Citrus Care

Citrus Care

150 150 jcharlow


Watering (with a hose)

  1. When first planted, water thoroughly
  2. Water every other day for two weeks.
  3. For the rest of the first year, irrigate every seven days in the summer, and once every two to four weeks in the winter.
  4. During the second year, irrigation intervals can be increased to 10-14 days in the summer, and once every three to four weeks in winter.
  5. WATER DEEPLY! 1” of water will go down about 12”. Apply minimum of 3” of water.

Maintaining mulch in the tree basin during the first two to three summers will allow for maximum interval between irrigations without tree stress. Remove mulch in early November to allow full soil exposure to winter sun.

Pruning Young Trees

  1. Remove any sucker growth below the bud union on young trees.*
  2. Trim off badly placed growth that interferes with other branches.
  3. If limbs are killed by freezing, remove them after spring growth starts.
  4. Young trees are not uniform in growth, but will become more symmetrical with age.
  5. Rapid growing terminals, particularly noticeable on lemon trees, may be pinched or cut back during the growing season to even-up growth rate.

Don’t Over Fertilize

  1. Young citrus trees respond readily to fertilize in most soils, but care should be taken not to give them too much.
  2. Young trees can be fertilized every 4-6 weeks between February and May, but at only ½ the recommended rate. Overfertilization can cause severe leafburn and rapid defoliation.
  3. Starting the second year, sprinkle recommended amounts of El Toro Citrus Food with iron chelate in the tree basin. Water the day before and immediately after applying fertilizer.
  4. Fertilize (1) late winter (February), late May and late August. Apply fertilizer evenly over the tree basin area.
  5. In sandy soils, fertilize six to eight times a year to compensate for loss by leaching.
  7. If you fertilize when the tree is in bloom, apply at ½ the recommended rate.


  1. Freezing can damage both tree and fruit of all citrus varieties, but some are more sensitive than others.
  2. Older orange and grapefruit trees are quite tolerant to cold and seldom need to be protected.
  3. The fruit, however, is usually damaged when temperatures fall below 26 degrees Fahrenheit for a period of several hours.

Provide Frost Protection

  1. In most areas of Southern Arizona where citrus is grown, some type of frost protection is necessary from November through March during the first two or three years.
  2. Protect the trunk and main branches of young trees, leaving 1/3 of the leafy area exposed to sunlight and air.
  3. Young trees can be successfully protected from frost by running water under the tree during the below-freezing hours, covering them with a large cardboard box, placing a burlap bag over the tree or covering with cloth.
  4. Do not use plastic unless you build a frame to keep the plastic away from tree foliage. Plastic does not hold in much heat compared to other materials.
  5. Remove heavy cloth covering after each frost period. Burlap may be left in place for the entire winter. Hanging a lit light bulb in the branches on cold nights provides additional heat.
  6. If tree is frozen, do not prune frozen parts until new growth emerges in spring.
  7. After new growth begins, the exact portions killed by frost can be more clearly seen and pruned off.

Pruning Mature Trees

  1. Mature citrus trees need little or no pruning, other than the periodic removal of dead wood.
  2. Inside shoot growth, which is particularly abundant on navel oranges and lemon varieties, should be thinned out to avoid branch competition inside the tree.

BE SURE TO ELIMINATE ALL SUCKERS ARISING FROM BELOW THE BUD UNION.* THEY ARE FROM THE ROOTSTOCK VARIETY AND WILL NOT BEAR EDIBLE FRUIT. When left to develop, they will take over the top portion causing your named citrus variety to be reverted back to an undesired variety.

Commercial trees are allowed to carry branches right to the ground. Production is heaviest on these lower branches. Garden trees can be pruned to shape as desired.

*Many citrus trees have been grafted onto a heartier rootstock. The point where the bud is grafted to the rootstock is called the bud union. There will be a characteristic bend or bulge at this point. Suckers are any new growth coming off below the bud union, causing the tree to revert back to the rootstock that the new fruit was grafted onto.

  • I’ve found the following in your “Citrus care” article:

    > If you fertilize when the tree is in bloom, apply at ½ the recommended rate.

    I assume, that high nitrogen level could have something to do with excessive blossom drop? Yet, I would appreciate your effort to elaborate this statement. Thank you for your time.

    Best regards,
    Igor Fogarasi

  • When a plant gets too much nitrogen it goes into shock. As the citrus reacts and tries to compensate it first rids itself of flowers. The second reaction is for the leaves to burn. Then stems begin to die back, etc. Since the application of fertilizer by humans may not be perfect, we always play it safe by recommending the ½ rate application.

  • Thank you very much for your response. It was right to the point!

  • W. C. Merrill, Jr March 2, 2016 at 10:34 am

    I was directed online to The Harlow Helper regarding blossom drop and it is very helpful. I am checking today and appreciate your suggestions on citrus pruning – very helpful, Thank you for The Harlow Helper. WCM Jr, Pensacola, FL

  • You’re very welcome!

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