Winter Pruning: Keeping Your Fruit Trees Healthy

Although it is cold outside, now is a good time to start pruning your fruit trees. They’re dormant. They’re waiting. You might as well bundle up and get it over with.

Pruning will shape a tree into something beautiful with a structure that has integrity to better withstand the effects of wind, snow, and other weather conditions that damage branches. And by removing dead or diseased wood, you will make a tree healthier.

Don’t forget your gloves, by the way.

Above: The first step is to get rid of the clutter. Suckers are thin branches that sprout haphazardly from a trunk or larger support branches; they make a tree look like it has a Sideshow Bob haircut. Use loppers to remove them at their base. Photograph via The Little Ragamuffin.

Above: Remove water sprouts, common on many varieties of fruit trees, by clipping them off close to the trunk. Photograph by Menudujour via Flickr.

Above: Prune older trees first and wait until winter is nearly over before you prune younger, more fragile trees. The harder you prune a tree, the less fruit it will produce next season. Prune older trees lightly and reserve your greater enthusiasm for shaping younger, more malleable trees. Photograph via Eat Well Farm.

Above: There are two general shaping techniques: creating a central leader system and or an open center system. For step-by-step instructions for both, see Happy Gardens.

For more pruning tips, see Gardenista‘s post 5 Favorites: Elegant Espalier in the Winter Garden.

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Natasha Salgado
Natasha Salgado2 years ago

Great tips,thanks.

Shanti S.
S S.2 years ago

Thank you.

Roxane Connor
Roxane Connor2 years ago

Yea, got to get on that this weekend.

Kate S.
Kate S.2 years ago

We have at least a hundred, old and unkempt apple trees...I better get moving on this pruning business before spring gets here! Thanks for the info.

Bruno Moreira
Bruno Moreira2 years ago


Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.2 years ago


Kiku dong
K dong2 years ago

How old does a tree need to be before triming?

Fiona T.
Fi T.2 years ago

We can do something to prepare for a better future

Wendy yukihiro
Wendy yukihiro2 years ago

Thankyou for the great article. I do a bit of trimming of my trees and flower for the winter my self.. Every late fall I do. so that all my flowers and my japanese maple with be more healthy in the next year..

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson2 years ago