If you have limited space or live in a colder climate, but would still like to grow your own blood orange tree, Meyer lemons, or key lime tree, growing a citrus tree in a pot may be right for you. This guide describes eight steps to help you successfully grow your own citrus fruit in a pot.
Step One: Choose the Best Citrus Variety
When searching for the best citrus tree to grow in a container, look for a variety that is smaller in stature. Some smaller citrus trees include Meyer lemons, key limes, calamondins, and Bearss limes. Also, any citrus variety listed as “dwarf” will be a good choice to grow in a pot.
Step Two: Location
If you live in an area where your citrus tree must be moved indoors over the winter months, be sure to provide the tree with ample light. Near a south-facing window in a bright room is best. You can also supplement the natural light with bright growing light bulbs. LED grow bulbs emit very little heat and are efficient performers when it comes to using electricity. In addition to providing your indoor citrus tree with enough light, be sure to keep it away from heating vents, radiators, or fireplaces.
Step Three: Water
Citrus trees like to have frequent, ample water, but they must also have well-drained soil. Allow water to drain through the pot by placing it outside or in a bathtub when watering. Don’t allow your citrus tree pot to reside in a drip pan that remains flooded. The top of the soil can dry out down to a few inches, but the entire root ball should never become bone dry. Water your potted citrus tree once per week to begin, then adjust according to soil dampness and drainage.
Step Five: Pollination
Citrus trees often bloom and become pollinated by insects in the winter months. However, if your tree is inside at this time, then you will need to facilitate the pollination process yourself. This is a simple task that involves moving pollen around from bloom to bloom. You can do this job with an electric pollinator tool, or even a feather duster. Be careful to not damage delicate citrus blossoms as you do the work of pollination.
Step Six: Fertilizing
The good news is the time to fertilize is also the time when your potted citrus tree can be outside if possible. Use a fertilizer formulated for citrus and provide your tree with the recommended amounts. Always water your citrus tree immediately after applying fertilizer. Avoid lawn fertilizers that are high in nitrogen, which will grow more leaves but far less fruit.
Step Seven: Be Aware Of Your Tree’s Responses
It is normal for a tree that is relocated from outdoors to in, and back, to drop some leaves. As you select locations for your citrus tree, be aware of how the tree responds. A few falling leaves that grow back is normal, but drastic fallen foliage that does not recover is not. Carefully watch your citrus tree and you will find a spot it likes.
Step Eight: Watch The Weather
Once threat of frost is behind you in the spring, your citrus tree can be moved outside to enjoy the bright sun and fresh air. When outdoor temperatures fall into the fifties, it is time to bring your tree inside for the winter. Use a dolly and a helper to avoid damage to branches of larger trees as you relocate them.
Follow these eight steps and you will be able to grow citrus in a pot in almost any climate. Longer times in sunlight and warmer days will always produce more citrus fruit. But with attention, patience, and care, you can grow citrus in a container. With a little luck you should also be able to pick a few of your own juicy oranges, lemons, or limes.