After a week of record breaking low temperatures outside, I enjoyed some much needed sunshine inside in the form of a handful of fresh lemons and limes, courtesy of the potted trees in my dining room and study. I’ve been growing citrus trees for about ten years in a climate better suited for ferns than Florida’s finest, and I’m here to tell you it’s not really that difficult. Here are my tips for growing citrus in a crummy climate (crummy in the tree’s eye, not mine).
Tips for Growing a Citrus Tree in a Pots
- Lemon and lime trees are easier to grow (for me at least)
- Preferred varieties: Meyer lemon and Bearss lime
- Oranges (Mandarin, Satsuma, Navel) require greater growing care
- Oranges seem more susceptible to pests like spider mites and white fly
- Oranges have the most heady fragrance
- Oranges rarely produce fruit for me
- Pick a large enough pot, at least 14″ diameter, and depth
- Use high quality potting soil, and time release fertilizer (osmocote)
- Bring indoors before first frost
- Place in front of sunniest windows
- Rotate pot weekly, so back becomes front
- Water when soil dries out
- Keep deep saucer under pot
- Prune out dead branches (encourages new growth)
- Place outdoors after last frost
- Needs at least 5-6 hours of good sunlight
- Keep it watered well outdoors
- If leaves turn yellow, add liquid fertilizer
My Meyer Lemons usually ripened around Christmas, a time when Shaker Lemon Pie is on the menu.
When the fear of frost has left the garden, I lug the potted citrus trees outside to their sunny vacation spots. (I recommend a dolly as the trees get bigger and the gardener gets older.)
Some other things to consider.
- By the end of some winters, the trees can look bad, about a leaf drop away from the compost pile. At that point I’m ready to take them outside where they recover nicely.
- I’ve had some trees turn yellow and drop their leaves completely. They may look dead, but they’re not. Surprisingly, the trees rebound and bring on new foilage in due time, especially when at the end of winter taken back outside.
- Start out with just one tree and give it a try. I really have too many now (1 Mandarin orange, 1 Navel orange, 2 Meyer lemons and 1 Bearss lime). I’m tripping over trees in my house in the winter months.
- It’s okay to buy a small tree, as they grow quickly and you can prune them to desired height. I keep mine from 3-5 feet.
- Where to buy? During the summer months I’ve found Home Depot stocks them in small growing tubes in their garden centers. I’ve also purchased a favorite online source: Peaceful Valley Organics. In addition, your local full-service nursery will likely stock them as a novelty plant (for northern gardeners).
Boz shares the fleeting rays of a late autumn day with my little Mandarin orange tree.
This is a gussied-up holiday version of Shaker Lemon Pie (one of my favorites). You use the entire lemon, rind and all, making for a unique marriage of flavors. It’s a pie I can relate to: sweet, sour, buttery and flaky.
What I was blogging about one year ago: A Winter Guest Is Obliged to Stay.