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What woody plants can be cut in January? For these three species now is a good time

Winter is the ideal time for some fruit trees for pruning and thinning. Which woody plants you can prune in January and what to consider, we explain in the article.

Winter pruning: why is it so important for fruit trees?

What woody plants can be cut in January

Unlike other woody plants, most fruit trees absolutely need pruning to grow healthy and bear abundant fruit. You need to remove the diseased and dead branches and thin out the tree crown to support the growth of the fruit-bearing branches.

The time when this is done also plays an important role. In general, it is preferable to choose the winter, when the view is not disturbed by foliage and fruit. In the cold months it is easier to find the diseased branches and make the cut properly and cleanly. Pruning in winter, when the tree is in dormancy, is also better for the overall health of the tree.

January is the right time to prune for these three woody plants

Pruning apple tree in January pruning tips

Winter, and January in particular, is a good time to prune back some of the most common fruit trees. However, to avoid frost damage, you should wait for a period of mild temperatures and no major frosts. As long as the weather forecast does not call for temperatures below minus five degrees, you can prune the following woody plants in January.

The apple tree tolerates winter pruning well

For fruit trees like the apple, pruning should be done when the tree is dormant, between leaf fall and new shoots. For the apple tree, pruning at the beginning of winter or in January is particularly beneficial. If you prune these trees in late winter or early spring, you run the risk of slowing down new growth.

Here’s how to proceed properly when pruning apple trees in January:

  • Thin out the crown – Cut all branches and twigs that grow into the crown, cross or rub against each other down to the trunk.
  • You should also trim off any diseased, dead or damaged branches. Make the cut either at the branch trunk or to the next healthy side shoot.
  • Cut off old fruiting wood with overhanging growth.

Can you cut an apple tree in January

Pruning pear trees in winter

Pear trees use biennial wood for fruiting, among other things. Thus, they can benefit from regular pruning that removes old shoots and encourages new growth. And January is a good time to do this, weather permitting.

Here’s how to do winter pruning right:

  • Start by removing crossing, rubbing, weak, dead, diseased, damaged and dying branches.
  • Shorten the previous year’s growth on each main branch by about one-third to one bud in the desired direction. This will encourage the development of new branches and runners and maintain good form.
  • Leave young side shoots uncut so they can develop fruit buds in the second year.
  • Remove strong shoots (larger than 15 cm) that grow toward the center of the tree.
  • On older trees, remove or thin out any shoot systems that have become clogged. If thinning or removal is necessary, remove shoots from the underside of branches where developing fruit does not receive enough light and produces inferior fruit.

Quince woody plants cut in January

Cutting woody plants thinning in January quince


Quince trees have a slower growth rate compared to apple and pear trees and thus do not need annual pruning. Since these fruit trees form their fruit on the old wood, annual pruning can harm rather than help fruit formation. To keep the tree healthy, you need to reach for the shears once every 4-5 years. If you have a perennial quince tree in your yard that you have never pruned, you can take the opportunity now to prune it just in January when the tree is in dormancy.

Pruning tips:

  • Remove any dead, diseased or damaged branches and thin out any unproductive shoots.
  • Thin to improve light penetration and air circulation – Remove no more than one-fourth of the oldest branches, cutting them back to the trunk or to a shoot that is one-third the diameter of the branch being removed. Prune overhanging branches, very vigorous shoots, and branches with poor growth.
  • You can also remove fruiting shoots that are inside the crown, as they do not produce good fruit.
  • Remove all offshoots at the base and remove unwanted shoots on the main trunk.

Also interesting: what gardening tasks are due in January? Find out here .