Apricot Tree Trimming: Learn When And How To Prune An Apricot Tree

An apricot tree looks better and produces more fruit when it’s properly pruned. The process of building a strong, productive tree begins at planting time and continues throughout its life. Once you learn how to prune an apricot tree, you can approach this annual chore with confidence. Let’s take a look at some apricot pruning tips.

When to Prune Apricot Trees

Prune apricot trees in late winter or early spring as the new leaves and flowers begin to open. During this period of time the tree is actively growing and the pruning cuts heal quickly so that diseases have little chance to enter the wounds. It also corrects problems early, and your cuts will be smaller.

How to Prune an Apricot Tree

Prune the tree for the first time soon after planting it. This will help the tree develop a strong structure. You’ll reap the benefits of both early pruning and subsequent apricot tree trimming for years to come.

Pruning Apricot Trees at Planting Time

Look for a few solid branches that grow out more than up before you start cutting. These branches are said to have a wide crotch, referring to the angle between the main trunk and the branch. Keep these branches in mind because they are the ones you want to save.

When you remove a branch, cut it close to the collar, which is the thickened area between the main trunk and the branch. When you shorten a branch, cut just above a side branch or bud whenever if possible. Here are the steps in pruning a newly planted apricot tree:

  • Remove all damaged or broken shoots and limbs.
  • Remove all branches with a narrow crotch—those that grow up more than out.
  • Remove all branches that are within 18 inches of the ground.
  • Shorten the main trunk to a height of 36 inches.
  • Remove additional branches as necessary to space them at least 6 inches apart.
  • Shorten the remaining lateral branches to 2 to 4 inches in length. Each stub should have at least one bud.

Pruning Apricot Trees in Subsequent Years

Apricot tree trimming during the second year reinforces the structure you began in the first year and allows for some new main branches. Remove wayward branches that are growing at odd angles as well as those growing up or down. Make sure the branches you leave on the tree are several inches apart. Shorten last year’s main branches to about 30 inches.

Now that you have a strong tree with solid structure, pruning in subsequent years is easy. Remove winter damage and old side-shoots that are no longer producing fruit. You should also remove shoots that grow taller than the main trunk. Thin out the canopy so that sunlight reaches the interior and air circulates freely.

They were possibly the most glorious apricots I had ever tasted. Actually they were the only glorious apricots I had ever tasted, growing up in Queensland where apricots had the texture of flannel from long cold storage and being picked green – an apricot may soften after picking, but it does not get sweeter, and its texture deteriorates fast. These were still sun warm and juicy, and had just been picked by a 76-year-old neighbour from the trees she had planted six years before on the slope just to one side of the chook house where they’d get a little run-off manure when it rained or the chook’s water container was washed out each day, and perfect drainage and lots of sun. Apricots love sun. A few weeks later I’d taste our own apricots, from old seedling trees – small, spotted, red-blushed fruit that were even more delectable. But the ones at the neighbour’s were good old Moorepark, common as mud. The difference in flavour from those of the same variety in the shops came from being grown well, and picked when fully, lusciously ripe. And that was all she ever did to them. Plant and pick, though the proximity to the chooks’ water and manure helped. But they were never, ever pruned. Skip forward 45 years and those apricot trees are still there, overgrown with jasmine and weeds. One has the characteristic fungi of tree rot extending down one side of the main trunk. Their current owner wanted to know when to prune apricots. Answer: never. (If possible). Apricots fruit well without pruning, as do cherries and most other fruits. If you want fewer, bigger, perfect-looking fruit i.e. you are a commercial grower or have an obsession with perfect-looking fruit, you may need to prune and thin out the fruit. Come to think of it, I retract that – if you have an obsession with perfect-looking fruit (i.e. round, symmetrical, even coloured fruit) – seek therapy but leave the poor trees alone. But these old apricot trees, with broken branches and wood rot? First, slash back all invading climbers and weeds, and mow or slash below them. Apricots do not like humidity and tall weeds tend to provide their own humid microclimate. Secondly, cut out dead or broken branches. Seal at once (ask at the garden centre for the best sealant, preferably containing a fungicide). Leave the half-dead tree trunk alone. It’s survived like that for at least 20 years, and borne fruit too. With luck and stubbornness it may keep going for another 20 years or more. If more pruning is needed – branches that have tangled with each other, for example, and are damaging each other’s bark – wait till spring or summer to prune, so the wounds will heal faster and, again, use a sealant. Then wait. Pick. Eat. Wipe the juice from your chin, because they will be juicy. If your last apricot was not juicy either grow your own or buy from a farmers’ market … and if the apricots at one stall are not juicy, buy next time from another (and maybe have a quiet, respectful word in the first grower’s ear – it’s always useful to have honest, specific feedback). The same goes for cherries, too. More cherry trees are killed by kindness than neglect. Do not prune or, if you must, prune in spring or summer when the wounds will heal faster. Feed after fruiting, i.e. in mid-summer, as too much nitrogen can cause cherries to split, especially in a wet year. Forget about bird netting for both crops – the birds will be so determined to get them they may get tangled in the netting. So may snakes. This is a scenario both you and the snakes need to avoid. Instead, hang reusable calico ‘fruit bags’ on clusters of fruit when still solidly green. It sounds fiddly but once you have done it a few times it’s fast and simple. And works. Athough frustrated possums may throw down a bag or two in disgust. But no more than a couple … – possums don’t waste too much energy on revenge. And if you do not have an apricot tree or a cherry, head to the garden centre now. Read the label, to see what will suit your garden and climate and holiday plans – no point having a crop due in mid-January if you are always lounging by the sea at that time of year. If you are seriously challenged for space buy a dwarf fruit tree – slightly slower to get going but you will still receive a generous crop in a few years from a much smaller tree. Then start dreaming of sun-ripe fruit that is better than chocolate, or any possible chef’s creation. w. jackiefrench.com f. @jackiefrenchauthor t. @jackie_french_ i. @jackie_french_

