Wednesday, May 12, 2010

To Prune or Not To Prune, Is that the Question?

I have done a couple of lectures the past few weeks and have been asked about pruning Citrus, both there and at work lately. So, I guess it is a good time to address this situation.
When should you prune Citrus, How should you prune Citrus, SHOULD I prune Citrus?
These are usually the questions asked.
I usually don't recommend pruning Citrus trees, you would be cutting fruit off if you do. However, there are times when it is or might be necessary.
Let's start at the beginning.
Unlike most other fruit trees, Citrus trees do not require pruning to keep them productive. On their own they will develop an attractive shape without any pruning.
Young trees will often produce very vigorous shoots that will give the tree an unkempt, out of balance feel. These shoots can be cut back to maintain a more uniform shape.
If you have a grafted tree, anything below the graft line should be cut off. The graft line will appear as a dog leg, maybe 3-6 inches above the soil. This is where the Scion and Rootstock meet. If the sprouts are below the graft, that is the rootstock trying to come back. Chances are, this will produce fruit that you really wouldn't care to eat.
There are some theories out there that any vigorous growers, usually Lemons, can be cut back about 20% to 30% every couple years. this will keep the fruit in a range that is much easier to harvest.
Keeping the centers of Citrus trees open, think vase shape, will help with the health of the tree. To do this, you will want to remove any crossing branches, dead branches or by selectively thinning branches. This will allow sunlight into the center of the tree and help keep inner portions productive. This will also increase air flow, decreasing the chance of fungus and disease.
Occasionally, you may need to prune a leggy tree. This will be caused by inadequate light or grown indoors. You can cut this back to force branching and create more bushiness.
Hard freezes will occasionally come and harm your Citrus tree. You will want to cut any dead or apparently dead wood out right away. Well Don't!
Wait until after the first good flush of Spring growth. I know it looks ugly, but you can actually do more harm and actually slow down the trees recovery. There is research out of Florida that has found that trees pruned after the first flush of growth, actually recover more quickly and grew more vigorously than those pruned immediately after the freeze event.
Citrus trees can also be cut back if you planted them in the wrong place to begin with. I would recommend moving the tree first, but if that is not possible, an occasional clipping to keep it out of the sidewalk or driveway is not detrimental to the tree. Under normal conditions, light pruning will not drastically reduce your fruit crop. A heavy pruning, such as a quarter of the tree or more, will reduce it accordingly.
Well, there you have some reasons why you would want to prune a Citrus tree. There are probably others I haven't listed. The next question inevitably is always, WHEN, can I prune?
Citrus can generally be pruned at any time, but it is best to do it just before it blooms or just after fruit set. The tree will adjust itself.
Avoid pruning during late Summer to early Fall if you can. Pruning during this time usually stimulates vigorous new growth. If you are planning on protecting your trees during the Winter, like moving it into a greenhouse, this is okay. If your trees are planted in the ground, this can cause problems. The new growth that a late pruning stimulates will not have enough time to harden off before Winter sets in. This will greatly increase the chances of frost damage.
If you are pruning late in the year, you can also have the problem of exposing the fruit and bark to too much sun suddenly and sunburning it. Bark can be highly sensitive to sunburn. If it is severely burned, it will die and cause a girdling of the tree.
I hope this helps in your quest to give your Citrus tree a haircut. Personally, I very seldom prune mine. Occasionally I will limb a tree up a little, so I can get to the soil to feed and water it easier, but other than that, I let them go to town.
Happy Growing!
Darren

126 comments:

  1. Great post, Dearren! As you know, I have several citrus and was very interested in hearing your opinion. I've pruned my Meyer Lemon when it gets gangly and twisted, but that's really it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I prune my mine all the time. they are standards and get way out of bounds if I don't. Have to say they seem not to care one bit and rebound with plenty of new foliage and flowers.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for the information. I have a young Persian Lime tree, maybe 2 years old and 2.5 feet tall, which was created by a clipping off a mature tree. My question is how to shape it... it currently has a main leader that only goes about 6 inches off the ground and then it makes a wide "Y," each of these branches Y again and have a few lateral branches. Not a ton of leaves anywhere on the tree, but some, and some fruit starting to set at the very ends of the long spindly branches (I've pinched most of the fruit though). Should I let it retain its wide Y shape or pick one of the Ys to be the main leader and clip the other? I already cut off a couple large branches that were below the main Y, so this will be a lot of pruning for the little lime tree. Any advice would be so appreciated, as I am having a hard time finding answers. Thank you :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cwolfgang,
      I think I have a pretty good idea of what you are talking about and what your situation is, however, is it possible to send me a picture or two?
      You can send them directly to my e-mail TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com
      I can give you a better answer once I see them.
      I am thinking that you will want to just prune the leaders and not try to make a central leader, Citrus do not respond the same as Apples.

      Delete
  4. I live in South Florida and I recently planted a meyer lemon tree (15 gallon stock) that is doing great. The entire tree is blooming out except for one limb. Should this limb be pruned off?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Interesting. Does the limb seem unhealthy? Are the leaves on it identical to the rest of the plant? Unless the limb is unhealthy looking, I would leave it and see what it does, it is possible that it is trying to sport something new, and might just be later blooming.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great advice, Daren. Thanks.. We have new lime and Meyer Lemon trees that I repotted yesterday. There are 2 very small lemons and not sure doing well. Also there are very small bare branches without leaves on both trees. Should they be pruned? We live in Tampa, Fl. I appreciate your help, Kathy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Kathy, Thank you for the kind words.
      Yes, you can go ahead and prune them. More then likely they are dead anyway and you should always prune out dead branches.

      Delete
  7. I tipped my Meyer's lemon a week ago. Was that a mistake? I planted from seed. Its just about 2'.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey WP,
      No, you should be fine. It is not old enough to start producing fruit yet, so it should just branch out more.

