Top Tips for Pruning Lemon Trees in Australia

If you have a lemon tree in your garden (and who doesn’t), it’s handy to know the best time for pruning and how to go about it.

Ideally, you want to prune your lemon tree at least once a year in order to stimulate new growth and maintain a good shape.

Younger trees can be lightly pruned more often in order to encourage them to develop a nice canopy. 

When to prune lemon trees in Australia

Personally, I like to prune my lemon tree once the fruit has finished growing and I’ve harvested all the lemons. In most areas of Australia, this is usually in late winter or early spring just as the new flower buds are forming.

Lemon Tree buds | Fruit & Vegetables

However, if you live in one of the southern states like Victoria or Tasmania where you might get some late frosts, you may want to hold off pruning until a little later in spring. Especially if your tree is still quite young. Older mature trees shouldn’t have a problem with frosts.

Don’t worry if your pruning removes any of the emerging flower buds. In fact, this can actually be beneficial because the tree will put more energy into growing the remaining fruits and you’re going to end up with larger and juicer lemons.

Apart from the regular once-a-year prune, it’s also perfectly fine to remove any dead branches at other times of the year. I like to do this as it makes the tree look cleaner and removes branches that are not going to do anything.

How to prune your lemon tree

lemon 1 | Fruit & Vegetables

If you’ve never pruned a lemon tree before, it can seem quite daunting if you don’t know where to start. To help make this process easier, follow these simple steps.

And, don’t worry if you accidentally prune off too much because the tree will eventually recover if you give it some extra care.

Step 1: Remove dead or diseased branches

The first thing you want to do is remove any dead branches or those that are not looking too healthy. You want to take these right back to a healthy branch or growth.

Always make sure that you cut your branches back to a growing tip, the trunk of the tree, or a healthy set of leaves. 

Step 2: Remove any low branches that are close to the ground

A healthy, mature lemon tree should have a good trunk to support the growth of the tree and the fruit. If there are any low branches that are very close or even touching the ground, you want to remove these at their junction with the trunk.

Take care when you do this so that you don’t damage any part of the trunk. It’s a good idea to use sharp tools that are clean and sterilised and to make the cuts at a 45-degree angle.

Removing these low-growing branches also protects your tree from pests and diseases that may come from the ground or soil.

Step 3: Remove any overgrown branches

Take a step back and see if there are any branches that seem to be growing outside the general canopy. These could either be growing out the sides or even above the top of the canopy.

Cut these back to a growing point so that the remaining part of the branch is within the general canopy again. In general, you want the canopy of the tree to have a rounded look. This ensures that the roots under the ground are able to support the growing framework of the tree.

Step 4: Prune back any branches that are crisscrossing

Once again, take a step back and have a look if you have any branches that appear to be crisscrossing each other. You want to trim back one of these so that they’re not rubbing against each other. The constant rubbing of branches against each other can cause damage to the bark and eventually the branches.

Doing this will also help to open up the canopy of the tree a little so that there’s better airflow through the branches overall. But, make sure that you don’t prune back more than one-third of the overall growth.

If you do cut back too much, the tree will be stressed and overstimulated to replace the growth that it’s lost. However, if this does happen, you can provide your tree with a little extra care by giving it enough water and some organic slow-release fertiliser such as Dynamic Lifter.

It’s also a good idea to provide your tree with a little tonic of liquid seaweed such as Seasol as this will help to keep it healthy and give it a little boost.


Should I prune lower branches of lemon tree?

It’s definitely a good idea to prune off the lower branches of a lemon tree. This will help to create a nice canopy and provide you with lots of lovely fruit. It also protects the tree from pests and diseases that may be living in the soil.

How do I make my lemon tree more bushy?

To encourage your young lemon tree to develop a nice canopy, you can prune the longer branches back by about a third of their length. Always cut back to a growth point or set of leaves. Remember though, that a more open canopy is healthier for your tree.

Should I pick buds off my lemon tree?

If your lemon tree is less than two years old, it’s a good idea to remove the flowering buds so that the tree puts its energy into developing a strong root system rather than producing fruit.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.


1 thought on “Top Tips for Pruning Lemon Trees in Australia”

  1. Thank you, this article was concise, easy to read and gave a good understanding as to how and why to prune lemon trees. Feeling confident!


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