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Is your tree suffering from frost bite?

Follow our TOP tips to get your citrus tree on the road to recovery

Citrus can do very well outside most of the year in the UK but if you were caught out in the cold weather just before Christmas and your tree was outside or even in an unheated greenhouse, the chances are it's now showing signs of distress. You might have noticed white patches, damaged brown or even greying leaves and shoots. Take heart though, because however sorry your tree is looking now, in most cases it can be brought back to full health with a bit of tender loving care.

Mild Damage

Emily demonstrates how to prune mild frost damage from a lemon tree and how to ensure your citrus trees have the best chance of a full recovery.

In a mild frost, it is usually only the youngest, tenderest leaves that are affected and a light pruning will tidy the tree up and help protect against any problems with mould or disease down the line. This should be done when the worst of the cold weather has passed and also once the trees have had a chance to show the damage, it might take up to a week for frost damage to show itself so always pause before getting stuck straight in with the secateurs.

For the first year in many, we got caught out by the cold spell too. Usually, if we have a cold spell coming, we have enough room in our heated areas of the nursery to ensure all plants are protected, but in the run up to Christmas 2022 we had extra trees on site and the cooler areas of the nursery which are normally fine for lemon trees got much colder than predicted. Even with thermal screens in place, the temperature outside was -9C and it was -4C at the back of the nursery for 3 days in a row and it's that prolonged cold that causes problems.

Whilst we're catching up and pruning our own trees and ensuring their recovery we thought it would be helpful to share our handy hints of how to do exactly the same with your citrus trees at home.

More Severe Damage

Are large areas of your citrus tree looking crispy of frosted?
Don't panic yet - most trees can be recovered with the right pruning

In this video our resident citrus expert, Emily, shows you how to prune a tree that has had much more extensive damage. It is best as in this video, to wait a couple of weeks or for the weather to warm up so you can see the extent of the damage before you start pruning. If your tree has to stay in the same position and can't be moved to a more protected area, it is usually worth waiting until there is no chance of any further cold weather before pruning, even if that's the spring. If your tree can be moved inside to a more stable temperature, then do that and just wait a week or two and then you should be able to see what you are dealing with in terms of damage.

A hard prune like this might look brutal, but by removing the old damaged growth your spur the tree to put on new shoots and growth. If the rootball is still healthy enough then this hard pruning will stimulate new growth and the chance of a full recovery in time. Be patient though, you would expect a tree that's lost more than a third of it's foliage to take several months to recover and not to flower and fruit again properly until the following season.

For more general tips on Winter citrus care don't miss our Top tips video and full page all about positioning and watering citrus trees in winter here

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