Pruning Ohio’s Fruit Trees

Updated on May 4, 2019
TeriSilver profile image

Teri Silver is a journalist, commercial copywriter, editor, broadcast anchor, and Public Relations Specialist.

Pruning shears and clippers come in various sizes.
Pruning shears and clippers come in various sizes.

Tree Trimming

Pruning excessive vegetation from fruit and deciduous ornamental trees in Ohio's ever-changing climate helps bring about strong healthy flowers, drupes, pomes, and nuts. When it comes to growing fruit and nut trees in the Buckeye State, a solid-yet-flexible pruning schedule geared for Ohio’s weather helps to produce a good seasonal crop.

Whether your trees are in a grove, sizeable orchard, or merely decorating a backyard landscape, “cropping for crops” is the phrase to remember; prune for a healthy and more bountiful harvest. Popular fruit trees growing in Ohio include apples, cherries, peaches, pears, and plums. For happy squirrels and wildlife in your yard, be sure to trim up oak and walnut trees, too!

Trimming excessive vegetation helps fruit grow larger.
Trimming excessive vegetation helps fruit grow larger.

Fruit Damage

Too many shoots and twigs will stunt fruit growth. Old brush and dead branches prevent sunlight from soaking into greenery—clearing out all this debris allows trees to develop stronger and healthier flower buds. Trees that are “un-snipped” can produce fruits too, however, their lesser yield may lead to smaller or diseased pomes and drupes. Apples and peaches, for example, grow larger and will ripen better when their trees’ sunlight-produced-food supplies head directly to foliage, buds and fruits (instead of unnecessary leaves or branches). Along with helping the tree develop a well-shaped canopy, pruning and removing unwanted brush allows rainwater to better access tree roots.

It's important to watch the thermometer. Outside temperature gauges and thermometers are easily obtainable.
It's important to watch the thermometer. Outside temperature gauges and thermometers are easily obtainable.

The Buckeye State

Ohioans know it; our weather is sometimes (often) unpredictable. Cold winters can turn into cold springs, or, perhaps, early warmer springs bring frigid temperatures into the month of May. Unseasonably “warm” winters can lead to cold springs -- just when you think the danger of frost is passed (by mid May or so), your newly-embedded fruit or vegetable plants get “zapped” in falling temperatures.

Planting fruits, vegetables and flowers in Ohio can be a guessing game too, especially in northern areas of the state. When it comes to pruning fruit (and all kinds of) trees in Ohio, the goal is to trim branches before they spurt new growth; during the dormant season in early spring (after the snow melts and temperatures reach above 32 degrees Fahrenheit). Ohioans hope that’s in March, but it may be April or into May. These “rules,” however, are really only guidelines because the true determination of when to prune varies with each particular tree species and where it grows. However, broken or falling tree limbs should be removed as needed.

Snip, snip!
Snip, snip!


Larger growing fruit trees that have not been trimmed in several years can undergo some “major snipping,” says Ohio State University Extension. Thickly set or main branches that come off the trunk at 90-degree angles are typically the strongest offshoots; however, those growing parallel are fairly weak—especially if they show signs of rotting.

When using a hacksaw to cut limbs measuring more than 3 inches around, make the first slice at about 12 inches from the branch collar or trunk. Cutting the top areas first will ease the weight of the limb, making it less likely to break during the entire removal process. Snip the smaller branches and shoots with a sharp pair of pruning shears or clippers.

For fruit-producing trees, trim branches by making small, thin slices just past the flowering buds. Early spring is typically best but in Ohio, most types of plum, cherry, peach, apple, and pear trees—as well as nut producers—can be trimmed during the late part of dormancy. For best results, spread the snip-sessions over a couple of seasons.

Tree Scars

Callus formation—scabbing on closed wounds—is different for each species. Typically based on size and environmental factors, wound scars develop calluses much like human skin. Air circulation allows deeply-pruned or wind-damaged trees to thicken faster. Some arborists recommend wound painting (applying a tar-like substance over the break) but in Ohio, letting oxygen get to the open sore on an otherwise healthy tree is a better way to facilitate the healing process, says OSU Extension.

JJ plants a pollinator peach tree.
JJ plants a pollinator peach tree.

Planting Tips

Bite into that tangy peach, crunchy apple, or juicy pear and experience the satisfying moment, especially when it comes directly from your own backyard. When planting fruit trees in Ohio, consider these factors:

  • Space: Each tree sapling must have enough room to grow. Tree size (height and width) at their maturity varies with type and species.
  • Pollinator: Does your desired fruit tree need a mate? Learn the facts: ask a garden store expert before you buy. Trees (some peach varieties, for example) may need a second variety planted nearby for pollination.
  • Location: Direct sunlight and good earth; test your planting soil for pH levels. Soil pH determines whether the dirt is acidic (sour) or alkaline (sweet). The pH scale runs from zero to 14, with 0.0 being the most acidic and 14.0 is the most alkaline. A neutral pH value is at 7.0. Ohio’s pH ranges between 6.0 and 7.0.

It's a good crop this year!
It's a good crop this year!


Trees need six to eight hours of full sunlight each day and well-draining soil. Cutting back branches so they’re evenly-spaced allows more room for flower buds and developing fruits. Trimming newly-planted trees to heights of around 30 inches helps them develop a good, aesthetic shape.

The little sprigs of vegetation on the trunk may look cute, but if not removed, they will develop into strong branches and offshoots that can damage or hinder the tree. Thin out the buds every couple of years or so; too many fruits will weigh branches down and cause stunting and disease.

Questions & Answers

  • It looks like my cherry tree is full of buds while the leaves are falling off. Is this possible?

    If it's happening, then, yes, it's possible. The unseasonably warm temperatures we've had in late September and early October have caused many types of trees to bring about new growth. (My magnolia tree has new buds and I saw a few on my weeping cherry). The "old" foliage is beginning to turn and drop now; temps will be more reasonable as we get into October. Other reasons for falling leaves could be the result of disease (fungal or bacterial) or water-related (too much or too little). Much like what happens when buds emerge in the spring, if a freeze comes along, the buds get, as we like to say, "zapped." These new buds will likely freeze (when the time comes); whether there will be new growth in the spring depends on the tree -- location, soil, sunlight, nutrients and overall health of it. Time will tell.

  • Can you recommend a fruit tree specialist to take care of my trees in Columbus, Ohio?

    You can contact the Ohio State University Cooperative Extension; they may be able to help. Depending on your trees and environment, arborists and nurseries in Central Ohio may have specific do-it-yourself programs or offerings for hire.

© 2016 Teri Silver


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)