How to prune citrus trees

Last updated on March 29th, 2022

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While citrus is not native to the UK there are still a few varieties that you can grow, especially if you grow them in pots. Once you have your citrus trees established, they may need pruning from time to time to control the shape and sometimes reduce citrus plants that have become leggy, however, it needs to be done properly.

See out top recommended citrus trees for pots by clicking here

When to Prune Citrus

Citrus can be pruned at various intervals for different purposes. 

Pruning leggy plants

Firstly, if your plant is a bit leggy, you can prune it by two-thirds and this will force it to revert back to its original growth, growing outwards more than upwards. By cutting back the tallest branches, you can encourage more bushy growth on the plant. 

Pinching out new growth to encourage thicker plants

Secondly, you can prune throughout the summer by pinching off the tips of the branches that are growing the best, literally between your forefinger and thumb. This does a similar thing by forcing the plant to focus its growth in an outward direction and not just on the upward growth. It is this lateral growth that proves very useful in the subsequent training of the citrus shape and fruit development in the first few years. 

Removing water shoots

If you have a mature plant, it might generate what are called “water shoots”, these are fast-growing and unwanted shoots. These will sprout off the main branches, often near the bottom or the middle of the plant. You can remove them as soon as you see them. If you see shoots coming from below the graft on your main stem, get rid of these immediately. This will help you cultivate the shape and bushy growth you need for good citrus production. 

When to prune citrus trees

Learn how to grow and care for citrus trees in our growing guide by clicking here

How to Prune citrus trees

When you are ready, you can prune by first sanitising your pruning secateurs, even if you are only using them on other citrus plants. This can be done with a commercial cleaning product, with a mixture of 9 parts water to 1 part bleach, or with a mixture of white vinegar and water. Doing so will prevent the spread of diseases from one plant to another.

Depending on the reason for your pruning, you should cut as close to the main branch as possible when removing water shoots. Cut off the tips or cut back the leggy plants using the same method. The cleaner your cuts, the less likely your citrus is to suffer multiple incision wounds and the risk of infection. 

All of this regular pruning will go a long way toward helping you keep your citrus plant happy and healthy.

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