Expert Tips on Pruning an Apricot Tree in Australia

Like all fruit trees, you want to establish a nice open centre to allow adequate airflow and for the sun to get in to help ripen the fruit.

I remember fondly the apricot tree I planted and tended in my last garden. It produced the most delicious, sweet crop of apricots that tasted so much better than any you can buy in the shops.

If you’re also excited about growing an apricot tree, you need to know how to prune the tree correctly so that you always end up with an excellent crop of fruit.

When to prune an apricot tree

The traditional time to prune any stone fruit tree in Australia is in winter when the tree is dormant and has no leaves on it.

However, the wounds made when branches are cut do take longer to heal and this could leave your tree open to fungal and bacterial infections. 

For this reason, it’s better to prune your tree in autumn once it’s dropped all of its leaves.

But, choose a day that is dry and when there’s no rain forecast for a few days afterwards.

You can also purchase a special pruning paste that you spread on the open wounds as this helps to prevent bacteria from entering the wounds. 

pruning fruit tree wound paint | Fruit & Vegetables

You can also leave the pruning until early spring. Pruning at this time can stimulate fruit production. You want to do this just as the buds are starting to form and open. 

Another thing to remember is that if your tree is starting to produce an over-abundance of fruit, you can thin these out by removing a few of them from each branch.

This will result in larger fruit and won’t put stress on the branches that may become too heavy otherwise.

How to prune an apricot tree

Here’s a general guide for pruning an apricot tree to keep it healthy and productive.

Step 1: Remove dead or damaged branches

The first step to pruning an apricot tree is to remove any branches that are dead, diseased or damaged.

Take these right back to healthy wood and make sure the cut is clean.

Step 2: Remove crossing branches

Like all fruit trees, you want to establish a nice open centre to allow adequate airflow and for the sun to get in to help ripen the fruit.

Pruning Apricot Tree 2 | Fruit & Vegetables

Therefore, it’s imperative that you remove any crossing branches.

This also stops the branches from rubbing together and damaging the wood.

Step 3: Limit overcrowding of branches

This step is particularly important if you have a young tree because you want to produce a nice framework for strong, healthy growth.

Therefore, if you have some branches that are close to each other (within 15 cm), remove the weakest one right back to the trunk. 

Essentially, during this formative pruning of a young tree, you want to establish around 3 to 5 strong and healthy branches that are growing from the trunk. 

Step 4: Remove low-growing branches

This is also important for shaping young apricot trees.

Any branches that are lower than 45 cm from the ground should be removed. Cut these back to the trunk.

This allows the tree to form a nice shape and put its energy into healthy branches that are going to be productive.

Step 5: Trim back healthy branches

Now that you’ve established a good framework and have opened up the centre of the tree, it’s time to trim back the healthy branches that are left.

Here’s what to do depending on the age of your tree:

  • One-year-old tree – cut each branch back until it’s around 5 to 10cm in length but make sure that there is at least one growth bud on the remaining length of the branch.
  • Two-year-old tree – cut each branch back by one-third to one-half its length ensuring there are growth buds left on the remaining branch. 
  • Three-year-old tree – cut back branches in a similar way to a two-year-old tree.

When cutting back the branches, make sure that you cut to an outwardly growing bud. Make the cut just under 1 cm above the bud. 

Additional steps for mature apricot trees

Once your apricot tree has matured, you want to follow all the steps above but also follow the steps below.

Pruning Apricot Tree | Fruit & Vegetables

Remove shoots that are growing from the trunk

As your tree continues to grow, you might notice some new shoots or branches that are growing directly from the trunk. You want to remove these right back to the trunk.

These will be weak branches and will take away some energy from the tree that could be put into fruit production.

Remove branches that are growing straight up

Remember that you want your tree to end up with a nice open centre with healthy outwardly growing branches as these will produce the fruit.

Therefore, you want to remove any branches that are growing straight up. Especially if these are taller than the trunk or growing at odd angles.

Take out old non-productive branches

After a few years, some of the older branches will no longer produce fruit.

You should remove these so that it encourages the growth of new branches that will be productive.

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 “Expert Tips on Pruning an Apricot Tree in Australia”

    • Hi Marion

      Thanks for your question. The pruning technique I described is for a fruiting tree and focuses on encouraging the tree to produce lots of fruit. It’s not necessary to apply this to an ornamental tree. Just prune the tree according to the shape and growth that you’re after.


Leave a Comment