Fresh, delicious, citrus fruit adds flavor, variety, and joy to our lives. Citrus takes many forms, like key limes, blood oranges, or ruby red grapefruit. This wide range of flavors creates a diverse array of uses from eating citrus, to drinking orange juice, to cooking with lemons and limes. Citrus is used to add zest to cocktails, iced tea, and many cakes, pies, and savory dishes. Perhaps the only thing more exciting than biting into a freshly sliced tangerine, is growing and harvesting your own nutritious citrus fruit. Follow the steps in this guide and you will be filling baskets with tasty, shining citrus in no time.
Citrus Tree Position
All varieties of citrus trees thrive in sunshine. Citrus trees will live and bloom with at least five hours of sunlight per day, but six to eight hours a day is better. In short, the more sunlight in a given day that your citrus tree receives, the more blooms, and therefore fruit, it will produce. Sunlight is an important ingredient to consider when choosing the location for planting your citrus tree.
Drainage is also a key component for growing a sturdy, healthy citrus tree. The soil should be a medium-coarse loam that drains well. If water stands in a watered spot for more than thirty minutes, then the area is most likely too dense. Citrus trees love ample water, but they resent having their roots continually wet. Choose a well-drained location, or add coarse sand and perlite to the soil to achieve better drainage. You can also plant your citrus tree on a raised mound if the surrounding ground is very slow to drain.
Citrus Tree Growing Guidelines
So far we know that sunshine and well-drained soil are important for a healthy citrus tree. In addition, you should choose a location that is not closely stifled by buildings, solid fences, or other dense plantings. This is because airflow is essential in preventing fungus damage to your citrus trees. Also, clean, dry air prevents moisture build up. Proper air circulation will deter the growth of insects and certain citrus pests.
An area that is protected from harsh winds by buildings, walls, or hedges from a distance of at least twenty feet is fine. Just avoid cramping your citrus tree in a confined space. In colder areas, plant your citrus tree in spring, once the ground has warmed. In more tropical climates your citrus tree can be planted anytime your forecast is beyond the expectation of frost.
Keep the base and trunk of the citrus tree free from deep mulch and weeds at all times. Keep the ground under the tree out to the drip line weed-free as well. You can use a thin layer of mulch at least a foot from the trunk, but fertilizer should be accessible to the top feeding roots.
Do not fertilize a newly planted tree until the first new growth of leaves appears. Then you can feed your citrus tree once per month from February through October. Apply the amount recommended by the citrus fertilizer manufacturer as it corresponds to the size of your particular tree.
Potted Citrus Trees
Growing citrus trees in pots is a good solution for those with limited space, or in areas that require the trees to be brought indoors in harsh winter months. A twenty-inch container will accommodate a large, fruiting tree. However, you should slowly grow the plant up to that size in progressively larger containers. In order for a tree to flourish in a pot for a long time, the roots should be pruned and fresh soil added every three years. Root pruning involves removing the citrus tree from its container, trimming the roots with hand pruners to cut back about two inches of root material around the outside edges of the root ball, and returning the citrus tree to the container with some new soil added.
Pruning Citrus Trees
Your citrus tree can be pruned as much as once per year if you need to do so to keep it at a desired size in relation to pathways or other plants in your garden. It is a good idea to prune the tree after harvesting, and remove any dead wood and inward-growing branches. Pruning allows additional light into the tree’s interior. This helps more interior citrus fruit to grow, but also encourages airflow which reduces fungus and disease.
Whether you decide to grow a versatile Persian lime, a tart Meyer lemon, or a sweet Honeybell orange, you can learn how to grow productive citrus trees. Growing orange trees or growing a lemon tree is similar in terms of planting, watering, fertilizing, and pruning. You can grow citrus in your garden or in a container, and harvest delicious citrus fruit with either citrus growing method. Follow the tips in this guide, and get started growing your own citrus today.