The right time to prune peach trees is when the buds begin to bloom just enough to see the pink flower emerge from the tip. When pruning, it’s important to remove old gray shoots and keep year-old shoots that are redder in appearance.
Peach trees should not be trimmed when they are dormant as they are weak in cold weather and more susceptible to dieback during that time. Dieback causes a plant to die from the branch tips back in towards the roots and can be brought on by the environment, bacteria, fungi or viruses. To avoid dieback, it is better err on the side of caution and trim a bit late, as opposed to too early. Peaches grow on 1-year-old branches, so annual heavy pruning generates new fruit-producing branches each year.
To prevent shade on lower blossoms and maximize sun exposure, choose three to five main branches of the peach tree, and prune them to move upward and outward from the trunk at a 45-degree angle. Damaged, diseased and broken branches must also be pruned to reduce congestion and ensure healthy new growth. Aim to keep branches that are shorter than 18 inches and as thick as a pencil. Control the height of the tree and allow for an easier harvest by topping off branches to an accessible height.