In order to keep your citrus tree healthy and productive, you’ll need to prune it frequently.

How frequent?

It depends on what you discover from the inspection you carry out, which should be done annually. You will have to search for and remove diseased branches cutting them as close as possible to the trunk.

It is advisable that you do not trim beyond 20% of your tree. This guide offers you 3 effective ways to go about trimming your citrus tree.

1 – Pruning According to Timing

I – Annual Pruning

Pruning your citrus tree once in a year is the best timing for a productive tree. This means you’ll have to set a pruning date in your calendar and stick to it every year. However, if the tree is suffering from any disease or damage, then you may have to add another pruning season.

If your previous pruning went as far as the tree’s base, you will have to hold on for a couple of years before pruning again. This is to allow the tree some time to recover from the last pruning before you subject it to the annual pruning.

II – If in Warmer Climate, Prune in winter to Early Spring

Your citrus tree should have some of its foliage for protection against winter. The weight will help avoid your damaging any of the tree’s buds which usually appear in late spring.

III – In Colder Climate, Prune in Mid to Late Spring

During colder climates, citrus trees need all the foliage they can get, even if it means using dead branches for providing frost barriers. If you hold on with the pruning till late spring, new growths from your cut would avoid the harshness of frost.

2 – Custom Pruning

I – Do Not Remove More Than 20% of Total Canopy

Your pruning should not remove beyond 20% of the total canopy. How do you measure 20% of your citrus tree?

There isn’t any equipment to measure that but you could take a good look at the tree before you start pruning. This will enable you to create a mental estimate of what 20% would look like.

You can schedule the pruning over a specific amount of days to enable you to gauge your progress.

Take note not to prune the fruiting sites which are located on the outermost branches. If you prune beyond the prescribed 20%, you will be cutting prime bearing branches which will affect its productivity.

Pruning beyond 20% of the total canopy can affect your tree’s ability to produce fruits.

II – Focus Pruning on Protruding Branches

When you step back a little distance from your tree, you will notice branches that poke out from the canopy. These are the branches that you will let go of, especially the ones that block the walking path around the tree.

If you discover top branches that bend into a U-shape, prune those as well.

III – Trim Back Low-lying Branches

Branches that fall low to the point of touching the soil can be problematic. These branches could rot or open up a way for pests to come in.

If left unchecked, these low-lying branches prevent air from moving around the trunk which can result in disease for the plant. You should trim back these low branches to as much as 3 feet off the ground.

If your tree has low canopy branches, then you can serve the branches entirely from the tree. Just ensure that your cuts are clean enough without rough edges. By trimming your branches up from the ground, you will prevent the leaves from getting wet from rain splashes.

IV – Cut Off Swollen Stems

Swollen stems are usually caused by adult wasps laying eggs deep inside new stems. Use your garden shears to cut off any swollen stems that you discover on your tree, after which you’ll have to gather these cutaways and burn them at a safe distance from your tree.

It’s advisable to carry out this pruning measure just before the start of August.

V – Prune out Dead Weights

These are branches that are dead, diseased, or branches lying on top of others.

Look deeply into the branches to search for the ones that are showing signs of fungus, rotting limbs, or split branches. Anyone you find with these symptoms should be pruned away from the tree.

Also, branches that are being supported by others result in weakening the branches that are supporting them. These “supported” branches even restrict the airflow around your tree. Any supported branch that you discover has to be pruned away from the trunk.

VI – Trim off Vertical Shoots from Young Trees

The vertical shoots are green branches that shoot upwards from the tree’s lower trunk. They tend to suck important nutrients from the tree even though they do not produce fruits.

If you discover any of these shoots, you should prune them from the tree. The horizontal branches are the free fruit-producing branches of the tree, and these have to be nurtured.

3 – Following Good Pruning Practices

I – Be Protective

You should protect both yourself and the plant whenever you are pruning. Wear protective goggles, long sleeve shirts, and well-fitting gloves.

Also, ensure you tie large branches to the trunk before cutting and, if possible, get an assistant to work with you.

II – Stay at a Safe Distance

You will need to stand back from the tree every now and then while you’re working on it. 15 minute intervals are okay for you to stand back and gauge the level of progress that you have achieved.

III – Reviving an Aged Tree

When a tree becomes unproductive, it’s better to trim the branches back to the trunk. This enables the tree to grow healthy branches once again before it starts producing.

It will take between 2 to 3 years for the tree to grow back and become productive after trimming it this way.

IV – Protect the Tree with Whitewash

Cutting a tree right down to the trunk might lead to it getting sunburned. In order to protect the tree, you’ll have to scrub its bark with water and soap, and then paint with a mixture of acrylic paint (50%) and water mixture (50%).


You can keep your citrus tree as healthy as you want it to be. The secret lies in how much care and attention you give to it.

This guide offers you helpful tips for pruning the tree in order to protect it and keep it productive.

Hope you enjoy reading these articles and if you have any questions and/or something you can share about these articles, please leave your comments below and I’ll be happy to write back to you. Thank you so much happy gardening.

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