How and when to prune lemon tree


The lemon tree (Citrus Limon) is a fruit tree whose appearance has led it to position itself among the most desired trees in gardens around the world. It is a small perennial tree, it does not usually exceed 4 meters high, belonging to the family of rutinaceae and genus citrus, is little resistant to cold due to its tropical character and its permanent flowering. It is well known for its fruit, lemon, an edible fruit with an acid and extremely fragrant flavor that is mainly used in food. In this article we will be clear about how and when to prune a lemon tree, we will also take some time to analyze some curiosities about this popular citrus.


Note: Please note that the advice given here is general, this blog is consulted from many countries in the world, with totally different characteristics, what not all tips will be adapted in the same way in all cases. Once you finish reading the article it will be necessary to analyze all the information and apply what you have learned in the best way. If you have any questions, remember that you can contact us to make your inquiries.

1. Interesting facts about lemon tree


Before starting to talk about the pruning of the lemon tree I am going to leave you some interesting facts about this citrus tree, surely you will not know more than one.

  • The lemon has its origin in southern China, where it is worshiped and symbolizes happiness.
  • The Romans used lemon to prevent moths from spoiling clothing.
  • Lemon can help you lighten your hair, use a little lemon when you wash your hair and you will see how gradually it becomes a lighter shade.
Lemon tree
Lemon tree
  • The fish is usually served with a slice of lemon next to it, because in the middle ages it was believed that if you accidentally choked on a thorn, it would dissolve it.
  • Christopher Columbus was the one who in 1493 took lemon seeds to America to plant them and thus came this fruit to that continent.
  • Lemons that contain more juice, are thin skin, intense yellow and weigh more.
  • If you want to keep some nails clean and white, you only have to dip your fingers in a little lemon juice for 10 minutes.
  • Lemon is perfect for removing ink stains, mold and rust.
  • Its high content of citric acid and vitamin C, stimulates the immune system preventing infectious diseases.
  • A medium sized lemon that weighs about 60 grams, only contains fifteen calories.
  • The Egyptians served lemon water during meals for the guests to wash their fingers.
  • Lemon facilitates the expulsion of uric acid through urine, thus relieving headaches naturally.
  • Lemon can help you remove ants from your home, you just have to place bits in the places where they pass.
  • Lemon juice applied to the skin, helps eliminate acne and improves its condition

2. What tools to use for trimming lemon tree


There are several tools available for trimming your lemon tree, you will have to choose between one or the other depending on several factors, the most important is the age (height) of the lemon tree. Among the tools you can use are the following:

  • Hand Pruning Shears: Stems up to half inch in diameter can be pruned with hand shears.
  • Lopping Shears: It is suitable to use on stems between half inch and 2 inches in diameter.
  • Saws: A number of pruning saws are available. These saws come with either curved or straight blades and of variable lengths and points. Curved blades that cut on the draw stroke are easy to use.
  • Chainsaw: for the thickest branches the most recommended is the use of these saws with motor, in adult birches you will surely need them.
  • Elements of personal safety: Among them we include elements such as gloves, eye protection glasses, etc.

Keep in mind that you must disinfect all the tools before pruning. This will help prevent disease transmission, you will have to do it before you start pruning and every time you change plants.

2.1 Necessary care for pruning tools

If you want to extend the useful life of your pruning tools there are some basic care.

  • Use the right tool for a job and avoid twisting or straining it.
  • Clean and oil tools regularly by wiping an oily cloth on blades and other surfaces.
  • Keep cutting edges sharp by regularly using an oilstone.
  • Wooden handles should be varnished or regularly treated with linseed oil to keep them from cracking or splintering.

Carry out the previous care on a regular basis and you will be saving good money on tools. 🙂

You may also be interested in knowing about pruning:

3. Why to prune your lemon tree


Pruning is a necessary practice that has been carried out systematically since the eighteenth century, when citrus began to be grown in regular plantations.

It is necessary because of the way citrus trees develop (vegetar), they tend to grow up and glean, in the same way the crown tends to form a thick foliage on the outside of the tree. This makes it difficult, and sometimes even prevents aeration and interior lighting. Photosynthesis is limited, finishing that area inside the tree full of dry branches. Thus, what is usually called “hollow ball” is formed. In these cases, vegetation and therefore harvest are limited to the peripheral part of the tree.

By pruning the lemon tree we will try to eliminate branches in the most developed parts of the tree favoring the formation of balanced trees. With this we will obtain many benefits among which we can mention:

  • Facilitate the lighting, ventilation and entry of phytosanitary products in treatments.
  • Achieve a correct distribution of fruits, in the most appropriate areas.
  • Increase size and color of fruits.
  • Regulate production avoiding abundant years or shortage of flowering and fruiting.
  • Balance the relationship between the vegetation and production organs.
  • Suppress diseased, dry or unproductive branches, thus preventing the aging of the tree and the spread of pests and diseases.

4. How to prune lemon tree


In short, with pruning what is intended is to increase the profitability of a plantation. This implies a series of works focused in different ways according to the stage of the tree’s life.

1st. In its first stage, first years of planting, it is necessary to try to form a strong and vigorous framework, thinking about the harvest that has to support and that does not hinder the different cultivation operations. We will call it TRAINING PRUNING.

2nd. In the next phase, a balance between vegetative and productive development must be sought. The operations that are carried out constitute the MAINTENANCE AND FRUCTIFICATION PRUNING, although borders between the previous stage and this one cannot be established.

3rd. Another phase is that in which due to climatic accidents (frost), diseases, age, abandonment of trees without pruning … we must intervene more vigorously. The set of these actions, in order to recover the tree for normal production, will constitute the so-called RESTORATION OR REGENERATION PRUNING. Normally these more severe actions are used to make a change of variety or make room within the framework of plantations.

