Cutting the lemon tree correctly - instructions in the tutorial

Cutting the lemon tree correctly - instructions in the tutorial

Why is a cut useful?

Evergreen foliage, picturesque flowers and bright yellow fruits raise doubts as to whether a cut makes sense. Indeed, a lemon tree clearly benefits from the occasional topiary. By nature, citrus trees tend to be bulky, misshapen growth. A harmonious crown is a rarity.

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The main cause is low peak funding. This is the name given to the property of native woody plants to sprout more strongly on the tip buds of their shoots than on buds positioned further down. The structure of well-structured crowns of apple or plum trees is primarily based on this law of growth.

In contrast, a lemon tree rarely forms a single vertical central shoot. Rather, growth is characterized by several equal shoots that are in competition with one another. Furthermore, young shoots that are much stronger than the main shoot often sprout from lateral buds. This tutorial gets right to the point with which types of pruning you can teach a disorganized lemon tree better.

Types of cuts and dates

The best time to cut the lemon tree is in February . This applies equally to all types of pruning, from upbringing and maintenance to rejuvenation. Although you can blend your lemon at any time of the year, an appointment in early spring offers the ideal framework. The time window for regeneration is primarily open so long that the crown can easily compensate for the loss of substance.

The following table provides an overview of all useful types of cuts with information on recommended appointment options:

Cut typeGoal / occasionAppointment option I.Appointment option II
Upbringingharmonious crown structure1st to 3rd year in mid-February1st to 3rd year in winter
Conservation cutThinning out the crown, promoting fruit woodfrom the 3rd or 4th year in mid to late Februaryfrom the 3rd or 4th year after harvest
Taper cutRevitalize aged lemonsLate December to late Februaryno

Raising a shapely crown

With a well-planned educational approach, you can direct growth into a harmonious crown structure. If a cut is on the maintenance plan every spring for the first three years, the effort will be rewarded with a blooming lemon tree whose well-shaped crown attracts everyone's attention. In addition, the maintenance of the cut is reduced to an occasional shape and maintenance cut. How to cut properly:

  • The best time is mid to late February
  • Appoint the strongest central shoot to the trunk and attach or tie to the vertical support rod
  • Cut off all other ground shoots at the base as possible competitors
  • Select three to four evenly arranged, strong side branches on the central shoot
  • Cut back the side branches so that their tips are in the juice balance
  • In the second and third year, shorten the scaffold shoots by a third for strong branching

A skilful pruning on the lemon tree brings a crown on its way with these components: vertical central shoot as trunk, three to four evenly distributed leading branches in juice balance.

If there are more than four side shoots, choose those with an angle between 90 ° and 45 ° to the central shoot. Also pay attention to the scattering of the guide branches . The starting points of the scaffold shoots should not be at the same height on the trunk.

Note the cut

Knowledgeable tailoring is a decisive factor in achieving a perfect result. Always cut branches of a lemon tree just before a bud or a leaf . If you cut too far away from the eye or leaf, a stub stub will remain, which carries the risk of rot and pest infestation. The distance between the interface and the vegetation point should not be greater than 2 to 4 millimeters.


The instructions in this pruning tutorial can be seamlessly transferred to the pruning of comparable citrus trees, such as mandarins, orange and lime trees. Furthermore, the differences between the cutting of oleander and olive trees are minimal.

Preserved crown shape

Once the crown has been built up, the incision maintenance leads to an occasional shape and maintenance cut. As the illustration below illustrates, you should always thin out the crown if it becomes too dense. A light-flooded structure guarantees that white flowers and bright yellow lemons form inside. Another reason for using scissors is provided by long branches protruding from the crown shape and exhausted fruit wood hanging down. How to cut correctly:

  • Cut out dead branches in advance
  • Cut off shoots pointing into the interior of the crown or otherwise unfavorably positioned at the base
  • Cut back branches protruding from the crown to a leaf or a side shoot
  • Cut away the weaker branches from parallel or crossing branches

Finally, dedicate yourself to empty-picked branches. To encourage the growth of young fruit wood, cut back by half all the branches that last carried lemons and are now sloping to the ground. So that the cut does not leave a gap at this point, you should derive the relevant fruit wood. With this pruning technique, you place the scissors where a young side shoot branches off.

Cut lemon tree


Remove wild shoots promptly

Premium varieties are often grafted on seedlings of bitter orange. This rootstock tends to sprout numerous wild shoots. Equipped with unrestrained growth, the cheeky wildlings strive to overgrow the noble crown and rob it of valuable nutrients. The uninvited guests can be identified on a different leaf shape. Ideally, you will discover a game shoot while it is still young and unwooded. Tear it off together with its astring. Has the wild surge of water snuck its way through and is already lignified? Then cut horizontally into the bark of the lemon tree below the point of attachment and break off the game shoots downwards.

Rejuvenate the old lemon tree in stages

Proud owners of an aged lemon tree are sometimes confronted with an increasingly bare, blooming crown. Turn back the clock with a powerful cut and breathe new zest for life into an old lemon. As with all woody plants, a strong cut results in equally strong growth in this case. So that a rejuvenation cut works perfectly, you should stay on the ball after the first stage and control the budding.

