Pruning A Peach Tree: How to Prune Your Peach Tree Properly

Pruning a peach tree is an important step in keeping it healthy.

We love peach season and all things peaches at our house. Because of our fondness for this luscious fruit, we want to make sure we take good care of of peach trees. That care includes pruning.

ripe peaches and green leaves on peach tree ready for pruning
For a bounty of luscious fruit, be sure to prune your peach trees.
Photo Credit: Alabama Extension Agency

In another post I give general tips and steps for pruning trees. However, pruning a peach tree is a little different. Here I provide all the tips you need to increase production and overall health of your peach trees. These tips will help bring you a bounty of sweet, juicy peaches.

We are surrounded by peach orchards here in Alabama. Although California, South Carolina, Georgia, and New Jersey are the top four states in peach production, Alabama is right behind them.

Benefits From Pruning A Peach Tree

Maintaining and pruning peach trees are essential in keeping healthy and productive trees. The effort you invest up front will pay off with an abundance of quality fruit at harvest time. After all, that’s your goal, right? 

Benefits of pruning a peach tree are:

  • Reduction in disease.
  • Increased fruit production.
  • Increased fruit quality.
  • Efficient harvest.

There are many more benefits to pruning trees. You can read about them here.

Where Is The Best Place To Plant A Peach Tree?

Before we get to pruning, I’ll cover the best place to plant peach trees.

Peach trees can be grown in USDA Zones 4-9. However, they do best in zones 6-8. They prefer a soil pH level of 6.5 to 7.0. If you don’t know your soil’s pH, you can get a soil test online or from your local extension agency. After you receive your test, you can determine if you need to amend your soil or not before planting your peach trees. 

There are two different types of peaches: clingstone and freestone. Much like the names suggest, clingstone fruit clings to the pit, while with freestone, the pit moves around freely. The freestone pit makes the peach easy to eat.

fresh peaches, one cut in half to reveal pit

Peach trees can grow as high as 25 ft tall and just as wide if left to grow wild. Proper pruning of a peach tree should keep it about 12-15 ft. They do have dwarf varieties that grow around 6 ft tall and wide, if space is an issue. 

When planting multiple trees, you’ll want to plant full size peach trees 15-20 ft apart and dwarf peach trees 10-12 ft apart. Keep in mind any nearby buildings or power lines to ensure ease of access for pruning as your trees grow.  

Can You Shape A Peach Tree?

When pruning other fruit trees, you usually would accentuate a central trunk. However, when pruning a peach tree, you will want to prune it into an “V” shape. It’s similar to a vase with a center opening. The ideal is to have 3-5 main branches that are well spaced apart to form the vase. 

This “V” shape of your peach tree will offer plenty of room for fruit production, circulation, and harvesting. 

When Is The Best Month For Pruning?

Unlike pruning other trees in the winter, it’s not advisable to prune peach trees when it’s too cold. Pruning them in the winter promotes die back and will cause them to be less cold tolerant. 

So when should you prune? The best time to prune a peach tree is just as the buds begin to turn pink at the beginning of spring. Pruning in early spring also better deters pest infestation vs. pruning in summer. 

Pruning your peach trees is a task you should add to your spring chores each year. Proper yearly pruning will keep your trees in optium health and production. 

How Far Can You Cut Back a Peach Tree?

In order to prune properly, you need to make all cuts clean and smooth. This will encourage healing of the wounds (pruning cuts). In order to make clean, smooth cuts, use good sharp pruning tools.

Limb stubs will promote die back or rot, so cut as close as you can. In addition to cutting close, avoid tearing the bark or letting limbs drop that aren’t cut all the way through.

Baby peach trees are called whips. You will want to trim whips to 26-28″ at the time of planting. After your branches grow to about 5-6 ft, decide which branch you want to be the leader branch. The leader is the vertical stem at the top of the trunk. The other branches will be the lateral (scaffold) branches. 

How Do You Prune an Overgrown Tree?

If a peach tree gets overgrown, you can still trim it back to health. Here are the steps.

1. Cut off dead or diseased branches.

If your peach tree has any dead or diseased branches, cut them off immediately. This will prevent the spread of diseases and pests.

2. Trim back the top growth.

Cut back the top growth by one third. You should also remove any damaged leaves.

3. Cut off any non-producing branches.

Remove any branches that are not producing fruit. If you see a branch with no fruit, cut it off so the tree can focus on fruit development.

How Long Does It Take For a Peach Tree to Bear Fruit?

From seed to fruit, it generally takes 2-4 years for a peach tree to produce peaches. Maximum fruit production will happen in about year 6, and will continue for 12+ years. 

Thankfully, peach trees are self-pollinating, which means you only need one tree in order to have fruit. Undoubtedly, you’ll want more than one peach tree, though, because peaches are amazing! 

Thinning A Peach Tree

One of the most important pruning tasks with a peach tree is thinning the fruit. This is the one thing that will help your trees produce bigger, juicier, beautiful fruit. 

Peach trees can be prolific producers, so much so that their branches can have a hard time holding up the weight of their fruit. 

You will need to thin (remove) most of the peaches to just one peach every six inches or so. This will allow room for the remaining peaches to grow to a bigger size. Although thinning is time consuming, proper pruning in early spring will aid in this task. 

Enjoying The Harvest

After all the pruning, thinning, and waiting, now it’s time to enjoy the harvest! Once you’ve had a belly full from picking fresh peaches right off the tree, you can enjoy them in some of our favorite peach recipes. 

pitchers and mason jar glasses of southern peach tea with ice on tray outdoors
There’s nothing like a refreshing glass of Southern Peach Tea on an Alabama scorcher!!

Peach Tea is absolutely one of THE MOST refreshing drinks known to mankind, especially during our scorching Alabama summers. Other than tea bags and water, you just need two ingredients: fresh or frozen peaches and sugar.

Continue to the recipe for Southern Peach Tea.

Baked Peaches are light and absolutely perfect after dinner, especially when entertaining or grilling out. Besides Southern Peach Tea, this recipe needs to be in your arsenal of healthy Southern peach recipes.

Baked peaches are a deliciously sweet yet healthy way to use your peach harvest.

More To Pruning

As I mentioned earlier, pruning peach trees is a little different than pruning other trees. However, it is essential to the overall health of the tree to prune all trees. If you would like to learn more about pruning, see my article here. I walk you through all the basic steps with everything you need to know to prune your trees. 

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