4.1 Pruning young lemon tree (Training)

We consider here that this pruning begins from the moment we transplant the lemon tree, that is why we place the pruning of plantation within the formation one.

At the time of transplanting, pruning consists in eliminating part of the branches, mainly the weakest. Normally the seedling should have a main branch with a height greater than 80 cm. which will be cut about 60-70 cm from the ground, either in the nursery itself or in the plot where it will be planted. New shoots that are less than 40 cm from the ground will also be removed.

Training lemon tree
Training lemon tree

The pruning of formation itself is carried out during the first years of the tree’s life and consists of creating an adequate structure of main branches, so that they can bear the weight of the crop well and avoid that the branches of production rely heavily on soil.

During the first years, pruning is limited to:

  • The elimination of all the sprouts that arise from the main trunk, up to a height of 40-60 cm (protector).
  • Out of some, or some branches located in the center of the tree and that due to their situation will not be main branches.

The choice of future main branches is one of the key points when pruning a lemon tree. This task is carried out during the 2nd and 4th year, having to select those that have shown greater vigor and seeking:

A) Choose a maximum of 3 to 4 branches.
B) That they are oriented in all directions, to regulate the volume of the future cup.

C) That they contribute to give solidity and consistency to the cup, preventing them from emerging from the same height.

D) To facilitate their access, avoid very high or very low branches.

4.2 Maintenance and Fructificacion pruning

This pruning is intended to correct the defects caused by the vegetative development of the tree and maintain the chosen pruning system, in addition to regulating the production and favoring lighting, with this it is intended to renew the fruiting organs that are depleted, and better distribute the Fruit, improving its quality.

When the guidelines set in the formation pruning are followed and the defects caused by the vegetative development are corrected, the pruning is in a simple thinning of branches whose intensity will depend on the problems of light and production.

Once the tree frame has been well constituted, pruning is limited to:

  • Suppress dead or severely injured branches
  • Remove misdirected and misplaced branches
  • Respect horizontal branches
  • Lift skirts to about 50 cm
  • Rinse the twigs
  • The inner branches should be blunt to branch as soon as possible
  • Remove pacifiers from the center of the cup, provided they are not necessary to replace a branch.
  • Eliminate centers from pacifiers not removed from previous years and that occupy the upper part of the center.
  • Respect the guides and skirts.
  • Keep 50 cm between neighboring trees.

4.3 Regeneration pruning

This type of pruning in lemon trees is done in old orchards, with depleted, but healthy trees and whose main branches are very long, it is possible to restore or rejuvenate them by severe pruning.

Pruning so energetic supposes a great imbalance, between the aerial and the underground part, and, therefore, it will be necessary to reduce the work of subscriber, irrigation etc. taking into account this imbalance, decreasing, as far as possible the flow of sap to the aerial part.

Pruning old lemon tree
Pruning old lemon tree

Keep in mind that thick pruning cuts should be painted with special pruning paste. Thus preventing attacks of diseases and fungi.

5. When to prune lemon tree (best time)


There are several factors that determine the best time to prune a lemon tree, among them the most important is the age of citrus.

In young trees, operations aimed at achieving a good formation can be carried out at any time, provided there is no danger of low temperatures. If an important branch has to be suppressed, it will always be done in spring, if we had to intervene in an important branch in a season other than spring, we would prepare them and remove them in the following spring.

Adult trees should be pruned as soon as possible, once the harvest has been collected and the risk of frost has passed. The ideal thing for the lemon tree will be to prune it after harvesting, wait for 2 to 3 weeks for the tree to recover, and then intervene, that provided that we are in areas where winters are mild and free of frost.

Thus, when the vegetative cycle begins in spring, we no longer cause it to stop (pruning cuts cause a stop in the circulation of sap). As it is not always possible to prune when desired, it is advisable to delay pruning better than to advance it, since the consequences can be more serious in advancing it than in delaying it. In the event of a sharp drop in temperatures, it has been observed that pruned trees suffer more than non-pruned trees.

6. Special cases


Covering each and every one of the particular questions about pruning lemon tree is complicated, since for each case there may be a different answer. So and all I have selected two queries that are repeated very often and we will proceed to answer them:

  • How to prune a lemon tree in pot?
  • How will pruning a dwarf lemon tree?

If you think that the particular situation of your lemon tree has not been treated within this post, do not hesitate to contact us to leave your query. 😉

6.1 How to prune lemon tree in pot

There are several reasons that can be the cause of you having a potted lemon tree. Among them we can mention:

  • You are waiting for the seedling to grow to transplant it.
  • You do not have too much place in your garden so you control the size of your citrus inside a pot.
  • You’re practicing bonsai with your lemon tree.

In the first case it is not necessary to prune the lemon tree, it will only be enough to verify that the tree is being formed with a unique stem structure. We will start with training pruning at the time of transplant.

In the second case you can apply everything seen in this article. That is, you must perform pruning training, maintenance, and if you need restoration.

If it is a bonsai lemon tree, pruning is quite different from what has been seen so far, so different that it would need a special article to develop it.

6.2 Pruning dwarf lemon tree

Pruning a dwarf lemon tree does not differ greatly from what has been explained up to this point. Not to be repetitive I have selected a good video to answer this question.

We have taken the video of the Lemon Citrus Tree channel

7. How to prune citrus tree Youtube video


To close the publication, we leave a video of the IV Organic channel, in which you can understand more graphically much of what is explained in the article. I hope it helps you. 🙂

Well up to here we have arrived with this article in which we talked about how and when to prune a lemon tree. I hope you have no doubt when you should take your scissors and get to work. 

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