      Delete
  8. Hey Great article! I specifically liked the segment about pruning in the summer and fall. Tree Service Brooklyn NY is my typical source and I will be asking them all sorts of questions now!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi,

    Great advice all-around and your page is now bookmarked! I'm limited in space and have had success container growing a lime and orange tree. I recently bought a grapefruit tree. I wanted to prune it (it has a droopy branch) but decided not to because it was flowering plus had two grapefruits. I was always under the impression I should prune in the Fall which I have with my other two fruit trees. Recently leaves have started to fall off and I am concerned. I am located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Weather has been pretty hot this summer and I have found my poor tree on its side a few times when gusty winds roll through. My question is whether I should just prune it now since I have concerns about its overall health. It does have some new flowers but many leaves are turning yellow.

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can prune a citrus anytime, it will not hurt it, may cut some fruit off, but no harm.
      The issue of some of the leaves turning yellow and falling off. You said you have found it on its side with gusty winds. Has your moisture level stayed consistent? In containers, they dry out much faster, and if you have gusty winds, that dries them even faster, especially if it is hot also. If they are falling over like that, that tells me it is time to repot. That is usually my indicator. So you have multiple things going against you, drying winds, no moisture making the pots lighter and more inclined to fall over, and no moisture getting in if it should rain and heat. Keep them up and well watered and I think the leaves will stop falling off.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the prompt reply. :)

      You're right, I do need to repot - now sooner rather then later. I learned a lesson on this one as the pot I bought has a substantially smaller bottom diameter. I worried about shocking the tree repotting so soon (I bought 4 months ago).

      I will also take wind into consideration in regards to watering and prune away. ;-)

      Thanks again! :)

      Delete
  10. Thanks for all of the info.

    I read a post about a tree created from a cutting. How is best to do this? Do I cut any limb and start the cutting in water? My existing lime tree is 3 years old, planted in a 5-gallon pot, and has produced wonderful, seedless limes all summer.

    Thanks for any help!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Ken,
      Excellent question!!
      Right now is the best time to root cuttings, it almost to the end of the season actually.
      You will need to find some semi-ripe wood....it has just started to turn brown, but is still pliable.
      Make about a 6-8 inch cutting and remove all of the leaves except the top two. Cut those leaves in half.
      Make a slanted cut, preferably by a node. Remove a little of the bark on one side of the cutting, maybe only 1/2 inch up from the cut end.
      Dip in a root hormone of your choice and put it in a 50/50 mixture of fine pine bark and perlite. Water in and place it in a bag or some kind of chamber to keep it humid. Stick in bright, not direct sun, and it should root in a few months. You can see how I do it with Camellias...they have very similar times and needs when it comes to sticking cuttings. Check it out here: http://thecitrusguy.blogspot.com/2013/08/take-root.html
      I hope that helps?!

      Delete
  11. I live in Spain and very new to gardens, I have planted various fruit trees including a small lemon tree that's supposed to produce fruit 4 times a year, its approx. 2 mtrs tall now, it had a couple of lemons when I bought it, I used the lemons but a friend told me now that the tree has no fruit it will not produce fruit again.........is this a load of rubbish or truth ?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wow! Please tell your friend he is ABSOLUTELY WRONG!!
    If that was the case, then ALL of those trees in Florida would be replanted every year!!
    Now, as for YOUR lemon tree that is suppose to fruit four times a year, not so much.
    I am not sure what kind of lemon you have, but I have seen ripe fruit and blossoms on it at the same time. Usually the spring will have a flush of flowers, then again in sometime late summer, a much smaller flush. That is about all.
    I hope that helps!?

    ReplyDelete
  13. thank you very much Darren, I did have my doubts as to his comments, he is a local man (Spanish) so I said nothing but immediately I searched the internet for answers, I will follow your advice.

    rgrds

    Martin

    ReplyDelete
  14. I have a lemon tree that is around one year old. I planted it from a seed from a lemon I found to be exceptional. I live in Massachusetts and had it on my balcony in a container all summer. It has grown to around 2.5 feet tall and recently began putting off branches around the bottom until around 1/3 of the way up. I cut the bottom two as I assumed they were suckers and left the rest. It looks pretty lanky and meeger from that point up. It has excellent new growth on the top, but I want to coax it into growing out, not up. I live in a condo and need to bring it inside in the colder months. I know it is common to cut the top off, but I want to make sure I am doing it at the right time of growth and time of year. I do not want it to stop gaining height entirely, but its getting taller far quicker than it is getting wider. Any suggestions

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Anonymous,
      Being that you are going to be bringing it inside, cutting it now will not be a problem.
      The biggest things to remember is LOTS of sun. As much as you can give it. Also humidity. Do not panic if the leaves start to fall off. It is fairly common when bringing them inside. Ideal spot? A bathroom with a skylight or large bay windows, which I know is unlikely, but you get the gist.

      Delete
    2. I have one window that gets a fair amount of sunlight and I also use a grow light to help it. Will cutting it stop its height growth all together? Will it make it grow wider?
      Also, I transplanted it last year. But I think it will need to be transplanted again here soon, if not already....when should I transplant it and will that affect when I should cut the top?
      How much should I cut?

      Should I be pruning any more lower branches or leave them be because it was not grafted?

      Also - am I ever going to get actual fruit off this thing or is it a waste of time.


      Sorry for all the questions.

      Delete
    3. Your tree will continue to try and grow taller by sending shoots up, but will also get wider. You can continue to cut off the leaders going up, if so desired. Being that you will bring it inside, repot when you are ready to tackle it.
      Cutting it is a personal preference. It all depends on what you are needing the tree to do. If it has to fit in a three foot tall box, then cut that much off so it will fit. If you are just trying to keep the top from getting too high, maybe 6-10 inches.
      Unless you are looking for a lollipop tree or it is difficult to water/feed, leave the bottom branches. Now, with that being said, if you are having a bug issue on the lower branches, then by all means cut them off.
      You WILL get fruit, however, under IDEAL growing conditions, Lemons take, on average, 5-6 years to bear fruit. So, you may be in that range or a tad longer.
      Do not apologize for the amount of questions, that is what I am here for...to help.

