year so that nothing gets out of control.

      First-season pruning should target any limbs that are damaged, diseased, or dead. Those can be completely removed. Also, tip back/prune the new growth by a third — just the new growth; don’t cut the whole tree back by a third. This may not be a lot to remove, but it will definitely help your trees keep a good balance with their roots, a good structure for supporting fruit in the future, and also remove any potentially problematic branching to avoid damage later.

  23. Whitney H permalink

    Thank you for all these wonderful articles. We bought three trees (from a local nursery) in early spring. The leaves on all three of them fell off, and haven’t returned. There was a hard freeze a week after planting, but it’s been beautiful weather since. I did the scratch test, and all the trunks are alive. We didn’t prune them, and now I wonder if we should have. Do you think I should prune them?

    • Whitney H permalink

      I should say, do you think I should still prune them even though it’s off season?

    • Thank you for reading, Whitney!

      You can prune back any signs of damaged or dead branches now*. This will help stimulate growth from buds in living tissue while removing dead weight your trees don’t need to support as they recover from the stress of the weather earlier in the spring.

      *try to avoid pruning right before it rains, since rain may encourage diseases that can get into fresh pruning cuts

  24. Richard permalink

    I read (Fast-growing “water sprouts” can be removed as soon as you see them, rather than waiting until winter.). How do you identify “water sprouts”? I’m buy a house and want to have a edible yard. I’m trying to learn these things.

    • Watersprouts differ from typical branches because they often grow straight up, either out from a higher part of the trunk than suckers (which come from the rootstock) or they grow vertically, directly from an existing branch. They seem to appear “overnight” because they grow so quickly.

      We have a blog post that might help clear things up for you here: Fruit Tree Care: Removing Tree Suckers & Water Sprouts

  25. cptacek permalink

    We had an apple tree fall over in a wind storm about 8 years ago…and it is still producing fruit. It hadn’t ever been pruned and it still hasn’t been pruned. I am interested in getting more production out of this tree, larger fruit instead of the many many many smaller ones, and the inside of the foliage doesn’t produce, as I know it won’t unless wind and sun get in there. How do I prune a tree laying over on its side? I mean, what applies and what doesn’t with regards to shaping it, water spouts, etc?

    On the plus side, my 3 year old can pick fruit with me without using a ladder :)

    • Fruit trees never cease to amaze me! If you have any photos of this apple tree, I’d love to see them. You can post them here or on our Facebook Page if you’d rather.

      In any case, pruning will have mostly the same goal, even with a tree that is not perfectly upright: keep it open to light and air circulation to improve fruit quality and help avoid an environment for disease. You do this by removing branches that grow inward toward the center of the tree, removing branches that are crossing over one another or rubbing against one another, and removing all damaged, diseased, and dead limbs whenever they appear.

      I’d have to see the tree to be able to give more specific advice about shaping and whatnot, but it seems to be doing well so I wonder if it’s a situation where “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. :)

      You can help improve the size of the fruit you harvest by thinning the fruit that is on the tree. A smaller crop will receive more of the tree’s energy and will have less competition for nutrients, so it naturally improves the fruit size. You can read more about this concept in our article about The Benefits of Thinning Fruit here. I hope this helps!

  26. Mike permalink

    I have a Owari Satsuma dwart tree that I planted last year and it produced about 10 oranges. This spring it didn’t grow at all (no leaves and branches were turning black), so I cut it down to about two inches above the graph, in the middle of June it started to grow and now it has about 8 limbs growing from below the graph, should I prune these during the winter so there is one main trunk or let it grow as is. also will this tree produce in 3-5 years seeing that the growth is coming from below the graph? I live in south Mississippi so I am not sure why it didn’t make it through the winter.

    • Hi Mike — If you’re not seeing any growth from above the graft, the winter may have killed your Owari Satsuma tree. If you’re seeing growth/life in the two inches left above the graft, you can encourage it to grow. You should prune off the limbs coming from below the graft (the rootstock), since these are “suckers” that will sap nutrients from the grafted variety that you want to grow. You don’t need to wait for winter to remove tree suckers; they should be removed whenever they appear.

      The growth from below the graft is from the tree’s rootstock. Rootstocks are chosen for size, hardiness, and other characteristics, but not really fruit quality or production. I don’t know what rootstock your tree is grafted to, but if the 3-5 “years to bear fruit” was recommended for your Owari Satsuma, it probably won’t apply to the rootstock.

      From what I’ve read, different rootstocks used for Owari Satsuma trees have varying levels of hardiness depending on whether the tree is growing in a pot or in the ground, so that might give you a starting point to find out why your tree had a hard time this past winter, even in Mississippi — although the winter was harsher than normal and extended well into spring in most places, which could be the culprit on its own.

      If you can find out what rootstock was used (the grower/supplier you got your tree from should have this information) it may help. You can read more about the different rootstocks commonly used for that tree here: Owari Satsuma Tangerine from Edible Landscaping.

      • Mike permalink

        Thanks, I don’t believe it is still alive above the graph. I may have to pull it out and start over. Thanks for the info.

  27. Bryan permalink

    Wow, I wish I found you when I planted my dwarf golden delicious tree 7 years ago :-)

    I’ve been waiting patiently for it to bear real fruit, but haven’t done anything other than keep it alive. It’s really grown well and is probably 10 feet high. I’ve never pruned it or had the soil tested. But always seemed healthy. Each year I’d get a bunch of small fruit that would never finish. I figured the tree just wasn’t mature. This year, in its 7th or maybe 8th season I have a single apple growing! Figured something was wrong and went searching. Found a wealth of info here on your site. Amazing stuff!

