Orange trees do not require pruning to keep them productive and develop a pleasing shape with little pruning. During the first three years after planting, no pruning of orange trees is recommended. If height maintenance is desired after that, annual pruning is done in early spring before flowering occurs or in late summer after harvest time. Throughout the year, prune suckers at the base to maintain a strong central trunk and remove dead branches, twigs and leaves to discourage diseases.
Orange trees should be inspected annually in early spring before leaves cover the branches and the trees are in flower. Removal with a pruning shears of any interior branches that are growing too thickly, especially if they are rubbing together, improves air circulation and reduces the risk of common citrus fungal diseases. The advantage of pruning in late winter and early spring is that the new foliage quickly shades within the tree canopy the newly exposed larger limbs and trunk, which are highly susceptible to sun scald.
Pruning off low hanging branches, termed skirting, is done for aesthetic reasons or for accessibility to the irrigation system or the interior of the tree. If these are not primary considerations, it is recommended that the tree canopy remain extended toward the ground, because oranges grown on the lower branches are often the best quality, unaffected by sunburn, branch and twig movement or birds.
Before pruning orange trees, pruning equipment should be sanitized by dipping them into a solution of one part bleach and three parts tap water to help minimize the risk of transferring plant diseases to and from the tree. All pruning cuts are made at the point where the branch connects flush to the tree surface, leaving no stubs.