Pruning "new" peach tree

Super novice backyard fruit tree grower here.

I bought a potted peach tree this September, and immediately planted it.

Judging by the number of pruning cuts, this tree looks to be 2 or 3 years old.

But I’m wondering where to prune since it’s the dormant season, or if I even should.

This peach tree seems to me like the branches are too thin for the age of the tree. I’m not sure if I just picked a bad tree, or my novice eye is imagining things.

After reading a bit about pruning, I know i would like to have an open center, but I wonder if it’s too late for that.

The book I was reading(Grow a Little Fruit Tree) said to prune at knee height as soon as it is planted, but it looks as if the nursery already did this the first year around(but there aren’t any strong branches below that cut to show for it).

Have I made the mistake of picking too old a tree?
Or should I just follow the books advice and cut it at knee height?
Or should I just train the tree from here on as a central leader?

Thanks in advance , I know this was long winded…

Since it is old, I would suggest to go with the current branch structure. It does not look like it was cut off at knee high to me, else it would not have a central leader. The branches look fine, they will thicken up no problem. I would grow it still open center. I myself would head it at the white plant tag. That leaves 5 scaffolds. I might cut it down more after a while, but it’s a safe cut, and will help it form a central leader. The heading itself will thicken the branches. The branches have bad crotch angles, so i would weigh down branches to make them more horizontal. Luckily they are still small and should respond well. Be careful bending them, especially this time of year. Keep them tied till next fall, you could do it in the spring, I would make the cuts before it breaks dormancy, not now, many say it doesn’t matter, I myself think it might, so best to do it just before it starts growing. others feel winter is better. Just my opinion, others may approach it differently. So take all advice and do what makes sense to you.
I would cut that small branch near the lowest branches off, although it has a good angle. branches that small can turn into huge scaffolds, these trees are amazing, you’ll see, It could be left, but you don’t want them all at the same height, 3-5 scaffolds is ideal. Staggered scaffolds is best with 6 inches or more between scaffolds on the central leader. Not always possible though. I have a tree with 3 scaffolds all at the same level. It’s doing well.

Thanks so much for the advice Drew.

I’ll wait to prune then until just before dormancy breaks. I believe I read somewhere that pruning before a cold spell can cause issues.

I’ll stay with central leader and prune above the white tag like you said.

Should the heading cut be straight across or angled upward, just above a node?

I believe what Drew was suggesting was going with a open center by pruning out the central leader at the white tag. This will allow the other scaffolding branches to form the open center. I would wait until right before bud break to prune to reduce the chance of bacteria canker. It is worse in more humid areas and infects trees at fresh wounds. In the spring the sap is flowing up and helps prevent infection. Later winter pruning with sap moving down increased the chance of canker. The tree looks good, just a little old to prune at knee level.
Pruning at the white table would be just above the top scaffolding branch. Make sure and tie it down so it will not try to form another center leader.

OK. I initially misread his words. Thanks for the clarification.

I live in an exceptionally humid climate so I’ll take your advice on pruning just before bud break.
I take it you mean just before the tree comes out of dormancy?

Like I said, I’m new to all this, but I’m anxious to learn the correct methods, so I do appreciate the help Gary.

Yes, just before or after it breaks dormancy. I sometimes wait until the tree blooms before I prune. You should not let it fruit the first year. I will sometimes let a tree that size have a couple of fruit if it sets close to the main stem. I know I shouldn’t but at least I will get an idea of how the fruit taste. Just remember, the stem the peach is on will have to support a full size peach. Peaches do not seem to hurt having a couple of fruit on the tree. An apple can runt out and cause problems for the life of the tree.

Awesome, thanks Gary

I have a pruning question. I know it’s hard to say how to prune a tree by looking at a picture but please give it a try. This was a volunteer seedling that popped up in my yard last spring (2017). I grafted to some of the branches this year. Branches 1 and 5 are NOT grafted. Somehow branches 1 and 5 grew better than rest and now about half the size of the trunk. Looking at the tree I feel like I have too many scaffolds and maybe should take out 1 and 5. But then I’m worried the tree won’t be balanced. Any suggestions?

Here is a full tree picture again

Hi Susu,

I would definitely take out scaffolds 1 and 5 if they aren’t grafted. I remove scaffolds like that all the time. You don’t want to keep scaffolds any bigger than 1/2 of the trunk diameter, unless it’s the top scaffold. Even then I don’t like to keep stuff that large when training a tree.

Actually I prefer to keep stuff less than 1/3 the size of the trunk.


Update on my tree: i ended up pruning back the main trunk over the course of a few years. I’m amazed how fast it has grown. Finally produced some peaches this year. I’m also amazed at how badly pests and disease affect peaches. image


your tree looks great, nice open center. Yes the OFM needs to be sprayed to get a good crop.

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I have a new peach tree just planted. It is feathered tree and branches have a good choice for scaffolds. The problem is, it is a little bit higher than it should be. I can probably chop it off, but I do not see any good buds above the desired cut off line that could be future scaffolds, so I will have to start with the whip again, let it grow up, then cut it and wait for side branches. Is it really worth it? The net height is 24’‘, the first small branch is at 2.5’

Update: we moved from this address about 2 years ago but I can report that this peach did successfully survive 1 final growing season in which it was mature enough to completely let us down. The last season we lived at this house, it bore tons of fruit only to leave us in the fall with only the slim pickings the fungus/pests graciously spared us (maybe 5 or so full, untouched fruit). Meanwhile, the neighbor across the street had a peach tree that produced so much usable fruit that she gave us some each year. Of course while I carefully planned and shaped my tree over the years, she unabashedly left hers completely alone. Not that I’m bitter or anything :slight_smile:


You should find out what variety she has. Also, how many years has she had usable peaches?

In my experience growing peach trees, disease and pests have increased each passing year. If your neighbor has had good peaches over 4 years in a row, you should get scionwood from her tree :smile:

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