Wanting to prune brand new peach, apple, and pear trees to encourage dwarf growth habit

We just planted our first new fruit trees last week, and more are on the way. I want to keep the trees around 10-12 feet if possible, by pruning, and so want to give them their initial pruning with this in mind. I am very new to this! I know I want the peach trees to have a pretty open vase-like shape, but I’m not sure if this will work also for apples and pears? Spacing between trees is 15 feet and rows, 20 feet.

If specifics helps, we are going to have Pristine on M-111, Dolgo crabapple on M-111 (supposed to not be a vigorous grower), GoldRush on M-111, Honeycrisp on G-935, Pomme Gris on G-16, Seckel & Magness Pears on Quince (provence), amd Harrow Sweet Pear on Ohxf87. Also we have three peach trees, Sentry, Redhaven, Golden Jubilee on unknown rootstocks (1 from Lowes and 2 from Stark Bros) and 1 sour cherry, Supermont (supposed to be a natural dwarf).

I did not choose mostly dwarf apples because we have fairly sandy and fast-draining soil (LOTS of rocks) and I wanted trees that would establish good drought resistant root systems even if that means more pruning work. I did throw in the two dwarf apples to try out the Geneva rootstocks.

I certainly would appreciate any advice! I am currently thinking I should cut the apples to 3-4 feet, but I am not sure about the pears.

Here are pics of the trees we have in the ground at the moment. The two pear trees are a little over 6 feet tall (got them from Vintage Virginia Apples!).

Pear #1 (both are on Quince, can’t tell from my pics which is which)

Pear #2

Pristine Apple

Dolgo Crabapple

R.S. Martin’s “How To Prune Fruit Trees” is an invaluable source of information. Be sure to read the section ‘Training Of Young Trees’ which can be generalized to trees of any age. For modern gardens I recommend additional pruning of deciduous trees to a height of 8 feet after harvest, and to a height of 8 feet in the winter – except figs. In coastal influenced areas of southern CA (and the entirety of Japan) all figs should be pruned to roughly waist high each January. Elsewhere, follow Martin’s guide for white bark vs. brown bark fig pruning.

I’d cut the top half off those trees. They are tall and skinny with plenty of branches and buds down low. From there chose the best scaffolds and spread those as needed down the road. For right now just cut them back.


All you have basically are tall sticks. I’d cut them all down to about
30 inches and let them develop laterals from that point. Then you can
train them as you want.

And more directly, you can train almost any tree to almost any shape with patience, perseverance, and pruning. You can absolutely train them all into the same shape for aesthetic reasons and get reasonably good performance. Traditional shapes between different trees have something to do with growth habits and the need for old vs new wood on stone fruit, but a small open vase tree is easier to maintain as a home owner who doesn’t care about maximum production but does need it to look nice enough to fit in a yard. Reading is the very best thing you can do right now, and cutting the trees in half to put the first laterals lower down is good practice for trusting the pruning advice you get from the experts later, as nothing is more painful then letting a tree grow slowly because you refuse to prune, and to have to be convinced that if you HAD pruned it would have grown faster, and now you need to cut off a lot of the growth you waited so long for.


Thank you all. I was reluctant to cut the pears back, as I’ve mostly been studying up on the peaches and apples. My main goal is to have healthy trees that are accessible for spraying, bagging, picking, etc. as we do not need the maximum amount of fruit from each tree (we have 7 acres so we are not cramming them in).

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All the above advice sounds good to me. If you have issues with deer another alternative would be higher scaffolds.

Thought I’d post a follow up of how the trees did with being cut back last spring for anyone interested. I haven’t pruned them for this year in these photos.

One of the peaches–

One of the pears –

This one has me a little stumped though. It is Honeycrisp apple on G935 rootstock. The branches are almost perfectly 90 degrees which I know would mean maximum precosity/bearing but I’m worried they might get bent DOWN beyond that angle over time and be ruined. My husband wondered if we could prop them up slightly, the reverse of using weights/spreaders to bend branches down, and whether that would work. Am I worrying over nothing?

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Funny, I have the opposite problem with my honey crisp, they all want to “reach for the sky”. I’m constantly training them downward

Thought I’d share a picture of one of the peach trees after this year’s pruning. I might have been too rough on it but I am aiming for a dwarfed and open tree. It was twice this tall and bushy, at least, before pruning.