Apricot trees should be pruned in March or early April, when the tree is active, in full leaf and with buds starting to flower. At this stage, wounds heal more quickly and the trees are less liable to be infected by the fungus causing die-back. Never prune an apricot in the autumn or winter months. Here are our tips on how to prune free-standing apricot trees:
- After planting in winter, the first pruning determines the basic apricot tree architecture. Remove any damaged or broken branches. Cut back the main trunk to 36 inches/90cm.
- Select 4 or 5 branches growing outwards from the trunk. These will form the basic structure of your tree.
- Remove the other branches by cutting close to the collar, and in particular, remove branches lower than 18 inches/45 cm from the ground, and branches that grow upwards close to vertical.
- As soon as branches are cut back or removed, seal all wounds with an anti-fungal paint.
- Prune the branches that you have chosen for the main structure, shortening to about 4 inches/10 cm, cutting with a slanted cut just above an outward-facing side branch or bud if possible. Ensure that there is at least one bud on the stub that you leave.
- After the second winter, prune in March or early April. Consolidate the overall structure by removing new branches that are growing upwards, downwards or inwards. Prune the main laterals back to about 30 inches/75 cm. You can add a few more branches to the main structure.
- In subsequent years, prune every March/April, with the objective of opening up the canopy so that light can reach all parts of the tree. An apricot fruits on 1-year-old wood, and so every year, removing some of the older wood stimulates the growth of new wood for next year’s crop.
- Remove all dead, damaged or diseased wood
- Cut back older side shoots that have no fruit bud on them.
- Remove branches growing upwards in competition with the main leader.
- Remove the weaker of any crossing branches.
- Apricots tend to produce a lot of fast-growing new shoots during the growing season. These can be trimmed back to their parent branch in the growing season to stop them shading the fruit.
How to prune an espalier apricot tree
- Great care has to be taken when pruning espalier apricot trees. They can easily become a victim of a fungus that causes die-back. Therefore, only prune espalier apricot trees when they are in full leaf. Never prune the apricot in autumn or winter months.
- Fruit thinning is more important than summer pruning.
- The apricot produces fruit on 1-year-old wood, so ensure that this wood is well spaced.
- Shorten long shoots back to about 25-35 cm.
- Remove any side shoots growing from the vertical stem.