Fruit trees: You can prune fruit trees now, as long as the buds remain dormant and temperatures do not rise to 50°F.
When pruning fruit trees (and other woody plants), be careful not to remove more than approximately 25% of the old growth. Keep in mind that the spurs that bear the flowers and fruit are already on the tree and pruning removes them. Prune for good light penetration and structural strength to support the weight of the fruit. Sixty-degree crotch angles between the branch and trunk are the strongest and most successful in terms of fruit production. In pruning for strength, remember that V-shaped crotch angles are not as strong and don’t produce as much fruit.
Remove crossing and rubbing branches, dead branches, diseased branches, suckers that come up around the base of the tree and water sprouts (the vertical fast-growing twigs that usually appear in the middle of the branches).
People are also reading…
UW-Madison Department of Extension recommends disinfecting pruning shears with 70% rubbing alcohol at a minimum, between different trees. Disinfect shears between cuts when pruning diseased branches.
Check for signs of fire blight, a fatal bacterial disease that causes sunken, discolored cankers on branches before you start pruning. A factsheet on fire blight is available at https://pddc.wisc.edu/ under the “Factsheets” tab.
For more detailed information on pruning apple trees, see the Learning Store publication A1959 “Training and Pruning Apple Trees” at https://learningstore.extension.wisc.edu/. There are also publications at the Learning Store site on caring for pear, cherry, plum and other fruit trees.
— Lisa Johnson, Dane County UW-Extension horticulture educator