Peach Tree Initial Pruning

I lost two years after planting because one of these peaches was exceptionally productive with delicious fruits, but last year I had to put stakes around because peaches were bending main trunk to the ground.

This year my family it out for many months (due to travel restrictions and COVID here they cannot return)

So I did what I always wanted… and now I am unsure if I killed it… drastic cut at the knee level, 20" from ground. Did I kill it?

If I’m understanding it correctly, you planted these trees 3 years ago?

From my understanding the older the peach tree wood, the less likely it will be to have dormant buds. I guess for now the only thing is to wait and see if they grow back, but they might be goners.


Just grab a piece that you cut off and bark graft it


planted less than 2 years ago

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Tree could be 5 years old, I bought it potted, 5’ tall, with fruits, in Summer 2018

Thanks for the information update. I can’t tell you exactly what the tree will do now that it is pruned. I could send out new shoots, or it could just die. If it does die, the rootstock might send out some shoots that you could graft. Or you can take the advice of Migz above and graft it using some wood that you pruned off.


May I asked why you took such a drastic measure?

The tree may be about 4 years old. Like someone said above, sometimes, new shoot may sprout, sometimes they may not. It’s easier to chop it off like that for a younger peach tree.

Grafting peaches on older wood like that is more difficult to get it to take. I only have success with peach grafting on 1-2 years old wood.

You may end up needing to plant another peach tree. If you do, please clear off weed at the base of the tree to 4-5 ft circle. Peach trees do not like to compete for nutrient with weeds/grass.


I saw some videos showing that one needs to cut at 18" level from the ground, at knee level, and then 1st year in Summer to do more pruning to build nice scaffold branches, vase shape like. And in this videos “sticks” were about 1" diameter. I had branching structure at 3’-4 and it was not looking good at all… but best tree has some fungi under bark, black holes in the bark, so maybe it is good idea to replace it anyway.

Ok, am going to order few more peaches, and plant is “three trees in a hole” and cut it down at the time of planting; but I’ll wait for a month before replacing existing trees. Grafting would be waste of time for me… I can move rootstocks to a pot and keep it for future grafts.

Thank you All

To cut a fruit tree at knee height is recommended for a young tree when you first oder it bare root.

I am not a big fan of a three in one planting outside of CA for several reasons.

Usually a peach tree grows fast. Trying to prune three vigorously growing peach trees planted next to each other would be a challenge in addition to wasting so much good wood and money.

You can just plant one peach tree and learn how to prune it. If needed, you can plant a second tree later or graft new varieties to you existing tree.


Very interesting. Is that a peach-specific rule of thumb or does that hold for apples and plums too?

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Peaches. Could be other stone fruit like nectarine. I did see cherries be grafted on stumps successfully. I think even @olpea find it difficult to graft on old peach wood.

Pome fruit like apples and pears are harder to kill this way. However, leaving a nurse branch on apples and pears are often suggested.


Purchased an “ultra-dwarf”:laughing: Babcock peach from Home Depot (Pacific Growers) a couple of months back. After planting I noticed a very large crack down one side that either I hadn’t noticed at planting or happened afterwards. Anyhow I pruned down to the end of the crack (3-4” from the graft union), stuck it roughly into some poor soil, and forgot about it, assuming that it was a goner. But hey, the little dude is pushing out shoots and might just survive​:man_shrugging:t2:. It’s probably younger than yours and I’m not 100% certain of the rootstock (Pumiselect?).
I agree that pruning down to knee height or so is usually done at the initial planting, but I wouldn’t necessarily despair. And the best learning, IMHO, comes from mistakes. But I’m in CA so I can just stick anything in the ground and watch the magic occur​:thinking::grin:

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Hi @TangTang thank you for posting it, so there is hope! I’ll insert some cuttings into my soil many times I noticed my almost-pure sand is indeed very fertile and cuttings may grow.

