How and when to prune mandarin, tangerine and clemantine tree


The mandarin tree belongs to the botanical genus Citrus, in the Rutáceas family (with more than 1600 species) of characteristics similar to orange, although smaller and spheroidal in shape. Its pulp is formed by a considerable number of segments full of juice that contain a large amount of vitamin C, flavonoids and essential oils. Given the similarities of mandarine trees with tangerine and clementine tree, we will cover all of them in this article about their pruning. We recognize the differences between them but they are similar enough to deal with their pruning and many of their care in similar ways.


You will learn the best techniques for proper pruning, the right time to trim and with what tools to do it. Stay until the end of the article and you will not have any doubts when you take your pruning shears.

Note 1: 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. Differences between the three fruit trees


As we said, these three fruit trees have many similarities, so I can’t begin to develop the article without making their differences clear. I assure you that most of the people can have in front of any of these citricos and will not know how to differentiate them.

Let’s start by talking about the tangerine trees, from them we can say that it has no real differences with the mandarin trees, since they are a sub-group of them. In other words, every tangerine tree is a mandarine tree, but not every mandarine tree is a tangerine tree. The most marked difference is in its fruit, the tangarine tree produces fruits with a more reddish color while the mandarin produces them more oranges.

Let’s talk now about the clementine tree, its origin and its name have to do with the hybridization that Brother Clement Rodier carried out at the end of the 19th century in the Algeria orphanage. His passion for plants led him to make a cross between a bitter orange tree with a mandarin tree, whose result was a slightly acidic fruit, easy to peel with a thin and sweet skin. The differences occur mainly in its fruit, which has no seeds, is sweeter than tangerine and has less skin attached to the pulp.

As you have noticed, the details that separate each one of these citricos are small, that is why we have decided to talk about pruning everyone in the same post.

Note 2: From here, you will notice that on many occasions we will speak indistinctly of mandarin, tengerine or clementine, as if they were synonyms. This does not mean that we have forgotten their differences, we will only do so for practical reasons when writing the article.

2. How to care a mandarine tree


The pruning of any plant, be it a frult, a garden or orchard plant, is nothing more than one of many cares that it needs to be healthy and strong. In this section we will briefly see the most important care so that your mandarin tree is healthy, strong and with the best fruits.

  • Sun: these fruit trees need a lot of sun exposure, so you will have to choose a privileged place in your garden for planting.
  • Cold: Although it is a tree that resists cold quite well, it will not survive frost that is too strong. If you still have it in a pot, place it inside your house during the winter, if you have already transplanted it, protect it with a thermal blanket against frost risks.
Mandarin fruit
Mandarin fruit
  • Soil and fertilization: it is not demanding if it is grown in the garden or garden; On the other hand, if you have a pot, I recommend mixing 60% black peat with 30% perlite (or other similar substrate) and add some organic powder, such as earthworm humus or horse manure. As for fertilization, it must be done during spring and summer with organic fertilizers, such as manure.
  • Irrigation: always provide a good irrigation, but it must be an irrigation that does not flood or is not lacking, that is, it tries to make the soil moist but not wet.
  • Harvest: the harvest period varies depending on the mandarin variety chosen.
  • Pruning: As it could not be otherwise, pruning can not be missing in this list of care, then we will analyze this point in more detail.

3. Tools you will need for pruning mandarin tree


As with all fruits, there are several tools you will need to carry out your pruning or trimming. Each of them appropriate for different cases depending on the age of the pomegranate, the time of year, type of pruning etc.

  • Pruning shears.
  • Handsaw
  • Chainsaw.
  • Ladder or scaffolding.
  • Basic safety elements such as helmet and gloves.

Keep in mind that you must disinfect all cutting tools before pruning the mandarine. This will help to avoid transmitting diseases, you will have to do it before you start pruning and every time you change plants.

3.1 Needed care of 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. 🙂

4. Citrus pruning objectives


Undoubtedly, the greatest similarity between a mandarin, a tangerine and a clementine tree is that the three are citrus, so here we will generalize by giving the objectives for which pruning is fundamental.

The key points that make pruning totally necessary are:

  • Mark some dimensions (shape and volume of the tree canopy) to the characteristics of the soil, planting frame and cultural practices.
  • To facilitate the lighting and the entrance of phytosanitary products in the treatments.
  • Distribute the fruits in the most appropriate areas.
  • Increase size and color of fruits.
  • Regulate productions avoiding unproductive years.
  • Maintain a balance between the vegetation and production organs.
  • Suppress diseased, dry or unproductive branches to prevent tree aging and the spread of pests and diseases.

The above reasons could be summed up to the following sentence: “With pruning, well-formed and balanced fruit trees are sought.”

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4. Pruning mandarine tree – How to prune


As in most fruit trees, there are several types of pruning in the mandarin tree. Each one is necessary at different stages of citrus life and has well-defined objectives.

  • From Plantation
  • Deformation
  • Maintenance (Fruiting).
  • Regeneration-Renovation.

