Pruning a citrus tree is a major task, but one that needs doing regularly to prevent lopsided growth and to encourage the best possible fruit growth. Suckers, also known as shoots or water sprouts, show up on the trunk and large limbs of a citrus tree. Suckers from the rootstock area can often be identified by their different-looking foliage. Removal of suckers is important, since they steal resources from the main plant. Few or no tools are needed for the job.
Break sprouts off the trunk by hand when they are young, recommends the Arizona Cooperative Extension. Breaking suckers from the tree deters regrowth and does not hurt the main trunk.
Cut off larger suckers with a sharp pair of pruning shears. Make a smooth cut as close to the collar, the small bump where the sucker originates, as possible.
Cut down any shoots that emerge from the soil surrounding the citrus tree, recommends the Arizona Cooperative Extension. They will compete with the parent tree for water and nutrients.
Wrap a collar of white cardboard, secured with tape, around the lowest 10 to 12 inches of the tree trunk to inhibit growth of suckers in this vulnerable area. Cardboard blocks sunlight and prevents growth of suckers from the rootstock.