      Delete
  15. We got crazy cutting our orange tree. Pretty much scalped it after last crop of oranges. Leaves coming back and looking good. Think we will ever see oranges again?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We have never fertized but always produces tons of fruit

      Delete
    2. Hello Cindy,
      ABSOLUTELY! It may take an extra year or so to produce fruit, but you should get some next season. You did not mention where you lived, so depending on that, will determine how fast you get fruit again. It will fruit again!

      Delete
  16. HELP!
    I have a small grapefruit tree that just recently got a dead branch. The branch is pretty big and I would hate to cut it off. What can I do to it other than cut it? I live in Arizona and the weather is still very hot. Can you give me an idea of what was the cause of it because I have three other ones and those are fine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is there anyway that you can send me a picture? TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com
      The dead branch, did it just die or did it wilt first? How long did it take to die?
      Are the leaves still on it or did they all fall off?
      Was there anything sprayed by it?

      Delete
  17. DARREN;
    I RECENTLY MOVED INTO A HOME THAT HAS 2 OLDER ORANGE TREES. THEY WERE NEVER MAINTAINED.
    OLD GROWTH AND DEAD BRANCHES. THEY DO PRODUCE ORANGES VERY TASTY. I WOULD LIKE TO BRING LIFE BACK TO THE 2 TREES AND MAKE THEM HEALTHIER THEY ARE A MESS EXTREMELY UNKEPT. DO YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTION ON HOW TO BEGIN PRUNING & CUTTING ETC.

    THANK YOU JOHN IRELAND

    ReplyDelete
  18. DARREN;
    I RECENTLY MOVED INTO A HOME THAT HAS 2 OLDER ORANGE TREES. THEY WERE NEVER MAINTAINED.
    OLD GROWTH AND DEAD BRANCHES. THEY DO PRODUCE ORANGES VERY TASTY. I WOULD LIKE TO BRING LIFE BACK TO THE 2 TREES AND MAKE THEM HEALTHIER THEY ARE A MESS EXTREMELY UNKEPT. DO YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTION ON HOW TO BEGIN PRUNING & CUTTING ETC.

    THANK YOU JOHN IRELAND

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello John,
      Congrats on your move! Bonus having 2 Orange trees!!
      Can you send me some pictures? TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com
      Without seeing the trees, you can certainly cut out all of the dead wood and anything that is crossing each other.
      Once I see the pictures, I can give you a MUCH better idea of where to start.

      Delete
  19. I recently bought a house that has what I think is a lime tree growing very near the house. It is very dense and tall with upper branches scraping the gutters. It did not bloom this year. What the heck should I do to it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess my first question would be, are you sure it is a lime? Can you send pictures to TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com
      If the tree is that tall, no matter what it is, pruning probably should be done.
      Where do you live? I ask only to find out if a lime would live where you are.

      Delete
  20. Hi, I have a wonderful Eureka lemon tree that has been very healthy from the beginning. It's about 7 years old. We had a big storm here in Southern California and my tree had too much fruit on it...and this caused a very large lower branch to split length-wise down the middle...about 12 inches long. This branch is probably the biggest branch off the trunk. I got a bolt/screws/nuts and closed the split the best I could. The leaves are still healthy looking etc, but I wonder if in time this can kill the tree. Should I cut that large branch off...or keep it with the bolt "fix". It's been "fixed" for about 3 weeks now, and so far the leaves look good. The split is still there and 3 mm wide. This is my favorite tree...I don't know what to do!! Kim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My apologies Kim, I have been wicked busy and your e-mail slipped through the cracks.
      As long as the leaves look healthy and the limb is not in decline, the "fix" is fine.
      If it should start to wither and die, cut it off.
      Basically, you have done a graft, the tree should mend itself and the split will eventually fill in. Keep me posted.

      Delete
  21. I have a lemon tree I've been growing from seed for the past 2 years but really only started paying attention to it recently. It's about 2 ft tall and was just the long stem, no branches yet so I tried pruning the top to force it to branch out. However, I stupidly did this the day after I transplanted it. Instead of branching out, it just grew another stem which has added another 8 inches or so to the plant. Should I try top pruning it again or just wait to let it do it on it's own? I just don't want it to get all that tall which is why I tried doing it before.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pruning is necessary at some point of time for each and every tree just to take off the dead or dying branches and to initiate new growth. The best time to prune may differ from tree to tree.

      You can wait for sometime and if you think its not growing in the right direction or the way you want it to, then prune it.

      You can consult some tree care professional or certified arborist for your help or Visit http://treeprosonoma.com/

      Delete
  22. Hello I have dwarf lemon, lime, orange and tangerine trees... a few have flowered and started little fruits but never completed the cycle.. what am I doing wrong and what will help to see fruit?
    I am in WI

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Michelle,
      The first thing that comes to mind is pollination. Where there bees around when they were flowering?
      Assuming they were inside when they flowered, you are in WI, I am pretty sure this was the problem.
      When they flower again, get a small artist paintbrush and dab from flower to flower to transfer pollen. Remember to buzz like a bee so the flower knows what is going on. That last sentence was a joke, just in case you believed me, people have in the past.
      A second possibility is, your moisture level was fluctuating to wildly. Try to keep the soil moisture about that of a wrung out dish sponge.
      Hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions, or if you think I missed the boat completely on your problem.

      Delete
  23. Hi,just bought a house with a pomelo tree,very unkept but with many sized fruits all over it. I was going to prune and clean t up,but not at the expense of the fruit.Should I still prune?It is in Stockton area,Ca.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unless there are dead branches or ones that are crossing each other, I say no. Wait until all of the fruit are ripe, then you can prune in February, maybe January depending on your normal weather.

