Water Shoots and Pruning

Do you all remove the branches that grow straight up from horizontal branches on your fruit trees?


Not all, but most!
It’s true that a vertical shoot will not produce fruit, so take that as your pruning clue! Remove water sprouts that are not needed to fill in an empty space in the canopy. If you do keep one, bend it to fill in an empty space and tie it into the location in a near horizontal orientation.
It will then be productive in coming years. Otherwise prune them off as they can only use up nutrients and energy that could be consumed by your productive growth.
Kent, wa


What Dennis said, plus they’re good for scion wood and for practicing grafting -cut one up and put it back together with grafts.


Initially probably not depending on species. But eventually upright shoots produce fruit. A new tree is usually an upright shoot. It’s just that fruit may be higher than desired.

A horizontal shoot is a recipe for lots more upright shoots. Usually an angle above horizontal will prompt fruiting with less tendency to throw more upright shoots. Something below 45 degrees.

Dennis, don’t get me wrong, I love your advice. You are always helpful and usually spot on. You’re not wrong here. Just my take.


Water shoots are a specific kind of vertical growth. They have long internode spacing and on some species the immature leaves have a slightly different shape. On Citrus the stems have a flattened look to them.

On Prunus and Pomes, we train the trees for scaffolds as structure for vertical growth. In the western U.S., plums perform well with verticals all along a scaffold at moderate intervals – provided the scaffolds are not vertically aligned. Peaches a better with an open vase approach. Apples are generally slower growing and most growth on scaffolds should be reserved for fruit spurs. Pears excel at vertical growth but the annual weight of fruit will cause a lowering of some branches.


That’s interesting. I have a young Moro blood orange tree that has a huge side branch that has a twisted triangular look to it and much bigger leaves than the tree it’s attached to, and it is above the graft. Does that sound like a water shoot?


Yes. For Home Citrus: If it is misplaced in the overall scope of the plant, I’d remove it cleanly from wherever it sprouted. If not, then it can be headed back (cut) at a point 2/3 the height of the other leading verticals on the plant. If it has (or puts out) aggressive side branches then these should be headed back about 2/3 their own length. After lignification and a few years it should calm down.