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How to Prune a Cocktail Tree

How to Prune a Cocktail Tree

If you have a multi-grafted cocktail tree you might be thinking that it’s time for a trim. But how do you prune a cocktail tree without messing up all the hard work and time you put into grafting it?

If you’ve never done it before, pruning a tree can be a bit intimidating, especially if it’s one that you have grafted together yourself. This guide will show you have to properly prune a cocktail to keep it healthy and promote growth.

What You Need for Pruning a Cocktail Tree

The main two things you will need to prune your cocktail tree are pruning shears and a pair of gloves. Make sure to use a clean pair of gloves and to sanitize your shears to prevent spreading disease to your tree. This can be done with a 1.5% chlorine bleach concentration.

How to Decide Which Branches to Prune on a Cocktail Tree

Trying to figure out which branches to trim can be a bit tricky. Pruning the wrong branches can be damaging to the tree or limit your harvest for the coming years.

Fruit is produced on specialized branch structures known as fruit spurs. Fruit spurs vary in appearance depending on the kind of tree and are often found on branches that are at least two years old.

It’s critical to understand how to spot flower buds so you don’t trim off the coming year’s fruit harvest. Flower buds on fruit spurs are often thick, fuzzy, and plump, while leaf buds are pointy and flat.

Keep in mind that each leaf in bud on a cocktail tree will look different since these trees hold various species of fruit. Once you’ve identified these branches, it’s time to choose which branches to prune.

Prune Broken, Damaged, and Dead Branches First

Before you begin pruning, look around your cocktail tree for any broken or dead branches. Remove any branches beyond the point of injury. Typically, you can just remove the damage part. However, in some cases, the entire branch may need to be removed.

Eliminate Branches Growing Toward Crown of the Cocktail Tree

Any branches that are growing on the inside of leading branches near the crown (the trunk of the tree that holds the upper foliage) need to be removed. If they grow longer, these branches can cause damage to the crown and other branches by crossing over them and rubbing off the bark.

Prune Competitors of Leaders

A leader is the central stem of the tree or the primary permanent branches of a tree. These can also be referred to scaffold branches. Leaders make up the main framework of a tree and will remain part of the tree throughout its lifetime.

Typically, you want about 6-12 inches of space between the branches. Any branches that are growing too close to the leaders are considered competitors as they are taking energy from that branch. These should be removed so that the leaders can grow healthy without interference.

Shorten Leading Branches and Side Branches of the Cocktail Tree

The last thing you’ll want to do is shorten the leading branches of the cocktail tree. This will help new side branches grow and increase future yields.

When determining how short to trim your leading branches, look for buds that are facing outwards. Then, prune the branch up to that point, leaving the bud intact. That bud will become your new branch next year.

Trimming side branches is also a good idea. This will keep them from getting too long and interfering with the leading branches.

Tips Properly Pruning a Cocktail Tree

When pruning your tree, you want to aim to make your cuts right above the last bud. Trimming to close to the bud will damage it, and too far from the bud

As a general rule, no more than 25% of the tree should be pruned or remove moved in one year. Heading or removing the top of older trees should also be avoided, as this can compromise the structural integrity of the tree.  

When to Prune a Cocktail Tree

Pruning in different seasons produces different responses. Fruit trees are often trimmed in late winter or early spring (February – early March) to adjust the tree’s structure.

Summer pruning is also possible; however, it is usually used to restrict or slow growth. Summer trimming also prevents the growth of suckers and foliage. Late summer or early fall pruning results in rapid new growth that may not harden off before winter, causing cold damage or even death.

Branches that are dead, diseased, or dying should be removed at any time of year.

Why You May Need to Prune Your Cocktail Tree

Most new trees need some pruning to help them develop a strong structure and to keep them in an aesthetically pleasing form. Pruning is an act of training and prevention that can tackle problems before they are even allowed to occur.

Pruning can also increase the air circulation and sunlight penetration for the tree.

Safety is another reason many gardeners will prune their cocktail trees. Low hanging branches can get in the way of walkways and driveways and can be hazardous if you end up keeping poked in the face. They can also smoother out nearby plants if they are hanging too low, affecting the overall look and health of your garden.

Final Thoughts

Pruning a cocktail tree is important to help it grow uniform and strong. However, if done incorrectly, this can cause damage to the tree.

Hopefully, this guide helped you learn how to prune a cocktail tree. If you still aren’t sure, it may be a good idea to hire an expert with experience in fruit tree pruning.