Dwarf apricot trees are essentially the same as their full-sized relatives -- they will produce full-sized fruit, but the tree is smaller. Grafted onto dwarf rootstock, dwarf apricot trees remain short at about 5 to 6 feet, with heavy branches. Careful attention should be paid to maintaining a strong structure for the tree, with five to seven scaffolded, or horizontally-growing, branches that will bear fruit. Whether the tree is grown outdoors or in a container that can be moved, pruning is essential for a healthy, productive dwarf apricot tree. Prune in the fall, when the tree is dormant.
Clip away vertically growing branches and shoots to allow better light and air penetration to the centre of the tree. You are trying to achieve an open centre for your dwarf apricot tree. Look at the tree and picture a goblet glass.
Set the blades of your pruning shears at a 45-degree angle, down and away from crotches and the trunk. This will allow moisture to drain off the stubs instead of collecting and causing rot. Cut carefully and well.
Trim off water shoots (called suckers) from the bottom third of the tree, down to the soil line, whether the tree is in a container or planted into the ground. These shoots will never produce fruit, and will sap vigour from the upper parts of the tree if you allow them to grow.
Once a strong structure of scaffold branches has been established, very little pruning is necessary for a dwarf apricot. Look periodically for limbs or branches that cross each other and rub, because this condition can cause bark injury and invite diseases. Always prune to leave the strongest, most horizontally growing branch intact.
Prune away dead wood or diseased foliage whenever it appears. Bag and discard the trimmings to prevent disease and fungus, and rake up fallen fruit before it rots to avoid attracting unwelcome insects and wildlife. A dwarf apricot can produce as much fruit as its relatives, so routine maintenance is necessary.
Remove upright shoots that spring from the centre of pruned dwarf apricots in midsummer. Increasing light and air penetration will help the tree produce more fruit, while those vigorous, upright shoots will never produce.
Never prune the branches of apricot or any other fruit tree flush or flat with the trunk of the tree. Doing so may cause tearing of trunk bark, making the tree susceptible to diseases.