Prune a lemon tree: how and when to do it

The Citrus limonum , commonly called lemon tree is a tree that is not practically unknown to anyone. It is a perennial fruit tree of the citrus family, and what not everyone knows is that this acidic fruit plant comes from Asia, and was unknown to the Greeks and Romans. It was the Muslims who brought it to the Iberian Peninsula, and it came to stay.

Today it is common to see lemon trees in gardens and even on terraces, since these fruit trees can grow in pots of sufficient size. In this GreenEcology article we are going to focus on when and how to prune a lemon tree , since, like most citrus fruits, it requires regular pruning to stay in top shape.

When to prune a lemon tree

The lemon tree needs an annual pruning to be in an optimal state of health and production, since it is better to sanitize the tree so that it concentrates its sap and energy in its main branches instead of wasting them on too many secondary branches.

It is recommended to carry out this pruning before it begins to produce lemons or when it has finished doing so, that is, between January and February to be done before bearing fruit, or between June and July if you prefer to do it later.

Prune a lemon tree: how and when to do it - When to prune a lemon tree

How to prune a lemon tree

Once you know when to prune a lemon tree, we explain how to do it right. To do it correctly, follow these simple steps to prune a lemon tree :

  1. You will need pruning shears large enough to cleanly cut the branches of your lemon tree. In addition, it is very important that you sterilize them properly before starting work, to prevent the tree from being attacked or infected in its pruned areas.
  2. Select the thickest branches that will form the main structure of the tree. It is necessary to give the lemon tree the proper shape in its earliest stages of growth, so it prunes the branches that are going to intersect with others, and gives the tree an adequate balance between its branches on each side of the trunk, so that the weight cup is not tilted.
  3. Prune the lower branches that will not receive adequate light due to their situation so that the highest and best placed ones receive more energy.
  4. Prune secondary or weak branches that are not part of the main structure or that will hinder the growth of the main ones. If it is about spikes on the main branches and they are well directed, leave them with about 20 cm in length. Prune the rest of the base, especially if they are going to cut light or cross important branches.

Other tips for pruning a lemon tree

Those are the 4 basic steps that must be followed each year when pruning a lemon tree. However, there are some additional details that are important to keep in mind. Also follow these tips for pruning the lemon tree :

  • Never prune your lemon tree before it is 3 years old . A lemon tree less than 3 years old is still too young and fragile, and pruning that early would do more harm than good to the tree. Wait three seasons before the first pruning.
  • If you want your tree to bear strong and large lemons, many advise cutting the first fruits and flowers that the lemon tree produces each year. In this way, the production of more of them is stimulated and a greater quantity and quality of fruits is achieved.
  • Finally, the pruning of an adult lemon tree will be lighter the better the state of the tree itself . Only lemon trees that are weak or sick require very aggressive pruning.

How to make lemon tree cuttings and plant them – reproduction

The reproduction of the lemon tree can also be carried out through cuttings, although it is advisable to follow a series of indications to maximize the chances of survival of the new cuttings. Here’s how to make lemon tree cuttings and plant them to thrive:

  1. Select the branch of the cutting. It is best to select young branches from the last season that have been cut at a 45 degree incline. In many cases, the pruned branches will serve after the lemon tree bears its fruit, being able to choose any thin branch or sucker of about 20 centimeters. If you don’t have any of these, you can use larger and older branches, although they will likely take longer to bear fruit.
  2. Remove most leaves from the cutting except three or four at the top.
  3. Wash the cutting well and let it soak in rooting hormone for about 15-30 minutes. You can buy this at any garden store or make it yourself with a variety of common products, thus avoiding using chemicals in your plant. 
  4. Place the cutting in a pot with a suitable substrate. For citrus it is common to use a substrate with coconut shell, which helps retain an adequate level of moisture.
  5. Finally, place the pot in a semi-shady place, where it receives natural light but never directly.
Prune a lemon tree: how and when to do it - How to make lemon tree cuttings and plant them - reproduction
Prune a lemon tree: how and when to do it

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