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Pruning Persimmon Trees: A Complete Guide

When pruning fruit or ornamental trees, typically, a basic pruning technique will more than suffice. However, there are a few that require some special care, including persimmons.

Persimmon trees are pretty easy to grow, and their sweet fruit tastes like honey. All in all, it seems like a good deal! But if you don’t know how to prune persimmon trees correctly, you may never see the fruits of your labor.

For a complete guide to pruning persimmon trees, keep reading!

Closeup of a cluster of persimmon fruit on a tree.  Pruning persimmon trees properly means a delicious harvest.

Do Persimmon Trees Need Pruning?

Like most fruit trees, persimmon trees do need pruning to be at their best. In addition to sprouting delicious fruit, persimmon trees are considered ornamental trees that look stunning when used as a landscaping focal point.

If left to their own devices to grow to full size, the persimmon tree will eventually produce some fruit.

To ensure your tree maintains a good shape and reaches fruiting potential, careful pruning is a must.

Reasons For Pruning Your Persimmon Tree

Space Management and Structure

Without intervention, persimmon trees can grow up to sixty feet tall! Unless you’re very lucky, you probably don’t have the space to accommodate a tree of that size.

Mature persimmon trees covered with fruit in the fall.

Pruning is essential not only to keep your persimmon tree compact but also to keep it symmetrical, proportional, and pleasant to look at.

Persimmon trees can even be pruned into a hedge or espalier shape for more decorative purposes.

Balance in your persimmon tree branches is important in a young tree.

The fruit of the persimmon tree grows from the tips of the branches, so if the branches are weak and decentralized, they’re prone to breakage.

Airflow and sunlight need to be able to move freely through the tree, so pruning away weak, crossed, or damaged branches that won’t bear fruit is key.

Pest and Disease Control

Another important reason to carefully prune persimmon trees is to help control pests and diseases.

The best way to nip disease and pest infestations in the bud is to prune, remove, and destroy all infected and impacted plant matter, branches included.

Crown gall, leaf blight, leaf spot, mites, and mealy bugs are all potential enemies of the persimmon tree, but pruning the affected areas is your first line of defense.

In most cases, careful and preventative care is the solution to your persimmon tree problems.

Promote Growth

Yellow flowers on a persimmon tree.

Unlike many other varieties of fruit or ornamental trees, the persimmon tree’s flowers grow from new fruiting wood.

As such, it’s important to stimulate new growth by pruning back older, dead branches every year.

In this case, the pruning doesn’t need to be excessive – in fact, you only really need to reduce the older branches back by about one-third.

The bark of persimmon trees is also pretty brittle, so maintaining structure and keeping excess weight off the tree is crucial.

How to Prune a Persimmon Tree

How you prune a persimmon tree is dependent on the age of your tree.

When you get your container-grown persimmon tree sapling, it will typically come to you properly pruned and ready to plant.

With younger persimmon trees, thinning out new growth each year until the tree is five years old is best practice.

For optimal growth and fruit, the branches should spread out evenly from the trunk without interfering with one another, creating a round, slightly oblong shape.

Ideally, you’ll want about five large branches about a foot apart, starting four feet from the ground. As it grows, you’ll want to leave about two feet of space between each group of five branches.

A young persimmon tree in a yard.

This ensures the fruiting wood has access to resources and allows for strong branches and delicious fruit to flourish.

Once your tree has been planted for over five years, and its branch structure has been established, you can lightly prune it each year to remove dead wood, suckers, and weak, misshapen branches.

If your older tree seems to be underperforming, you can prune it even more to help bring your persimmon tree back to life.

This practice is called “rejuvenation pruning” and typically instructs you to remove roughly one-third of the oldest tree branches evenly.

If you’re pruning to combat pests or disease, use a sharp, clean pair of shears to cut off or out the diseased or infested areas completely.

Frequency and Season

When it comes to pruning for growth and balance as opposed to corrective pruning your persimmon tree, you have to be intentional about both the frequency and season at which you do it.

Because the tree is dormant and not actively growing throughout the cold weather, late winter through early spring is prime pruning time.

This sets your persimmon tree up for success and a productive season.

Persimmons growing on a tree.

Younger trees are typically more in need of winter pruning than older trees because the shape and structure of the tree are already well established.

However, if you’re corrective pruning to fix problematic branches or suckers, you have to react to how the tree grows. Usually, this will happen in the summer.

Typically, this happens more with older persimmon trees which need less structural pruning and more corrective pruning to thin out branches and remove dead plant matter.

Persimmon trees are subject to biennial cropping or alternative yield. To reduce the chance of that happening, pruning once a year is generally good practice to ensure the tree produces fruit every year.

