How and when to prune orange tree


The orange tree is a fruit tree of the Citrus genus, which is part of the Rutáceas family. It is a medium-sized tree although in optimal cultivation conditions it reaches up to 13 m high, perennial, large, round or pyramidal, with oval leaves between 7 and 10 cm of entire margin and frequently stipulated and branches in occasions with large spines (more than 10 cm). Its white flowers, called orange blossoms, are born isolated or in clusters and are extremely fragrant. Its fruit is sweet orange. In this article we will study when and how to prune an orange tree, we will also see some interesting facts about this peculiar citrus.


On this website we have already analyzed the pruning of other citrus fruits (lemon tree, tangerine tree), if you analyze these articles you will find great similarities with this one in which we will see the pruning of an orange tree, this is why the treatment of all citrus against pruning is practically the same. We could have simplified and write only one article that talks about pruning critics, but we consider that this way is clearer for readers.

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 orange tree


I know that you have entered this article to know everything about the pruning of the orange tree, in the same way I invite you to invest some time in reading the following data about this tree, I assure you that more than one will surprise you.

  • Varieties: Some 600 varieties of oranges grow worldwide, including sour oranges, sweet oranges, blood oranges (with red pulp) and seedless and easy-to-peel naval oranges.
  • Name: The English word comes from the ancient Persian “narang”. It meant “bitter” and referred to the bitterness of the shell. Merchants spread the fruit to Arab Spain, where “narang” became “orange.” In ancient French, the narang fruit became “orenge”, which was collected in medium English. It became the modern term “orange”, which refers to both fruit and color.
Orange tree
Orange tree
  • Health: Did you know that oranges are highly beneficial for your health? Among the many benefits we can name; It helps fight cancer, helps kidney function, promotes healthy blood sugar levels, is good for your cardiovascular system, etc.
  • World production: Oranges dominate the citrus list in terms of their world production. Its production quantity is followed by tangerines, lemons, grapefruits, etc. The largest producer is Brazil, followed by the United States and the European Union.
  • Go Greeen: One of the orange varieties, that is, Valencia orange, remains green even after ripening because its skin tends to reabsorb chlorophyll in warm weather. Although, it may seem raw to your eyes; It tastes the same as a ripe orange.

2. What tools to use for trimming orange tree


There are several tools available for trimming your orange tree, you will have to choose between one or the other depending on several factors, the most important is the age (height) of the orange 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. Objectives to trim an orange tree


The objectives we wish to achieve in the tree after pruning are the following:

  • Development control and shape of the tree: For a number of reasons (foot, variety, soil fertility, planting frame, etc.) the orange trees grow irregularly. Then by pruning branches will be removed in the most developed part of the tree, in order to form balanced trees.
  • Increase of fruit quality: when we can act eliminating branches that hinder good lighting, unproductive branches, dry branches etc. In this way we will obtain results such as a better distribution of the fruits in the tree, an increase in the average size of the fruits, and some fruits of better presentation. In short we will be improving the quality of oranges.
  • Alterations of crops: There are plantations that have an alternation of abundant crops followed by other scarce ones. The years of abundant harvests the tree has an exaggerated consumption of nutrients, leaving very limited reserves in different organs of the plant, reserves on which the harvest will be based the following year. Pruning can be used so that there are no large production differences from one year to another, without completely eliminating the alternation.
  • Reduction of expenses in the crop: a pruning carried out in a correct way will allow us a greater efficiency in phytosanitary treatments, a more comfortable collection and greater ease of pruning year after year.

4. How to prune orange tree


Depending on the stage of life in which our orange tree is going to be, the pruning it will need will be different, being able to recognize the following three stages:

1st. In its first stage, first years of planting, it is necessary to try to form a strong and vigorous frame, 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 cannot be established between the previous stage and this one.

3rd. Another phase is that in which due to climatic accidents (frosts), diseases, age, abandonment of trees without pruning, etc. 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 a young orange tree (Training)

During the growth stage, the pruning of the orange tree is limited to give shape and mechanical strength to the tree. That is to say, that it is sought to form a skeleton or framework that resists the blow of the winds and that endures the weight of the branches and the fruits during the seasons of high production.

It should be pruned before or immediately after the transplant to the definitive soil, when the graft exceeds 35 centimeters in height from the pattern-graft junction.

This practice consists of detaching 10 cm from the tree, with this it is possible to sprout the buds of the sides. From the branches that form on the sides, three or four are chosen that are well distributed around the plant. These will be the main branches of the tree. When they are about 20 centimeters long, they stand out about 5 centimeters so that they also sprout from the sides. From the new shoots, two or three branches distributed around each bud are selected again.

  Pruning a young orange tree
Pruning a young orange tree

If several single-point outbreaks occur, the strongest or best position should be selected and the rest of them removed. At the end of its formation, the tree will have 6 to 12 branches well distributed.

Outside of the pruning of formation that we already said, other cuts or pruning, it should be light at this stage of development, because if a strong pruning is done, what is achieved is a lot of growth of leaf buds, which delays the entrance to production.

