I bought some plum/nectarine trees on sale last month because they are "cosmetically challenged". I want to practice backyard orchard culture and keep these trees small.

They only have branches starting 4 feet high or so. I'd like to have my lowest branches even lower if possible. How can I prune it to encourage lower branching? It seems like there are no active buds down that low on the trunk.

Here is a picture of my most challenging tree. It only has branches pointing one direction! So I really need to encourage it to grow branches on the opposite side to balance it out.

fruit tree with 3 branches all growing the same direction

  • 1
    Why do you want such low branches? It will be very difficult to mow under them or even to pick the fruit on higher branches. Be aware that plums develop thorns along their branches, so working within the canopy can be very painful.
    – Jurp
    Feb 26 at 16:51
  • True, I could be happy with the current set of branches on the other trees. The reason I would like lower is if my trees max out at 7' tall in accordance with backyard orchard culture principles it would be nice to have them start a little lower. I plan to keep underneath them heavily mulched so I will not have to mow.
    – Philip
    Feb 26 at 16:55
  • While I don't have the answer to your question, my indoor potted grapefruit tree finally sprouted lower branches after its second dose of calcium nitrate to the soil (both doses were weeks or months apart). It could be a coincidence, but I've been waiting for that to happen since the 1990s when it was very young. I've never heard of using fertilizer to make this happen, though. Feb 26 at 21:52
  • 1
    My plums are American and Canadian wild plums, which keep themselves at about 10 foot heights. Not a problem to harvest them - just put a tarp under the tree and shake it.
    – Jurp
    Feb 26 at 23:10
  • 1
    Standrd advice is to cut 1/4" above a visible branch to force further branching. Feb 27 at 14:28


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