How to Prepare Lemon Trees for Spring | 5 Tips for Better Growth

Prepare lemon trees for spring growth by refreshing the mulch and light pruning ready for new stems and leaves. Late winter is the time to start to prepare your lemon tree for a rapid increase in leaf coverage before the weather warms.

This article will explore the 5 easy steps to take at the end of winter to prepare lemon trees for spring. This includes the proper way to prune ready for spring growth, mulch, check for pests and fertilizing.

1. Prune off any frost damaged leaves

To prepare the lemon tree for new growth, flowers and fruit in spring it is time to prune. After the chance of frost has passed at the end of winter or early spring prune off any damaged leaves.

Leaves can become damaged over winter when frosts arrive or if they are attacked by snails or slugs. My lemon tree this year has been attacked by stink bugs which have chewed on leaves and stems.

Trim off damaged leaves and stems below the damaged area to prepare it for spring. Damaged leaves will not fully recover so it is best to trim them off and allow room for new leaves.

Only trim a small amount of the stems in late winter and early spring to avoid removing areas where flowers will appear.

Removing old leaves will make more space for new growth.

2. Refresh the mulch

To prepare lemon trees for rapid growth in spring, it is time to refresh the mulch. Leave any old mulch on the ground and top it up to 2-3 inches thick. Use bark mulch, tree mulch, straw, hay or lucerne. Bark mulch will last the longest and usually needs to be topped up after 6 months.

If you use a lighter mulch like straw or hay, then you will need to top this up again in 3 months. These mulch types break down quicker which helps to add organic matter to the soil and feed the worms.

Always keep the mulch at least 2 inches away from the main stem to avoid moisture build up and rot.

3. Check for pests

To get your tree ready for rapid growth in spring, it is time to check the leaves and stems for pests. Look closely for small green aphids, brown scale or white fluffy mealy bugs. Larger stink bugs can attack new leaves and stems in spring so look out for large, brown bugs attacked to the stems.

Early spring is a good time to address pests before their numbers get out of control. I have had a problem with stink bugs this year and I have been working weekly to spray them off with a hose and squirt them into a bucket with soapy water.

Small populations of aphids can also be removed with a spray of the hose. If the problem continues, spray the tree with neem oil. Eco oils can help to treat scale and mealy bugs so get their population under control before the warmer weather arrives.

4. Deep water with seaweed solution and fish emulsion

To prepare the roots and stems of your lemon tree for spring, deep water the tree with seaweed solution and fish emulsion. Seaweed solution is a fantastic root tonic that will help to strengthen the tree’s growth and feed the soil bacteria.

Soil bacteria will work to break down the organic matter in the soil and mulch to make nutrients available for the tree.

Fish emulsion is a mild fertilizer high in organic matter. It is a perfect fertilizer to give to your trees at the end of winter to give them a light feed before spring.

5. Feed your tree with pelleted chicken manure and trace elements

Once spring has arrived it is time to feed your lemon tree with pelleted chicken manure. This organic fertilizer has a range of nutrients that are gently released to your tree over a 3 month period.

Add diluted iron chelates and trace elements. This will replace the nutrients the tree used up to produce fruit in the last season.  To make this easier you can add a citrus fertilizer at the start of spring. This will contain all the nutrients the tree needs in spring.

How to prune a lemon tree in spring

Lightly prune a lemon tree at the start of spring to tidy up any branches or damaged leaves. Remove any branches that are rubbing together as this could allow fungal infections or disease to enter the tree.

Only lightly prune a lemon tree in spring to remove any damage. Removing too much of the stem growth can reduce the amount of flowers and fruit the tree produces.  

Pruning the tree too much in spring can remove the growth points at the end of the stems that will produce the flowers and lemons.

No flowers or fruit on lemon trees in spring

If your lemon tree is happy, healthy and green but is not growing lemons or flowers in spring it is time for fruit fertilizer. Lots of green growth usually means that there is a lot of nitrogen in the soil. This means the tree will prioritize leaf and stem growth over producing flowers.

Feed your tree with flower and fruit fertilizer which will increase the potassium and phosphorus level, encouraging the tree to flower.

Another common reason why lemon trees are not flowering yet is that they are too young. My new tree is only 2-3 years old and I expect it to grow flowers in the next season when it is over 3 years.

For more on why lemon trees are not producing fruit, check out my previous article here: Lemon tree has flowers but no fruit | 6 Easy Solutions

How to Prepare Lemon Trees for Spring | Summary

Prepare your lemon tree at the end of winter for rapid spring growth and flowers. Take the time to top up the mulch, water it deeply with seaweed solution and fish emulsion and trim off any damaged leaves or stems when frosts have passed.

When spring arrives, feed the tree with organic, slow release fertilizer, trace elements and iron chelates ready for lots of lemons.

Happy growing.