      Delete
  24. Good day. We live in South Africa in a region with a Mediterranean climate. We have a lemon tree that seems to do quite well even though it is not on an ideal spot. Problem is it is quite high and 4/5ths of the fruit is quite high. To high to pick. What do we do? Lop off the top and hope for the best? It is difficult enough to get to the lower hanging fruit but to have so many fruit at the top unreachable is sad. Please help. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hello, There are a couple of options.
    There are fruit pickers available online. Possibly order one of them or fashion one yourself looking at the pictures online.
    I am assuming ladders are out of the question?
    You could prune it down, but it sounds like even that will not be a good option with even the lower fruit difficult to reach.
    I am not familiar with your part of the world, at least to the extent of what is available. Are there no aerial trucks with a long ladder on them?
    Other than climbing the tree, which is often dangerous, I am not sure what other options you may have.
    One last possibility is, make some air layers from it and start over again with smaller trees and keep them pruned to a manageable height.
    Good Luck!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hello, I live in Napa CA. It's very hot right now 105+ F. I have just rescued a dwarf variegated Lemon that is pink fleshed. It had only a few leaves left when I got it from an old guy who never watered it and it had a few short green twigs... Now they appear to be drying out and it's lost all its leaves. I have it in a pot in the shade since its been soooo hot and keep it watered hoping that it might come back to life... Do you think I should prune some of the branches to maybe force it to sprout something or how do I rescue this poor thing!? Thanks,

    Danielle

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Danielle,
      Glad you rescued the tree!
      Let me ask a few questions, so I can get a better idea of what we are dealing with.
      Was it already in a pot, or did you dig it up out of the ground?
      If you scratch a small piece of bark, is it still green?
      I am going to suggest what I would do, even not knowing the answers to the above.
      Go ahead and prune it back by about a third. Make sure you get any branches that seem dry or dead.
      And any crossing branches.
      Keep it in the shade and watered. You could also give it a weak solution of a water soluble plant food. Go maybe half strength every third watering.
      Let me know of the progress.

      Delete
  27. It was in the ground. We dug it up. It's now in a black nursery pot. Yes there is green on the main trunk and a few branches when they are scratched slightly. I pruned it slightly and it seems like it still has some life in it. I have fertilized it lightly. I guess just continue the care and wait. We also rescued a dwarf orange from the same person and it already has tiny baby leaves sprouting on it. The lemon was quite a bit taller -maybe this is why it's taking longer to come back? Idk. I have hope!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Okay, that definitely helped some.
      When you dug it out of the ground, I am positive you damaged some of the roots....there is no getting around that, unless you dig a HUGE rootball. That is why what few leaves that were left shriveled up and died.
      You are absolutely correct, the larger lemon tree will need a little more time to recoup. I believe they will both be fine, with time.

      Delete
    2. Hi Darren, So the larger lemon I was worried about (a variagated pink eureka) has about 4 branches now that are variagated and it is doing well! Thanks for your tips! One branch is completely white though... Should I prune the all- white branch off? Will it produce fruit? Or shall I leave it? Its kinda cool but bizarre!

      Delete
    3. I usually just leave mine, They don't or at least haven't produced any fruit. Like you said, it is cool, but bizarre. Unless it is just bothering you, leave it.

      Delete
  28. I HAVE A VERY YOUNG CITRUS (HONEY BELL ORANGE) I PLANTED EARLIER THIS YEAR. IT IS GROWING LIKE A WEED AND IS NOW OVER FOUR FEET TALL WITH BRANCHES GETTING RATHER LONG. I LIVE JUST NORTH OF TAMPA FLORIDA AND WOULD LIKE TO KNOW IF IT IS OKAY TO PRUNE THIS YOUNG TREE AT THIS TIME OF YEAR (AUGUST).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Senecajim,
      I do not see any problem with pruning it now. There is still plenty of time for it to harden off before winter. I am assuming it is not fruiting yet, so even more so, it should be fine.

      Delete
  29. I recently repotted a valencia orange tree from a 16 inch self-watering pot to a 24" planter. After the move, I got vigorous growth, but about half of it has been droopy like a weeping willow. The leaves appear healthy, but some are much larger than the other leaves. Up to now, the growth has been stiff and sun-reaching. There are no yellowing leaves, and the leaves themselves are not droopy. I could not find any disease, pest, or condition that matched this issue, either in photo or description. To top it off, the tree has also set flowers, and one of them has just set fruit, and some of the branches that grew are stiff, even on the same main branch from the trunk. The stiff branches did not grow quite as fast, though.

    I live in NC, and the temperatures were really high until the move, and once the transplant had occurred, we've been getting hammered every other day with heavy rains. The temperatures after the move have ranged from the low 70s to low 90s. Humidity has been high. My other citrus trees that were moved to bigger pots have all shown the same kind of growth, but no droopy branches. Aside from the droop, the tree looks very healthy, and the only issue I can see is the rain. The tree has better drainage in the planter, as the self-watering pot trapped water in the bottom, although the tree would drink it dry in a day. Any ideas on what the cause of the droop would be?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Christopher,
      Can you send me some pictures?
      TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com
      Other than the size pot and the self watering thing, has anything else changed?
      Fertilizer, Light, type of soil used?
      Anything, even the slightest thing, might tell me something.
      What are the other citrus trees that are not showing the droop?
      I LOVE a good challenge!

      Delete
    2. Darren, Photos are on their way. I use standard Miracle Gro Potting Mix, with a light sprinkling of MG Palm & Citrus fertilizer on top. It has had the same type since I got it in 2014. The moss in the photos is a new addition, preparing to keep little children's hands out of the soil when it comes in for winter, and was added after the sagging issue. The pot is in almost the same location, I moved it a couple feet (2-3) towards the corner of the patio, which increases the amount of sun by about 20 minutes a day. The pot also increased the height by a little over a foot. (the olive tree to the left in the pictures is in is the same size and type as the old pot) The other citrus trees are lemons and grapefruit, all grown from seed. Disregard the Meyer lemon in the photo, it is new, and is just getting established in its new home.

      I have seen that sagging before when trees were weighed down with fruit or water, but never on its own. I have also noticed the growth is not spread out, branches are close together. When the tree was young, the branches were close together as well, and the fork is the result of me using wires to train the tree to separate the branches. It survived a freeze in January of 2015, moving from VA to NC, where it had to spend the night in a uhaul trailer, and it spent last winter under grow lights in my garage. (4x48" T8). It didn't grow much since last year, which combined with its natural height, is why I selected it to go into the big pot.

