Citrus Noob...with questions.

roots3003(9)March 27, 2010

I'm coming into my second Summer here in AZ and am starting to get the hang out things. Homever, I am still a noob when it comes to growing Citrus. I have Grapefruit and Tangerine trees, and they both seem to be healthy and growing. I'm just not sure if I should be pruning off some of these braches, or pulling of some the fruit/flowers.

The first group of pics is of the Grapefruit tree. The open flower that you see was a a white ball, and it kept getting bigger so I though it was going to turn into a grapfruit?? But as you can see, it's just a flower. Is that normal? If so, where do they grapefruits come from? The second group of pics is the Tangerine, and it is covered in little balls that are turning into flowers. I'm not sure if i'm supposed to be trimming these or not. Any help would be appreciated.

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My advice would be to leave them alone for a while.
Citrus do not naturally take a "tree form". Normally they are actually shrubs. There are differing opinions about pruning, but most say to just let it do its thing and only prune dead/diseased branches and maybe a little for shape. Some people remove what they call the "water spouts" branches that grow really fast straight up when they're overwatered.. They usually are full of greenery but no fruits. However I don't think even that's necessary. When your tree is a few years old, then it's probably a good thing to give it a light pruning from time to time, but I think citrus do just fine even if left alone.

It is a good idea to break off any suckers that come from below the graft union (close to soil level). those are from the rootstock and you don't want those to grow.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 7:37PM
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Great little trees, roots. It looks like some of the trees have suckers coming up from below the graft. Look carefully for any branches that have different leaves and growth habits than the rest of the tree, and follow them down to where they come off the trunk. Chances are, they come out below the normal branches, and are actually the understock, which is a kind of citrus selected for disease resistance, fast growth, or slow growth (in the case of dwarf trees). Unfortunately, understocks don't normally have useable fruit, so it's best to cut those branches off as close to the trunk as possible, lest they take over the tree! Inspect where they came out regularly thereafter, and rub off any little sprouts that form to prevent the same problem from recurring. As the trees get older, the only other pruning you might have to do is remove one of a pair of crossing branches, and snip out the dead twigs that tend to form inside the canopy.

Kevin : )

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 12:58PM
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The University of Arizona has great information on caring for citrus. From watering and fertilizing to frost protection and nutrient deficiency.

Here's the link.

Good luck. ;-)

Here is a link that might be useful: Citrus Information from U of A

    Bookmark   March 29, 2010 at 12:20PM
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grant_in_arizona(USDA Z9 Scottsdale AZ)

Hi there, I agree with the others, your little trees look good, really good. The white balls are flower buds and they will open and if they get pollinated will produce fruit. Sometimes when a citrus is transplanted it will stop blooming for a year or two while it is busy making new roots, but eventually they will resume, although sometimes the first year of blooms produces very few fruit. It's just adjusting.

I also agree that your trees are best left alone in general, but I would look for those dreaded "suckers" from the understock and would remove them. Like Kevin and the others said, they have different-looking leaves (often with three leaflets but not always) and growth habits, and they emerge low down at the base of the trunk. If you're not sure, ask a local nursery person to show you what a citrus sucker looks like and then see if your tree has them. The first pic looks like it has some but it's hard to say from here.

In any case, lookin' good! Thanks for sharing the pics--let us know what you do and how it works out.

Take care,

Here is a link that might be useful: Controlling suckers on citrus article

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 4:34PM
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greenthumbjeff(Zone 9 - Gilbert, AZ)

I agree with removing the suckers growing out of the lower half of the tree trunk. In general, you should start pruning the trees to create proper form. In this case, your trees are still young so you don't need to prune too much, but cut back on the branches that are growing out of hand. (not in proportion to the rest of the tree)

Make sure the trees are getting plenty of water, especially during the summer months. Also don't forget to feed them with a balanced fertilizer.

The actual fruits will show up after the white flower petals fall off. You will notice tiny green pea-sized fruits. This year is a good year for citrus, so you should see quite a few of them developing.

Good luck!


    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 12:19AM
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To GreenthumbJeff:
you say in your last posting that this is a good year for citrus. What do you base that on? I mean is this some normal phenomenon that I just don't know about here in AZ? Or is it the rain we got? I know that some citrus bear heavier in alternate years, but do they all pick the same year to bear heavier?
I did notice that my citrus trees are doing much better this year compared to last year, but then they were just getting established last year.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 12:31PM
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Thanks alot everyone for all the info. From what I gather, it does appear I had a few suckers. I trimmed them all off and here is what we have.

I appreciate all the info and I think they look alot better. The Grapefruit tree on top does appear to be leaning to the right now...would it be a good idea to stake it up until new growth starts to balance it out?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 12:57PM
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greenthumbjeff(Zone 9 - Gilbert, AZ)

Hi greendesert - Several factors play a role. This year we didn't have any late frosts (which damage young leaves and flowers) and we received a lot of rain, which helps the trees get off to a good start in the spring. Plus with all the bees we're seeing this year, it will help with the pollination of flowers. Citrus are generally self-pollinating, but bees will certainly improve the success rate.

roots3003 - Thanks for all of the pictures. It definitely looks a lot better now. The grapefruit tree does appear to be top heavy. I would provide support and trim it back a tad so it doesn't continue to grow in one direction at the top.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 3:44PM
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grant_in_arizona(USDA Z9 Scottsdale AZ)

Roots, they look much better--good job on the pruning. Keep us posted as they develop. Like Jeff mentioned, try to keep them somewhat balanced so they don't lean one way or the other when young, but they're looking pretty darn good. Your grapefruit looks much better than the TINY one I purchased a year ago--it's made excellent progress but yours is still nicer. :)

Thanks for the pics. Keep them coming,

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 8:52PM
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You can see the bud union (aka graft) on the last two photos. At about 8 - 10 inches off the ground you can tell where the lower, considerably larger portion of the trunk (root stock) meets the upper (scion). It's not always that easy to see - nice photo.

Citrus are usually happiest if not pruned, except for those suckers, dead, broken or crossing branches. Remember that each green leaf is a food factory for the tree. The leaves produce sugars which are transported to the roots. The tree uses the sugars to produce new growth (flowers, branches, leaves, roots). Citrus don't usually need to be staked and I would discourage against it. If you fear a branch might bread from weight, just remove a bit of the shoot/branch on the heavy side, trimming it back to where it intersects with another shoot or branch. Eventually the tree will fill in on that bare side.

You may want to protect the trunks of your young trees from sunburn this summer by wrapping them loosely with burlap or cardboard. They make a trunk wrap that look like a roll of brown crinkled paper that works well too. Just be sure there is good air circulation in-between the wrap and the trunks. Some folks prefer to paint their citrus trunks and that works well too. Just use latex paint (any color) diluted 1:1 with water.

Young citrus trees usually don't produce fruit for the first 2 - 3 years do don't be worried if you see tiny pea or marble sized fruits on the ground in June. This is normal.

Good luck.

certified arborist

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 11:54AM
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