When to Prune Fruit Trees 31

Fruit Tree PruningNeglecting to prune your fruit trees won’t stop production of fruit. However, we recommend you prune annually to improve the quality of fruit and to establish a strong framework of branches to support heavy fruit loads.

Pruning fruit trees can result in larger fruit that is easier to harvest.The tree will be much tidier and takes up less space in the garden.

We’ve put together this quick guide for when you should be pruning your trees. But, if all of this seems a bit confusing or too difficult, give us a call, we’ll arrange to come and do your pruning for you at the right times that it should be done.

Winter Pruning vs Summer Pruning

Winter pruning of fruit trees usually results in vigorous growth. The harder the fruit tree is pruned in winter the more vigorous the growth will be in spring. Winter pruning is used to train a tree to a particular shape or to encourage substantial growth. Winter pruning is recommended for newly planted trees up until the tree has achieved the desired height and shape.

In general, summer fruit tree pruning retards growth.The already established framework is maintained. The new growth that follows is tamed and is much less vigorous than growth following winter pruning. This allows more energy to be put into fruit. Once a system of summer pruning is established, very little winter pruning of the framework is required

When to prune fruit trees

The only fruit trees which require a defined pruning period are apricots which should be pruned only when the trees are actively growing (eg spring or summer)

Winter pruning time for other fruit trees is from autumn, when the tree is beginning to lose its leaves, through to spring,as the flowers are beginning to open.

Summer fruit tree pruning can be carried out before or after harvest.

Remember: Winter pruning promotes vigorous growth; summer pruning inhibits growth.

Late winter

  • Winter prune deciduous fruit trees such as apple, pear (always lightly), peach, nectarine, cherry and plums.
  • Autumn-fruiting raspberries (primocanes) should be cut back in late winter to within a few centimetres of the ground. Newly planted raspberries and hybrid blackberries should also be pruned.
  • Pruning blueberry bushes should be performed after harvest has finished, ideally in late winter.


  • Pruning citrus trees by removing diseased or dead wood. Also cut out any crossed branches that are rubbing.
  • Thin some small fruits on early-season stone (apricots, plum and peach) and pome (apple and pear) fruit trees to improve the quality and size of the remaining fruit.
  • Passionfruit vines can be pruned in mid- to late spring.


  • Continue thinning small fruit on late-season deciduous fruit varieties into the early part of summer.
  • Carry out summer pruning on deciduous fruit trees after harvesting in late summer.
  • Cut out summer-fruiting raspberry canes (floricanes) that have completely finished fruiting.


  • Summer pruning of deciduous pome and stone fruit trees should be completed by early autumn.
  • Shoots of blackberry hybrids that have fruited should be cut down.


  • Bananas (yes, you can even grow some varieties of Bananas in Melbourne) are cut to the ground after fruiting. Each plant will be replaced by an emerging sucker.
  • Avocados are pruned lightly immediately after harvest. Trim only one side or the top of the tree annually. Rotate the part that you trim each year to maximise fruit production.

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31 thoughts on “When to Prune Fruit Trees

  • Braden Bills

    I have some fruit trees in my yard. I’ve noticed that they aren’t giving very good fruit. I didn’t know that pruning was so important! I’ll make sure to keep them pruned based on the season.

    • Leaf, Root & Fruit Post author

      Hi Braden,

      Pruning (or not pruning) can be very important for ensuring that fruit trees are productive long-term. Glad you liked the article.

      Good Luck and Happy Gardening!


    • Leaf, Root & Fruit Post author

      Hi John,

      Yes you can prune your peach tree at any time of the year. The only time that I would avoid pruning the tree is in Autumn when the sap is flowing from the leaves back into the trunk. If you cut the tree when this is occurring – any pathogens such as fungi and bacteria will be drawn down from the wound and into the trunk of the tree.

      Kind Regards


  • Cherie Gage

    Hi Duncan
    I have an apricot tree that is getting too high and wide can I cut it back now and how do I go about it?
    It bore its first really good crop of fruit 2 years ago, last year it bore no fruit, could this be because it needs to cross pollinate as our other apricot tree died.

    • Leaf, Root & Fruit Post author

      Hi Cherie,

      It’s probably a bit late in the season to be pruning apricots. I’d prefer to see them pruned back in February. This will reduce the risk of disease.

      Poor pollination is not the likely cause as most apricots are self-fertile. The lack of fruit could be several reasons:
      – poor growing conditions (drought, wind) that leads to abortion of immature fruit
      – biennial cropping brought on by the tree producing too much fruit the year previous. This can be prevented with thinning of fruit to ensure the tree has a lighter crop.

      Without knowing more details it would be difficult to pin-point the exact cause.

      Good Luck and Happy Gardening!


      • Robert

        I’m a little confused… in the article you state “The only fruit trees which require a defined pruning period are apricots which should be pruned very early in the dormant season as soon as the leaves turn yellow, around late March early April.”

        Yet above states “I’d prefer to see them pruned back in February. This will reduce the risk of disease.”

        Can you please explain this discrepancy?

        • Leaf, Root & Fruit Post author

          Thanks for pointing that error out Robert. I’ve updated the article to make it clearer.

          Good Luck & Happy Gardening!


  • john

    Hi Duncan,
    My espaliered pears(2 different varieties) are about 7 or 8 years old and are yet to produce fruit. I prune in summer. No blossom has been produced this year but i have a lot of ‘whippy branches’ of about coming off the laterals of about 60 cm. Should i cut them back?
    Your advice is appreciated.



