Fruit Thinning In Citrus: Why Should You Thin Citrus Trees

citrus thinning
citrus thinning
(Image credit: bdspn)

Thinning fruit on citrus trees is a technique intended to produce better fruit. After thinning citrus fruits, each of the fruits that remain gets more water, nutrients, and elbow room. If you want to know how to thin citrus tree fruit, or techniques for fruit thinning in citrus, read on.

Why Should You Thin Citrus Trees?

As a gardener, you want the biggest crop of oranges, lemons, or limes you can get from your citrus orchard. So why should you thin citrus trees, pruning out some of those immature fruit? The idea behind thinning fruit on citrus trees is to produce less but better fruit. Often, young citrus trees produce many more tiny fruits than the tree can bring to maturity. Removing some of these by fruit thinning in citrus trees gives the remaining fruits more room to develop. A more mature citrus tree might have enough room on its branches for all of its baby fruits to develop fully. This does not mean that thinning citrus fruits is unnecessary. Branches bearing a maximum amount of fruit can break, crack, or split from the weight. If you lose a major branch from your tree, you will get reduced fruit amounts. Fruit thinning in citrus can be essential to protect the branch structure.

How to Thin Citrus Tree Fruit

Once you understand the purposes of thinning fruit on citrus trees, the process makes a lot of sense. Then it’s just a matter of learning how to thin citrus tree fruit. Mother Nature usually steps in to do the first round of fruit pruning. Once the citrus flower petals fall, young fruits develop quickly. It is common for many of these tiny fruits to drop on their own about a month after the flowering. Generally, it’s a good idea to hold off on fruit thinning in citrus trees until after this natural fruit fall. Act quickly after that point though, since the earlier you start thinning citrus fruits, the better results you get. Manual thinning means plucking or clipping off fruit by hand. It is the most precise and least risky way to do fruit thinning. Simply pluck off about 20 to 30 percent of the remaining fruitlets. Start with the smallest fruit and any deformed fruit. Just pinch the fruit between two fingers and twist it off gently. Pole thinning is another technique for fruit thinning in citrus trees. It is mostly used on taller trees. How to thin citrus tree fruit with a pole? Attach a short rubber hose to the end of a pole and strike individual branches with enough force to break up a citrus fruit cluster.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.