Treating Problems In Apricots: Learn About Diseases Of Apricot Trees

Not just any gardener has an apricot tree in their landscape, but if you do, you probably went to a lot of trouble to find it and plant it in just the right place. But would you know how to identify apricot tree diseases? Keep reading to learn about treating problems in apricots, including bacterial canker, eutypa dieback, phytophthora, ripe fruit rot and shot hole disease.

Common Types of Apricot Disease

There are many types of apricot disease, though most are caused by the usual suspects – bacteria or fungus. Here are some of the most common diseases of apricot trees:

Bacterial Canker

Among the most frustrating of apricot problems, bacterial canker causes the formation of dark, sunken sores at the base of buds and randomly along trunks and limbs. Gum may weep through these wounds as the tree emerges from dormancy in the spring or the tree may die suddenly.

Once a tree is infected with bacterial canker, there is very little you can do to help it, although some growers have seen limited success with high doses of copper fungicide applied at leaf drop.

Eutypa Dieback

Much less common than bacterial canker, eutypa dieback, also known as gummosis or limb dieback, causes sudden wilt in apricots during late spring or summer. The bark is discolored and weepy, but unlike in bacterial canker, the leaves remain attached to diseased or dead limbs.

Eutypa dieback can be pruned out of trees after harvest. Be sure to remove at least 1 foot of healthy tissue along with the diseased limb and treat the pruning wounds with a general purpose fungicide.


Phytophthora occurs primarily in gardens where the drainage is poor or plants are chronically over watered. Roots and crowns are damaged to varying degrees, but seriously injured apricot trees may collapse soon after the first stretch of warm weather of the year. Chronic infections cause reduced vigor and early leaf fall, as well as general unthriftiness.

If your tree survives the first flush of spring, spray the leaves with phosphorus acid or mefenxam and correct the drainage issue, but know it may be too late to save your apricot.

Ripe Fruit Rot

Also known simply as brown rot, ripe fruit rot is one of the more frustrating of the diseases of apricot trees. As fruits ripen, they develop a small, brown, water-soaked lesion that quickly spreads, ruining the entire fruit. Soon, tan to gray spores appear on the fruit’s surface, spreading the disease further. Ripe fruit rot may also manifest as blossom or twig blight or branch cankers, but the fruit rotting form is most common.

Once ripe fruit rot has taken hold, there’s nothing you can do for that harvest but remove infected fruits. Clean up all fallen debris and remove any fruits that remain on and around the tree at the end of the season, then start pretreating your tree on a schedule, beginning in spring. Fungicides like fenbuconazole, pyraclostrobin or fenhexamid are often used to protect fruits from ripe fruit rot.

Shot Hole Disease

Apricots with small, circular, purple spots on their leaves may be infected with shot hole disease. The spots sometimes dry out and fall through, but infected leaves rarely die or fall from the tree. Spots may also appear on fruits before scabbing over – if these scabs fall off, rough areas are left behind.

A single application of fungicide during the dormant season may be enough to protect apricots from shot hole disease. A bordeaux mixture or fixed copper spray can be applied to dormant trees, or use ziram, chlorothalonil or azoxystrobin on blooming or fruiting trees that are showing signs of shot hole disease.

