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Pruning Citrus Tree?

Syracuse, NY(Zone 5b)

Hello everyone,

First time poster. I am a very novice plant owner. I recently purchased a Duarte Citrus Tree (I think it is a Mandarin Orange tree but it may be a Lime tree as well. It had both tags on it, unfortunately) while in South Carolina and then brought it back to Pennsylvania, and then New York. It has been doing quite well and has been sprouting new leaves from all of its branches. I am wondering if I should be pruning these new leaves or something because the lateral branches are growing so rapidly that they are making the branches so heavy that they don't stand up properly and are beginning to sag.

It is worth mentioning that I don't know any of the plant care lingo or basic techniques, but I am an adept Googler and can figure out the idea most of the time.

In the pictures, the dark green leaves are the original plant and the light green is the new growth that is going hogwild. Any help would be most appreciated.


Thumbnail by Shawn_Paul Thumbnail by Shawn_Paul
St. Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

Hi Shawn!! Welcome!

I am also a very novice gardener, with an affinity for citrus trees. That's a pretty plant you have there!! Because I don't really know what I'm doing (partly absorbing the info from Dave's Garden members, partly winging it), I'm not sure I should give you advice, but I will tell you what I've been doing. I have 3 lemons (Improved Meyer, Ponderosa, and Variegated Pink Eureka) and 2 limes (Key Lime and Bearss Lime). I just got them all this year, and they have all taken off like yours have. I do a lot of staking and tying with pantyhose to support the newer stems. I can post pictures of mine this evening after I get home. Maybe someone who knows the "correct" answer can tell me if I am doing the right thing or not. It seems to be working so far (no broken stems), and I feel like I am able to "train" the tree to grow the way I'd like. By using a couple of 48" garden stakes (rods) and pantyhose, I have been able to get my lopsided key lime tree to stand up straight and not be so lopsided anymore. Hopefully, with time, the tree will grow like that on it's own and won't need the stakes anymore. ??

Will post a few pics later this evening.

Temuco, Chile(Zone 9b)

Shawn and jaime, congratulation on your new gardener's interest, fruit trees this time citrus.

Citrus trees are easy to grow in your backyard. They're ornamental, productive, have handsome shiny green leaves and fragrant flowers, and producing wonderful fruits.

Find a sunny position for them, planting them alongside a sunny wall, where radiated heat will warm them or they may be kept in pot to bring them inside during winter. Water well but with perfect drainage, effective airflow, infrequent deep watering and seasonal feeding and your tree will be happy.

Citrus donít need pruning to fruit well. The more leaves that are on a citrus tree, the larger and more numerous the fruit, they tend to make a well-shaped tree on their own.

Prune only to remove dead, diseased, broken or sucker branches on MATURE TREES.
When trees have excessively dense foliage, some pruning is necessary to admit light into fruiting areas.

Syracuse, NY(Zone 5b)

Thanks for the help Jaime and Cristina.

So I shouldn't be pruning. Good to know. Regarding the staking and tying to support the lateral branches; should I be using a separate stake to support each branch or a central stake, next to the trunk, and then supporting each branch with those fuzzy pipe cleaners?

Temuco, Chile(Zone 9b)

To stake a fruit tree you need to use 2 wooden stake 2 1/2- to 3-foot at around 25 inches from tree.

Stake Tree Stake

here you can see the best way to do it:

Big Pine Key, FL(Zone 11)

If you are tryng to support the individual branches that are a bit top heavy with new growth use individual bamboo stakes for each branch. Ugly but functional. I doubt with your location you plan to plant in ground which is the staking plan cristina linked.

zones 10 to 11, United States

Hi all. It's always important to know if the tree is grafted. If so you need to take out any branches that come from beneath the graft. Also, since you have your trees in a pot, would be nice if you check the roots every year. Too many encircling roots, cut a bit and bigger pot. Btw, beautiful tree! Also, citrus trees do tend to grow more like a bush. I do defer a bit in not pruning them, and more if they'll be in a container. It's good to help them a bit on aeration, and ussually if you take some branches out the fruits tend to grow bigger as less amount of fruits = bigger fruits.... ussually commercially they even take out flowers so that the trees give bigger fruits. This is more important in a container growing situation. The tree will never have the benefits of ample soil to grow the roots as it desires so making if bare less fruit will help it so it wont loose so much energy on the fruit, which gives it a bigger chance to get sick.

I hope this info help you a bit man. Thanks for showing us such a beautiful pic!

Syracuse, NY(Zone 5b)

***March 2014 Update***

I have another question if anyone is able to help me. Same plant, but I now live in Virginia, zone 8a. I transplanted it into a larger container last year and it was originally doing well. Lately, the leaves started to turn a light green and then yellow, especially around the tips. Some of them are even turning brown by the tips as well (pictured).

I use a moisture meter and the soil almost always measures as being dry, even though it feels wet. The plant is so much heavier than all of my other plants in similar containers, but they will measure as being wet shortly after watering, whereas this will not. I fear that I am in danger of losing my little friend if I don't do something soon. What should I do?

Part of me wonders if I should pop it out of its container and inspect the root ball. Bad idea? Any suggestions would be most appreciated.

Thumbnail by Shawn_Paul Thumbnail by Shawn_Paul Thumbnail by Shawn_Paul
Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

Different soil makes moisture meters work erratically.
Here is a better one:
A freshly sharpened pencil shows bright wood. Plunge this into the soil and hold it there for a few seconds then pull it out. If there is any moisture in the soil the bright wood will be turning dark.

Weighing the container is good, too. If you can water it really well, then try tipping it, see how heavy it is. As it dries keep track of how easy it is to tip.

If you think the water is not working, perhaps it is sheeting around the outside of the root ball, and not getting the whole root zone wet, there is an easy way to help.
Add 1 tablespoon of liquid dish or hand soap to 1 gallon of water. Put a tray under the pot to catch the water. Water the plant slowly, allowing the water to soak in if it will. Then let it stand in the tray of water for a while and see if it will soak up any more water. Keep on adding water as needed.
Finally, at the end of the day remove the tray and allow the water to drain away.
The soap will help make the water stick to the soil.

The next few times it needs water DO NOT add more soap. Just water. It should soak in a lot better.

There are commercial products available that do the same thing. The general term for them is surfactant. Some brand names include the concept...
Water Wet (we used to use this one as hand soap when I worked at a nursery)
Water In
... and similar terms.

Temuco, Chile(Zone 9b)

If you could, submerge the container in water, if possible making sure that is all under water. If bubbles comes up, is because it needed more water and the longer is takes for the bubbles to disappear, it is some areas of the roots were not moist enough.

I would leave it even from one day to another, and do not add anything in the water.

What is the material of the container/pot

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