it be nice to pick fresh oranges, lemons, limes, and mandarins or just
to enjoy the fragrance of their blossoms on these dreary winter days?
You can. Many
garden centers are now starting to carry these citrus plants.
But you will have to go looking for them.
I prefer the standard or tree form plants as opposed to the
bush or multiple branched plants, why?
They look good in containers on my patio during the summer.
They also stand tall enough to reach up to my sunny southern
window in the wintertime.
When you are selecting a citrus plant for your home, first
look at the base of the trunk.
You are looking for a bulge where a known citrus variety has
been put on a rootstock. You
will find that this is usually a dwarfing rootstock called Poncirus
Next look for a healthy green leafy plant that is not
dropping leaves profusely. While
a defoliated plant can be saved with lots of sunlight and careful
watering, the plant probably will not produce flowers and fruit for
a long time and may lose many branches. For those of you who like
the challenge these are the bargain plants to buy.
In your home you will need a southern window, which can
provide a minimum of four hours of direct sunlight.
Less light will allow your plants to go dormant; in which
case, maintenance watering and fertilizing is done until activity
starts again in early spring.
A citrus soil is rich, well drained and slightly acidic. Add sphagnum peat moss to a sandy tropical potting soil to
achieve a good citrus soil. Transplant
in late spring only when very root bound and your citrus tree has
shown reduced vigor in the previous season.
In ten or more years when your pot size is getting out of
hand, transplanting is done a little differently.
You will thin out the roots, repot with the recommended soil
and water with a transplant fertilizer.
You will then reduce the top of the plant by at least one
The only pruning you will ever do is to branch thin and tip
prune your established tree. This
should allow you to keep your potted citrus to a height of four to
The food you should use is a water-soluble fertilizer high in
phosphorous and potash. Use
at the recommended strength and time.
In winter this will be cut back but not stopped.
Remember citrus is an evergreen requiring year round care.
Whether your citrus is inside or out, watering is done when
the top inch of soil is dried out.
Add only enough water to wet the soil but not soak it or
allow it to stand in water. Forgetful
watering encourages poor growth, leaf drop and small immature fruit.
Leave your citrus fruit on the tree for as long as possible. This is because citrus fruit only sweetens up while on the
plant. Since ripe
citrus fruit is retained on the plant for long periods of time, and
you need only pick as required.
The exceptions are limes and occasionally navel oranges,
which drop quickly when ripe. Some
mandarins may become dry and pulpy if left on the tree too long.
have always believed that garden
tours are a great resource of knowledge and the occasional surprise.
On a recent garden tour I
discovered this Buddha's Hand Citrus. The Buddha's Hand looks like an
octopus. It's many fingers are just rind with no pulp. It is a symbol
of extreme happiness in Buddhism and other Asian religions. Buddha's
Hand is so fragrant that it has been use as a perfumant and moth
In the outdoors the wind and bees may pollinate your flowers.
Whether the plants are indoors or out, I prefer to pollinate
them myself. I find
this ensures larger crops. To
do this, take a small, soft child’s water colour brush go from
flower to flower. It is
not usual to have both flowers and fruit on the plants at the same
time. The fruit may
also be at different stages of maturity.
A special note for beginners:
The easiest citrus to grow in pots are limes, lemons,
mandarins, kumquats and calamondins. While
oranges and grapefruits grow well, they often produce poor crops.
I will be double checking this in the coming years with my
Valencia orange and mandarin. My
orange will be ready to pollinate for the first time in the next
four to five days and the mandarin’s first crop will be picked
Happing harvesting. Oh,
yes, have you tried growing bananas?
You should! The Hardy Banana (Musa basjoo) above is hardy
to-3F and down To -24F with heavy mulching using plastic bags of
leaves. The Fruit is not edible. It can reach 9 to 18 feet