How to Prune a Jujube

by Brian Barth

Jujubes (Zizyphus jujuba) are unique fruiting trees from China. They have a crisp texture and flavor like apples when eaten fresh and are chewy like dates when dried. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 9, they grow particularly well in areas with long, hot growing seasons. Unlike most fruit trees, jujubes grow well in arid conditions and are tolerant of rocky, infertile soils. They are all-around low maintenance trees with a naturally uniform pyramidal growth habit. Jujubes require only minimal pruning to maintain good health and productivity.

Items you will need

  • Hand pruners
  • Bypass loppers
  • Pruning saw
  • 8-foot step ladder or pruning ladder
  • Rubbing alcohol
Step 1

Remove any dead or diseased wood from the tree. Make cuts several inches back into healthy wood.

Step 2

Cut down any sprouts growing from the roots or the base of the trunk. Cut these all the way back to the roots, if possible.

Step 3

Determine the desired height of the tree for ease of harvest and cut back the central trunk to this point. Make this cut at a 45 degree angle. Jujubes can be maintained as low as 12 to 15 feet with annual pruning.

Step 4

Thin side branches in areas where they are growing densely. These cuts should be made flush with main trunk. Jujubes fruit most prolifically when sunlight can reach the main trunk. Thin any areas with more than 4 or 5 side branches growing from one vertical foot of the main trunk for better light penetration.

Step 5

Cut back the tips of all side branches 10 to 12 inches each year to stimulate strong growth and fruiting. These cuts should be made flush with the point where a smaller side branch grows from the larger branch being trimmed.

Tips

  • The best time to prune a jujube is in winter, while the tree is fully dormant.
  • Hand pruners can be used for wood up to one-half inch in diameter. Bypass loppers are useful for wood between one-half inch and 1 1/4 inches. A pruning saw should be used to cut wood over 1 1/4 inches in diameter.
  • To avoid the introduction of disease pathogens, sterilize all pruning equipment with rubbing alcohol before making any cuts.

Warning

  • Exercise caution when using a step ladder on uneven ground to prune the upper branches of a jujube tree. An orchard ladder is preferable, because it is designed to be more stable on uneven ground and makes it easier to access the interior of a densely branched tree.

About the Author

Brian Barth works in the fields of landscape architecture and urban planning and is co-founder of Urban Agriculture, Inc., an Atlanta-based design firm where he is head environmental consultant. He holds a Master's Degree in Environmental Planning and Design from the University of Georgia. His blog, Food for Thought, explores the themes of land use, urban agriculture, and environmental literacy.