Most of us wonder when to trim citrus trees and how often it should be done. When to trim citrus trees is based on the health of the tree and how attractive you want it to look. You may also want the tree to stay within your bounds, so a tall ladder is not needed to pick the fruit.

a super healthy citrus tree

Pruning Fear

There are a number of people who are afraid of pruning citrus trees; they think it is a difficult chore or they are worried about damaging the tree. Because of this, they become neglected and end up growing wild, and some people believe they take care of themselves.

In actuality this will cause the fruit’s quality to become deteriorated, there will be a decrease in the quantity of the fruit, and it gives some diseases the ability to permeate the tree.

Therefore, regular pruning is a necessary step for healthy trees. Now let’s look at when you should trim or prune, the necessary tools that are needed, and finally, the where and how to prune to keep the trees healthy and less susceptible to some diseases.

You want your citrus trees to look good and give you a tasty, well-shaped crop for as long as possible.

a healthy tree yields more citrus fruits

Best Time to Prune

The best time for you to prune or trim citrus trees is just about any time March through to August, but prior to blooming. When to trim citrus trees is when it is convenient for you, especially if the next year’s fruit does not concern you.

If you prune or trim only after your tree fruits and before it begins to flower, you will protect quite a bit of the next crop. Some fruit will get lost whenever you decide to prune.

If you live in an area where frost is a big concern, do not prune outdoor citrus trees in the fall. Those trees need to enter winter with a little more bulk in case of any frost damage.

Vital Tools for Pruning

To make the chore of pruning or trimming citrus trees easier, here are some important tools that are needed.

Heavy Duty Gloves

In order to protect your hands, some heavy duty gardening gloves will be needed because there are several varieties of citrus that have some nasty thorns.

Bypass Pruning Shears

A good quality pair of bypass pruning shears is a must for clean and accurate trimming of deadwood and small branches.


Long handled loppers are essential for pruning thicker branches.

Pruning Saw

If you have never pruned a well-established citrus tree, a pruning saw will come in handy if there are any extra thick branches that need to be cut off.

Where and How to Prune

Next, you want to remove all dead and diseased branches, and any limbs that are crisscrossing so you can open the center section of the tree. Cut back any branches that seem to be getting very large or if they are in the way.

In order to prevent sunburn on sensitive bark, it is a good idea to paint any branches that are now exposed to the sun with a mixture of half water and half white latex paint.

cutting off a diseased branch

It is best to prune lemon trees every year or two by cutting any new growth back by 1/4 to 1/3. If you do not do this, the tree will grow too tall and it will be very hard to pick the fruit.

If you want your citrus to be a tree shape, you will need to remove all lower limbs while the tree is still young. This type of trimming can be started when your tree is 2 or 3 years old and well established.

If you want a tree you can walk under, continue removing these limbs every year as the tree gets taller, and always remember to wear those heavy duty gardening gloves. A popular way to trim citrus trees is to make them into bushes.

The easiest way to trim citrus trees into bushes is do nothing at all until the tree reaches the height you want to achieve, generally under ten feet. Top the tree which is cutting straight across the top, when it reaches the height you desire.

This method leaves the tree nothing else to do but to branch out to create a bush. Then all you do is trim your tree yearly just after it fruits to maintain the desired shape.

Hopefully, these tips on when to trim citrus trees will help you to maintain healthy productive citrus.

A Few Tidbits on Citrus Trees

Citrus trees are very beautiful evergreen trees, with glossy leaves that add warmth to any landscape besides giving us delicious fruit. Some citrus trees can grow up to 30 feet, though of course, pruning can keep them smaller.

They are also available in dwarf citrus trees, and semi-dwarf size that can be grown in containers and others can be trained as shrubs. Citrus fruits are part of the Rutaceae family.

Citrus trees produce fruits of different sizes and forms, from oblong to round, and are full of flavor and juice, plus a wonderful fragrance. The well-known citrus trees include the grapefruit, lemon, lime, sweet orange, and tangerine or mandarin.

some real nice mandarins

There are several varieties of each type of citrus, and there are some species that are strictly ornamental such as the trifoliate orange, which is deciduous with inedible fruit. This ornamental citrus has been known to grow as far north as Washington, D.C.

There are hybrids of grapefruits and tangerines, which are also known as tangelos and they are a great dessert fruit. Citranges are hybrids of sweet oranges and trifoliate; they resist frost and have juicy orange-like fruits that are inedible and are mainly used as rootstocks.

There are red-fleshed grapefruits, pink-fleshed lemons, and red-fleshed or blood oranges, as well as the common yellow and orange flesh. There can even be variegated forms of citrus, where the leaves and fruit peel are a mixture of white and green.

Citrus grows well in a broad range of soils but do not bear up to poor drainage or saline conditions. They are very sensitive to the temperature.

Freezing temperatures will ruin the fruits quality, if the temperature goes too low it can kill the tree. This usually varies with the type of citrus.

Limes and lemons are best known for growing in the warmest locations, but the Satsuma mandarins will grow quite well along the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida, in temperatures that can drop down to 15 – 20 degrees F.

The deepest colors of orange of both the juice and peel are produced in cooler areas. The thickest peels of the citrus usually develop in dry regions, while the juiciest is in wet, humid conditions.

Grapefruit is acid in cooler climates and sweet in hotter ones. The blood oranges flesh will turn red in cooler climates, but will often be mottled or lacking redness in warmer climates.

Lemon trees and lime trees bloom periodically throughout the year, and continue bearing fruit in all seasons. Many of the other citrus varieties will flower in the spring, but their ripened fruit will remain on the tree for many months.

Three or four mature citrus trees will supply a family of four in citrus fruits for most of the year. You would need a very large yard for four large citrus trees, but the smaller semi-dwarf or dwarf citrus trees should give you enough supply for close to a year.

a matured citrus tree

Citrus fruits along with their juices have many nutritional and beneficial health properties. They are rich in Vitamin C or ascorbic acid, folic acid, as well as being an excellent source of fiber.

Citrus fruits are also sodium free, cholesterol free, and fat free in addition to containing calcium, folate, potassium, niacin, vitamin B6, magnesium, copper, and phosphorus.

They can also help in reducing the risk of some forms of cancer and heart diseases. They also help to reduce birth defects and diseases in pregnant women.