360.573.7172 | 1501 NE 102nd Street, Vancouver WA 98686

Winter Pruning

This is a good time to prune certain fruit trees and grape vines. (See also the list of other plants at the end of the article).


Fruit Trees – The following fruit trees should be pruned in winter –

  • Apple
  • Fig
  • Pear
  • Persimmon
  • Quince

After the first year of planting, cut out any dead branches or any that are touching or crossing each other. Thin out branches that are close or parallel with the central leader. The remaining branches should be cut back by 1/3.

Second year – Cut back side branches by 1/3 to 1/2 of the previous year’s growth. Remove crowding branches or those that are touching others. Also remove any branches that are facing inwards. Remove all watersprouts (suckers) that may be growing from the base of the trunk.

After the third year, continue to remove dead, diseased and damaged wood and wayward branches that are growing inward or crossing others branches. Try to aim for an open center to allow as much light as possible into the tree. Ideally, you want at least 8 inches between branches. Remove any crowded branches all the way back to the leader. Finally, bring the height of the branches down but no more than 1/3.

After pruning, apply cooper fungicide or horticultural oil to cover all the branches. It is best to do this on a dry day and when temperatures are above 40 degrees.


Grapes – Grapes should be pruned in the dead of winter (as in now). If you wait too late to prune, plants will bleed sap and although this isn’t fatal, it is alarming. To avoid this, try to get your grapes pruned before the end of February.

Use clean, sharp tools for the job. Grape vines are pruned differently according to the age of the vine. The following method is referred to as “spur pruning”.

  • Vines that were just planted last year should be pruned to focus on establishing the trunk. Remove all but the strongest shoot. Cut this shoot all the way down to one or two buds. This will stimulate a strong root system and good growth. New shoots will develop.
  • During the second winter, cut back the shoots by about 1/4 and train them to your support. Rub or prune off buds so that there are 4 – 5 inches between them.
  • During the third and subsequent winters, cut back the main stems as needed. Side shoots can be cut back to two buds. To prevent crowding, take out selected shoots.
  • To rejuvenate an older vine, a hard pruning may be necessary. Do this by cutting back the main stems to about 2-3 feet and thin out dense growth by completely removing some of the shoots.

Other Plants that should be pruned now or before March include:

  • Laurel
  • Yew
  • Holly
  • Juniper
  • Privet
  • Boxwood
  • Spruce
  • Hawthorn
  • Barberry
  • Rose*
  • Hibiscus*
  • Potentilla
  • Beautyberry
  • Butterfly Bush*
  • Elderberry
  • Blueberry
  • Huckleberry
  • Wisteria
  • Clematis*

*Wait until later in February

As always, if you have any questions, just give us or a call or stop by and ask one of our greenhouse employees.




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