Q. How do I grow citrus plants in my home, and can I get fruit?
Quite a number of different citrus varieties can be grown indoors in pots, and many will produce fruit when grown under the correct conditions. Key elements for success are good light, adequate humidity in the winter, well-drained potting soil, additional nutrients, and consistent watering.
Citrus plants need full sun--at least 6 hours a day of direct sunlight. If you don’t have a south-facing window, full-spectrum fluorescent lights can be used as a supplement. Citrus can also be grown outdoors in the summer and moved indoors for the winter.
These plants need high humidity--the humidity level in most houses in the winter is too low for ideal citrus culture. It is helpful to spray the trees frequently, or even better, to use a room humidifier. You can also stand the pot on tray of damp pebbles or moist peat moss. (A dry, hot environment attracts mites.)
Citrus grow best between 55°F to 85°F. It can tolerate 40°F but stops growing actively below 50°. It's best to water actively growing plants moderately, allowing the top inch of the mixture to dry out between waterings. In any resting period, water only enough to keep the mixture from completely drying out.
Finally, apply a liquid 20-20-20 fertilizer at half-strength during the summer months.
What varieties are best for indoor growing? Sweet citrus are difficult to grow at home. Much easier to grow are acid citrus such as lemons and limes. Some suggested citrus to try are:
Meyer lemon (Citrus meyeri) is easily grown at home and will reliably produce fruit. The lemons are deep yellow with a good, though rather sweet, flavor.
Calamondin (Fortunella japonica) has lush, wide leaves and small orange fruit which remain rather sour.
Tips for Citrus Grown in Pots
•Full sun and high light--the more the better.
•Do not over-pot.
•Grow in clay pots for optimum root health.
•High light aids in flowering and fruiting. A period of dryness can also help stimulate flowers and fruiting.
•Fertilize in growing season with an organic food such as Citrus-tone®.
• Water when the soil is visually dry or at first signs of wilt.
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service