      Delete
    3. Hello Christopher,
      I received the pictures.
      I believe you have it pretty much right!
      The reason the limbs are weeping like that is the rain. The tree grew so fast, it really liked whatever you did, so the new growth is a little weaker than normal. It will eventually harden up. Valencias can have a slight drooping habit anyway, so there is nothing to worry about.

      Delete
  30. Hello, I just moved to a new place and have been struggling with two orange trees and a lime tree. I'm not sure what kind they are, I was just told two orange and a lime : P I have been battling an ant infestation, they were heavily harvesting scale in the two orange and a little in the lime. I had to prune them back from touching my roof, the neighbors roof and the fence as the ants were desperate to use any route back into the tree after I sprayed poison on the trunks. I've successfully beat back the ants from the trees (still struggling elsewhere) but what can I do to support the trees? One orange only needed a little pruning, the other had a large amount on the sides removed and the poor lime had to be hit pretty hard with the pruning sheers. I bought Jobes (sp?) citrus fertilizer spikes for them and have stepped up on my watering. The lime still has a ton of limes, one orange has a few puny oranges but the other has none. I really want to save them and would love any help!
    Thank you!
    ~Cadie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would recommend you keep treating the tree with poison or neem oil. The ants are not really the danger for the tree, the scale is. And they're really hard to permanently get rid of. Once the scale is removed, the tree will perk up in a couple days, once it builds its sap back up. (think being drained of blood). Other than that, it sounds like you have a good care regimen. Just be careful not to overwater.

      Delete
    2. I am going to disagree with you this time Anonymous.
      First, what kind of poison are you using?
      Remember, anything that you put on or around the tree, can and will be absorbed by the tree itself,including the fruit. If it is ants that are a problem, get a product called tanglefoot. It is a sticky substance that you put around the trunk so ants can't cross it.
      As for the Jobe's Citrus spikes, please don't use those. In theory they are great, when the rubber hits the road, not so much.
      Nitrogen, your first number, moves through the soil very easily. Great!
      The 2nd and 3rd number, Phosphorus and Potassium, do not. So, you stick the spike in the soil, here come the roots, they hit that blob of fertilizer and zap, you burn the roots.
      Get some Espoma Citrus Tone, that is some of the best stuff out there.
      As for the watering, I always tell people to keep the soil the consistency or a wrung out dish sponge.
      As long as the trees are still alive, they will bounce back from the pruning. They usually only produce one crop a year, there are exceptions, so it will be next year before you see fruit again.

      Delete
    3. Thank you both for responding! I'm using Ortho water based spray because it was all I had to spray the house with, the ants are absolutely insane right now and kept coming in the house. I'll look for the tangle root brand the next time I hit a home improvement store. Any recommendations on killing the scale? I pruned away the heavily infested branches but there's still a few scattered about.

      Delete
  31. Hi Darren, I live in Tucson AZ, and have a small orange tree, not sure of the kind as it was in the yard when we moved it (house had been empty for 2 years before we moved in so probably not watered enough. This tree is about 5 or 6 ft tall and has nice looking leaves and blooms profusely but no fruit the last two years...first year we had 4 oranges. This year it has several new shoot that sprouted while we were gone on vacation, along the trunk and lower limbs and I'm wondering if I should leave them and cut the rest of the tree down and maybe I'd get fruit again? The trunk is about 6 or 8" across at the base.
    Thanks for any info!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Unknown,
      You are right, it probably did not get enough water those two years. It even tells me more being that the tree is AT LEAST 5 years old and is only 5-6 feet tall.
      Definitely DO NOT cut the tree down, you will just set it back.
      There are a few reasons why it flowers, but does not produce fruit.
      1) Are you keeping the soil moist? Not having roller coaster times of dry and moist?
      2) When it is flowering, do you see lots of bees? Lack of pollination will cause no fruit.
      3) How much sun is it getting? If not enough, it can flower, but will not set fruit.
      Let me know the answers to the above and we will see if we can narrow down the problem.

      Delete
    2. 1. I water once a week for about 3/4 of an hour...just let the hose run near the tree. 2. yes we do have quite a few bees and we have a lemon tree and a grapefruit tree that bear fruit just fine so don't think it's the bees. 3. It gets sun almost all day! The other two citrus were also here when we moved in! Shall I trim off those sprouts? If no fruit soon we'll probably cut the whole thing down. OH I do fertilize 3 times a year. Valentines, Labor and Mothers Day times of year. I used the pound in stakes the first two years but have used Miracle Grow mixture in water... Also this year I used a citrus fertilizer .... Thanks for any help!

      Delete
  32. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Hi, I have a dwarf lemon/lime hybrid shrub in a container. It's about two years old and I recently had to move it around a bunch and it started to suffer. About half the plant died, but the other half is doing okay. There's even a couple blooms on it right now, but very few leafs. When is it okay for me to trim off the dead branches? Is there anything I can do to help it grow leafs back quickly? I bought some jobe's citrus tree spikes and broke one into thirds and placed that around the edges of the container about a week ago. It looks pretty ugly right now but I want to save this little shrub.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Georgianne, Sorry it has taken so long to reply.
      As long as you are sure the branches are dead, go ahead and cut them off. You can check by scrapping a little bit of bark off, if you see green, it is alive. Move on until you see brown.
      As for the Jobe's spikes..yuck! Get some Citrus Tone or at least Miracle Gro for acid loving plants. It should start to look better with some good food and keep the soil moist, like a wrung out dish sponge.

      Delete
  34. Hi Darren,

    We just moved our Meyer lemon (which has been in a pot its whole life) into a bigger pot around the other side of our house to get full sun. The tree is about 1m tall (young). Our winter here in South West Australia has been long and wild and we just had another late storm which has blown 80% of the leaves off it! I read your post above about the lemon tree which was dug up. Would you suggest we cut it back 30% and keep it well watered? (not a problem at the moment with all this rain! and we are talking about setting up a wind break for it also?

