When to prune citrus trees – for the best blossoming fruits

Experts reveal when to prune citrus trees for optimum overall health and maximum fruit blossom

when to prune citrus trees
(Image credit: Getty)

By learning when to prune citrus trees, you're ensuring both a desirable aesthetic as well as a healthier and more prolific harvest of fruits.

Not only do they add a joyful aesthetic to a conservatory or patio, citrus trees also product zesty fruits for the grow-your-own trend and make a great contribution to kitchen garden ideas

And pruning citrus will help the trees look good as well as reap abundant rewards. 'The primary reasons to prune a citrus tree are to maintain a desired shape and size of tree and also for overall tree health,' explains Andrew Gaumond, horticulturist at Petal Republic (opens in new tab)

'Through pruning, you're able to thin out branch structures, which allow for better aeration and light penetration to all parts of the tree, remove dead or decaying branches and foliage, and encourage new healthy growth to emerge.'

So whether you are considering growing lemon from seed or cultivating an orange tree, find out when to prune citrus trees here.

When to prune citrus trees

'The best time to prune most types of citrus is either early in spring before the citrus tree has begun to flower and produce fruit or after the last harvest (typically in late fall),' says Andrew Gaumond.

'As a general rule, you can prune back your citrus tree anytime, even when it is producing flowers,' says FLOWERBX (opens in new tab)'s Whitney Bromberg Hawkings. 'However, the optimum time to prune differs slightly between different varieties of citrus tree, in order to get the best out of their beauty and delicious fruit.'

When to prune lemon and orange trees

If you want to know how to prune a lemon tree or orange tree, timing is all important.

'Citrus trees like lemon or orange are best pruned in warmer regions between February and April; just avoid doing so when it’s particularly hot! Meanwhile, they can be left alone completely until March in cooler climates,' says FLOWERBX's Whitney Bromberg Hawkings.

When to prune lime trees

FLOWERBX's Whitney Bromberg Hawkings adds: 'Alternatively, lime trees are best pruned in early spring or late summer, or any time before blooming.'

When should you avoid pruning citrus trees?

While you can theoretically prune unruly citrus trees at any time, there are certainly peak times for pruning citrus trees.

'Pruning citrus trees just before or after their key growing season allows more sunlight to pass through, encouraging fruits to be nourished by the rays of brighter days and benefiting from additional air circulation, which helps to prevent disease,' says FLOWERBX's Whitney Bromberg Hawkings.

'I would always suggest to avoid pruning a citrus tree during the months that it is flowering and producing fruit, which is throughout high summer. 

'This is when your tree is at its strongest; soaking in the most energy thanks to sunnier days.'

Petal Republic's Andrew Gaumond concurs, adding: 'Pruning can cause a degree of shock to the tree which may affect fruit production during the active growing season so it's prudent to avoid anything other than light pruning of damaged or decaying tree limbs in the spring and summer months.'

Mediterranean garden with a lemon tree in a pot in the gardens of the summer residence of Elena Piletra

(Image credit: Future / Mark Bolton)

Why do citrus trees need to be pruned?

Citrus trees need to be pruned to thrive. But you will be pleased to hear that they only require minimal attention. 

So what is pruning and why should you do it? Whitney Bromberg Hawkings of FLOWERBX explains: 'Pruning involves thinning out any areas of overcrowding by neatly clipping back additional branches towards the top of the tree, optimising space for sunlight to get in and therefore, allowing maximum fruit to blossom. 

'If your citrus tree has become particularly unruly, you can prune it back by up to two-thirds, encouraging beautiful new regrowth.'

Ruth Doherty

Ruth Doherty is an experienced digital writer and editor specializing in interiors, travel and lifestyle. With 20 years of writing for national sites under her belt, she’s worked for the likes of Livingetc.com, Standard, Ideal Home, Stylist and Marie Claire as well as Homes & Gardens.