Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > May 2014 > SUMMER PATIO PLANT RERUN: CITRUS TREES


Containerized citrus trees can be kept to a reasonable size and require only a very sunny window in the winter.  A sunny location outside in the summer should produce lots of fragrant flowers followed by fruits that seem to take an agonizingly long time to ripen.  They finally do ripen, however, and are as decorative on the citrus tree as ornaments on a Christmas tree.  If you keep your citrus in a sunny inside spot year round, you will have to pollinate the flowers yourself, but you can still produce delicious fruits.

Popular citrus to grow in containers include lemons, limes, kumquats, and hybrids like the Meyer Lemon.  All of these plants can grow fairly large, fifteen to twenty feet in height and just as wide, but dwarf citrus in containers (and with pruning) can be maintained at a reasonable size of less than six to eight feet.  Dwarf citrus have been created by grafting a desirable fruit producer onto a particular root stock, producing a plant that only grows to about a third of the size of the standard plant, which can still be a pretty big plant.

Basic cultural care for indoor citrus includes lots of direct sun, well-draining soil, even moisture, fertilizing, sufficient humidity, and pollination.  With the exception of pollination, this is identical to the needs of most houseplants.  Pollinating a citrus is simply a matter of transferring ripe pollen from one flower to another.  A cotton swab or small artists brush will do this job nicely.  With few exceptions, citrus do not need a second plant for pollination.  Once the flower petals have dropped off, a small green fruit will begin to develop.  And don’t be dismayed if your tree should drop some of its fruits as they begin to enlarge; however, a heavy fruit drop is a sign of incorrect cultural care.

Most indoor citrus trees have shown a remarkable “will to live” under adverse conditions.  Even if you experience a massive leaf drop (incorrect watering or dry air), poor fruit production (low light, dry air, nutrient deficiency, or lack of pollination), or limb die-back (dry air or incorrect watering), improved conditions generally result in an unexpected burst of new growth.  I have experienced all of these with my own citrus, and yet it is still alive and kicking!

TIP:  Most leaf drop is experienced when bringing a citrus plant inside at the end of the summer.  This is usually due to the change in humidity.  A second drop may be caused by the increase in dry air as we crank up the central heat.  A humidity tray (wide saucer of constantly damp pebbles under the container) or regular misting of the foliage may help with this problem.

When life (or your citrus tree) gives you lemons…enjoy it!

Posted: 5/22/2014 by Margot | with 0 comment(s)
Filed under: MargotGunn, TheGreatIndoors
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