    Thanks so much for all your help!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Greetings!
      The difference between the dug up lemon tree and yours is, your leaves were just blown off by the weather. The dug up one had roots damaged.
      Yes, the wind break is a good idea. If you are getting that much rain, the nitrogen is being flushed out of the pot. You might want to consider giving it some slow release fertilizer or, I prefer Citrus Tone to keep the N level up.

      Delete
  35. Can an orange tree be stopped from growing to high and the branches are hanging because of the oranges it has. I though and orange tree would be straight up and not have the branches hang over. My friend has to put 2x4 to keep the branches up a little. Her tree is huge and has lots of oranges. I have a tree thats 5 feet tall and I am thinking of destroying it because I don't want the work of keeping an eye on the tree all the time. The pear tree growing good and don't have branches hanging over. What can I do?

    ReplyDelete
  36. Darren, need help. I container grew an orange tree from seed, planted in the ground and it grew like crazy. It's been in the ground about fifteen years and is twenty to twenty-five feet tall, and produces. I do not know what variety. We had a pretty hard freeze about a week ago (Houston, Texas area) and the fruit started to drop. In addition, something was making a nice meal of the fruit. It had branches all the way to the ground. I started to prune, got carried away and over pruned. :( Now the poor thing has dropped much of it's foliage. HELP. Christine

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello, Christine.
      Put the pruners away! LOL
      I am sure the tree will be fine. You do not have to worry about cutting below a graft or anything being that it is on its own roots.
      To check and see if it is still alive, start at the highest point you can reach, scrape just a little bark off, if you see green, you are fine. If you see brown, move down a little. Keep going until you see green.
      If it has completely defoliated, you probably will not see fruit next year. It is going to put all of the energy into putting on new leaves. If you can send me a picture or two, that might give me a better idea of where you stand with it.
      TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com

      Delete
    2. sending photos (I killed it :(

      Delete
  37. I have orange trees in containers that I put outside during the summer (KC). They are about 7-8 years old now. This past summer, a very large ash branch fell on one of the trees knocking off several branches. Despite this, the tree appears healthy. But it looks terrible and lopsided. How would you suggest I prune it?

    It had a central leader that snapped off about half way up the tree. Just below the point where the leader broke, there is a side branch that broke in half. Below that branch and on the opposite side of the tree is a second branch that was not damaged.

    Appreciate the advice!

    Uri

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Uri, my apologies, my e-mail never told me you sent a question.
      Can you send me pictures of the tree so I can see what exactly it looks like?
      Send them to TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com

      Delete
  38. Hello, I am currently growing three indoor lemon trees (from seeds from a grocery store lemon) and they are almost a year and a half old. They look relatively healthy and range from 18-24 inches in height. Two have not branched at all (with plenty of leaves) and another has recently V'd at the top. Should I be cutting back the main stems soon to promote more branching? At what height, if it al all, should I be doing this? The plan is to have them outside in the summer when the weather cooperates, and indoors in the winter (with additional lighting). They will be repotted into larger pots in the next month or so. Thanks in advance for your advice!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello, Al,
      No, just let the tree continue on for about another two years, If it has still not V'd, then you can prune back a little to get it to break.

      Delete
  39. Darren,

    I have a Meyer lemon tree potted that is about 3-4 years old and 6 ft tall now, but I think I let a sucker that is below the graft line grow too long. The problem is, the branches are so woody now that I can't see where the graft line is. My tree has two main branches that fork off in a Y about 3 inches from the roots/soil line. I'm thinking one of them might be a sucker. Both branches are about equal diameter at this point and have grown to the Sam seize with many other offshoots. One is more thorny than the other, but both branches and their sub branches are producing flowers and will grow small fruit (about pea sized) but then they never grow beyond that and fall off. I'm afraid to cut off one of the branches because I don't know which one (if any) is a sucker that I've neglected. Is it normal to have a Meyer lemon tree that forks so low? Any other identifying marks that will tell me which one is the sucker?

    -Tom

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tom, Can you send me pictures? Both branches, leaves on them and growth habit of the entire tree.
      Send them to TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com

      Delete
  40. Hi, I planted several Honey tangerine seeds last year and have three very happy looking seedlings and one that has grown to a gangly akward kid. I know seed grown trees (they'll be container plants here in Michigan) probably won't produce like the parent, but I'll be happy if I can get them to give sweet smelling flowers eventually. Anyway, my question is about the gangly teen. It is about 16 inches tall when I put it straight up. Would you recommend staking or trimming to a sturdy point? And if the trim is the answer might the top be used as a cutting? I don't want to hurt the little guy especially as so far the tangerines that have come in to the stores this year are apparently a different variety with no seeds. They don't even taste as good as last year's. Long story short (too late), crop or no crop? Thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great!
      Yes, they will produce fruit, even in Michigan.
      I would stake the gangly teen and let it do it's thing.
      That could be a slightly different plant than the rest. It will produce something as good as the parent, better than the parent or maybe not quite as good. Two out of three ain't bad!

      Delete
    2. Thanks much! I will stake the little one and keep an eye on him. Her. It. The tree.

      Delete
  41. Hello. I have a indoor/outdoor lemon tree (live in New York) that is 4 years old. I inherited from my neighbors last year. It was given to them as a gift, I suspect from a chain store (unlikely to be from a nursery). They never fertilized it, until I did last year, and it started growing like a weed. In the winter it is kept in a very sunny west facing room and since it was brought indoors in the fall it has continued to grow profusely. In the late winter I pruned it, removing crossing branches and heavy growth to get more light into the center branches. I was hoping that it would bloom in the spring. Instead it stopped growing completely! It was adding many new leaves weekly, but now it hasn't grown a single leaf for 2 months. Is the tree dormant? When will it start growing again. It gets plenty of light indoors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Once you get the tree outdoors, I will be willing to bet that it goes berserk again! They can handle the indoors, it doesn't mean they like it. Once winter is gone and it gets put outdoors, let me know how well it is doing.

