Pruning Peach Trees

Peach Tree

Pruning Peach Trees

Summary by Bill Shane - Michigan State University Extension

Peach and nectarine trees are pruned and trained each year to develop and maintain tree size and shape. They are generally trained into an open-center system with 2 to 4 major (scaffold) limbs forming an open Y or open center (vase) shape. Peach and nectarine trees are usually pruned in mid to late April

Pruning at Planting
Head the central stem (leader) of a peach tree back to 30 to 36 inches from the ground at planting. Limbs arising from the central leader are scaffold limbs. Remove all scaffold limbs closer than 2 feet to the ground. Remove any upright scaffold limbs. Save no more than 4 scaffolds. Shorten scaffold limbs by 1/3.

Pruning Young, Non-Bearing Trees
In spring the year after planting, select 2 to 3 well-developed, wide-angled scaffold limbs and cut off all other limbs nearly flush (leave a 1/3 inch stub) with the trunk. Head remaining scaffolds back slightly where growth has exceeded 30 inches.

From the second to the fourth years, remove any branches that grow straight up or straight down. Prune lightly to eliminate overlapping and damaged limbs.

Pruning Bearing Trees
Peach trees bear fruit on shoots that grew the previous year. These 1-year shoots (fruiting wood) have one to three buds at each node. The smaller, center bud is a leaf bud accompanied by up to two larger, outer flower buds. Moderately intensive pruning is needed each year to force the tree to grow new limbs.

Maintain tree height at 9 to 10 feet by heading back scaffold branches to an outward growing lateral. Remove weak and diseased branches and excessive branches. Trees with excessive growth have poorly colored fruit and leaves in the inside of the canopy due to poor sunlight penetration.