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How and Why to Prune an Apricot Tree

Pruning is the removal and trimming of branches in a tree or shrub, and it is especially important in caring for apricot trees. Pruning an apricot tree does not usually take much time, but learning the art of making the right cut is vital for maximizing fruit production and keeping your trees in prime health and good appearance.

Why You Need to Prune Your Apricot Trees

Pruning apricot trees is important for:

  • Generating new fruitwood and increasing fruit production.
  • Controlling the size and shape of the tree for strength, ease of picking, and appearance.
  • Allowing sunlight to reach inner leaves.
  • Removing crossing, dead, and damaged limbs.

Without pruning, an apricot tree produces less and lower-quality fruit. Branches become weak and unable to support the load of fruit they are carrying, causing them to break. In addition, an unpruned fruit tree does not look attractive or vibrant.

Basic Principles of Pruning an Apricot Tree

When first planting an apricot tree, prune to train the branches, so the tree grows into the desired shape. Do this by looking for strong branches growing slightly outward from the main trunk, and leave these branches while pruning out others which are growing in a more upward direction.

Pruning cuts are of two types, and each has the opposite effect of the other, so it is vital to understand the difference.

  • Thinning cuts are made at a juncture of two branches, removing one branch. These types of cuts do not cause the tree to produce more growth.
  • Heading cuts can be made anywhere along a branch just above a bud. These cuts cause the tree to direct energy to the area behind the cut, creating new and vigorous growth.

Thinning cuts are used to open-up the interior of the tree, allowing more light to enter, or, to remove branches which are crossing or growing in an undesired direction.

Heading cuts induce fruiting spurs and also invigorate the tree, causing the remaining branch to thicken, which is useful for strengthening the remaining wood, so it can support more fruit.

How to Prune an Apricot Tree

Start by cutting away any water sprouts, which are shoots coming up from the base of the tree from the root stock. Next, trim out any damaged, dead, or crossing branches by cutting them where they join the trunk or another branch. Finally, make additional trimming and heading cuts as needed.

When making a pruning cut on a branch, look closely at the area where the branch attaches. You will see a thicker ring called a collar, and it is important to make your cut just above this area, leaving the collar intact, because the collar helps the tree heal from the cut.

You can prune your apricot trees when they are dormant in winter through the time they begin to bloom. The optimum months for pruning are December through February.

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