Where to Prune

When pruning your persimmon tree, you typically do not want to prune the branches all the way back to the trunk.

Usually, the only circumstance where you prune the branch completely is if it’s dead, diseased, or has become a home to pests.

In this case, you’ll want to remove as much of the damaged area as possible.

When pruning for growth and structure, you want to leave a good portion of that season’s growth untouched so it can then produce more fruiting branches.

Things to Know When Pruning Persimmon Trees

When tackling your persimmon pruning project for the first time (or if you’re tightening up your technique), there are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind.

Upward view of persimmons growing on a tree.

First and foremost, not every persimmon tree is the same! There are two main types of persimmon trees, American and Asian, that have slightly different quirks.

Generally, the maintenance will remain the same, but it’s still good to know what variety you have and what growing zone you’re located in to optimize your tree’s performance.

In the first few years of your persimmon tree’s life, you don’t want the tree to fruit. If it starts to do so, simply pick the young fruit off as it forms. Wait until year four or beyond to allow the fruit to mature.

This lets your tree establish a strong foundation before the heavy fruit adorns the branches and weights it down.

Steps for Successfully Pruning a Persimmon Tree

Locate Fruiting Wood (Winter Pruning)

The fruit of the persimmon tree grows from the residual buds of the remaining season’s growth. This area of the tree is called “fruiting wood.”

This is uncommon in the world of fruit trees, which is why careful pruning is particularly relevant when dealing with persimmon trees.

You do not want to prune off all the fruiting wood, as this is where the shoots will sprout in the coming season. If you do, you’ll have trouble with next year’s crop.

Preserving your tree’s fruiting wood and leaving it be (or maybe pruning back just a touch) is preferable.

Locate Diseased or Damaged Wood (Summer Pruning)

Another aspect of your persimmon tree that is crucial to locate and isolate is problematic wood and branches.

Fruit trees tend to attract pests and diseases pretty easily. But preventative care and reactive treatment are typically just as easy!

Diseased, damaged, weak, tangled, or wandering branches will only hold your persimmon tree back and keep it from fruiting to its full potential.

Tools for Pruning Persimmon Trees

Using pruning shears to cut a fruit tree branch.

You can use a few different tools to help you prune a persimmon tree.

But first and foremost, whatever tools you decide on need to be sterilized.

Diseases, pests, and fungi can transfer between trees through unclean tools. To prevent this, you can soak a rag in rubbing alcohol and wipe them down completely between uses.

Pruning loppers are often the preferred tool for pruning persimmon trees. They’re suited to cleanly prune back larger branches in one fell swoop.

Pruning shears, however, are better for pruning shoots, suckers, or small branches.

For some serious pruning work, such as removing huge branches or cutting away large sections of diseased or dead wood, you’ll likely want a pruning saw. A mini-chainsaw makes the clean, straight cuts you want, whereas hand-held tools can twist, tear, or break branches.

The bark of persimmon trees is brittle and prone to cracking, so gardening gloves are essential to keep your hands safe from the rough wood as well as the sharp shears.

Because spacing is so essential when successfully pruning your persimmon tree, a step ladder is also an excellent tool to have on hand so you can reach the areas you need without strain.

Pruning Your Persimmon Tree: FAQ

What is biennial cropping?

Usually, biennial refers to a plant that completes its lifecycle in two years.

Along the same vein, biennial cropping refers to plants that produce a large crop one year and almost nothing the next, seemingly alternating seasons.

Because of the nature of persimmon trees and how they grow, it’s easy to fall into a biennial cropping cycle if they are not pruned correctly.

Should I prune a persimmon tree every year?

Your persimmon trees will need one winter prune per year, which is the primary type of pruning to foster healthy growth.

However, intermittent summer pruning also might be required depending on how the growing season turns out. But this is typically minimal and reactive.

Why does the time of year matter?

The time of year is important when pruning your persimmon tree because of the natural dormancy of the tree cycle.

Because the tree is energized and growing quickly during the summer, major pruning work can be stressful for the tree that is already under strain.

It’s preferable to do any big pruning work in the winter because the tree is lying dormant, waiting for the warmer weather to begin growing again.

Get Ready for Pruning Your Persimmon Tree!

Closeup of ripe persimmons on a tree.

All in all, the process of pruning your persimmon tree is a simple task once you understand the tools you need and the steps you have to take.

When it’s all said and done, you’ll have a lovely persimmon tree equipped to take on a fruitful growing season!

Interested in learning more about this fruit tree? Visit our Persimmon Tree page for informational posts and comprehensive guides!