Peach trees are easy to train if you start the process soon after planting. During the first 3 years, train the tree to an open shape, which allows light to penetrate the tree and provides easier harvesting. Proper pruning keeps the tree healthy by removing dead and diseased wood; opening up the tree allows foliage and fruit to dry quickly and reduces the chances of disease. Pruning can also keep the tree to a desirable height for easy harvesting.
Cut the tree back after planting to a single trunk of about 24 to 32 inches tall. Remove lateral branches within 18 inches of the ground at the trunk. Trim upper lateral branches back to about 1 to 2 inches of the trunk.
Choose three or four evenly spaced shoots when growth begins in the spring. These shoots become the main lateral scaffold branches. Remove other shoots.
Remove suckers growing from the rootstock. Remove the soil around the sucker and cut the sucker away at the root; cutting above the soil line will stimulate growth.
Cut the main lateral scaffold branches back during the first winter. In Florida, the ideal time for dormant pruning is late February. Remove approximately two-thirds of the branch. Remove other sprouts from the trunk at this time. Train the peach tree to grow low and outward from the main lateral branches.
Prune Florida peach trees each summer to remove suckers and water sprouts. Remove dead, diseased or damaged wood. Thin out undesirable growth to keep the tree open.
Prune Florida peach trees again during February of the second and third winter. Choose two or three branches growing from the main lateral scaffold branches to form secondary lateral branches. Encourage branches that are growing outward without much overlap. Remove other secondary branches, especially those growing inward.
Continue pruning peach trees every February to keep the tree open and maintain its shape. Remove interior branches that block light. Remove suckers and branches below 18 inches.
Remove tall branches that grow upward to keep the tree at a manageable height for picking fruit. Encourage branches that grow outward.
Remove excessive sprouts and twigs, leaving enough of last year’s growth to produce fruit without overburdening the tree. Last year’s wood has a reddish color and is the source of the following year’s fruit.
Remove all pruned branches and plant debris from the area after pruning or thinning.