Why You Should Prune Some of Your Fruit Trees in the Summer

By on June 14, 2011

Tricia is summer pruning her fruit trees

Tree and Fruit Tree Health are Affected by Tree Size

Summer pruning fruit trees controls undesirable growth on a tree by removing energy-wasting water sprouts. Summer is also a good time to remove leafy upper branches that excessively shade fruit on lower branches. After the lower branches are exposed, protect them from sunburn by painting them with a 50/50 mixture of water and white latex interior paint.

Winter pruning is meant to stimulate the tree. Summer pruning uses thinning cuts (where the branch is cut off at its point of attachment, instead of part way along the branch) and these cuts do not encourage new growth. By removing leaves with the limbs, the tree is also getting less energy.

Summer pruning is a technique to train young fruit trees, with thinning cuts to build your ideal tree limb structure. If you want to keep your mature fruit trees at an easy-to-harvest height, summer pruning is essential.


Pest control can be a benefit of summer pruning too. If you prune off fruit with damage from codling moths, mites or aphids, be careful with your orchard sanitation. Dispose of the fruit and branches promptly, and don’t compost them.

Special Cases: Apricots & Cherry Trees

Experts advise pruning apricots and cherries only in the summer. They are susceptible to Eutypa dieback, a branch-killing disease, if pruned during rainy weather. With this in mind, the most cautious gardeners do no dormant pruning on apricot and cherry trees. The University of California authorities in The Home Orchard say, “It is best to prune apricot and cherry trees in the summer (July or August) so that at least 6 weeks of rain-free weather are likely to follow the pruning.”

How Much to Prune

Some stone fruits (peaches and nectarines) grow quite rapidly and should have 50% of their new growth removed after harvest.

Apricots and plums grow more slowly and only need to have 20% of their new growth pruned away.

Experts differ on summer pruning of cherry trees. Mario Moratorio, former Farm Advisor in El Dorado County, suggested summer pruning cherry trees only for the first five years. Chuck Ingels, Sacramento County’s Farm Advisor, recommends pruning 10% off mature cherry trees.

The Must-Have Book

Do you have fruit trees on your property? If so, we hope you have The Home Orchard on your bookshelf. This primer from the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources is as essential as sharp loppers and pruners. With all those tools in hand you can become an expert at summer pruning fruit trees.

  Comments (8)


This is a very interesting article and I’m hoping you can provide further input.  My wife and I just planted 35 fruit trees last winter in Georgia.  We want to keep the trees manageable without ladders by summer pruning, but are concerned about the frequent summer rains and high humidity being a cause of disease.  Can summer pruning be successful in high humidity/high heat areas?
Thank you

Posted by Stephen O'Shea on Aug. 03, 2012 at 2:39:39 PM


Just came home from your composting class at the colonial heights library today, great class.  From that class I have this address and email information.  Im so glad to find something to help me out on my fruit trees, peach, pear, and a new apricot only 1 season old.  I do semi dwarf and dwarf trees due to space.  Im in citrus Heights, so Its nice to find you even closer to me for the next weds Open Garden opportunity.  I also have 2 citrus trees (dwarf) so Im looking forward to gleaning info about them as well!  See you all there! Cathy Miller

Posted by Cathy Miller on Oct. 13, 2012 at 6:07:23 PM

Stephen, Yes, summer pruning is useful in all climates, and it will increase air circulation around the leaves and fruit, which is helpful in a humid climate.

Posted by GrowOrganic.com on Oct. 13, 2012 at 6:35:28 PM

Welcome, Cathy! We have lots of videos and articles on a range of organic gardening topics. Search by topic in the left Resources sidebar, or in the upper left Resources box. We also have a regularly updated list of fruit tree information at Fruit Tree Central http://groworganic.com/organic-gardening/articles/fruit-trees

Posted by GrowOrganic.com on Oct. 13, 2012 at 6:38:53 PM


Hi! My name is Tameka and I live in central fl. I have a peach tree that set two fruit that has since been eaten by a possum right before harvest time. I was wondering if I can prune my peach tree in hopes to stimulate new growth for the following years fruit production. I do have evidence of peach tree leaf curl. It is now June 2013 and I would like to increase fruit production for 2014. Should I just leave the tree as is or prune now or wait until it loses all of it’s leaves in the winter?

Posted by Tameka on May. 30, 2013 at 8:35:34 PM

Tameka, Addressing the peach leaf curl first - remove all the affected leaves and bag them for garbage disposal (do not compost). Spray the remaining leaves with Liquid Kelp to keep them strong.

You may prune your tree now, but summer pruning is usually only done for structural purposes (shape) not fruit production.  You should probably wait until the dormant season to prune and then figure out how to keep the opposum out of your tree next year!

Posted by GrowOrganic.com on Jun. 10, 2013 at 11:30:29 AM


Tameka: Regarding the possum that ate your peaches. I have many fruit trees and between possums, squirrels and birds, it is almost impossible to have fruit left on the trees for eating. My solution has been to keep the fruit trees small by proper pruning (both summer and winter), and then covering all my trees that are fruit laden with bird netting. I’ve found that 25ftx25ft bird netting is the best size, and it is quite easy to cover the tree in a matter of a few minutes (you can order this size netting online very easily). This netting has proven very effective. The only fruit I may lose is on the perimeter if it is right next to the netting, then it can get attacked by a bird or possum (yes, they will chew the fruit thru the netting… but will not cut a hole in the netting typically). Good luck with your fruit trees!

Posted by Anthony on Jun. 24, 2013 at 7:35:07 PM

Anthony, Thanks for your helpful advice! Bird netting can be very effective and we carry it in many sizes, including 28 ft x 28 ft http://www.groworganic.com/bird-netting-28-x-28.html

Posted by GrowOrganic.com on Jun. 26, 2013 at 12:10:48 PM

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