      Delete
    2. Thank you for your expertise. I'll be putting the tree outdoors in several weeks and hope it will begin to grow again. I was reading some of your other blogs and I am impressed with your extensive knowlege and interest in plants.

      Delete
    3. Thank You! Please keep me posted as to how it does.

      Delete
  42. what you are referring to as the dog leg on the tree is where the tree has been budded and not grafted, isn't it? The graft union would be below the ground level if it was a whip graft wouldn't it? But what is below the bud union should be removed as it would be rootstock growth.Grafted trees will have a "dogleg" but not nearly as pronounced as a budded tree will have.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, the grafted union, no matter what type is used, would not be below the ground level.
      In actuality a grafted tree would be easier to spot than a budded tree. Even if it is growing on its own roots, it is better to cut off any sprouts that are very low on the tree. It is better aesthetically as well as for the health of the tree.

      Delete
  43. Hi,
    Here in oak island,nc area, we have a lime, lemon and kumquat trees still in their original pots. They got hit with frost over winter and lost all leaves. I thought they were dead but new growth is comming below the graft. I keep removing it but nothing on top. I cut back pretty much everything dead. Is there any hope for the top to come back, it is just a dead twig now?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Barb.
      It doesn't sound good for there to still be life in the scion.
      If the rootstock is being that aggressive, it is a pretty good sign that the scion is dead.
      You can always try your hand at grafting, you have nothing to lose.

      Delete
  44. I live in the Tampa Bay area and my 3 year old Meyer Lemon has been trimmed today per your web site.
    I have been unable to train this plant grow like a tree instead of a bush. I know Meyer's tend to grow like a bush if not trimmed correctly. Is there anything else I can do? Pictures attached.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Excuse my last comment about pictures. I sent them your e-mail address.

    ReplyDelete
  46. I live in east Texas. Planted a meyer lemon in the back yard and it did pretty well for 2 years. We had a hard freeze for 3 days and I'm oretty sure the tree was dead. No leaves, no fruit, dead. This spring there is a new plant coming from what looks to be the roots. Straight up, no branches but lots of leaves. Is this going to be a viable new tree? What should I do for it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello, Cindy.
      I am trying to catch up on e-mails, my apologies for taking so long to answer.
      Did you figure out what was going on?
      Can you send me pictures to TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com of the leaves that are coming up. I am going to bet, it is rootstock.

      Delete
  47. Hi there, I have an orange tree that was here when we moved in. It grows great sweet oranges. It is about 12-15 feet tall. The tree is sort of ball shaped though. More like a bush. There is just a foot or so between the branches and the ground. Is it possible to prune it somehow to make it look more like a tree? There are also a lot of snails all over the base of the trunk down there (hard to see but I peer in to check it out). Do you have any recommendations for this tree (don't know specific type, as it was just here when we got here). We live in Southern Calif.

    ReplyDelete
  48. I have two 4 years old lemon tree and never bloom .What is going on .Please help

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When you say four year old lemons, do you mean you have had them that long, or are they 4 years old from seed?
      If from seed, give them another year or two, you should start to see flowers then.
      If you have had them for four years, do you know how old they are?
      Grafted or seedling?
      How much sun are they getting?
      Are you keeping them well watered and well fed?
      Let me know and we can go from there.

      Delete
  49. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Hi Darren,
    I have a little Meyer Lemon tree (stands about 2ft tall) that was grafted and is starting to produce lemons (little teeny tiny guys right now). Unfortunately, my puppy decided to have a sniff around in it and broke one of branches off at the mid-point. Very sad since the branch has about 9 little lemons trying to grow. Is there any way to salvage the branch? A way to get it to root?

    Thanks!
    BB

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Briell,
      I am assuming it was broken completely off?
      If it is still attached, even a little, try putting back together as well as possible and wrap some tape around it, in essence, you are grafting it together.
      If it is broken completely, I am afraid there is not much hope. If there are any semi-hard twigs on it, you could try rooting those, but the main branch is done.
      Sorry.

      Delete
  51. Hi Darren! I live near San Francisco in a mobile home with a tiny yard. I planted a tiny Meyer lemon tree from Home Depot two years ago. There was a terrible drought and I figured it was dead. Then rains late last year caused it to come back! It grew like crazy and I was so excited I just let it grow. Now it's about 12', lush and green but wild and thorny. No blossoms. My neighbor told me to remove it, it's a sucker. Can I do anything to fix it? I can't see a main trunk.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Lisa,
      There is a decent chance that your neighbor is correct.
      Can you send me pictures? TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com
      Preferably of the leaves and overall growth habit.
      I am figuring that when the Meyer Lemon died, the rootstock came back. Depending on what I see in the pictures will determine whether you will want to keep it or not.

      Delete
  52. Hi darren
    i am researching pruning tips for citrus but my situation is particular . I bought an incredibly neglected citrus orchard some years back , in bolivia . Tropical latitude but about 5500 feet altitude . Great citrus climate , most oranges produce two harvests a year . Initially , some trees were dead under the weeds . Some barely lived but bounced back but didn't get pruned right away so grew into a mass of watersprouts ( productive though ) . There is an ivy-like parasitic plant which grows on citrus ( and coffe etc ) which needs to get pruned off , since it's gone really bad on some trees i have to take off a LOT of a tree ... i finally get around to some of it . Anyhow , the question i have , people here say that harvesting or pruning and then have your tree rained on will harm the tree . Is that true ? We do get a lot of rain here ...

    ReplyDelete
  53. Hi darren
    i am researching pruning tips for citrus but my situation is particular . I bought an incredibly neglected citrus orchard some years back , in bolivia . Tropical latitude but about 5500 feet altitude . Great citrus climate , most oranges produce two harvests a year . Initially , some trees were dead under the weeds . Some barely lived but bounced back but didn't get pruned right away so grew into a mass of watersprouts ( productive though ) . There is an ivy-like parasitic plant which grows on citrus ( and coffe etc ) which needs to get pruned off , since it's gone really bad on some trees i have to take off a LOT of a tree ... i finally get around to some of it . Anyhow , the question i have , people here say that harvesting or pruning and then have your tree rained on will harm the tree . Is that true ? We do get a lot of rain here ...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How in the world could rain on a pruned tree hurt?
      Or harvesting the fruit?!
      Those people you are talking to are either not very good gardeners, or are living in the stone age.
      You will be fine, there is no truth to that.

