Finish pruning fruit trees and brambles

March is the month to finish up pruning on fruit trees and brambles (blackberry, raspberry). Pruning is actually an enjoyable way to spend time in the great outdoors and is an essential part of ensuring good fruit production in the edible garden.

The pruning needs of each type of plant and tree are different and when it comes to fruit trees and brambles there are many good K-State resources to help you prune well. Links are provided below.

Fruit Trees

Peach trees: Of all fruit trees in Kansas, peach requires the most regular pruning. Peach trees produce fruit on new growth and so if the tree isn’t pruned yearly the fruit will slowly get further away from the main trunk and will result in the tree splitting under a heavy load. Peach trees are generally pruned with a more ‘open centered’ style and approach. Read a full description in our K-State Research and Extension publication on pruning peaches:

This video is also a good concise demonstration.

Apple trees require regular pruning as well in order to develop a good tree structure with the appropriate number of scaffold branches to support a nice amount of fruit. Apple trees are generally pruned with a ‘modified leader’ approach. Read a full description of pruning apples in our K-State Research and Extension publication on pruning apples:

Pruning apple trees during the first three years

This video gives a great quick overview on apple pruning.


Blackberry and raspberry should also have any remaining pruning finished up now before growth begins.

Raspberries and blackberries are perennial plants with biennial canes. This means a single plant will last many years but an individual cane will only live for two. In a cane’s first year, it will grow but will not produce fruit. The second year, it will fruit and then die. Though these canes can be removed after they have finished fruiting, many gardeners wait until now to remove them. 

Dead canes are not difficult to identify. They are a much lighter color than live canes and are dry and brittle. These canes should be removed and discarded. The remaining canes should be thinned but the type of growth determines exactly how this should be done.

Black raspberry before and after dormant pruning

Black and purple raspberries and thornless blackberries: These tend to grow in a clump. Remove all but 5 to 7 of the largest and healthiest canes in each clump. Cut back the remaining canes to living tissue if there was winter damage.

With black raspberries, eight to 10 buds per lateral (side shoots) are usually enough.  Cut lateral side shoots back to leave the recommended number of buds.  Purple raspberries and thornless blackberries are more vigorous than black, so leave a few more buds per lateral.  Thornless blackberries will also produce a few suckers that come up some distance from the clump. These should be removed or dug and transplanted to increase the planting.

Red raspberry before and after dormant pruning

Red raspberries and thorny blackberries: 
These two sucker badly and will fill the row with new plants. Prune out small canes within the row so that there are strong canes 4 to 6 inches apart. Head back all the remaining canes to about 5 feet. There is no need to prune back any laterals present.  Keep aisles free of new suckers during the summer by mowing.

Everbearing red raspberries and blackberries: We now have what are called everbearing red raspberries and everbearing thorny blackberries. These are the exception to the rule in that they will bear fruit on first-year canes. Therefore, with these types you can cut all the canes to the ground in the winter and still have fruit. Examples include Heritage red raspberry and Prime-Jim, Prime-Jan, Prime Ark 45 and Prime Ark Freedom blackberries.

For more detail see our publication titled, “Raspberries and Blackberries” at