How to Cut Older Fruit Trees


Cut older fruit trees to restore their health and vigor. Pruning allows you to get rid of old, weak and broken branches that are stealing nutrients from the rest of the tree. Pruning also opens up the canopy, letting more sunlight in. Light helps flower buds develop, as well as encourage good fruit flavor and quality. Prune older fruit trees during the dormant cycle, as late in the winter as possible to limit injury to the tree. Cut trees that bloom latest first, and those that bloom the earliest last. If some of your fruit trees are older than others, do them first.

Step 1

Cut the central leader (main trunk) of the tree in the winter. You want it to be approximately 24 to 30 inches higher than the top scaffold whorl. A scaffold whorl is a set of branches that are evenly spaced around the tree--like spokes in a wheel. This pruning will get the older tree to branch and develop more scaffold whorls.

Step 2

Remove dead, weak and diseased wood during the winter. If you notice any growth that you don't want, such as upright shoots that you missed over the summer, cut them off where they meet other branches.

Step 3

Head back lateral branches that have no growth. Cutting them to 1/4 their size will make side branches develop.

Step 4

Remove unwanted branches with thinning cuts in the summer, before the end of July. Target those that are clogging up the interior of the canopy and blocking sunlight from getting to other parts of the tree. Cut them back to the point where they meet a side shoot.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not leave stubs when pruning older fruit trees.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Pruning saw


  • North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service: Training and Pruning Fruit Trees
  • University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources: Ten Basics of When And How to Prune Fruit Trees
Keywords: prune fruit trees, prune old fruit, trim fruit trees

About this Author

Kelly Shetsky has been a broadcast journalist for more than 10 years, researching, writing, producing and reporting daily on many topics. In addition, she writes for several websites, specializing in medical, health and fitness, arts and entertainment, travel and business. Shetsky has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Marist College.