Freeze damage in citrus has longer lasting ramifications than the fruit it destroys, particularly in more severe events. Knowing when and how to properly prune trees after they’ve been damaged by severe cold is important to orchard health and future crop yields, according to a California citrus farm advisor.

Neil O’Connell, citrus and avocado farm advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension in Tulare County, cautions against pruning too soon after a major freeze event, such as was experienced in the San Joaquin Valley in early Dec., 2013. According to O’Connell, it can take six months or longer citrus trees to reveal their true damage, depending on the severity of the freeze and weather conditions in the months following the event.

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“There is a definite value to giving trees some time after the freeze for the damage to extend itself,” O’Connell said at a recent citrus growers meeting at the Lindcove Research and Extension Center in Exeter, Calif.

O’Connell said he’s seen damage from the December freeze in Central California that ranges from mild to very severe. Some young groves that were planted earlier in the year were decimated. Even mature groves saw considerable damage to the trees. That does not include the lost fruit.

Die back in citrus trees resulting from the freeze can continue for months. With the exception of trees that received only light freeze damage, pruning too early could result in misidentification of the kind of damage growers will want to prune out.

“Die back will depend on the weather conditions,” O’Connell told his audience. “You may want to wait until June to begin your pruning.”