Growing citrus trees such as lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits in containers can be challenging but rewarding. In this blog post, we will cover 10 simple tips and tricks to successfully grow these trees in containers and how to get enormous flowering and fruiting in citrus plants. These tips are useful for those growing citrus either in containers or in the ground.
- Choosing the right variety
Choosing the right variety is the first step in growing citrus trees. Seed-grown trees are not true to the parent tree and may not produce fruits or may produce fruits very late. The best option is to purchase a grafted citrus tree from a nursery. The plant should start flowering and fruiting the same year, provided you follow all these tips discussed in this post.
- Choosing the container
Choosing the right container is important for proper root growth. The minimum size should be 14 inches in diameter and 14 inches in depth and height. The larger the container, the better. Good quality plastic, cement, or clay pots can be used. You can also grow citrus trees in barrels like whiskey barrels or even plastic drums. Make sure there are a lot of drainage holes at the bottom.
- Potting soil mix
A well-draining soil is very important for proper root growth. A simple potting mix formula should include 40 percent garden soil, 40 percent Coco-peat or peat moss, and 20 percent compost like decomposed cow dung or vermicompost. You can optionally add other stuff like perlite, neem cake powder, etc., if you have. Adding one handful of steamed bone meal powder or organic rock phosphate powder to the potting mix can make the root system stronger and induce lots of flowering and fruiting. These two organic fertilizers are very important slow-release sources of phosphorous.
Location is very important because citrus trees need full direct sunlight of at least 6 hours for best results. When you bring a plant from the nursery, do not immediately repot it. Just keep it in indirect bright light for 3 to 4 days, and then repot it so that the plant gets time to acclimate to its new place. After repotting, keep it in shade or indirect light for a week to prevent transplant shock. You can also water it once after repotting with Epsom salt water – like 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt per liter of water. This helps fight repotting or transplant shock.
Watering frequency depends on the zone you live in or the season of the year. As a general rule in summer, you can water it daily or alternate days. The best practice is to use the finger dip method. Dip one inch of your finger to check for moisture and water only if it’s dry. Overwatering can result in root rot and death of the plant. Whenever you are watering, make it a habit to water it deeply and thoroughly so that the entire root system is drenched with water and water comes out of the drainage holes.
Fertilizing is the most important step if you want to have a lot of flowering and fruiting in citrus trees. During fruit formation, if you do not feed them with trace elements like iron, manganese, magnesium, and others, they can show signs of deficiency like pale leaves, patchy leaf yellowing depending on the deficiency of the element. A handful of compost like decomposed cow dung or vermicompost or both every month is the minimum requirement for citrus trees. You can double this frequency or amount in the flowering stage. A good quality compost supplies most of the essential macro and micronutrients. If you wish, you can add some micronutrient fertilizer.
Pruning is important to shape the tree, remove any dead or diseased wood, and increase airflow to the center of the tree. It’s best to prune citrus trees in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. Remove any branches that cross over each other, as well as any branches growing vertically or towards the center of the tree. Leave a clear central leader, which is the main trunk of the tree, and prune back any lateral branches to promote branching and fruiting.
Most citrus trees are self-pollinating, but it’s still a good idea to provide some assistance to increase fruit set. You can use a small paintbrush or cotton swab to transfer pollen from one flower to another, or simply shake the branches gently to release the pollen.
- Pests and diseases:
Citrus trees are prone to a few pests and diseases, including scale, aphids, citrus leaf miners, and citrus greening disease. The best way to prevent pest and disease problems is to keep your tree healthy with proper watering and fertilization, and to keep an eye out for any signs of trouble. If you do notice a problem, try to identify the pest or disease and treat it with the appropriate method. There are many organic and chemical options available, depending on your preference.
Finally, it’s important to know when and how to harvest your citrus fruit. Most citrus fruits will ripen on the tree, so it’s best to wait until they are fully ripe before harvesting. The fruit should feel heavy and the skin should be bright and firm. Use pruning shears to cut the fruit from the tree, leaving a small stem attached. Citrus fruits can be stored at room temperature for a few days, or in the refrigerator for up to a few weeks.
Overall, growing citrus trees in containers can be a rewarding and fruitful experience with the right knowledge and care. By choosing the right variety, using a well-draining potting mix, providing proper sunlight and water, fertilizing regularly, pruning when necessary, preventing and treating pests and diseases, and harvesting at the right time, you can enjoy fresh, delicious citrus fruits from your very own tree.