How to Prune an Old Peach Tree


Peach trees live relatively short lives, often dying after only 15 to 20 years. During the last few years, harvests naturally decline and older trees could stop producing fruit. If 20 percent or more of older trees in the peach orchard have failed, re-invigorating older surviving trees yields poor overall results. In that case, trees should be replaced rather than pruned. If most of the peach orchard shows good health, older trees could benefit from severe pruning.

Pruning Old Peach Trees

Step 1

Cut out dead peach tree wood. Dead limbs show gray bark which flakes away easily with no green layer beneath. Prune all dead wood back to the next healthy junction. The branch collar -- the ring of healthy tissue at the base of the limb -- grows over the wound.

Step 2

Remove all peach tree limb cankers. Use limb loppers or pruning hooks to remove limbs with obvious damage from fungal infection or peach tree borers. Either could be the cause of swollen and contorted sections of limbs. Cut back to the next healthy branch collar.

Step 3

Prune out dead twigs. Cut dead twigs back to just before the next healthy branch junction. Dead twigs provide easy entry points for disease and insects and may damage adjoining healthy limbs.

Step 4

Remove all crossed or broken branches. Limbs overgrowing other limbs open wounds in bark and interfere with sunlight and air circulation. Cutting out the least vigorous of the crossed branches opens up the crown of the tree.

Step 5

Prune away all sucker shoots and hanging limbs. Sucker shoots grow vertically from roots, trunk and upper limbs. Suckers create dense canopies with very little fruit; those emerging from below the graft junction could overtake the grafted portion. Hanging limbs produce low quality fruit and interfere with orchard maintenance.

Step 6

Cut back major limbs to three-year-old wood or even older. The outermost twig grew last year; the next section of branch dates to two years ago. Prune limbs back at least to the branch collar of two-year-old growth to force formation of new fruiting wood.

Tips and Warnings

  • Haul away all cut limbs and debris. Leaving old wood beneath the trees contributes to cycles of disease and insect infestations.

Things You'll Need

  • Pole saw or pruning hook
  • Limb loppers
  • Pruning shears


  • Horticulture Update Article: Pruning Peach Trees
  • Virginia Tech: Pruning Peach Trees
  • North Carolina State University: How to Prune Peach Trees

Who Can Help

  • North Carolina State University: Growing Peaches in North Carolina
Keywords: old peach trees, peach tree cankers, peach tree borers

About this Author

James Young began writing as a military journalist in Alaska and combat correspondent in Vietnam. His lifetime fascination with technical and manual arts yields decades of experience in electronics, turnery, blacksmithing, outdoor sports, woodcarving, joinery and sailing. Young's articles have been published in Tai Chi Magazine, Sonar 4 Ezine, The Marked Tree, Stars & Stripes, the SkinWalker Files and Fine Woodworking.