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University of California
UCCE Master Gardeners of Orange County
Citrus trees that bear fruit require little pruning; severe pruning will reduce yield. Citrus trees bloom and bear fruit on new growth, so pruning new growth reduces flower buds and yield.
Light pruning of top growth on older trees can be beneficial, but care should be taken not to open the tree too much to avoid sunburn of exposed branches. Prune back to another branch or lateral; do not leave stubs.
Remove deadwood and weak branches, but retain healthy shoots. Remove watersprouts - vigorous upright scion shoots that grow in undesirable places such as along the trunk above the bud union or in branch crotches. Also remove all sucker growth from below the bud union, as they are from the rootstock and not the desired variety.
Pruning in fall is not desirable, as it stimulates a flush of growth more susceptible to cold temperatures. Pruning in winter is better, since the temperature is not likely to promote the flush of growth. Pruning in early spring after danger of frost and before the spring growth flush is also a good time. If mature and young fruits are both present on the tree, for example on Valencia orange or summer grapefruit, late summer pruning after harvest may be preferable.
In general, lemon trees require more frequent and more selective pruning than orange or grapefruit to remove long, spindly weak shoots and also stronger lateral shoots that tend to cross and crowd the tree interior.
Read more about pruning citrus trees.
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