      Delete
  54. Hi Darren I have an ornamental oraange tree in Phoenix Az that is mature and maybe 8ft tall and shaped like a vase maybe 4ft diameter.I would like to take about 4ft off the top and need to knoww if this is cool or will I hurt the tree?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chop away my friend!
      It will not hurt the tree. However, with that being said, being in Phoenix, you might want to wait until it cools off some, or, you will want to paint the newly exposed bark with a diluted white paint to avoid sunburning it.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for your response and expertise Darren!!!

      Delete
  55. Our kumquat tree got really moldy in our greenhouse, due to poor air circulation. I ended up having to cut the top of the tree off,leaving about a foot of trunk off the soil.(it was infected with some sort of fungus). This was a couple years ago and it has since grown many shoots off of the main trunk, but no signs of flowers since I topped it.
    Here's my question:
    Should I cut most, if not all the vertical shoots off, leaving the single largest shoot as aleader and then top that to make it branch out? (As it is, I've got a short trunk with a lot of vertical shoots coming off it and from the base of the tree)
    Any advice would be most appreciated. Thanks in advance!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Drew,
      My apologies for my tardy delay.
      My first question, after the tremendous pruning, are you sure it is still a kumquat?
      It is possible that you cut below the graft line, assuming it was grafted, and now the rootstock is coming back.
      Depending on what that rootstock is could be why you are not seeing any flowers.
      Can you e-mail a picture of the leaves to me?
      TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com
      After I see that we can go ahead with what pruning might be useful.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the reply Darren. I'm sending you some pix of the plant and leaves as requested. When I cut the diseased tree, I was concerned about cutting below a potential graft union, but I never saw one at the time, though perhaps they're not as obvious as apple or pear graft unions? (I graft those all the time and they are very obvious unless the tree is extremely old). As you can see, the growth is coming off what remains of the trunk, NOT from the soil beneath it, as I had incorrectly mentioned in my original email (wasn't looking at the tree when I sent it), so it's unlikely the growth is from potential rootstock. Are kumquats normally grafted? I understood most citrus grows pretty much true from seed, but please correct if the information I remember is incorrect.

      Delete
    3. Hey Drew, yes, the majority of citrus does come true to type from seed. Kumquats are normally grafted. The recent theory seems to be a high graft, so, while you were probably looking at the 6-10 inch height for a graft, it very easily could have been 18 inches.
      As soon as the pictures come in, I will reply via e-mail.

      Delete
  56. Hello Darren,
    I recently moved a mandarin tree (unknown age, but mature looking, approx. 6ft high) at the end of winter (South East Australia). I pruned about 1/3 of the leaves off prior to moving it, and took as large a rootball as i could manage ... now approx 6 weeks later it has dropped most of its leaves. I'm wondering should i give it a hard prune? It is now the very beginning of Spring here.
    Thank you so much! Paula

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Paula,
      Have you seen any new growth yet?
      If not, start at the top of the tree, as far as you can reach, and scrape a little bark off.
      If you see green, just leave it, you are fine.
      If you see brown, continue down until you hit green.
      Then prune to that point.
      6 weeks is not as long as you think when it comes to transplant shock, I would be willing to bet it will be fine, it just needs time.

      Delete
    2. Thank you thank you thank you Darren! I scraped towards the top of the tree and it's green. I am just starting to see some tiny little bits of new growth, so i am hopeful that it may recover from its shock, like you said, it needs time. I am an impatient gardener.
      I am so grateful for your reply, your knowledge and expertise is greatly appreciated.

      Delete
    3. You are very welcome Paula,anytime!

      Delete
  57. Thank you!
    Once the mandarin does recover (positive talk here), and blossoms, should i temove the baby fruits for the first year or so to let the tree establish itself in its new spot? 😊 Paula

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would not worry about it, Paula.
      By the time the tree has produced enough leaves and starts to flower, it will be healthy enough to support fruit. The tree is smarter than we are. I had one that completely defoliated (freeze got it) the next year it put all of its energy into putting on new leaves, it did not flower anyway. The following year, it was back to normal.

      Delete
    2. Thank you for that example, i like your line "the tree is smarter than we are". Is that true also for citrus recently planted into the ground from a nursery bag (or pot)? I put in a eureka lemon 12 months ago (purchased from the nursery in a bag) and it's putting out loads of blossom now at the start of spring, should i just it do its thing also, rather than remove them/the baby fruits (i read in some places to not let it fruit for two years so it can establish its root system, but I've always wondered in my heart what you said, ie I'm sure the tree knows what it's doing??).

      Delete
    3. Absolutely!Let it be!
      If it has been in the ground for a year, it should be well established.
      Besides, when does the two years start? 2 years after you buy it, two years from it taking root?
      Maybe 2 years from its first leaf? I understand what they are trying to get across, but they flower and fruit in a container, so what is the difference.

      Delete
    4. You're a legend!
      Brilliant answer. 😊

      Delete
  58. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  59. I have a tangerine tree, I don't know what kind. The tree does not have thorns but has another thorny tree growing in the middle from the graft. Can I cut this tree out? It produces a different kind of fruit but I think it takes nutrients from the tangerine tree.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is the fruit from the thorny tree any good?
      More than likely it is not, so yes you can cut it out.
      If it decent and usable, then leave it.
      It should not hurt it either way you go.

      Delete
  60. Hi Darren, I have planted a semi dewarf Mayer lemon that is about 3 feet tall, it has not branches at all. Should I cut the top off to promote lateral growth or just let nature do its thing?
    Thanks in advance
    Shane

    ReplyDelete
  61. It probably would not hurt to tip a little.
    Maybe take 2-3 inches off and see what happens.
    It won't hurt it either way.

    ReplyDelete