(News article for February 6, 2021)
If you’ve been thinking of planting a new citrus tree or have an older one that needs to be pruned or fertilized, February is a time to do these things.
Keep in mind that kumquats are the most cold-hardy of commonly grown citrus, followed by satsumas.
To begin training a newly planted citrus tree, cut the trunk to 18 to 24 inches tall. Leave three to four branches on the tree, within the area just under where the cut is made. The branches should be spaced out around the tree and growing upwards rather than towards the ground. At the same time, there should not be a narrow angle between the branches and the trunk.
Mature citrus trees do not necessarily need a lot of annual pruning. If you have shoots coming from the rootstock – these will typically be thorny and will originate from close to the ground – remove these. If there are shoots that are growing up above the rest of the tree canopy, these can be cut off at the point where they attach to another branch.
As with any type of plant, remove limbs that are dead or diseased, that rub against other branches, or that hang so low that you don’t want to pick from them.
If you need to make some cuts to open up the canopy for ease of picking or better spray (fungicide or insecticide) coverage, go ahead and do this. Make pruning cuts either back to where the branch originates or to where another branch comes off of the branch you’re cutting. In other words, don’t leave stubs.
Our Louisiana Home Citrus Production guide gives a simple rule of thumb for fertilizing trees that have been in the ground for at least a year: Use 1 to 1.5 pounds of 8-8-8 or 13-13-13 per year of tree age, up to a maximum of 12 to 18 pounds at 12 years of age and older. For example, if you planted a citrus tree in 2013 so that it is now 8 years old, you could use 8 to 12 pounds of 8-8-8 or 13-13-13.
I’d recommend going with the lower end of the range if using 13-13-13 (since the concentration of nutrient is higher) and the upper end of the range if using 8-8-8 (since the concentration of nutrients is lower). Of course, you could also use 10-10-10 and go with a rate in the middle.
If you just planted the tree recently, wait until you see it starting to put out some new growth and then apply about one-half pound of one of the mentioned fertilizers.
Mixed fertilizers like those mentioned have a density of about 1 pound per pint, or 1 pound per 2 cups. So, if you need 8 pounds of 13-13-13 for an 8-year-old tree, use 8 pints or 16 cups.
When you fertilize a citrus tree, spread the fertilizer out under the ends of the branches, scattering some in the direction of the trunk (but not right next to it) and some in the direction away from the trunk.
Our Louisiana Home Citrus Production guide has information on these and other citrus-related topics, like variety selection and insect and disease management.
Contact Mary Helen Ferguson.
Citrus pruning should include removing shoots growing from the rootstock, below the graft union. Shoots that originate from the rootstock generally have thorns and trifoliate leaves (leaves with three leaflets).