Spring Citrus Care

Wayne Hobbs
Posted 3/15/17

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – As the flowers are blooming, buds on leaves are breaking, and the threat of frost basically in the rear view mirror, people’s minds turn to their gardens. Many will think …

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Spring Citrus Care


GREEN COVE SPRINGS – As the flowers are blooming, buds on leaves are breaking, and the threat of frost basically in the rear view mirror, people’s minds turn to their gardens. Many will think about improving their lawn, starting a vegetable garden, or just clean up their beds with a fresh coating of mulch. However, this often seems like the time when many start to think about their citrus trees and how to prepare them for a good fall crop.


One of the most common questions following the citrus harvest is “When can I prune my tree?” but more important are the questions “Should I?” or “How do I?”

With citrus, a lowering of the height of the tree or any severe cut back is not recommended. Following a heavy pruning, the vigor of the tree can be severely limited and fruit production will be lower.

If pruning is needed, such as in the case of dead or damaged tree material or if the tree is interfering with structures or utilities, try to remove as little of the canopy as possible. You can also prune any suckers or water-sprouts, which are the vertical branches that often grow directly from the base of the tree or upwards into the canopy. All cuts should be made flush to the trunk or remaining branch as woody stubs can be an entry point for diseases and insects.

One of the best ways to limit the need for pruning in older trees is to properly train your young trees. Prune when young to limit limbs that cross and rub, grow back towards the center of the plant, or attach the tree at a very narrow or vertical angle. Also, know the mature size of your plant so you can place it far enough away from structures and other plants so you will not have to cut it back from the obstacles every year. As the tree grows, your good choices will still be evident and you will not have to limit the yield with pruning in future years.


Fertilization of the plants can begin in early April and the amount and timing depends on the age of the tree. With newly planted specimens, use a citrus fertilizer, usually a 6-6-6 or 8-8-8 formulation with other macronutrients, starting two weeks after planting and continuing this process every six weeks through September. As the tree ages, the amount of fertilizer will increase but with less frequent applications. Additional supplemental sprays of nutrients may be needed if deficiencies are present.

A soil test can be helpful to show any issues with pH or nutrient shortage in the soil. For more detailed advice contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office or see the online document “Citrus Culture in the Home Landscape” at edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs132.

Weed and Pest Control

Little weed control is usually needed around citrus trees but the weeds, sod grass, and mulch should not be found under the canopy of tree. If material is near the trunk, it can lead to disease.

Pest control is also often unnecessary for most citrus but keep an eye on possible disease or insect infestations so you can catch the problem early. If you notice odd leaf spots, misshapen fruit, or a loss in fruit quality, contact the UF/IFAS Extension to get your problem identified and to find a possible solution.

If you have any questions any questions about citrus, landscape and garden topics, or need plant or pest materials identified, contact the University of Florida/IFAS Extension Office online at http://www.clay.ifas.ufl.edu, follow us on Facebook, or call by phone at (904) 284-6355.


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