Pruning Stonefruit in Winter - Why Not This Way

The common refrain is not to prune stonefruit in winter because the cuts don’t heal quickly allowing for disease entry points.

What if immediately after cutting we were to dab a bit of any one of the pruning wound sealants which would close off the disease entry point.


Well the sealants can promote disease, why they don’t suggest using them on wounds. I myself use copper after pruning. The cherry is the only one I worry about myself. I will prune them in winter, late winter. As many suggest to do.

I live in the middle of a cherry cultivation area. Here the advice only to prune in the spring and in the fall explicitly never in winter period, this with the danger of disease infection.

Wound sealants have been pretty well debunked as useful for years with a few exceptions- mostly not applicable to fruit trees. They are based on a general misunderstanding about how trees react to infections- which is to wall them off and not to attack the infection directly. Sealants can help fungus by keeping the area more moist.

Two issues are involved with timing of peach tree pruning. The first is their relative fragility to cold and the nature of pruning causing more susceptibility to cold injury. The second is canker, which is less destructive the sooner the wound closes after pruning, whence the frequent humid region recommendation of pruning after trees have begun growth in spring.

I don’t believe cold becomes an issue until temps reach or get close to 0 F.

I got away with dormant pruning in late winter of peaches for decades but suddenly I’m beginning to see canker at some sites I manage and even in my own orchard and nursery. By the time peach trees are in bloom and growing I’m very busy doing things besides pruning so this is complicating things.

Why does everything in life (and the orchard) seem to become more complicated every year.


Perhaps, because the current modern fruit varieties of nowadays are more sensitive to the myriad infections of now?

I think it’s more about the fact that pests from all over the world are becoming increasingly mobile. Also, in individual orchards in areas where there isn’t much commercial production it takes time for some pests to show up.

Some modern varieties have more susceptibility than some older ones but it seems highly variable to me.

At any rate, it amazes me how many new pests have arrived here in the last decade and in my own orchard, pests already existing nearby have found my trees years after they first came into productivity.

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When I say late winter, it is the same as early spring. Cherries seem susceptible more than other stone fruits. Our advice here is summer is the best time to prune cherries. Never after August 1st. Fall pruning stimulates growth, here no stone fruits are pruned in the fall. At least not before dormancy.

With cherries I believe it is about bacterial canker- where that’s the issue summer pruning is often advocated.

Previously I had the two types of common canker confused as the same disease-peach canker is fungal and cherry usually bacterial, I think.

I don’t manage a whole lot of cherries and have gotten away with pruning them while dormant here in the northeast for years- and very aggressive pruning.

Thanx all for the info.

As I read the responses I realized that I had heard all of this at one time or another but in different contexts.

My “Teflon brain” episode was triggered by some Youtube vids that showed/advised winter pruning on peaches and cherries. One cherry pruning done with full snow cover. Some from Univ extensions and commercial operations.

Was wondering if winter pruning is location sensitive/determined.


Is there a distinction between the pruning recommendations for sour cherries and sweet cherries? It seems like sour cherries are a lot hardier than sweet cherries.

Yes, in general. I think both can get both, but you’re correct as to what to assume.

It’s hard not to for me as I have G5 rootstock and one needs to head branches as the flower buds tend to be too close at the tips. Often forming late in the season. Also with g5 you can stub prune to restart a scaffold, as after awhile they become unproductive.

It might be? Here in Michigan in the dead of winter a fungus (I forgot the name?) can attack pruned branches, so deep winter pruning is not good here.

Here in Michigan, yes, but I don’t remember the suggestions for tart cherries? I only have Carmine Jewel Bush cherry, and it does not require any pruning.

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Last year I pruned my plums and peach in mid Feb, and then we got the coldest snap of the season right after, two successive nights of -teens and -25F. I am happy to say that none showed any sign of cold injury, except for my peach not blooming, but I’m sure that would have been the case regardless. Some of the cuts I made were fairly bold ones as well on my 5-8yr old trees that needed topping back.

Last late winter I also pruned some peaches before a very cold snap- about to 0 F. here and out of 20 peach trees 3 died. Was it because of the pruning? I can’t be sure. I lost a few peaches at other sites where I didn’t make this mistake but the ratio was much higher here than the average.

I don’t prune peaches, until I see bud swell, but I don’t have
zero degrees either.