In addition to the initial emergence, we must eliminate the “pacifiers” that originate in the trunk. It is best to do it manually when they are tender; in this way the wound that remains in the trunk, because it is very small, does not require any protective measure. A pacifier removed at the wrong time will compete with the main structure, in addition to producing large wounds when cutting it. Wounds that we must cover with paste cut-covers.

With this pruning of the orange tree we also have to eliminate branches when they are very close or crossed. Being advisable to eliminate the thinnest or that grow to the center or down.

4.2. Pruning adult orange (maintenance)

By pruning this citrus in its adult stage it is intended to correct the defects caused by the vegetative development of the tree and maintain the selected pruning system. We will also seek to regulate production and favor lighting.

If we have carried out a correct pruning of orange tree formation and we timely correct any defect in the vegetative development, the necessary pruning is minimal. Limited to a simple thinning of branches.

Therefore, when we have our well-formed orange tree, we will only have to keep it with the following:

  • Suppress dead, diseased or severely injured branches
  • Cut misdirected and / or misplaced branches.
  • Respect main structure.
  • Lift skirts to about 50 cm.
  • Perform a thinning of twigs.
  • Cut off any pacifier that is in the center of the cup.
  • Maintain a certain distance with nearby trees, at least 50 cm.

You should understand this orange tree pruning as a light pruning just to maintain the structure. It is not good to perform strong pruning frequently in this fruit.

4.3. Pruning old orange (Rejuvenation)

When the orange tree is several years old it begins to significantly reduce its number of fruits and its size. At that time a strong pruning can be carried out seeking to restore its vigor. This pruning is known as pruning of rejuvenation or regeneration.

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

Finally, thick pruning cuts should be painted with special pruning paste. Thus preventing attacks of diseases and fungi.

5. When to prune orange tree


There are several criteria to define the pruning season; the most common are the following: the age of the orange tree, weather, season of least activity in the garden, economic availability and labor of the producer. Generally the producer considers all these criteria to determine the pruning time. The first two are indicated below:

  • Age: In young trees, pruning training can be carried out at any time, provided there is no danger of low temperatures. To eliminate branches of importance will be done in times where the vegetative activity is minimal. In adult trees, it should be pruned after passing the risk of frost and fruit collection. In the event of lower temperatures, pruned trees suffer more than those that have not yet been touched.
  • Depending on the weather: Unlike the subtropics where it is not advisable to prune at the end or after the fall due to the risk of frost during new growth, in the tropics, where winter is not cold, it can be pruned at any time of the year. However, the cup recovers faster when it is pruned in late spring and summer than in autumn and winter.

Since it is not always possible to prune our orange tree when it is wanted, it is more advisable to delay pruning than to advance it, since the danger of an early pruning is more serious than that of the late one.

6. Special cases


There are several particular cases that can occur when we talk about pruning an orange tree, cases that cover different varieties, different climates or seasons, etc. For this article we will analyze two of the most consulted cases that are:

  • How to prune a potted orange tree?
  • How to prune a Calamondin orange tree?
 Potted orange tree
Potted orange tree – Image source

If you believe that the particular situation of your citrus has not been addressed in this publication, do not hesitate to contact us to leave your inquiry. 😉

6.1 Calamondin orange tree pruning

The calamondin orange tree is a hybrid developed by crossing a mandarin orange and a kumquat. It is a citrus dwarf with small fruits quite gray, but edible. It is mainly used for ornamental purposes and, often, as a bonsai specimen.

With regard to pruning this particular citrus we can summarize it to the following tips:

  • Cut the dry branches every time you detect one.
  • Prune the calamondin to control the size and shape if necessary. The right time for pruning is after harvest. Trim each of the tallest branches on a side branch at least one third of the diameter of the cut branch. Never take more than 25 percent of the tree canopy.

In general terms the pruning of this orange tree is simple and does not leave the common pruning of any other citrus.

6.2 Pruning orange tree in pot

There is no single reason why you can have an orange tree in a pot, it is more quickly the following four ranks come to mind:

  • You are waiting for the platter to grow to transplant it.
  • You don’t have much place in your garden, so you control the size of your citrus inside a pot.
  • It is a bonsai orange tree
  • That it is a variety of dwarf orange.

In the first case it is not necessary to prune the orange tree, it will be enough to give it the basic care so that it develops healthy and strong. You must also ensure that the development of the plant is with a single main trunk, something normal in the natural growth of any citrus.

If your case is the second, you can apply the same concepts that we have seen so far in the port. That is, you must perform pruning training, maintenance and if you need regeneration.

For the third case, orange bonsai, pruning is quite different from what has been seen so far, so different that you would need a special article to develop it. I owe you an explanation of this situation in a future post.

For the last case I will not extend here since it is a situation very similar to the previous section (6.1).

7. Video about how to prune orange tree


As is the custom of this blog we like to close the articles with a video material (in this case ehowgarden channel), where you can review more graphically and practice many of the concepts seen so far. 😉

So here we are, I hope that everything was clear about how and when to prune orange tree, and do not have any doubt at the moment that you should take your scissors and trim.

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