Growing orange trees and other citrus trees requires careful attention to pruning to improve the general health of the tree, and to improve the yield and size of the fruit it bears. There is a certain amount of disagreement on the best way to go about orange tree pruning as some people believe less is more, while others think that more extensive pruning is best. Whatever the individual preferences, carefully thinning the topmost branches and cutting those branches from two sides can help produce good results from orange tree pruning.
The best time to prune an orange tree is when it has finished bearing fruit for the year, in the late summer or early fall. Before starting the actual process of orange tree pruning, it’s good to take a look at the tree and decide how extensive the pruning needs to be. Some years the tree might be carrying more dead wood than others, or pest problems might mean the tree requires heavier pruning than usual. In addition, any budding areas below the graft should also be removed as close to the tree trunk as possible, as these will not produce edible fruit. Once those areas are identified and taken care of, the remainder of the tree can be pruned.
After dead wood and pest damaged-wood has been cut away, the main goal of orange tree pruning is to thin out the top branches. These branches are typically where the most fruit is produced, and failure to prune can cause the tree to become overgrown, resulting in smaller fruit that isn’t as tasty. Thinning out these top branches leaves plenty of room for fruit to grow, and also allows more sunlight to filter through to the middle branches of the tree. No more than one third of the top branches should be removed.
Cutting branches at the right angle and making the right number of cuts is important for keeping the tree healthy, and also for promoting new growth. Smaller branches can be removed with one angled cut, but for larger branches two cuts are needed. Instead of making one big cut all the way through, first cut one side of the large branch at an angle, then make a second cut on the opposite side, at the same angle. This allows for the branch to be pruned without risking damage to its bark. Cut branches two or three inches out from the main trunk of the tree when orange tree pruning to protect it from bark damage.
Pruning effectively means paying attention to the overall size and shape of the tree as well as the finer details. This is important because it will affect the ease in which the fruit, when it appears, is harvested. The higher the tree, the harder it will be to reach the topmost fruit, so it’s generally better to have a shorter, wider tree than a taller one. This type of orange tree pruning is best started when the tree is young, as it’s easier to start training the shape of the tree while it is still small. Keeping the tree at a maximum of about 8 feet (2.5 meters) is a good balance between height and manageability.