Pruning Citrus Trees

Tips on Pruning Citrus Trees

            A type of tree that scents the air magnificently and provides delicious healthy fruit is the citrus, but often those who casually grow them fail when it comes to properly pruning citrus trees.  The amount of fruit that is harvested will directly depend upon how the tree is trimmed, so it is vital to know the techniques that will yield the largest harvests.

            Citrus trees are wonderfully versatile in the respect that they can be grown in their natural outdoor setting of sub-tropical climates or in containers virtually anywhere.   This means that anyone in any type of climate can enjoy growing these trees and eating fresh citrus.  The fragrant sweetness of the citrus blossoms is a treat that no one should miss, and following the bloom season there will be sweet, juicy fruit in which to indulge.  There will be, that is, if the trees are well maintained by providing adequate sunlight, food, water and proper pruning.  

            The idea behind pruning is to keep a tree healthy, good looking and to stimulate fruit production.  For timber quality trees, pruning actually improves the value of the wood.  The removal of diseased and damaged tree limbs is designed to keep the tree healthy.   Different types of insects use tree limbs for burrowing and laying eggs, causing harm and potential danger to other limbs.  Also, when tree limbs cross one another, they tend to rub and become damaged; leaving them open for bacteria and infection.  Pruning can also enhance the natural shape of the tree, and keep its growth at a manageable rate. 

            There are certain tools that will be needed to complete the job of pruning citrus trees.  A good, sturdy pair of gardening gloves will be extremely helpful to keep your hands from the thorns that are present on some citrus trees.  Hand pruning shears are the best tool to use when removing smaller branches; providing clean, concise cuts.  The heavier, thicker branches will need the power behind long handled loppers (especially true with mature trees), and a good quality pruning saw may be needed for particularly thick branches.  Once the appropriate tools are obtained, you will be able to begin pruning once the season arrives; usually beginning in March.  It is important to do any pruning before flowering begins. 

            Before beginning to prune, thoroughly examine the tree from every angle.  Since all citrus trees are grafted early, there will be a spot on the tree approximately one or two feet from the ground that can be identified as the graft joint.  Any growths under this joint will be detrimental to the tree should they be allowed to mature, and so should be removed.  This can be done using the hand pruning shears placed as close to the trunk as physically possible and making a vertical cut that will allow moisture to run down and away from the trunk.  Doing so will help the tree heal cleanly and quickly. 

            Moving up the tree, inspect the center of the tree.  It is necessary for this area to airy and open to allow airflow and sunlight to penetrate the canopy.  No branches should be allowed to cross in the center, and for ease in fruit picking, the top branches should not be allowed to attain great heights.  Allow approximately three main branches, from which smaller offshoot branches will emerge that will support the bearing of fruit.   Be meager in cutting back; pruning citrus trees needs only be done occasionally.

            Whether you plant in containers or are fortunate to be in sub-tropical climates where they can be grown naturally, your pruning efforts will be rewarded with healthy, attractive trees as well as bountiful harvests of fresh citrus fruit.



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