Pruning Cuts Explained + How To Prune Feijoas

Before you prune anything, I want you to understand two types of pruning cuts. What a difference to your fruit trees when you give up heading and get thinning!

Excerpt from ” Pruning Fruit Trees: A Beginners Guide

types of cuts

Two Types of Pruning Cuts

Thinning is the removal of a whole shoot or branch, taking it back to its point of origin. The majority of your cuts should be thinning cuts, which makes for a lovely open tree โ€“ light pours in, and air flows.

Light thinning invigorates a tree, encouraging plenty of gentle new shoots and buds. A regular supply of new shoots provides options for renewal, a fruit treeโ€™s version of insurance in future fruits.

Heading is to shorten a shoot, a branch or a leader. Use this type of cut to stop growth (e.g., the branch is too high or in the way of the mower), or redirect growth (e.g.,to send a branch outward) or to stimulate spurs on laterals.

Understand this: a headed back shoot, will fork. Heavy-handed heading stunts your tree and makes it dense and twiggy.

How To Prune Feijoas


If you prune your feijoa annually – you’ll find there’s not much to do. A lovely, feet on the ground job. I like to prune my feijoa’s right after harvest.

Don’t remove more than a third of the canopy. Stack up your pruning’s beside the tree so you can keep it real about how much you’ve taken off.

Clean Up First

Remove dead, damaged, crossing and vertical wood.

Remove all the low wood to give your feijoa a clear trunk, for healthy airflow and easy access to the fallen fruits which are so much better than the picked ones.

Mostly Thinning Cuts

Use mostly thinning cuts to produce an open canopy for good light penetration and access for bird and bee pollinators. You should be able to kind of see through the canopy to the other side, for a vague idea of what’s behind.

Thinning cuts stimulate a heap of replacement wood โ€“ important because feijoas fruit on the base of the new wood. A cycle of fresh wood coming on each season means you can keep your tree compact yet productive.

When choosing which shoots to thin, take the tallest shoots. This makes you a bit of a smarty pants – thinning and height/ width management all in one go! Remove also the leggy ones that have miles of bare wood before the foliage starts. The bare wood is unproductive and the fruits too far away.

Leave plenty of young new shoots for next years fruits.

A Little Heading

Finish off with a few heading cuts for height and width management. Take it easy on those heading cuts to avoid losing too many fruits next year.

Restoring overgrown trees

If you have an older, overgrown feijoa – you’ve got two possible roads before you.

  • The slow, careful, considered one (which on the whole, is the way I go), of bringing the tree back over a few years. Only remove about 1/4 of the canopy at a time, this keeps the tree calm + steady + fruiting.
  • The no mucking around approach – chop off the top of the feijoa to a height that’s reachable. There is a big impact on fruiting when you prune like this, so be prepared for a few years of light crops while the tree re establishes. Stop at that one dramatic chop – though its not always easy to as the tree wont look pretty! The more you prune the more the tree will shoot the following season, making for lots of tricky pruning decisions. In late spring/ early summer, do a bit more pruning to balance the tree. Use thinning cuts (of course!).

Both ways work. Which one suits your mood is the thing.


  1. keryn morten says

    You are great, I loved your session on Kim’s programme this morning and have read your work here, all the best to you. Keryn Morten – The Garden Planning Company

  2. Sharon Wickham says

    Thank you Kath,
    I am in the middle of pruning my feijoa,the lower branches only and was not sure what to do next.
    Your information has been very helpful.

  3. Thank you Kath,
    The book looks fantastic! I have a Monty’s Surprise apple tree planted last winter. Its grown three equal, strong shoots from hip height. They are practically vertical and are now 7 foot high. Thanks to you I’ve just learned that I should have pulled two of them horizontal to start a single leader / scaffold shape. Oh well! Could I still do this in June? It seems supple to me, its still growing new leaves!. (I’m in Auckland); Should I wait till spring? Or is it too late to change them and I’ll have to cut them off? Appreciate your comments – thanks again,

    • Never too late Maggie! Yes you definately want to pull them horizontal or close too – and yes you are right Montys keeps her flexibility year round – feel it and trust your instincts here. If you need to remove one of them because they are too close to each other then be brave and do it!

  4. Hey Kath, just wondering: I’ve just planted a couple of feijoa trees, should I leave any pruning until next year, give them a chance to get their roots in the ground this year? They are about 6″ tall and both propagates from cuttings by the look of them.
    Thanks in advance,

    • Hey Will, yes no need to prune them this year. The only reason to prune at this stage is to balance things out a bit – say if one side is out of beat with the other for instance. Depending on pace of growth it may be year 3 until they need a prune. Hope this helps! Kath

  5. Kathy Cambridge says

    Hi Kath, Many thanks for your great posts.. Jason Ross is a great believer in summer pruning of pip fruit as he thinks winter pruning causes a lot of vegetative growth. What is your view please? thanks, Kathy

  6. Hi! A bit of a different situation, but Iโ€™m growing a feijoa in a container indoors with a dedicated grow light. I am not at all hopeful about fruits, but I have enjoyed some flowers. Iโ€™m wondering if I should prune away the bare branches once leaves have dropped… do they regrow their nice thick green leaves? I have lots of new, light green, floppy growth with leaves that drop or shrivel up pretty quick… should I prune those away?! Thanks for any advice!