Your “wood” looks a little younger than mine. My 1st beheaded is about 0.9" diameter trunk, and second one 1.1"; and I found interesting discussion here too,

I also saw that leaving nursery branches needed to keep roots alive (photosynthesis); but I have rootstock pushing sprouts now, and maybe some are coming from scion too, so I’ll leave it (instead of “nursing branch”)

Maybe I can put plastic bag on a trunk and seal it, maybe high humidity and warmth inside will help? Both trees are practically in a shade, North from house.

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Hi @Bambarbia,

I’m very, very new to growing fruit trees, so the other members should have a lot more cogent information about encouraging your tree to either branch out or else using it for grafting. I have little experience.
I can say that with my tree that I transferred it from in-ground to a large container (Ultra-dwarfs are marketed as “patio trees”) and placed the container in the sunniest and warmest part of my yard next to a south facing wall. This was more coincidental if anything becuase I figured the tree was a goner.

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Sorry to hear about your family and hope everyone is doing as well as possible.

If you got growth pushing i would not bag it, i assume that would encourage mold, i would maybe errect a shade cloth or covering if it is getting cooked by the sun or wind dessicated but what i would do is redo the cuts and put a 45 degree angle so that water flows off the trunk.

@TangTang That is the opposite of what i would do i would try to put it somewhere out of direct sun and wind until it resprouts from the scion and then i would put it back in a sunnier open spot.

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I would say to take @RichardRoundTree advice on this, as I have little experience and knowledge on the subject.
I’ll have to be more circumspect with my replies as my intent was not to give advice but merely to relate my own, somewhat similar, experience.
In my case I wasn’t trying to save the tree, per se. I had chalked it up as a loss but rather than tossing it I threw it in a pot and just made sure to cover the roots with random dirt from the garden. I didn’t place it intentionally in the sunniest spot, that was just coincidence. Didn’t even occur to me that I could salvage it for use in grafting (no experience with grafting of any kind).
Dumb luck I suppose, but I’ll take the results.

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There lies your clue and the likely dashing of your hopes- that looks like last years wood. Peaches do differ from variety to variety on their ability to generate new shoots from old wood which is a problem primarily in keeping them productive without having the centers of the trees becoming barren of fruit bearing shoots and the wasted space this involves. Whence the 10-15 year average productivity of peach trees in commercial orchards. I’ve taken a chance and done what you did with 3 year old trees whose variety I hated, but only a couple of times- and the trees died. I don’t know what happens when you do that to a Red Haven or other variety more conducive to generating new shoots from old wood.

Peaches are junk pioneer type trees that grow like weeds in good conditions and runt out in bad so your hope is probably in planting new trees and providing the right conditions. Peaches hate drought but require plenty of oxygen in the soil. They aren’t really good competitors against weeds grass or forest trees, especially during early establishment.


I’ve tried bark grafting old peach wood with very poor results. I would think cleft grafting that stump would yield a low probability of success.

As Alan mentioned, older peach wood doesn’t generate what is called adventitious shoots well. In other words, on some types of trees, if sunlight hits old wood, the wood will start to grow new shoots. For example, if you top an oak tree, lots of new shoot will sprout where it was topped. Likewise, if you cut a hedge tree down, lots of new suckers will come up from the stump.

Peaches tend not to do this. If you don’t see any live buds, peaches tend not to want to throw out new wood from smooth bark, once they get past about 2 years old. Older trees are even worse. I cut down peach trees all the time and rarely see suckers come up from the stump (even from a variety like Redhaven, which puts out lots of renewal wood). Maybe one in ten peach trees I cut down will send up a sucker from the stump. Eastern red cedar trees are the same way.

As Mamuang mentions, it’s a good idea to keep a large sod free area from around the base of a peach tree.


The peach trees look like still young. There might be some new shoots coming out.
Best wishes to your tree.

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In looking at some of our trees destroyed by heavy snow…here is an example of why you should stay away from having “v-shaped” scaffold branches directly across from each other…

This tree looks like it had mild canker or the beginning of rot due to the “v” collecting moisture. It probably would have held up provided we thinned enough fruit…it could not hold up with the heavy snow though.