Winter pruning peaches in cold climates

I need to finish all my pruning assignments ASAP but we are about to go into single digit cold for a couple of nights.

One year I seemed to have killed a few very young peach trees when I pruned them right before lows of similar depth.

I’m a bit gun-shy (pruner-shy) now, but my hunch is that older trees are probably less likely to be damaged. I’m curious about the experiences of other growers here.

I have found absolutely no correlation between early pruning and early flowering, BTW and I tested it pretty carefully in my nursery last year with about 100 trees- half pruned early and half after they broke dormancy.

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I’ve definitely killed young peach trees by pruning. But the pruning was pretty heavy, which is typically what happens when I prune peaches.

Interesting outcome on the pruning/flowering experiment.

I always assumed that the right time to prune was when the temps look like they are going to be in the low 30’s and above. Looking at the 15 day weather forecast it looks like this Friday would be the start of the time I should start pruning. I know we can still get temps less than 30 in late March/April in the VA Piedmont but this is a risk that I will take. Does this align to when you prune @alan and @Olpea? Thanks - Spud

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The safest is to prune after fruit set (if you have time). That said I normally go through pruning the trees once in the fall, then come back after fruit set to do follow up pruning. This year I didn’t do any fall pruning, so it will all have to be done after fruit set.


Hi Olpea! Is this rule of your thumb good for my zone 7a too? Thanks!

Hi Mrs. G! That’s a really good point. I’m not sure it would apply in RI. Pruning peaches is known to reduce cold hardiness, but I’m thinking zone 7 wouldn’t get that cold over the winter to be any threat to peaches. So I wouldn’t have any reservations at all pruning peaches in the fall, or possibly even during the winter. It should give you lots of freedom of when you want to prune.

I only prune my peaches in the fall because of labor, otherwise I wouldn’t. But I would think zone 7 wouldn’t give you any problems.

RI was supposed to get buried in snow wasn’t it? Did you have to dig out?

Thanks for the answer Olpea! We only received two inches of white stuff since we are so close to the sea. Yayyyyyyy!

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Is it true I shouldn’t prune when it is going to rain the next day? Does the rain cause more of a rot or something?

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Rain does cause rot on blooms and fruit close to ripening. But pruning wouldn’t have an affect on that.

Sometimes the recommendations aren’t to prune some stone fruit in wet humid weather because of increased canker risk. That’s been pretty minimal where I live. I prune in wet weather all the time. One nice thing about pruning after fruit set is that the tree has a full season to heal wounds before winter, when canker grows.

If I had sweet cherries I might not prune them in the rain. Likewise if I had some apple or pear varieties which were highly susc. to fireblight.


I’m with Olpea, I prune in the rain all the time because I have no diseases that particularly exploit the combination. It probably takes several days for trees to wall wounds, so in the humid region avoiding post-pruning rain is difficult.

If I’m working an orchard with a history of FB I may allow that to influence timing, just as Olpea mentioned, mostly with pears in regards to summer pruning. FB is not active in very cool weather.

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Thanks guys. I don’t know if I read that somewhere or made it up. Like Alan said, it is hard to prune in the spring when avoiding rain because there was always rain in the forecast. Hopefully I get some pruning done this weekend.

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