    So, is there a chance I might be able to get this tree to produce fruit yet? I don’t have any other apple trees nearby, or room to plant any for pollination. I live in zone 6b.

    Any tips?

    • Hey Bryan — good news! Golden Delicious apple trees are self-pollinating, which is why you’ve been able to see any fruit at all (even if small) without having a pollinator apple tree growing nearby.

      Pruning will keep your apple tree open to light (helps increase fruit production/quality) and air circulation (helps prevent disease). Pruning removes damaged, dead, and diseased limbs, limbs that grow inward toward the center of the tree, and limbs that create damage by crossing over or rubbing against one another. This simple, routine upkeep also keeps your tree in balance so that there is enough fruiting wood to develop flowers and fruit, and enough vegetative wood to develop leaves for fruit-sustaining “food production” (photosynthesis) and branches for leaves.

      Since your apple tree sounds healthy otherwise it probably doesn’t need fertilizer*, but I think pruning will help stimulate your tree into becoming more fruitful!

      *Try not to be tempted to fertilize a tree that doesn’t need it in order to get fruit. Most fertilizers tend to be high in nitrogen — an element that contributes to green, vegetative growth (leaves and branches) often at the expense of flower/fruit development.

      • Bryan H permalink

        Thank you Sarah! That’s great news. So sounds like the plan will be to do some good pruning this winter (late winter for me in 6b apparently) and hope for the best next spring!

  28. Jack permalink

    My citrus (tangelo and tangerine) has grown very tall shoots with hardly any leaves.

    Straight up and no other branching, tall tall branches.

    Should I prune them back shorter so they fill out?

    They are 5-6 years old and have not had any fruit yet, about 12-14 ft high.


    • Assuming it’s not the rootstock that is sending the tall vertical shoots (it can happen in grafted trees – meaning you’ll have a tree with whatever the rootstock is instead of the tangelo or tangerine you expected to grow), you can prune to lower, more ideal buds along the shoots. This will force growth from those buds and hopefully encourage some lateral growth rather than tall lanky stems.

      You can also try tying weights to the ends of the limbs to bend them to more outward angles. Or you can use bamboo sticks or limb spreaders to spread out the limbs so that they grow outward more instead of upward. Exposing the stems to light often helps with the development of buds for future shoots, leaves, and flowers.

  29. Matt permalink

    I have a dwarf Contender peach tree that I ordered from you and planted last May. This will be my first season for pruning (likely late February to early March in my Zone 5 climate). I noticed above that “miniature” peach trees would only need thinning cuts. Does that include my dwarf peach tree? If so, are you suggesting just removing any crossing branches or those that would shade others and not make any heading cuts to stimulate growth? The tree grew a ton last year and I’m hoping to get some peaches on it this year! Any information you can provide would be appreciated. Thanks!

    • “Dwarf” and “miniature” are different in the fruit tree world. Miniature trees (naturally maturing at the 4-6 foot range) tend to have shorter, stubbier branches so the thinning cuts are recommended for them. Dwarf trees have comparatively significant branching and canopies since these trees are dwarfed by being grafted to dwarfing rootstocks, and they will mature around 8-10 feet tall.

      You will still prune to remove crossing branches, branches growing at narrow (weak) angles, branches that grow inward toward the center of the tree, and branches that are damaged, dead, or diseased. You’ll make the heading cuts to stimulate growth as well, and (in peach trees especially) you may need to consider summer pruning the tips of the branches again to encourage sturdier growth rather than the long, leggy growth vigorous trees tend to produce.

      I hope this helps Matt! Fingers crossed for a peach crop this year :)

  30. bob permalink

    I have 3 apple trees I bought from stark years ago. I have never had them bear 1 apple since planting. I have trimmed them they are in great shape. They are Colonaid (sp) trees. They are 12 feet tall. Why will they not bear fruit or even blossom? I called strak for a refund, but they blew me off and said NO.

  31. Bo Lollar permalink

    I have DWARF apple, peach, pear, plum, and cherry trees going into their third spring. I haven’t pruned them yet, and they are growing nicely. I was wondering how and how much I should prune these trees, as I’m not sure if young dwarf trees should be pruned different from young standard trees. I know they will need at least some pruning.


    • The easiest general guide (regardless of tree size) is to prune…

      1. to remove damaged, dead, and diseased limbs.
      2. to remove limbs that are growing inward toward the center of the tree.
      3. limbs that are crossing or rubbing together.
      4. limbs that are close together with a weak/narrow crotch angle.
      5. to tip back new growth by a third (new growth, not 1/3 of the whole tree).

      This helps keep the trees in strong shape, open to light and air circulation, and it can apply to dwarf trees and larger! :)

  32. Guang ni permalink

    Hi, I purchased a bare root white champion peach from stark bros last year but somehow it only grow on one side of the trunk(3 branches all on same side). The branches on the other side (about 4-6 inches is not growing since we planted it and it has turn dark brown or look like is not growing. So my question is is there any way I can promote grow of new branch from the trunk to balance the tree. Thank you

    • Sarah permalink

      I’m a fellow grower of what was once a “lopsided” (plum) tree and I’m happy to tell you they grow out of it — literally. Just because the branches aren’t there now doesn’t mean they won’t develop over time. It could realistically happen this growing season, especially since you have a peach tree and peach trees are known for being vigorous, leafy growers once they really get established. Pruning helps stimulate new growth, so if you haven’t pruned your tree at all, just tip the existing branches back a little to the next outward-facing bud. Trees respond to pruning by developing new growth below the cut.

      You can use fertilizer too if your tree needs it, but don’t be tempted to over-fertilize trying to force branches to develop. You’ll only put your tree into a vegetative-growth mode (peach trees don’t need help there) and you might be preventing it from blooming or fruiting in the future.

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