In what follows we will analyze in detail the function of each of the previous prunings, and how to carry them out for a successful task.

4.1 Tangerine tree – Pruning of plantation

It consists of eliminating part of the branches, mainly the most tender ones, to compensate for the loss of roots that originates in the start-up of the plant in the nursery. 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. Tender shoots that are less than 40 cm from the ground will also be removed.

The seedling suffers breakage and loss of roots at startup, transport and handling. These damages are minor if the seedling has root ball and much less if it is transported in a pot or container.

Always before planting we must discover the roots to check their status, cleaning those that show some necrotic defect and / or eliminating the crisscrossed roots, saving those that are better disposed and vigorous.

Steps to follow:

1.- Undo the root ball, even if it is a pot, in water, in order not to damage the rootlets that form the beard.

2.- Check the state of the main roots and clean them up. Root pruning.

3.- Plant the seedling, in its final place, trying to fix the roots so that they do not intersect and are well arranged in the hole.

4.- Cut the stem or aerial part to about 60-70 cm, measured from the ground level, in order to avoid excessive perspiration, since the low root mass is insufficient, to resist moisture lost by the part Aerial.

4.2 Young clementine tree training

The objectives pursued with the pruning of formation of a citrus such as the clementine tree or tangerine tree are the following:

1.- Adaptation to the natural form of development and growth of the tree.

2.- Establish a healthy and strong structure, in which the branches of production will be distributed without competition for space and light. The well-formed tree must have the minimum wood used in its structure and the maximum illuminated leaf surface.

During the first years, pruning is limited to the elimination of all regrowths that arise from the main stem, up to a height of 40-60 cm (protector).

During the 2nd and 4th year is the time where the main branches in the tangerine tree should be selected, following these tips:

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.

Young mandarine tree pruning
Young tree training

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

D- That facilitate their access, avoid very high or very low branches

4.3 Pruning Maintenance or Fruiting

This mandarin pruning is intended to correct defects caused by the vegetative development of the tree and maintain the selected pruning system, in addition to regulating the production and favoring lighting, in order to obtain good quality fruits, as well as leaving small windows lateral so that the phytosanitary products penetrate inside the tree and improve its effectiveness.

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.

This is intended to renew the fruiting organs that are depleted, and better distribute the fruit, improving its quality.

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

1.- Remove dead or very injured branches.

2.- Eliminate the misdirected and misplaced branches.

3.- Respect horizontal branches.

4.- Lift skirts to about 50 cm.

5.- Rinse the branches.

6.- The inner filling branches must be blunt to branch as soon as possible.

7.- Remove the pacifiers from the center of the cup, provided they are not necessary to replace a branch.

8.- Eliminate centers from pacifiers not removed from previous years and that occupy the upper part of the center.

9.- Respect the guides and skirts.

10.- Keep between neighboring trees about 50 cm.

Pruning maintenance  of mandarine tree
Pruning maintenance – Image Source

You may notice that well-done planting and training pruning will greatly simplify the following pruning of your mandarin, tangerine or clementine tree.

4.4 Regeneration pruning of mandarine tree

It is the one that due to climatic accidents, diseases, age, paid by the woodland or to make a change of variety, it is necessary to intervene more vigorously.

In old orchards, with depleted but healthy citrus fruits and whose main branches are very long, it is possible to restore or rejuvenate them by a severe pruning consisting of, the recess of those branches that constitute the tree’s frame or skeleton, a recess that will be both more energetic the more exhausted the tree is.

The presence of buds, allows the possibility of regenerating the structure of the tree or rebuilding after accidents (wind, parasites, etc.), they are also the source of vigorous pacifiers.

In general, the pruning of regeneration in mandarin trees should only be attempted in healthy trees whose weakness is caused by age.

The use of regeneration pruning is less and less, but what is done is to take advantage of the need to renew trees to introduce new varieties. For this, the practice of re-grafting is carried out.

5. Pruning mandarine tree – When to prune


As it is not always possible to prune the mandarin tree, tangarine tree or clementine tree when it is wanted, it is more advisable to delay the pruning than to advance it, because the danger that can be derived from an early pruning is more serious than that of the late one.

There are many varieties of mandarins that exist, against this it can be recommended that varieties of early collection, be pruned as soon as possible, without forgetting the risk of colds. An early pruning in these varieties favors the precocity in the following harvest. On the other hand, in late and medium-season varieties whose harvest is delayed, it will be necessary to wait in early summer to prune.

In young trees, training pruning operations can be carried out at any time, provided there is no danger of low temperatures. When it is necessary to suppress branches of importance it will be done in times when the vegetative activity is minimal.

In adult trees, it should be pruned after passing the risk of frost and fruit collection. In case of sudden decrease in temperatures it has been observed that pruned trees suffer more than those that have not yet been touched.

6. How to prune citrus tree


As usual we will end the article with a video, since we have not got a good video about the pruning of mandarin trees we leave a general one about the pruning of citrus fruits. I hope it is useful for you. (Video source Gardening Australia channel)

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

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