How to Prune Lemon Trees

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If you have lemon trees, it’s vital that you keep them pruned. Neglecting the pruning process can lead to a slower-growing tree and one that produces less fruit. Unlike other citrus trees that may be able to be pruned throughout the year, lemon trees require a more specific time table. The benefits of having a well-maintained tree are worth the work, so long as you know what you’re doing.

Step 1 - Learn When to Prune

If you prune your lemon tree at the wrong time, you risk losing that year’s harvest. The lemon tree only needs to be pruned once every year or two, depending on how fast it is growing. If you live in a warm climate, the season doesn’t matter but you should not prune on really hot days. The best time to start this is shortly after the tree has produced its autumn harvest to allow it plenty of time to recover from the pruning process before the next harvest. Generally though, you can trim back a lemon tree any time it’s producing flowers.

Step 2 - Review the Proper Techniques

The process of pruning a lemon tree is very precise. You must perform the task in a way that allows plenty of sunlight to reach as much of the tree as possible, so trim branches from particularly dense areas or any branches that are interweaving with one another. When cutting a branch, it’s important to cut it at a slight angle. You want to cut about one inch away from the main trunk or branch and keep the angle directed away from the tree. Cutting in this fashion promotes growth and trains the tree to grow its branches upward.

It’s very important to remember not to trim more than one-third of the tree each year. Cutting away any more than that can damage the tree, stunting its growth and producing less fruit. Leave at least three to five main branches to give the tree a head-start to a bountiful harvest the following year. Trimming off weak or wobbling branches is also a good idea because these branches will produce inferior lemons or fruit that will fall from the tree before it is ripe.

Additional Tips

Begin pruning the tree within its first or second year of life to train the plant to grow in the desired direction. If a branch looks good, don’t trim it! There’s no need to trim a branch that produces great fruit unless it either interferes with the tree getting sunlight or it’s completely growing in the wrong direction. It’s also smart to wear gloves while pruning to protect your hands from any thorns or biting/stinging insects that may be lurking in your lemon tree. Keep your tools sharp as well; the more well-kept your sheers are, the easier the pruning job will be and the cleaner the cuts you will be able to make.