    • Hey Jillian – feijoas are evergreen.. so I’m mystified! Doesn’t sound like a happy plant all in all. Sad to say I have no experience of growing feijoas in containers and indoors. It’ll take you a bit of playing about and observing to figure this one out. Perhaps someone else reading this will help you. Best Kath

  7. Shaun Hayton says

    Hi Kath; I recently planted a thornless blackberry vine that has a single cane approx 75cm high. I read somewhere that after planting that this leader should be cut back to 30cm. Is this correct. Thank you for your help. Kind Regards Shaun

    • Yip you need to head it back for sure. This is where it will branch from ok, so prune it back in line with the frame you are growing it on. If the first wire is at 40cm then prune it just below that for example. The cool thing with pruning is that plants are super flexible …. you shape them to fit where you want.
      cheers Kath

  8. Hi Kath. Iโ€™m so happy to have come across your page & all the great I information you share. I have a question. When we purchased our property we had a row of Feijoas that had been cut back to stumps, only a couple of trees fruit despite them all being big trees now. I thinned out the last two years to allow pollination but am unsure if they will ever fruit again. Any advice appreciated, thanks, Dominique

    • It may well be about the variety Dominque, not your fine thinning skills at fault here. Seedling feijoa trees often dont fruit – perhaps the reason they were cut down in the first place. If you know where the owners are you could contact them is the fastest route to solving the problem. If not then watch them carefully through flowering to fruit development and see whats going on. Are the flowers falling without being pollinated?
      cheerio Kath

  9. Hi Kath
    I’m FINALLY getting round to pruning my two 10ish year old+ year old feijoa trees which I’m ashamed to say I’ve never really pruned much and certainly not properly! They are SUPER leggy – bare branches of around 1.5 metres!

    I think I’m going to need to go with the dramatic method of cutting off at least some of the branches fairly low and sacrificing a years worth of fruit. My question is – should I be cutting say 1/2 way along these branches, or cutting some right back to a main branch junction? I might do it over a couple of years so it doesn’t shock the trees TOO much, plus keeps some of the lovely bird habitat!

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts,
    Nicky ๐Ÿ™‚

    • No shame Nicky! I’d say the bulk of feijoa trees out there are the same ๐Ÿ™‚
      First of all remove damaged stuff – with a leggy feijoa I’d be taking the branches right off. This will inspire fresh shoots that come from the trunk for a future compact tree ok.
      Choose the longest branches (height and width) and completely remove them.
      Next get into the dense bits and completely remove a few branches back to the trunk to open up cluttered areas for bird pollinators – ideally you’ll be able to -ish see through to the other side when you are done.
      Completely remove low branches that are blocking airflow and dragging on the ground. I like atleast a half metre of clear trunk at the bottom – but you shape it to fit your space and work for you.
      Now stand back and have a look see.
      Next prune is to create balance for strength. Balance up the shape by pruning back any overly long stuff to ish match the rest of the tree.
      You can restore a leggy feijoa and still get fruit pruning this way. Often times bigger fruits than what you’ve been getting.
      The advantage of doing it over a few years is less vigorous shooting ergo less wondering how to manage the shoots next year.
      Trust your intuition here.
      If the tree looks dreadful – then just go the dramatic lop it off road – either way it’ll be fine!
      Happy pruning!
      And also thanks so such for your very generous donation – really kind of you Nicky.
      nga mihi nui, Kath

      • Hi Kath
        Thanks so much for your super helpful reply. I’m excited to be giving it a good prune – will wait until the sunny days later this week. So nice to know that you can’t go too wrong on a feijoa….phew!
        It’s a pleasure to donate some ‘coffees’ – I owed you a few years worth! I value your monthly emails so much.
        nga mihi nui,
        nicky ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Hello. I love your blog and all the great info. I wanted to ask what you recommend using to prune with, our Feijoa trees are up to about 2metres now and need a good prune! Thanks

    • A ladder ๐Ÿ™‚ There are extension tools on the market so check them out. You can even get a mini chainsaw on a pole if you like … brilliant things. I am unco with extension pruning saws and prefer a ladder and ordinary saw – its the kinda thing you’ll have to try to see what suits you best. Good luck!

  11. FruitGuardian says

    Hi Kath, I notice you talk about bird pollinators… I was worried that sparrows & blackbirds were eating and/or dislodging my feijoa flowers, so I put bird netting over it last year. Was this a wrong move? We started getting more fruit after I put the netting up and there were less flowers on the ground, so I figured I had saved them. Several blackbirds still got inside the netting and either died or had to be cut free – don’t know why they’re so desperate to get in, aside from stealing my precious few fruit?