Angela Judd is an avid vegetable, flower and fruit tree gardener in Mesa, Arizona. A mother of five, she enjoys growing and preparing food from the garden for her family. She is a certified Master Gardener. She shares inspiration and tips to help home gardeners successfully grow their own garden on growinginthegarden.com. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.
A citrus tree can provide hundreds of pounds of citrus a year if cared for properly. If you are lucky enough to live in an area where citrus can grow, these 5 tips will help you grow citrus like a pro.
Choose the right variety and size of plant
Purchase from a local grower if possible. Before choosing which variety of citrus to plant, consider the following:
● What you like to eat – Which characteristics of the fruit are important to you? Seedless, easy to peel, sweetness, something you can’t easily find at the store, etc.?
● The size of the planting area – A mature standard-sized tree averages 20 feet tall and about 15 feet wide. Dwarf varieties are about 10 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Dwarf varieties produce the same type and size of fruit, but yield about half as much.
● The temperature of the planting area – Pay attention to the microclimate in your yard to give the tree the best chance for success. All citrus is frost sensitive and should only be planted outdoors in Zones 8-11. Kumquats are the most tolerant of cold temperatures and are hardy to about 18 degrees. Lemons and limes are extremely frost sensitive. Oranges and grapefruit are somewhere in between.
Plant citrus trees correctly
It’s best to plant young trees (2-5 years old) to prevent transplant shock and let the tree mature in the location where it is planted. Plant after danger of frost has passed, or if you plant in the fall, make sure to protect the young tree from frost. To plant the tree, dig a hole at least 3 times wider, but no deeper, than the container. Plant at the level the plant was in in the pot, not deeper. Be sure the bud union (where the tree was grafted onto the rootstock) is above ground, not buried. If buried too deeply, the tree can die.
Water citrus trees correctly
The health of the citrus tree depends upon correct watering. Here are a few principles to follow:
● Water the entire tree’s canopy — build a well around the outer canopy of the tree to hold the water.
● Expand the watering system as the tree grows — larger trees need more water.
● Slow deep applications of water are best. Water to a depth of 18-24 inches each time you water.
● The frequency of watering depends on the type of soil, age, size of the tree, and weather conditions.
Fertilize citrus trees regularly
Newly planted citrus trees do not require fertilization, but once the tree is producing fruit, citrus trees are heavy feeders. One citrus tree can produce up to 1000 pounds of fruit each year. Trees need supplemental fertilizer for a good crop and the health of the tree. The annual amount of fertilizer required is usually broken up into 3 separate feedings (a good way to remember when to fertilize is on Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day). Use a fertilizer meant for citrus, and follow package directions. Water the tree well before and after you apply fertilizer.
Understand when to harvest
Remove all fruit on tree for first 2 years to promote root growth. Different varieties of fruit will ripen at different times. The color of the rind is not always a good indicator of ripeness. What is the best way to tell if your citrus is ripe? Give one a try! The longer the fruit stays on the tree, the sweeter the fruit becomes. Fruit will not ripen once picked. Ripe citrus fruit can be left on the tree for up to 6 months depending on the variety.