Potted Meyer lemon tree foliage is really dense. To cut or not to cut?

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    nstrassernstrasser
    Greenhorn
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    Got a meyer lemon tree in the spring of 2020 (I believe) and have had huge amounts of growth since then. It didn’t flower its first summer, but did during its second spring (although the fruit all fell off by the time it reached marble size). This summer (#2) we have had some seriously significant amounts of rain and hot, sunny days so my tree is looking beautiful. However, I am starting to worry that it is too much growth. The leaves are very dense, with some of them as large as my hand. I have such a hard time pruning healthy branches, but is that something I should be doing? If so, where and how much? Or does it mean that the plant is ready for a bigger pot? I believe the current one is about 7 gallons. I’ve never grown a tree before so I have not idea what is normal or not. Any advice is appreciated.16261981197863640544232908622834

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    Nate from N&GNate from N&G
    Green Thumb (moderator)
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    Hi, at this stage it sure seems very healthy! You don’t have to trim it at this point. It’s still small, and the pot as it is could let it grow another foot or two without any problems (30-60 cm). So no urgent need to trim yet.

    However, you can start thinking of what you want to do with the plant in the future:

    • Do you need to bring it indoors over the winter?

    If so, then early Spring next year, when buds are starting to burst, you can snip or pinch the tip of stems. This will promote growth of side branches and it’ll keep the longest stems from getting even longer and leggy. That way the tree will stay smallish and easier to move around. It won’t compromise the blooming and fruit-bearing if you only pinch the very tip. It’s ok for the tree to stay very dense and lush if it’s small, since a gust of wind can still find its way through the tree (more on potted lemon here).

    • If it’s to stay outdoors, in its pot, all year long instead, then you can consider letting it grow taller.

    In that pot, it’ll easily reach 4-5  feet tall (around 1.5 m). If against a wall, why not consider shaping it into more of a “2D” tree, with an espalier shape. This maximizes space, light reflecting off the wall, and heat emanating from the house in Winter. However, as a standalone that’s not against a wall, it makes more sense to select three or four main branches that will become the main scaffold branches later on. If it stays in a pot, then try to select these main branches so that they branch out from the tree at between one and one and a half feet up (30-40cm). Make sure they’re growing out away from each other, forming a bowl. You’ll need to change the pot size later on. It should easily reach 6 feet or more.

    • If you’re going to plant it in the ground later on, do the same work of selecting the main branches/shaping the tree, but start the main branches higher up, at around 2 feet (60cm). This will make the tree easier to trim and harvest later on, since you don’t have the height of the pot anymore to account for.

    All this work of selecting branches and all needn’t yet be done this year. It’s perfect if you go about this work next year. At this stage your lemon tree is still young! In the meantime, remember to keep feeding the plant with a fertilizer that doesn’t only have nitrogen (a mix of natural fertilizers will be balanced appropriately in itself. You can also topdress in Spring with ripe compost, and in Fall with either fresh compost or some kind of plant mulch. Don’t pile it around the stem, better to leave a small dip there to let the root crown breathe.

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