Guide to Pruning a Nectarine Tree in Australia

Stone fruit trees such as nectarines and peaches should ideally be pruned in winter once they’ve lost all of their leaves.

If you have a lovely nectarine tree in your garden, you need to prune it on an annual basis in order to keep the growth in check and to promote excellent fruiting the following season.

When to prune a nectarine tree in Australia

Stone fruit trees such as nectarines and peaches should ideally be pruned in winter once they’ve lost all of their leaves.

This makes it easier to see the growth of the branches and creates a nice framework for your tree.

How to prune a nectarine tree

Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to pruning your nectarine tree correctly.

Step 1: Reduce the height of the branches

Nectarine trees will put on a lot of growth during the warmer months. I’m always surprised at how much the nectarine tree in my front yard grows from year to year. 

nectarine tree | Fruit & Vegetables

Therefore, the first thing that you want to do is to reduce the height of the upwardly-growing  branches so that your tree is more manageable and the fruit will be easier to pick.

When you’re cutting the larger branches, use a good sharp pruning saw and make a small cut on the underside of the branch before cutting it through from the top.

This stops the bark from tearing away if the branch decides to break as you’re cutting it.

You can also use a good pair of loppers to cut back tall branches to smaller upright stems. These smaller stems will end up producing the fruit as fruit is produced on this new wood.

Step 2: Remove damaged or broken branches

The next thing that you want to do is remove any branches that are damaged, broken or even dead. This will keep your tree healthy and avoid dieback.

Step 3: Identify your fruiting and growth buds

Before making any further pruning cuts, it’s important to tell the difference between a growth bud and one that will produce fruit.

Generally, a growth bud will just be a single bud on its own while fruiting buds are often seen in pairs or even groups of three.

Therefore, when you’re pruning back the lengths of branches, you want to cut back to a group of fruiting buds.

This will limit the strong growth of just branches with leaves and encourage lots of fruit on your nectarine tree.

Cut back the longer branches at an angle around 2 to 3 cm above the fruiting buds or spurs.

pruning peach trees | Fruit & Vegetables

At this stage, you want to create a nice open framework or vase shape so that there is plenty of airflow around the branches while keeping your tree to a manageable height and shape.

Step 4: Remove any inward-growing branches

As well as pruning back the long growth on nice healthy branches, you also want to remove any inward-growing branches so that you achieve that nice, open vase shape.

If there are not too many, you can take these right back to the trunk or another strong branch.

Pruning Apple Trees 4 | Fruit & Vegetables

If you find that there are quite a few of these, just cut them back to a fruiting bud that is close to the trunk or another strong branch.

This means that you’re not reducing the yield of your tree.

Step 5: Spray your tree with lime sulphur

Lime sulphur is a natural product that will help to ward off fungal diseases such as peach leaf curl which is so prominent on stone fruit trees such as nectarines.

peach leaf curl | Fruit & Vegetables

It’s one of the few sprays that I use in my garden because it is natural and protects my nectarine tree from this unpleasant disease.

When you’re spraying your tree, it’s important to coat the open cuts with the spray as this will protect the wounds from fungal infections.


How do you shape a nectarine tree?

A nectarine tree should have a general vase shape with a relatively open centre. This may mean removing inward-growing branches, reducing the height of major leading branches and cutting back overly long branches that are growing horizontally.

Do nectarines fruit on new wood?

Nectarines will fruit on new wood that has grown during the summer months. When it comes to pruning your tree, you should be able to clearly identify the fruiting spurs on the young branches.

Should I thin the fruit on my nectarine tree?

If your nectarine tree is cropping heavily, it’s a good idea to thin the fruit. This will result in larger fruit and will stop the branches from breaking when they become too heavy and can’t handle the weight of the fruit. Thinning should be done early when the fruit is around 1 cm in diameter.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.


2 thoughts on “Guide to Pruning a Nectarine Tree in Australia”

  1. Hi, I would like to congratulate you on your informative and clearly written information.So easy to read and follow. I’m 81 and find the more i read the more confused i become.I’m conscious of the saying “a little information is a dangerous thing”Recently i went from too alkaline to too acid and then too alkaline with some established and neglected gardenias . I’ve been gardening since a kid and my sweet peas were better then.The more i think i know the less i know. Many thanks.

    • Thanks for your kind comments Margaret.

      It seems as gardeners, we never stop learning. Even though I have a horticultural qualification and have been gardening for over 40 years, there are still things for me to learn.

      I’ve also noticed that there can be some conflicting information available online.

      Rest assured that we will always give you the most accurate information based on my own knowledge and experience.

      Happy gardening!


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