    • Leaf, Root & Fruit Post author

      Hi John,

      Without seeing the trees it’s very difficult to give you advice.

      Most pears are spur bearers. So you need to encourage these to develop off your lateral branches. Spurs generally form on older, slower growing wood. You could try pruning your whippy branches back to around 5 to 10 cm. Hopefully that well help to develop spurs. Pears can take a bit longer than say apples or stone fruit to start producing, although after 7 or 8 years you would definitely expect to be getting some fruit. We’ve got pear espaliers that are 3 years old and are already producing. I suspect that you have trees on a vigorous rootstock, that may also be part of the problem.

      Good Luck and Happy Gardening!


  • Jack

    I have two two year old Japanese Plum trees. They produced just a few plums this summer. I didn’t expect too many so that’s ok.
    Should I prune them now or wait until winter. It seems that people have different views about this.

    • Leaf, Root & Fruit Post author

      Hi Jack,

      Yes, you’ll get many different views on fruit tree pruning. There’s an old joke in our industry “you can have 5 people standing around a fruit tree and 8 different opinions on how to prune it”!

      Without seeing the tree it’s hard to recommend when and how to prune it. You can prune at any time of the year. The general advice is, if it has grown to the size and has the structure that you want then prune in summer (usually once you have harvested fruit). If the tree still needs to grow bigger, then winter pruning is best until it gets to the size and shape that you want.

      Good Luck and Happy Gardening!


  • Jess

    Hi! My cheeky sheep got into my orchard a couple of weeks ago and ate the leaves off the small branches and have broken some of the branches on my fruit trees. Should I prune them back?

    • Leaf, Root & Fruit Post author

      Hi Jess,

      Fruit trees are generally quite resilient and will handle a bit of browsing by larger animals. That being said, tidying up the damage into nice clean cuts with secateurs could speed up healing and reduce the potential introduction of disease.

      Good Luck and Happy Gardening!


  • Godwin Bonnici

    Need a quote to prune a peach tree 5-7yrs old. Location Lynbrook small 450sq mtr block .Easy access please ring .
    Mobile 0413252322.

  • Inger

    Hi, we have a very old and very large lemon tree (with abundant, giant fruit… and also abundant and giant wasp galls) growing close to our house. We are planning to renovate – probably at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. While we will ask the builders to take care, the renovations will have quite a big impact on the tree given how close it is. What can we do to maximise its chance of survival? Should we prune it back? If so, when?
    Thanks for your help,

    • Leaf, Root & Fruit Post author

      Hi Inger,

      Without seeing the tree and the plan for the works it is difficult to give you accurate advice. Citrus trees have a shallow, fibrous root system. So I would take measures to try and reduce soil compaction around the tree. If the root system is likely to be damaged, then yes, cutting it back can help it survive. However, that can have other consequences, such as a rapid burst of growth in the months after pruning. If the build is likely to occur during hot weather and you wont be living in the house, then keep in mind that the builders may not be paying much attention to the garden. So perhaps best to visit regularly and give the tree a good watering.

      Good Luck with the project


  • Noel

    My Pear tree makes a lot of growth every year & only about a dozen fruits. I have budded two other varieties onto the tree to assist with polination. My problem is the consistant amount of growth it puts on. Do you have any ideas on how to reduce the growth & create fruit.

    • Leaf, Root & Fruit Post author

      Hi Noel,

      That’s complex and a bit difficult to answer in this thread, but I’ll try anyway!

      Firstly having the tree on a dwarfing rootstock such as Quince A will reduce a lot of the vigour. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers. Focus on pruning the tree in summer as this reduces the vigours growth that occurs after pruning. In fact the less pruning you can do the better.

      The other important thing to do with multigrafted trees is to match the vigour of all the varieties. For instance including a vigourous variety such as Packham will see the tree quickly be dominated by that variety. In such cases you have to do a lot of pruning to keep the tree under control.

      Hope that helps. Perhaps keep an eye out for one of our pruning workshops in the future. Then I can explain it in much more detail and show you some pruning strategies.

      Good Luck & Happy Gardening


    • Leaf, Root & Fruit Post author

      Hi Ria,

      That’s nothing to worry about. It’s quite common for fruit trees in Melbourne to do this. The fruit usually amounts to nothing, so best removed form the tree.

      Good Luck & Happy Gardening!


    • Leaf, Root & Fruit Post author

      Hi Ria,

      That’s quite common at this time of the year and is probably not related to the pruning you did. The blossoms don;t amount to much, but nothing to worry about.

      Good Luck & Happy Gardening.


  • Ken

    I have a couple of older apple trees in the yard that we bought a few years ago and while I have trees back to being manageable I’m amazed at the ‘canes’ the shoot up from both trees. Is this normal for apple trees?

    • Leaf, Root & Fruit Post author

      Hi Ken,

      That’s completely normal, especially for trees pruned in winter. Essentially you’ve unbalanced the tree by pruning, so that it has more roots and leaves. The tree responds by trying to balance itself again… by growing lots more foliage. The best way to reduce the impact of this is to do summer pruning. Usually straight after you’ve picked the fruit. Alternatively, grow dwarf fruit trees that don’t need much (if any) pruning at all.

      Hope that’s useful!