Pruning is an important part of keeping your citrus trees productive and healthy. Inspect your tree closely at least once a year. Look for diseased, dead or infected branches that need to be removed. Cut them as close to the trunk as possible. Try not to cut more than 20% of your tree at any one time. Following careful trimming practices will make it possible for your tree to grow and flourish.
[Edit]your sorting time
- Pruning at least once a year. Once a citrus tree is established and producing fruit, it needs a thorough pruning every 12 months. Go ahead and mark your pruning dates on your calendar so you don’t forget them. If your tree is prone to disease or damage, add another pruning session.
- If you’ve previously pruned a tree to its base, it may take a few years for it to fully recover to benefit from annual pruning.
- If you live in a warm climate, prune from winter to early spring. This means the tree will retain some of its leaves to protect it from any typical winter weather. Waiting to prune also means you can work without damaging the buds, which won’t appear until late spring.
- Prune in mid to late spring if you live in a cooler climate. A citrus tree in a cold region will need all of its foliage, even dead branches, to provide a frost barrier. Waiting until late spring also means that any new growth that develops from your cuttings will be spared the ravages of frost.
[Edit]Tailoring Your Pruning
- Aim to remove 20% of the total canopy. It’s easy to get carried away when pruning, but removing too much of a tree can reduce its ability to bear fruit. Take a good look at your tree before you begin so you can get an idea of what 20% pruning should look like. Pruning for several days can also help keep you in control.
- The best fruiting spots on a citrus tree are located on the outermost branches. If you cut more than 20% of these, you are cutting major fruit-bearing branches, even if by mistake.
- Note the long, tufted branches. Take a step back and focus on the overall shape of your tree. Look for branches that are jutting out from the canopy in an unsightly or obvious way. Target branches that block your walkway around the tree. At the top of the tree, trim off branches that bend into a U-shape.
- Gardeners also call these types of branches “leggy”. If your tree has “legs,” it has long branches in need of trimming.
- Remove any lower “skirting” branches. When branches touch soil or the ground, they can rot or become a superhighway for pests. They also prevent air from circulating around the trunk, which can lead to disease. Trim the lower branches until they are at least off the ground.
- For lower canopy branches, you can cut them off at any time. Just make sure you keep your cuts clean with no rough ends.
- Trim your branches high enough above the ground to avoid getting the leaves wet from rain or splashing water.
- Cut off any swollen stems. Adult wasps prefer to lay eggs deep inside the young stems of citrus trees. As the larva grows, a “gall” forms where the stem begins to swell outward. Use your shears to cut these branches away from your trees. Collect and burn branch clippings or place them in a sealed plastic bag.
- If you see many small holes on the gall, the wasps are already out of the stem. You can still cut these spots or leave them alone.
- In most places, you’ll need to remove these galls before early August.
- Cut out any dead or diseased wood. Remove the outer branches and take a peek at the interior area of the tree. Scan the branches and look for diseased or damaged areas. Broken or split branches, limbs that are rotting, and spots with fungus are potential breeding grounds for additional pests and diseases. Cut them off the tree.
- Cut any wood by laying it on top of each other. As you look inside the tree, you may notice that some branches are fully or partially supported by others. This overcrowding limits airflow around the tree trunk and can weaken the tree’s overall structure. Cut them off near the stem.
- Trim watershoots in young trees. These are strong, green branching growths that shoot up from the lower trunk of trees. Trim them at the base. If left alone, these watershoots will suck vital nutrients from your tree.
- Vertical shoots will not produce fruit. You’ll get your best produce from horizontal branches.
[Edit]following good pruning practices
- Wear protective gear. Wear goggles to protect your eyes from free-falling sticks or debris. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to protect yourself from scratches. Wear thick, but well-fitting gloves to protect your hands from the thorns of the citrus tree.
- Be careful when removing large branches or foliage. It is easy to get hurt by falling branches during the pruning or trimming process. To prevent this, attach large branches to the trunk with a safety tie before cutting them. You can also get a partner who will handle the branch during any final cuts.
- Stand back every few minutes to assess your work. After every 15 minutes, take several steps away from the tree and watch your progress. Use this as an opportunity to plan how to stop or continue with your work.
- To revive an old tree, cut back a single stem. This is an extreme measure reserved only for the most unproductive or overgrown citrus trees. When you “skeletonize” a tree you trim each branch back to the trunk, leaving a stand-along stump. This will give your tree a chance to grow healthy, fruit-bearing branches.
- It often takes 2-3 years from a “skeletal” tree to become productive. So, it’s a way out for the patient.
- Paint the bark with water-based whitewash. If you “skeletonize” your tree, or if you cut out an entire section because of damage, your tree may get sunburned as a result. Trees that are scorched by the sun are more prone to cracking and infection. To prevent this, paint your tree trunk with a mixture of 50% acrylic paint to 50% water.
- To help the paint adhere, scrub the bark with a mixture of water and soap before painting.
- If you want to avoid pruning branches that are going in the wrong direction, put small weights on their ends. This will put pressure on them to move in a different direction.
- Move slowly when trimming to avoid cutting your fingers or hands.