Every avid gardener wants to have a strong, healthy tree that provides them with amazing fruits with each harvest. However, these results depend on many things – good soil, proper temperature, protection from pests, and one of the most important ones – pruning your mandarine tree properly.
This important process will stimulate the growth of new, healthy branches and keep your tree strong. So let’s get started!
How to prune a mandarin tree
By pruning your mandarin tree, you’re keeping it more manageable in size with bigger and higher quality fruit. Skirting (removing low-hanging branches) allows light to penetrate the canopy and letting air circulate under the tree. With that, you prevent fruit damage and also increase the size and quality of the fruit.
Here is how to prune a mandarin tree:
- Shape the tree
Pruning a mandarin tree by hand on an annual basis will ensure the base is strong and the upper canopy provides shade and protects the underlying branches. Think of an opened umbrella, and that’s the shape you want to achieve at the top of your tree.
At the base of the tree, you need to locate any suckers that consume nutrients your tree needs and don’t provide any benefits at all. Any sucker growing below the graft union should be removed as their quick growth can take over the tree. Snip them back with sharp, sterile pruners, or you can simply snap them off if you prefer.
- Cut branches that can’t support fruit weight
Next, you need to consider which branches to cut. From the base up branches need to be 12-18 inches off the ground to avoid the potential risk of fruit touching the ground and rotting. Remove any branches below this height.
Straight up shoots also need to be removed as they take the most nutrients leaving the rest of the shoots lacking. Random shoots, known as water shoots, grow vigorously and don’t produce fruit, so these need to be cut away too.
- Clear out the centre of the tree
Inward growing and crossing branches can be cut with sharp pruners to ensure a clean cut. Cut at a 45-degree angle at the collar of the trunk to avoid gaping wounds that take a longer time to heal. This also causes less stress on the tree. Rubbing branches can be removed at any time. Look if there are any arched branches – this is due to the weight of the fruit – after harvesting, you can bend and train these to keep an open canopy.
For extreme pruning, use the sharp pruning saw to make an undercut so that the bark doesn’t rip when the branch is removed. Remember that the harder you cut back, the better the new growth will be.
Trusting the process means understanding that a skeleton prune will see a healthy fruit-bearing tree within two seasons. During the first season, the tree will be focusing all its effort on making new leaf growth.
Pruning a dwarf mandarin tree
Dwarf mandarin trees also benefit from annual pruning. And although the process might be similar to the normal mandarin trees, there are some differences. Here’s how to prune a dwarf a mandarin tree:
- Take your clippers and wash the blades with a bleach solution of one part water and nine parts bleach. Rinse off and dry thoroughly before starting.
- Take off any broken or damaged branches, and those that have signs of disease. These branches need to be carefully disposed of, and the clippers washed with bleach after cutting each diseased branch.
- Find the new growth on the ends of the branches and clip off the tips of new growth at the leaf closest to the tip. Get rid of any new branches that are growing toward the centre, or that look unsightly. Three to four main branches will encourage a good branch architecture.
- Concentrate on the branches growing into the centre or across the trunk – this vase shape will open up the inside, letting light into the branches. Check for suckers growing off the root system and on the lower trunk and cut them off. Bear in mind these shoots aren’t suitable for propagation.
- Cut off are any thorns on new wood growth or on a branch.
The best time to prune mandarin trees
Pruning of indoor mandarin trees doesn’t depend that much on seasons. However, the ideal time to do so it is after the fruit appears or after the harvest. This way, you avoid cutting healthy branches that are still able to produce fruit.
You should prune outdoor mandarin trees heavily during winter months. This will help to avoid potential sunburn risk on the open pruning wounds. During the summer, mandarine trees should be pruned lightly so that no shade is lost. You will see that all the effort you’ve given during the winter months when the trees are dormant and after the risk of frost has passed, will definitely pay off.
If the trees are not pruned at the right time, you might not see the full benefits.
- Healthy citrus trees are the easiest trees to look after due to low maintenance.
- Pruning clears out the interior of the tree and keeps fruit within easy reach.
- Growth should be encouraged to come from the primary truck and in an outwards movement.
- Bark burn can be prevented by dense leaf cover.
- Removing interior dead branches twice yearly will keep your citrus tree hygienically healthy.
- Pruning helps train the size of your tree and directs the growth.
- Proper pruning techniques allow for good light penetration resulting in an increase in fruit production.
- Regular gentle pruning improves fruit quality of the current year’s crop.