Everything You Need to Know About Pruning Apricot Trees: Timing and Techniques

GardenBy Jun 28, 2024

Timing and Techniques for Pruning Apricot Trees

Apricot trees, scientifically known as Prunus armeniaca, are unique among fruit trees in that they don’t require much pruning to produce fruit. However, strategic pruning can help improve the overall health and productivity of apricot trees. In this article, we will explore the best timing and techniques for pruning apricot trees.

When to Prune Apricot Trees

Pruning apricot trees is best done towards the end of winter, just before the onset of spring. This typically falls in late February, once the winter frost has subsided. Pruning too early can risk damaging the emerging buds and flowers with late frost.
During this time, you will be able to see the buds starting to form. It is important to distinguish between the wood buds, which are pointed and firm, and the flower buds, which are rounder and softer. By waiting until late February, you can make informed decisions on which branches to prune, ensuring the best fruit production.
In addition to winter pruning, some apricot trees may benefit from a secondary pruning in the summer. This technique, known as “green pruning,” helps control the size of the tree and encourages the development of larger, high-quality fruit.

How to Prune Apricot Trees

When pruning an apricot tree, it is essential to use sharp pruning shears or secateurs. Avoid using tools that are too large, as apricot trees are sensitive to severe pruning. Make sure to clean and disinfect your pruning tools to prevent the spread of diseases.
If your apricot tree is young, there is no immediate need for pruning. It will naturally develop with branches that curve, creating a beautiful shape. You can gently guide these branches to facilitate their growth.
For winter pruning, remove any dead or dried-out branches, as well as those growing inward towards the center of the tree. Trim the ends of long, drooping branches to prevent them from bending under the weight of the fruit. Make the cuts just above a wood bud, positioned above several flower buds.
Apricot trees bear most of their fruit on short, flower-bud-only branches known as “bouquets of May.” Avoid pruning these branches unless they are excessively long, in which case you can trim them back.
Remove any overly vigorous lateral branches, also known as “suckers,” as they tend to produce only wood buds and hinder fruit production. Pruning also helps renew the fruit-bearing wood every 3 to 4 years by cutting back the main branches.
If you have a trained or espaliered apricot tree, the pruning technique will be similar. For wood buds only, trim the branches just above the buds. For wood and flower buds, keep 4 or 5 buds, and for flower buds only, leave a maximum of 6. Remove any suckers or shoots at the base of the tree.

Pruning for Tree Health and Disease Control

Pruning is also essential for maintaining the overall health of apricot trees. If your tree shows signs of decline, such as drying out, it may be due to unfavorable growing conditions or climate. However, pruning alone won’t solve the underlying issue.
It is crucial to address the root cause of the tree’s decline rather than relying solely on pruning. If necessary, prune to eliminate overcrowded branches, but remember that simply cutting off branches will not solve the underlying problem.
Apricot trees are prone to various diseases, including bacterial infections that cause cankers on the trunk or main branches. If your tree has cankers or shows signs of disease, it is best to remove the affected parts. This will promote healthy new growth and prevent the spread of disease.
However, be cautious when pruning large branches, as it can create favorable conditions for gummosis—a condition where the tree exudes a sticky gum-like substance. Gummosis weakens the tree, making it more susceptible to wood-boring pests such as beetles and borers.
In conclusion, timing and technique are crucial when pruning apricot trees. Late winter is the ideal time for winter pruning, while summer pruning can further enhance fruit quality. Always use sharp pruning tools, and prune with purpose to improve the growth, health, and productivity of your apricot tree.

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I'm Jennifer. My hands are often covered in soil, and my heart is full of passion for nature. Through my writings, I share my personal gardening journeys, tips, and the joy of cultivating both plants and a community of fellow garden lovers. Every plant I grow adds a story to my life, and I love sharing those tales with my readers.