How To Trim A Lemon Tree

Lemon trees are lovely and fresh-smelling species, all thanks to their well-scented leaves and fruit.

Just like any other fruit tree, they also need to be correctly maintained, which will involve proper pruning methods.

If you are new to this, keep reading, as I will teach you how to trim a lemon tree.

About Lemon Tree Pruning

Lemon fruit trees must be pruned if you want to improve the quality of their branches. A vital addition will be able to handle the weight of the fruits and improve their overall health and taste.

Knowing how and when to prune your lemon tree is essential to achieve these things.

Pruning your lemon tree will promote larger, healthier fruits. Being citrus, it can produce fruits all through the tree, including the shaded areas. The means trimming trees for the sake of access to sunlight is not required.

Nonetheless, lemon trees should be pruned occasionally.

Like mature trees, you should remove sprouts and weak branches from young lemon trees. Dead or crossing branches also need to be cut off regularly.

If you need to have the shaded areas of the tree access more sunlight, you can slightly prune back the lemon tree.

When is the Best Time to Prune Lemon Trees?

Pruning at the wrong time would be bad for your lemon tree, as doing that can hinder proper fruit production and branch re-growth.

The best time to prune a lemon tree is after it has produced the harvest in the fall season. This will give it enough time to recover from the stress involved in fruiting.

If your tree is planted in a warm environment, you have a better pruning advantage. Be warned, though, do not prune your lemon tree when the weather is scorching hot! February to April are the best times to trim your tree.

As a general rule of thumb, you can prune anytime the lemon tree is producing flowers.

Here is how to choose the best time to prune other fruit trees.

How to Prune a Lemon Tree

When you are ready to prune your lemon tree, ensure the cutting tools you use are sharp and clean. If they are blunt, you will be left with roughly cut branches, which can attract pests.

Also, an unsterilized blade may carry diseases that can infect your tree.

Besides clean and sharp cutting tools, you will also need to protect your hands from thorns. This means you need to put on a pair of hand gloves.

Citrus trees usually have strong wood, but they also have thin barks. For this reason, you should prune with the blade facing the tree to avoid chipping off the bark.

Your aim should be to preserve the branch collar; this is the area around the base of a large branch with wrinkled-looking bark.

This area is also known as the “branch defense zone,” filled with cells that trigger the callus tissue (tree wound), which grows and covers a cut to prevent tree decay.

For branches more significant than an inch, be advised to use the three-cut system to avoid damaging the tree bark.

Proceed with an angled cut, about 12 inches out from the branch union, then cut 1/3rd deep into the branch on the other side (the undercut).

Next is to move a couple of inches above the length of the branch and cut from the top, severing the unit in the process.

Ensure you do not yearly prune more than a third of the entire tree. Start pruning your lemon tree in its second year so you can train it exactly how you want it to grow.

Keep your lemon trees around 8 or 10 feet tall so it would be easier for you to harvest their fruits and maintain them. Don’t be in a hurry to cut off any healthy branches; it is not necessary.

Pruning Potted Lemon Trees

Trimming a lemon tree grown in a container is the same as trimming orchard-grown lemon trees. Only remove dead or crossing branches, as well as unwanted sprouts.

Dwarf lemon trees grow to a maximum height of about 12 feet, so they do not require regular pruning to control their size. The primary purpose of pruning dwarf lemon trees should be to promote new growth and better fruit production.

Popular dwarf lemon varieties include the” the ecies and “Eureka” species. They grow between 10 to 12 feet tall at full maturity.

It would help to disinfect your pruning tools when dealing with dwarf lemons. An alcohol-based sterilizer can be used for this. Ensure the tools are sharp and in good working condition before cutting.

You can use bypass pruners to cut small branches less than half an inch in diameter. Lopping shears will be suitable for the cuts for units that are ½ to 1-1/2 inches in diameter.

You can use your pruning saw to cut branches more significantly than that.

Remove any root suckers you come across that are growing below the graft union. Use bypass pruners for this, and make the cut as low to the soil level as possible.

You can remove suckers anytime throughout the growing season.

If you have more than one potted lemon tree, then be sure to disinfect your cutting tools after using them on the first one before you use them to trim the next one. Diseases can be passed from one tree to another via cutting tools, so disinfecting them is necessary insurance.

Rubbing and crossing branches should be removed so that sunlight can reach the tree’s center.

For potted dwarf lemon trees, the winter season is the best time to prune them. This should be after the tree has finished fruiting for the season and before any new growth commences.

Don’t forget to cut off long, straight branches 1/4  inches above any outward-facing bud. Doing this will promote new branching. It will also cause the tree to generate healthier lemons, and the overall shape of your tree will be better.

Things You Will Need To Prune Potted Lemon Trees

  • Bleach
  • Bypass pruners
  • Lopping shears
  • Pruning saw

Extra Tip

In case you didn’t know, lemon trees grow in U.S plant hardiness zones 9 and 11. PPotted lemon trees can be grown in lower hardiness zones since they can be kept indoors and guarded against cold temperatures.

How To Prune A Meyer Lemon Tree

Meyer lemon trees are favored as ornamental trees, thanks to their lovely smell and beautiful foliage. They also have little or no thorns.

They also produce a rounder, orange-colored fruits than every other lemon tree species. Meyer lemon does not grow more than 12 feet tall at mature height. However, they are Lim to a height of 6 feet if they are significant to a dwarf rootstock.

Meyer lemons belong to the U.S Department Of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 to 11, and they are grown over a broader range indoors or as a potted species.

Scheduled pruning promotes healthy fruit production and an attractive shape. Late winter is the best time to prune Meyer lemon trees.

Follow these steps to prune your Meyer lemon tree.

  • Cut off any shoot that grows out of tree roots and the trunk’s lower area beneath the graft union where the tree was connected to the dwarfing stock. The cuts should be made at ground level.
  • Cut off any water sprouts and vertical shoots that grow out of the canopy branches.
  • Cut off dead, decayed, or injured branches that rub against each other back into the canopy or a few inches above the branch junction.
  • Cut back any branch that appears too long or too vigorous, trimming up the tree’s canopy so it will have a well-rounded uniform look. You can also do this to reduce the tree’s overall size.
  • All cuts should be smooth and no greater than 1/4 inches from a healthy bud.
  • Cut off branches that touch the soil, the ground, or any other piece of furniture and home structure, as they can act as bridges for carpenter ants to get into your home.
  • Selectively thin out the fruit by cutting smaller fruits off the junction of the stem. Doing this will leave behind well-spaced healthy fruits around the tree’s canopy.
  • As a rule of thumb, you should leave one lemon fruit per 42 leaves. To promote the proper establishment, you can remove all the tree’s fruits for the first two years after planting and start harvesting in the 3rd year.
  • Regular inspections and check for any pests or diseases around your dwarf Meyer lemon tree. If you find any diseased branches, then you should cut them off.


There you have it! That’s how to trim a lemon tree.

There are wide varieties, but most trimming rules apply to all potted and orchard-grown species.

Take care!

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