Image by Kathy Kimpel
By Jackie Carroll
An apricot tree looks better and produces more fruit when it’s properly pruned. The process of building a strong, productive tree begins at planting time and continues throughout its life. Once you learn how to prune an apricot tree, you can approach this annual chore with confidence. Let’s take a look at some apricot pruning tips.
When to Prune Apricot Trees
Prune apricot trees in late winter or early spring as the new leaves and flowers begin to open. During this period of time the tree is actively growing and the pruning cuts heal quickly so that diseases have little chance to enter the wounds. It also corrects problems early, and your cuts will be smaller.
How to Prune an Apricot Tree
Prune the tree for the first time soon after planting it. This will help the tree develop a strong structure. You’ll reap the benefits of both early pruning and subsequent apricot tree trimming for years to come.
Pruning Apricot Trees at Planting Time
Look for a few solid branches that grow out more than up before you start cutting. These branches are said to have a wide crotch, referring to the angle between the main trunk and the branch. Keep these branches in mind because they are the ones you want to save.
When you remove a branch, cut it close to the collar, which is the thickened area between the main trunk and the branch. When you shorten a branch, cut just above a side branch or bud whenever if possible. Here are the steps in pruning a newly planted apricot tree:
- Remove all damaged or broken shoots and limbs.
- Remove all branches with a narrow crotch—those that grow up more than out.
- Remove all branches that are within 18 inches of the ground.
- Shorten the main trunk to a height of 36 inches.
- Remove additional branches as necessary to space them at least 6 inches apart.
- Shorten the remaining lateral branches to 2 to 4 inches in length. Each stub should have at least one bud.
Pruning Apricot Trees in Subsequent Years
Apricot tree trimming during the second year reinforces the structure you began in the first year and allows for some new main branches. Remove wayward branches that are growing at odd angles as well as those growing up or down. Make sure the branches you leave on the tree are several inches apart. Shorten last year’s main branches to about 30 inches.
Now that you have a strong tree with solid structure, pruning in subsequent years is easy. Remove winter damage and old side-shoots that are no longer producing fruit. You should also remove shoots that grow taller than the main trunk. Thin out the canopy so that sunlight reaches the interior and air circulates freely.