I don't understand how to encourage lateral growth

I have a maybe 2-year-old Elberta peach tree. It’s vigorous. I cut it way down to three main scaffolds, and those were cut way down. I’m trying to make the open center. Those things grew 7ft in one Summer.

I cut them down some but not as much. The tree scaffolds are still pretty tall, but I was afraid to cut too, too much.

How do I encourage lateral growth off the scaffolds? They have a few laterals, so I didn’t cut them, but I thought there should be more.

Or, maybe I should cut my scaffolds down again?

It’s hard to over-prune a peach. I always cut the scaffolds to a height I could reach and always cut 1/4 inch or so above outward facing lateral branch or if none, an outward facing bud, to open up the center. Laterals will emerge naturally.


Year 1 just after planting… and year 2 after pruning. Rising star peach.

It is a very vigorous grower too… I have summer Mid July Pruned it too… it just gets wooly with growth… limbs going everywhere.

I try to keep it at a height I want… and remove any growth going straight up or down or back towards the center… or any crossing limbs or damaged.

Year 3 coming up…



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The advice to prune to an outer bud. I do do this, but if possible I prune to a lateral branch.
This is Indian Free. It is going on 9th leaf. It is 6 feet tall. It has 2 nectarines, and 3 pluots grafted to it. Each scaffold or sub-scaffold is a cultivar. For a peach, Indian Free seems easy to graft to. I now have 4 Indian Free seedling rootstocks. I’ll be grafting a lot on them this year. This tree produces like crazy and has ripe fruits all season to well into September, even October as you can let the pluots hang for a very long time.
So keeping it from getting to tall, I prune to a lateral branch at the end of the scaffold. Trees tend to throw branches out at all kinds of angles. One could tie down too.

A couple years ago I took a photo to show it in flower.

It’s important to thin correctly to get large fruit. Indian Free is a medium size peach, but if thinned properly produces big fruit.

I like pluots as most are big, but one must thin correctly to avoid the plant from skipping a year or have few fruits the next year.
Beautiful pluots off this tree.


Oh man that looks good… the tree yes, but wow nice juicy fruit. I need one of those.

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Hi Drew very nicely shaped tree. That 6 " tall Indian free , what root stock did you grafted on? I am planning on squeeze couple of peach trees into my already crowded yard. I think 5 ’ apart and each keep around 5~6 ’ tall for growing mainly for spring flowers. I have a Nectarine that is about 6’ tall on Lovell. But I googled, Lovell is for a full size tr.ee so I am a little confused

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That tree is an inspiration! Amazing work.


I bought the tree on Citation. It does dwarf it, Citation is not recommended for my area. Stone Fruit on Lovell is harder to keep small, but not that much. I kept trees on Lovell, St Julian, Marriana, and Myrobolan and have had no problem keeping them small using Dave Wilson Nurseries Backyard Orchard Culture techniques. Been doing it nine years now and it works. Still I prefer 8 foot spacing because some trees spread out as I try to keep them low. Their is a learning curve, and I learned it. They suggest heading trees, and I would rather not do that. Some respond poorly. Cherry responds great to 36 inch heading cuts. I can keep them at about 8 feet. Cutting to a lateral branch is my idea, and it’s an easy way to keep trees low. Not always possible, so I do it when I can.


As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Good to get a visual of how you manage the plum and nectarine/peach combination on the same tree. I recently posted another thread about the combination because of the different pruning requirements between the two. Looks like your combination is working well together. Great job Drew.


Another question, Drew, how often do you have to root prune , change fresh soil, change the bag for that tree? Grow tree in container to keep itsmall is another alternative, but it requires a lot more care. My Reliance peach died this winter. I am planning on squeezing two peach trees in at each side of its dripping line, about 5’ apart. That is about all the space I have. I could grow two in containers at the same spots as long as I don’t need to move they.

My bad for the photo. The tree is in ground. My dog waters it s lot!

I do have Indian Free peach seedlings in containers going on 3rd leaf. Never pruned yet. I will prune all four in a month or so.

You can see in the first photo how low the scaffolds are. The tree was head cut there. And if they grow back they make it a lot easier to keep tree low. At the time I also did this to another tree and it died. It would not produce new branches. So now I want the smallest tree possible as they will branch only when very young. For peaches/nectarines at least.

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Thank Drew for helping me understand better. Good doggy for the contribution to the tree​:joy: Yes, that size of a tree is what I want. I planning on grafting red baron to make beautiful flowering peach in front yard. My back yard is fully full :grimacing:.
It looks Indian free grow well in your location and you like it. In my yard, it never grow well, diseases, lack of vigorous grow, less than 12 " grow, couple of peaches a year and ripens too late in Nov. … I can try to grow one in container like you do just to see if it improves the performance

Cool, mine too! Now my yard looks like I’m a hoarder, just of plants. It’s a jungle!
Well maybe I can hit you up in the future for scion.

OK, now I want to get on subject and show examples of what I do to encourage lateral growth.

On cherry trees I prefer Gisela rootstock. I would avoid 6, what I have as it is too shallow. Here is white Gold sweet cherry on Giseal 6 going on 8th leaf. I used the KGB sytem of pruning which includes stub cuts. Cherries if you look hard at them will branch. I just wanted to show the structure of a mature KGB pruned cherry kept at about 7.5 feet.

This is a Satsuma plum I think on Myrobolan. I try to keep at 7 feet. 6th or 7th leaf. All my trees have multiple grafts. This has scaffolds of Satsuma, Superior, Toka, Vermont, and a pluot.
Here is an example of how to prune to a lateral branch to keep plants low.
If you cut where the red lines are you can keep this branch growing outward.

Here is the whole tree for perspective

Here is a 4 in 1 pluot on citation 9th leaf, it now has 8 cultivars on it.
A good example of how these lateral branches mature.

The whole tree

OK time for some eye candy.
A giant cherry! Well not really it’s Nadia the plum-cherry interspecific hybrid.

Got Pluots?

Indian Free for all

Not all nectarines are created equal.


Jungle is what my neighbor saidabout my yard. You are welcome. Still have some peach scions left. let me know if you want some

All my trees have multiple grafts. This has scaffolds of Satsuma, Superior, Toka, Vermont, and a pluot. Drew , It sounds so much like my trees too :joy:


I wanted to add that growing branches low in an area with heavy squirrel pressure could be a bad idea. Also pruning to low angle branches puts pressure on the branch if left to have a heavy fruit load. You could lose a scaffold on these if not thinned hard. After a few years the scaffolds thicken up and can take more weight. I like to prune to lateral branches on branches with an excellent crotch angle to help with the additional weight pressure of a fruit load.

@IL847 Thanks! I’m good this year on peach scion, I have enough but if I have a bad year, I will need more.

Sounds like you need more aggressive summer pruning. If it’s not 45 degree lateral, then it a water/vertical shoot. It will suck all the vigor away from the horizontal-ish growth.

When you see 6 inch vertical growth, rip them off quick. If not, they will dominate the top of your tree with 4-6 ft tall shoots. Don’t head them back, they will just try again!

I made the mistake of thinking I could only spring prune. I was able to tie down a few of the vertical shoots, but it is painful.

If you let the vertical shoots take over for two seasons, it can be almost impossible to turn the tree around