Apricot Diseases & Disorders

Apricot > Deficiencies & Pests > Diseases & Disorders

Brown rot of blossom/fruit and twig blight (Monilinia laxa and M. fructicola) are the most serious diseases affecting California apricots, and can result in substantial losses in years with warm wet weather during bloom time (Norton and Coates 2012, Ledbetter 2008). Other diseases that commonly affect apricot cultivars in California include shot hole disease (Wilsonomyces carpophilus), jacket rot (Botrytis cinerea, Sclerotinia sclerotorum,), bacterial canker (Pseudomonas syringae), and Eutypa dieback disease (Eutypa lata) (UC IPM 2012). Common rootstock diseases in apricot include Armillaria root rot (Armillaria mellea), Phytophthora root and crown disease, and crown gall disease (Agrobacterium tumefaciens) (Norton and Coates 2012, UC IPM 2012). The prevalence of individual diseases varies with annual and regional variation in climate and soil type.

For detailed information: UC Statwide IPM Program: How to Manage Pests: Apricot

Apricot Photo Gallery

These photos are viewed, courtesy of University of California research and extension personnel and programs, including the UC Statewide IPM Program. Photo information, including the photographer, is displayed when the larger image is viewed.

Deficiencies | Insect, Mite & Nematode Pests | Diseases & Disorders | Vertebrate Pests

Scab or freckle of stone fruit

Note Number: AG0154
Published: January 2006
Updated: August 2010

Scab or freckle is a fungal disease of stone fruit caused by Venturia carpophila (anamorph Fusicladium carpophilum = Cladosporium carpophilum). The disease is found world wide especially in warm, wetter areas. It affects most stone fruit, including plums, but in Victoria is most important on mid and late season peaches and nectarines, and on apricot and almond. Scab can cause defoliation and scabbing of fruit which may cause loss or downgrading of fruit quality. It is more severe in southern Victoria. A related fungus, Venturia cerasi, has been reported on cherries overseas, but it is not known whether this pathogen occurs in Australia.


Circular dark spots of the scab or freckle disease on mature apricot fruit

Scab can affect fruit, leaves and shoots. It first appears on fruits as small dark spots about six to eight weeks after petal fall. On mature fruits, the fungus forms small, circular, sooty-brown spots or freckles which become scabby. These can merge to form large, irregular dark brown lesions. When infection is severe, the fruit can crack, shrivel and fall prematurely. On apricot fruit the disease should not be confused with Shot-hole, which causes raised scabs on the fruit surface; by contrast Scab lesions are pale green and remain flush with the fruit surface. On peaches, lesions are flat, circular black spots up to 3 mm in diameter. When nectarines are affected, the skin loses its pigment and becomes pale green to cream in colour. The centre of each spot is dark with the development of spores.

Leaf infections appear as sooty or olive blotches on the underside of leaves, and as dark lesions running along the mid-rib and petiole. Severe leaf infection can cause defoliation, but in some cases, little or no leaf infection can be found even when the fruit is badly affected. On the shoots, small brown lesions with slightly raised margins may appear. The margins of these lesions become olivaceous where the pathogen is sporulating.

Life cycle

The pathogen overwinters on twig lesions, and spores are blown or splashed onto developing fruits, leaves and shoots. Infections are most severe during wet weather in spring and summer. There is a long incubation period of around 45 days before symptoms are seen. The fungus can also overwinter in infected leaves which fall to the ground in autumn, although the significance of this is not known.


The disease can be controlled by sprays of suitable fungicides at shuck fall (the time when dried floral remains fall from the developing fruitlet) and again seven to eight weeks later. Pruning out infected shoots should also assist by reducing the potential carry-over of the disease. Avoid overhead irrigation and maintain an open tree canopy, as these practices will reduce the time that tree parts remain wet and will assist scab control.

Contacts/services available from DEPI

For effective pest and disease control, correct diagnosis is essential. Phone Crop Health Services on (03) 9032 7515 or fax (03) 9032 7604.


This Agriculture Note was published in December 1999.
It was reviewed by W.S. Washington, Plant Standards in January 2006 and August 2010.

ISSN 1329-8062

Published and Authorised by:
Department of Environment and Primary Industries
1 Spring Street
Melbourne, Victoria

This publication is copyright. No part may be reproduced by any process except in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968.

The advice provided in this publication is intended as a source of information only. Always read the label before using any of the products mentioned. The State of Victoria and its employees do not guarantee that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purposes and therefore disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other consequence which may arise from you relying on any information in this publication

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