The tree pruning is not only a horticultural process; it is an art where the skills are based on precision, knowledge, and care. Whether you are a homeowner taking care of a backyard lemon tree in Perth or a professional arborist tasked with urban forest maintenance, it is vital to possess a good knowledge of the intricacies of proper tree pruning for the health and extended life of your trees.

By now you might already have started thinking about whether pruning your lemon or citrus tree(s) will benefit you. In this thorough article, we will look at the world of pruning, focused particularly on the citrus and lemon trees found in Australian landscapes. Through the presentation of the recommended methods for tree pruning, and identifying the consequences of using improper techniques, we aim to provide you with the necessary skills to afford your trees the chance of being safe, healthy, and aesthetically pleasing.

Take an excursion along with us and discover the mysteries of fruit tree pruning that involve everything starting from identification of fruit tree anatomy to realization of pruning techniques and timing for the best results. Whether you belong to the category of newbie enthusiasts or long-standing professionals, there is something lucrative to be learned in our discussion of the right pruning techniques. Join me in embarking on this journey and together we unlock the potential of your trees.

Related article: How to Prune Hydrangeas? What is the best month to prune hydrangeas? Should you deadhead hydrangeas?

What is Tree Pruning?

Proper pruning techniques are essential to properly care for your trees. This technique involves selectively removing branches or aspects of the tree to enhance its appearance, structure or health. It is a proactive practice that serves to reduce potential hazards, promote healthy tree growth and enhance the overall aesthetic of the tree.

Anatomy of a Fruit Tree

To understand proper pruning methods, it is essential to familiarise oneself with the important anatomies of a fruit tree. 

Here is the most important information to know regarding the anatomy of citrus and other fruit-bearing trees:

Crotch: 

  • This is the angle where the limbs diverge or the point where the main branch joins the trunk. 
  • Healthy crotches are tilted outward to a width diameter of 45 degrees while unhealthy crotches tilt inward, making the diameter close to the body.

Scaffold:

  • The principal limbs spread from the tree trunk.
  • The scaffold branches are the main structural elements of the canopy of the tree and also the place where the fruits grow.
  • Right pruning techniques can lead to proper scaffold branching and avoid overcrowding problems.

Watersprout:

  • A strong shoot springing from an active bud on a branch.
  • Watersprouts are the most frequent type of sprouts and they are unattractive and thus distract from the tree’s overall appearance.
  • Seasonal pruning is required to eliminate watersprouts or to achieve the shape and shape of the tree that is desired.

Sucker:

  • A strong shoot that grows from below the roots or bud union.
  • Suckers compete with the tree’s main canopy for resources and can weaken the tree’s basic structure.
  • The quick removal of suckers is essential to avoid the possibility of the plant diverting the energy towards unwanted growth.
male gardener in checkered shirt cuts the tree branch with a yellow saw

Advantages of Pruning Trees

Tree pruning is a multi-faceted approach which gives results beyond just visual improvement of foliage. Knowing these benefits highlights the need to include pruning in regular tree maintenance programs. 

Here, we explore the numerous advantages pruning provides:

Increased Safety

  • Pruning reduces hazards by eliminating dead, diseased, and structurally unsound limbs. These branches that may fall could otherwise cause harm.
  • Tree pruning undertaken regularly lowers the chances of branch breakage either during a gale or storm leading to lower property damage and personal injury risks.
  • Along with this, correct pruning of trees helps to ensure safety in outdoor spaces for homeowners, pedestrians, and vehicles.

Increased Health

  • Pruning is a measure that contributes to the maintenance of the trees’ health because it removes all the diseased or infested branches and prevents the spread of diseases throughout the tree.
  • Pruning of crowded branches improves air circulation and sunlight penetration within the canopy which reduces the occurrence of fungal diseases and promotes photosynthesis.
  • Strategic pruning stimulates new growth and revitalizes the tree, therefore, prolonging its lifespan and ensuring its long-term welfare.

Increased Beauty

  • By pruning trees, the visual appeal of the trees is enhanced as they are shaped into appealing forms that blend well with their surroundings.
  • Taking away protruding or thicker branches will not only give a tree a balanced and symmetrical shape but will also enhance its beauty.
  • Pruned trees help to enhance the landscape beauty of both the residential areas and the public spaces. This process brings a sense of value to the properties.

Additionally, the safety, health, and aesthetic advantages of pruning illustrate why pruning should be an integral part of your tree maintenance regimen. 

A good pruning technique is an investment in your trees’ health and your enjoyment of your outdoor space. It not only safeguards the well-being of trees but also improves the aesthetic value and benefits of your outdoor space.

Best Practices for Tree Pruning

To successfully take control of safety, health, and beautification, it is always important to follow the best practices when pruning trees. 

Here, we outline the recommended guidelines and techniques for pruning lemon trees and citrus trees, ensuring optimal results:

When to Prune Lemon Trees

The Best Time for Pruning:

The season or the time of the year when lemon trees are not flowering (November to March) is the dormant period or the best time to prune lemon trees.

During the winter, the time of complete dormancy, pruning is a stress-free process and healing occurs more successfully.

