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Citrus Care Simplified

Growing citrus in containers has become quite trendy of late, and with more people tending to lemons, limes, and kumquats in their homes, questions about their care are always on the rise. So, to save you from that conflicting internet advice, I have decided to compile all those queries into a simple Q & A tailored to our climate and growing conditions.

Key Lime

Which is the easiest citrus plant to grow in containers?

Variegated Calamondin Orange
Variegated Calamondin Orange

The following are all good choices for beginner citrus gardeners:

  • Improved Meyer Lemon,
  • Bearrs Lime,
  • Kumquats,
  • Thai Lime,
  • Calamondin, and
  • Owari Satsuma.

Are there any hardy citrus plants for our area?

Hardy Yuzu
Hardy Yuzu

At USDA zone 5, Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’ is the hardiest (mine stays outdoors in a container year-round) but the small orange-like fruits are only good for marmalade or drink garnish. Both Yuzu and the Sudachi Hybrid Yuzu are hardy to USDA zone 7 and each provides lemon-like fruits that are prized for Japanese cuisine, juice, and marmalade.

How much sunlight do citrus plants require?

Citrus 26W Sunblaster Bulb

Ideally, you need 8-12 hours of direct sunlight in summer and 5-8 hours during winter. If your indoor overwintering space has less than 5 hours of sun, consider using a full-spectrum grow light to augment it.

At what temperature do you bring your citrus plant indoors?

Lemon on top of thermostat

You need to bring your container-grown citrus indoors just before temperatures drop to 50℉ or 10℃. Choose your most brightly lit spot and avoid areas with cold drafts or forced air vents. Remember to water less and lightly mist every few weeks to maintain humidity while also expecting some leaf drop during this transition. The ideal indoor citrus temperature ranges from 65-75F or 18-24C. They can be brought out again in late spring, but be sure to acclimate them to the sun by gradually providing more light over 1 to 2 weeks.

How often do I water my citrus plant?

 Blue Watering Can

While there are variables such as plant or pot size, soil porosity, temperature, and humidity, you should be watering your potted citrus once or twice a week during the growing season, when the soil feels dry to the touch 2-3” below the surface.

What is the ideal pH for citrus plants?

The ideal pH for citrus is slightly acidic, 5.8 to 6.5. When it gets too alkaline (usually from tap water) then chlorosis symptoms become evident (yellowed leaves with darker veins), often from iron deficiency.

What type of soil should I use for my citrus plant?

Outdoor Potting Soil, Bark, & PerliteOutdoor Potting Soil, Bark, & Perlite

In a word, well-drained, as wet soil will only result in dead plants. You can amend an outdoor container mix with bark or perlite to increase drainage, with some gardeners preferring a 1-1-1 ratio of each. Avoid soil blends with wetting agents, as these tend to keep the soil too moist for citrus.

When should I prune my citrus plant?

Pruning citrus plant

The best time to prune your citrus is early spring after fruit harvest. Using sterilized hand pruners, remove any dead or unproductive wood, defoliated tips, and rootstock suckers, and head any upright vigorous shoots to create a manageable crown. Some thinning may also be required, but be sure not to remove more than 25% of the total foliage.

What type of container should I pot my citrus in?

Citrus plant in terracotta container

Unglazed terra cotta pots are ideal, as the sidewalls breathe, allowing the soil to dry out properly. Plastic (easy to move in winter), composite, and ceramic pots are also fine, but make sure they have adequate drain holes and avoid self-watering units, as they almost always cause root rot in citrus.

When should I fertilize my citrus plant and what should I use?

GardenPro Fertilizer

The general consensus is that you fertilize three times a year (spring, summer, fall) when the plant is in growth with a 2-1-1 or 3-1-1 fertilizer ratio with micronutrients. Water-soluble is preferred and if you are watering more often during the summer heat and finding yellowed leaves, you can be experiencing a nitrogen deficiency — some gardeners will deal with this by fertilizing once a month from April to August, but at a lower rate.

Nitrogen Deficiency in Citrus Plants
Nitrogen Deficiency in Citrus Plants

Do citrus plants require cross-pollination?

Citrus Plant Cross-Pollination

Most citrus are self-fertile, but since many of them are blooming while indoors, there are very few or no pollinators available. You can easily hand-pollinate using a natural hair painter’s brush.

When do citrus grown in containers produce fruit?

Variegated Pink Lemon
Variegated Pink Lemon

Most bear fruit from late fall through winter, just in time for Chinese New Year. A few like Bearrs Lime produce a little later, from winter to early spring, while both Variegated Pink and Improved Meyer Lemon are capable of producing fruit year-round.

Now that you know all about how to grow lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit, don’t forget to check out our new Fall Citrus Preorder which will be live online on August 28th, 2023, and will feature many new varieties for us as we have almost tripled the cultivars we carry.

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