First stage

The good-natured cut tolerance of a lemon allows a courageous approach. One of the many talents of Citrus limon is that the trees sprout fresh from sleeping eyes. How to complete the first stage of a rejuvenation with flying colors:

  • In February, cut back all thick branches to 10 to 15 cm short cones
  • Smooth cuts with a sharp knife
  • Do not coat wound surfaces with tree wax (€ 5.99 at Amazon *) or similar agents

After cutting, repot the lemon tree in fresh substrate. So that the citrus trees can recover from the strain, a partially shaded location is recommended for the following three to four weeks. This year's bloom fails after the radical cutting measure. In return, a lively budding sets in.

Second stage

The second stage of rejuvenation begins in the same year. Numerous new shoots sprout from the cones. Choose one or two of the strongest specimens. All others have to give way. In order to encourage branching on the young wood, the shoots are peeled off in summer. You can do this by grasping the shoot tips just above a bud between your thumb and forefinger and snapping them off. You can remove dried-in remains of cones after one to two years without any problems.


Steep shoots bloom and do not bear fruit

With stiffly upright shoots, a lemon tree strives towards the sunlight as quickly as possible. Here the growth law of peak extraction rules, in that reserve materials are primarily pumped into leaf and shoot buds at the highest point. The citrus trees show little interest at this point in the energy-sapping formation of flowers and fruits. There are two options as to how to proceed with steep drives: cut off seamlessly or spread into a flattened position at an ideal 60 ° angle to the trunk or scaffold branch.

frequently asked Questions

Are lemon trees self-fertile?

With a few exceptions, all citrus species are self-fertile. One tree is enough to harvest juicy lemons. As with most fruit trees, it is beneficial for both bloom and crop yield to be the combination of two different varieties.

Yesterday I bought an Amalfi lemon tree in a 3.5 liter pot. Should I transplant and plant the tree?

A 3.5 liter pot is clearly too small for a lemon tree. Repot the tree in a timely manner in a container with a volume of 8 to 10 liters and fresh, loosely permeable citrus soil. Take this opportunity to initiate the process of raising a beautiful crown. To do this, tie the central stem to a vertical rod so that it grows straight. Cut off rival shoots to the future trunk at the base. For the crown structure, choose four side branches as future leading branches. Shorten this by a third to promote growth and stability.

Is a lemon tree hardy if it is grafted on a frost-hard surface?

If you buy a lemon tree from a specialist retailer, you will receive a refined wood. Here a noble rice was combined with a robust root base. The noble rice itself comes from an established lemon tree that has already borne fruit. This ensures that even small lemon trees can bloom and bear fruit in the tub. The base is usually the almost hardy bitter orange or three-leaved orange. The frost tolerance, however, has no effect on the noble rice. A lemon tree north of the Alps is always dependent on frost-free winter quarters.

Over the summer my lemon tree in the bucket has grown too big for winter quarters. Can I reduce the crown before I put it away? What to look out for

You can prune a lemon tree at any time of the year. It is easily possible to reduce the crown before putting it away so that the tree fits into the winter quarters. Please make sure to cut excessively long shoots just before a bud, a leaf or a short side shoot. If your lemon tree bears unripe fruits, you can leave them hanging until they are fully ripe.

When are lemons ripe?

You can recognize a ripe lemon by two criteria: the peel is shiny and gives way under slight pressure. Furthermore, a lemon is ready to be harvested when the fruit is fully grown. The correct size depends on the cultivated citrus variety. Incidentally, the color does not say anything about whether a lemon is ripe or not. Green fruits can be ready to eat. Lemons only get their yellow color under the influence of cool night temperatures. A lemon tree in the temperature-controlled winter garden with constant room temperatures gives you ripe lemons that don't sparkle like a sapphire.

Should lemons be picked or cut off at harvest?

A characteristic of lemons is a firm connection to their supporting branch. As a result, picking ripe fruit runs the risk of tearing or damaging the branch as well. In practice, cutting off ripe lemons with scissors has worked well. Place the crop cut directly on the fruit. Alternatively, cut off a complete fruit shoot, including several fruits and leaves.

The 3 most common mistakes

If short or long stumps remain after the cut, rot and disease are inevitable. Without an occasional maintenance cut, a lemon crown degenerates into an impenetrable, flowerless tangle of branches. Anyone who allows wild shoots on the lemon tree will struggle with an overgrown crown. This table summarizes the three most common cutting errors with tips for skillful prevention:

Cutting errorsDamageprevention
cut on tenonsSpread of disease and putrefactionAlways cut off shoots directly at the roots
never exposeddense network of branches, balding, flowerless shootsThinning the crown every few years
Wild shoots not removedovergrown crownTear off wild shoots without wood and promptly


With a picturesque crown and Mediterranean charm, a lemon tree lets you forget that its branches are armed with sharp thorns. If you take care of the cut, please wear thorn-proof gloves with long cuffs. Even small scratches on the skin can cause unpleasant infections if they are not noticed and treated.