How-To Video: Pruning a Fruit Tree

This video applies to pruning deciduous (goes dormant and loses its leaves) fruit trees only. Citrus trees are not pruned regularly—only to keep a pleasing shape.

Pruning keeps fruit trees healthy, well-balanced in shape, open to sunlight, and promotes fruiting branches.

General principles

    • Best time to prune is January through mid-February in California
    • Prune to remove dead or damaged branches
    • Prune to “open up” center of trees for sunlight
    • Prune to keep tree well-balanced and to a manageable size—for ease of harvest
    • Prune to promote fruiting branches
    • Always make cuts about 1/8 or ¼ inches away from (or above, not below!) remaining branch or leaf bud
    • Make cut at 45-degree angle 


    • Use sharp, clean pruning shears
    • Hand shear
    • Long-handles shear for larger branches
    • Pruning saw for biggest branches
    • Clean tools after each tree (with rubbing alcohol) to prevent disease from spreading

Pruning apples and pears

     General pruning
    • Remove dead or damaged branches
    • Open up center of tree
    • Reduce size
     Promote fruiting branches
    • Reduce thin, skinny branches to five-seven leaf buds (show little bumps where leaves were)
    • This promotes fruiting branches that are fatter, shorter, with larger, rounded tips (show example of)
    • Be sure you don’t cut any of these off—these are the branches that bloom and produce fruit 

Pruning peaches, apricots, nectarines and plums

     General pruning (same as above)
     Promote fruiting branches
    • Require heavier pruning that apples and pears
    • Reduce entire tree (mature trees only) by about one-third every year.
    • These fruits are different from apples and pears—they have new fruiting branches each year. 

If branches are loaded with fruit, be sure to thin (remove) some of the fruit. Branches won’t break and fruit will be larger!