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Hello Guest!
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Lemon tree pruning advice

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Post  Icemaiden 4/18/2012, 11:23 am

Hi everyone

I have a lemon tree (plant really) which struggled for a while and then sent up a long shoot. Should I prune the leading tip or just leave it to do its own thing? It is obviously never going to be a beautiful lemon tree but I would like to give it a chance Laughing Should I cut away the stunted bits on the left and just leave the single stem?

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Post  Lavender Debs 4/18/2012, 1:31 pm

I have only grown Meyer Lemons. I would not prune the top YET. In the years to come there will be pleanty of deadwood to prune off. I had mine in a much larger pot.
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Post  Icemaiden 4/18/2012, 1:50 pm

Thanks Debs
Does it need a larger pot even if there are no roots to be seen when I lift the pot up? Do you know if they like space to wriggle their roots, or prefer a tighter fit?
I finally managed to trackdown some citrus liquid fertilizer last week so I am hoping for a growth spurt.
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Post  CharlesB 4/18/2012, 1:53 pm

Cool lemon tree. Did you start it from seed, a cutting or bought the plant?
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Post  Icemaiden 4/18/2012, 2:19 pm

Thanks. It was a seed. My daughter was looking after it but lost interest - hence the died-off bit on the left.
At one point she had about twenty Key lime plants but sadly (luckily) only two survived - one is to the right of the lemon.

I heard on the radio that lemons almost never grow true to the parent lemon so it is very hit and miss how they come out. But then again I just read a post on another forum which said that they almost always do Rolling Eyes
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Post  Lavender Debs 4/18/2012, 2:22 pm

Good question, I do not know if they like to wiggle or not. One thing that did make them happy was to prune the roots once every 3 years. The tops I let go except for pruning the little dead parts but the roots needed to be trimmed. My trees were inclined to make anchor roots and would send a thick root through the drain hole, plugging up the bottom. Uprooting and trimming up the root ball to encourage more fine feeder roots seemed to keep the tree happy (Scared me the first couple of times, but the tree did fine!)
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Post  subsonic 4/20/2012, 5:55 am

most citrus grown commercially is cuttings grafted to root stock
I really do not know why but you always see the graft point about a few inches above the ground
Anyway I think they do it because the types of citrus we like to eat do not make for good roots.
Now having said that, they prune citrus pretty dramatically to keep the plants at certain size and producing so I would think your plant would accept it with out much trouble, and it seems they always trim off lower branches so I would try first by pruning back the low stuff.
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Post  hruten 4/20/2012, 6:11 am

Every book and website I've read on pruning always mentions never prune more than 1/3 of the plant/bush/tree. The root pruning is a Fantastic idea! That will keep things aerated too!
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Post  Icemaiden 4/20/2012, 6:46 am

Thanks for all the advice. I suppose it is a matter of common sense? If I want a small indoor tree which has a single stem and then branches out then I will need to prune it to get there.
I think I will let the long shoot go up this season and trip it back next spring. And I will keep an eye on the roots and repot when I can see some poking out of the holes.
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Post  No_Such_Reality 4/20/2012, 12:02 pm

Actually, the grafting is for commercial reasons. Smaller actually produces more fruit per acre and unit of labor. Known producers are grafted unto dwarf/semi-dwarf rootstock to able to be planted much for densely.

A standard apple tree will grow to 25 feet high. Similarly, a standard lemon tree will hit 20 feet high. A semi-dwarf meyer lemon will create a 10' feet while a true dwarf meyer lemon will create a "bush" tree 6 to 8 feet high. Heavily pruned with thick branches, a commercial meyer lemon will look like a giant yellow berry bush.

The pruned 8 foot 'bush' and full sized 20 foot tree will produce about the same amount of fruit.

In California, they do 'wine glass' shaping of the citrus. It maximizes fruit production and minimizes labor. The wine stem may only be 6 -12 inches high before the 'goblet' of producing branches.
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Post  JohnKelly 8/25/2017, 7:57 pm

Excellent advice from Peter Cundall.

Readers from Australia will recognise the name Peter Cundall; he was the host for many years on the ABC program 'Gardening Australia'

Pruning Lemon Trees by Peter Cundall



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Post  sanderson 8/27/2017, 8:48 pm

Good article. I heavily pruned my orange tree 2 seasons ago. The next production was a lot of small oranges. This year fewer but larger oranges. It's hard to find the sweet spot (time-wise) for pruning oranges, after picking the fruit but before the blossoms.

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Post  Kay Burton 3/26/2020, 8:40 am

Typically, spring pruning of lemon is carried out during flowering and budding.
It should be remembered that pruning a room lemon should only be done if necessary, since frequent and unnecessary pruning can only weaken it. Lighting is very important for a lemon, therefore, pruning the plant is necessary so that its leaves can receive the maximum amount of sunlight. For the formation and proper pruning of the crown, the following rules exist: proceed to pruning a young tree only after it has grown to a height of at least 20 cm; for trimming, the stump should be 10-15 cm in height, and in cases of a cuttings a plant can do without it at all; should take into account the needs of lemon in nutrients, light exposure and other biological characteristics. Since otherwise cutting the crown will allow you to get only a decorative tree that will not bear fruit.
pruning must begin with a zero-order escape. It is cut at a height of about 15 or 20 cm. In this case, four well-developed kidneys must be left; from these buds in the future the main skeletal shoots will form. They should be directed evenly and in different directions; in the future, they should be tweaked or pinched at the moment when these branches reached a length of about 30 cm (sometimes 20 cm is enough); pluck only extra shoots at the time of their appearance; if the shoots are useful and necessary, then they are pinched during the formation of the first 5 or 7 leaves. Pinch only the tops; cut second-order shoots to a length of 25 cm; subsequent shoots are usually shortened 5 cm shorter than the previous ones; the formation and trimming of the skeleton of the crown ends on the shoots of the fourth order.
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