Pruning During the Dormant Period:

When trees enter the dormancy phase the water and nutrients are invested in root development instead of the growth of foliage, which is the best time for pruning.

Pruning during periods of active growth, namely late spring and summer should be avoided as these can perturb the trees’ natural processes and lose their sap.

Urban gardener pruning a cypress on a crane. Seasonal maintenance

How to Correctly Prune Lemon Trees

Avoid Over-pruning: Limit pruning to no more than 15-20 per cent of the tree canopy at a time.

Over-pruning places the tree under undue stress and disturbs the process of photosynthesis, leading to a decline in vitality and an increased risk of death.

Techniques for Pruning To Avoid

Avoid Flush Cuts:

  • The flushing cuts made too close to the trunk or the parent branch deter the tree’s natural compartmentalization process and cause decay.
  • Leave a small band of xylem tissue after cutting to facilitate fast healing and prevent infection.

Avoid Stub Cuts:

  • The presence of stubs when branches are pruned acts as a gateway for diseases and pests, which makes it easier for the tree to get diseased.
  • Make clean, angled cuts just outside the branch collar to promote faster healing and minimize the chances of potential damage.

Avoid Topping:

  • Topping is a method of pruning which prioritises reducing the crown of the tree to a specific limit.
  • Topping shocks the branch, resulting in one of two potential outcomes: it will either stimulate the growing of latent bud which is called “watersprouts” or it will kill the branch/branch completely. 
  • Similarly, cutting a tree off at a certain point will make it lose its natural appearance and may also make it grow irregularly or even die from the shock. 
  • We personally would not recommend topping, except in very special cases, for instance, when the tree suffered severe storm damage and now needs emergency treatment.

Avoid Lion Tailing:

  • Lion Tailing is a method which involves excessively thinning and removing interior tree branches, leaving most of the foliage only on the ends of branches
  • This practice is detrimental to the tree and disrupts the tree’s health and beauty if done incorrectly.

Techniques for Pruning Plants in the Right Place

  • Use sharp pruning tools to make clean and neat cuts minimizing the plant tissue’s damage.
  • Clean cuts offer quick healing and also reduce the possibility of infection or transmission of diseases.
  • Try to avoid tearing the bark when cutting large branches off as it can hinder the closure of the wound and make the plant unhealthy.
  • Do not leave stumps when pruning since they tend to dieback and can be locations through which pests and pathogens enter.
  • For the remaining upper branches, prune them back to lateral buds or branches, to make cuts as flush and even as possible while maintaining the aesthetic appearance.
  • The arrangement of the buds is what influences the plant’s usual growing habits and the shape it ends up with. When pruning, take into account the direction in which new shoots will form, which is determined by the position of buds on the twig.
  • When cutting an intersecting (lateral) branch, select the one that has an angle of no greater than 45 degrees with the branch to be removed.

Impact of Bad Pruning Practices

Unprofessional pruning techniques may lead to the tree’s health, life span, and beauty of tree suffer damage. Being able to recognize the outcomes of these procedures will contribute immensely towards apprehending the possible mistakes & saving the lifeline of your trees.

Female farmer cutting branches in cherry fruit orchard with pruning shears, close up with selective focus

Here, we explore the negative impact of bad pruning practices:

Effects of improper pruning methods

  • Reduced Vigor and Growth: Wrong pruning can cause shedding of the essential leaves and reserves of nutrients, resulting in stunted growth and weakened vitality.
  • Increased Vulnerability to Disease: Strip cuts, flush cuts and other erroneous pruning methods leave open wounds which leads the way for pathogens and pests to enter, increasing the risk of infection and disease spread.
  • Structural Weakness: Topping and lion-tailing may cause damage to the trees by cutting off branches at an unnatural angle that makes the trees structurally weak, thus creating branches that the wind or a storm may easily destroy.
  • Decline in Aesthetic Value: Careless pruning practices can do away with the trees’ natural beauty and symmetry, and will degrade their visual attractiveness as well as their value.
  • Environmental Stress: Excessive or improper pruning could stress trees to abnormal levels in which their natural growth cycles may be disrupted and lead to adverse effects from environmental pressures such as drought or high temperatures.
  • Long-Term Decline: Continuous exposure to improper pruning can cause permanent health issues in trees, and they will suffer long-term decline and eventual death.

To avoid issues stemming from this, it is advisable to enlist the services of certified arborists in your region. 

For expert tree pruning services in Perth, AB Trees Pruning services come highly recommended. Their team of experienced arborists employs proper pruning techniques to ensure the health, safety, and beauty of your trees. Contact them today for a consultation and let them help you maintain thriving landscapes.

Conclusion

To sum up, proper tree trimming not only guarantees the good health and appearance of your trees but also essentially promotes your trees’ health, safety, and beauty. Adhering to the right pruning techniques and avoiding mistakes will allow you to advocate for quick recovery, improve plant shape, and promote healthy growth. 

On the other hand, inadequate pruning can lead to feebler branches, heightened disease susceptibility, and, eventually, a decline in health.

Therefore, make sure that you entrust tree pruning only to experts who know the science of arboriculture.

Avoid waiting until your tree is in a critical condition, and practice preventative measures to keep the health and beauty of your trees.