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How to Prune an Almond Tree

Almond trees can benefit greatly from regular pruning. By keeping the top of the tree open and allowing light to reach the lower branches, you will increase your almond harvests and improve the health of your tree. With some planning and care, you can turn an overgrown, unbalanced almond tree that isn't producing well into a beautiful tree with good almond production.

Prune your almond tree when the tree is completely dormant. In most areas, this is in December and January. Pruning when the tree is dormant will minimize new growth in the spring.

Remove dead wood by cutting dead branches off about 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the trunk. For smaller branches, use sharp pruning shears with the cutting edge on top. With larger branches, use a pruning saw.

Remove any branches that cross or rub on other branches. Saw from the bottom up through two-thirds of the branch and finish the cut from the top to prevent splitting or splintering. Consider sealing larger tree wounds with pruning pitch.

Prune smaller shoots from larger branches near the top of the tree to allow light to reach all levels of the tree. Allowing light to reach the lower branches will make the tree more productive. Your almond tree should have an open, well-balanced look.

Consider tipping the larger branches to keep them from growing longer. Tipping consists of removing the growth bud and about 8 inches of the branch. Tipping can encourage nut setting. If you are trying to limit the size of a tall, well-established tree, tip the tallest branches using a ladder.


Do heavy pruning after years with light crops, and do light pruning after years with heavy crops. Sometimes you may prefer to prune in the fall after the main growing season. Pruning in the fall can be easier in areas with snow, and it is more pleasant to work in warmer fall temperatures. Although most people recommend winter pruning, recent research from the University of California showed negligible negative results on yields from trees pruned in October instead of December.


Don't eliminate lower branches that aren't producing well. It is usually better to prune higher up to allow more light to reach the lower branches.

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