Citrus Guide  
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Citrus

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'If you only plant one thing - plant Citrus. The scent is out of this world.'

 

General Care Instructions
Citrus trees are very rewarding plants to look after, providing endless interest as the scented flowers appear in spring; small fruits set as the flowers fade; fruits steadily grow over 6 months until they ripen to orange or yellow; and the fruits are either picked or remain decoratively on the tree for 3-10 months after ripening.

 

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Citrus - Click to enlarge

 

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Citrus - Click to enlarge

 

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Citrus - Click to enlarge

 

Light and Temperature
Keep in good light, above 4°C, and ensure as much ventilation as is reasonable, given the weather conditions. A well ventilated conservatory is ideal (Avoid direct south-facing window position to prevent scorching), with 3 or 4 months in a sheltered spot outside in warm summer weather, if desired.

We keep our citrus outside from May to November. Citrus plants are happy to stand outside after the spring frosts have ended (usually about the end of May). Plants should be placed in a shady spot and gradually crept into full sun over the course of a week or so to prevent leaf scorch. They should remain in the sun for the rest of the summer. The more sun the better.

If indoors, keep near a light window in a cool room (best not kept in a room with constantly high heating). Citrus can stand 38 °C (100°F) or more, but above 35°C (96°F) will cease to grow, therefore they usually fare much better outside for the duration of the summer. If they are kept in a conservatory or greenhouse in the summer, they must have ample ventilation.

Extreme care must be exercised in late spring, before plants have been moved outside, when the temperatures in conservatories and greenhouses can soar on sunny days, vents must be opened to prevent over-heating.

Citrus - Click to enlarge

 

 

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Water
Water thoroughly each time the surface of the compost begins to dry: this may be daily in sunny summer weather, or 2-3-weekly in cloudy winter weather.
Don't give water before the plant needs it or the compost will become soggy and the roots begin to rot. Never allow the plant to stand in water. Whilst indoors we suggest standing Citrus on "pot feet" in a tray.

When watering and feeding with liquid fertilizer, water thoroughly, leave for ten minutes and water through the pot with the feed again.
Take the pot outside once or twice a year to wash the compost right through using lots of clean water to remove any build up of excess fertiliser and excretory salts.

 

Citrus - Click to enlarge

 

 

Feeding (essential for good leaf production and fruiting)
Feed weekly during strong growth periods, preferably with a special Citrus fertiliser containing high trace elements.

At the nursery we liquid feed our citrus each time we water.


Repotting
Re-pot before the plant becomes root bound. Late spring is the best time to re-pot but it can be done at any time of the year whilst there is active growth but preferably
before the end of August.
We have our compost mixed specially for us, which is a very free draining peat media. It is not Ericaceous and does contain lime to adjust the pH to about 6. A reasonable alternative can be made by mixing 25 chipped bark to a coarse commercial peat compost. Use a commercial compost and not straight peat. Peat on it's own is too acidic as it does not contain lime.
The use of seaweed soil conditioner will also help improve citrus growth and productivity.

Citrus - Click to enlarge

The pH of compost is very important for good food uptake. Lemons and acid fruits require a pH of 6.0-6.5, oranges and sweet fruits require a pH of 6.5-7.0.

You can adjust the acidity of your compost easily: use a cheap testing kit to measure the pH: if the pH is too low (too acid), apply a dusting of lime. If the pH is too high (too alkaline) apply a light dusting of Flowers of Sulphur. Wait one month and re-test. Adjust again if necessary.

Citrus - Click to enlarge

Pruning
Pinch out growing tips of longer branches to encourage growth near the middle of the tree; and prune to shape if required, just as the new growth is beginning to sprout in the spring. If you lose all the leaves through drying out, do not despair! Trim back all the branches by one-third, give water again, keep the compost moist but not soaking until the leaves begin to grow again, and then start giving fertiliser and watch the new glossy green leaves grow again.

 


Citrus usually require very little pruning, naturally becoming well-shaped plants.
Pinching the ends off long new growth will encourage more sprouting further back along the branches and lead to a bushier plant. Occasionally some new sprouts will turn into rapid growing vertical shoots, enlarging at the expense of others and unbalancing the look of the tree. These are called water sprouts and should be pruned back to the line of the tree, where they should settle down and produce fruit like the other branches.

 

Lemons can become straggly after a few years and benefit from the occasional hard pruning in early spring. This usually will not mean losing the current year's flowers, as they will soon be produced on the abundance of new growth that occurs.

 


Citrus will sprout from new, old, and very old wood so if a tree needs tidying up the cuts can be made at any point.
Most Citrus are grafted, so any sprouts from below the graft union should be removed.

 

Citrus in Winter
Citrus trees are evergreen and should not lose their leaves during the winter providing that they are positioned correctly. They need to be given enough water, light and the right heating conditions to see them through.

 

Water
As ever, Citrus trees should be watered whenever the top of the compost is drying out, before the leaves start to droop; and they should be watered right through the pot each time so that the lower part of the rootball does not stay dry. In winter watering may not be for 2- 3 weeks in cool cloudy weather where the temperatures are around 4°C.
Whilst indoors we suggest standing Citrus on "pot feet" in a tray.
Never allow the plant to stand in water as the roots will rot.

We can also supply citrus plants with clever, decorative heavy duty terracotta citrus pots, in a range of sizes, that allows the plant to stay in a liner pot inside the terracotta, keeping the plant away from the ground. In winter, just move the plant and leave the heavy terracotta outside! ASK US FOR DETAILS

Citrus - Click to enlarge

Citrus - Click to enlarge

'Citrus are essentially outdoor plants that need to be protected from frost in Winter.'

Indoor temperatures should be
between 8-15° C. (45-60° F).

House temperatures and lack of humidity can cause plants to lose their leaves. Choose an unheated part of the house and spray the leaves with water - and the plants will -usually!- recover.

Citrus - Click to enlarge

Light
Try to find the lightest position on the shelves during the winter. There is no danger of scorching by sunlight at this time of year, so you can put them right next to windows, but the plants will need to be moved before they get damaged by strong midsummer sun. Artificial growlights and striplights can be helpful in increasing light levels. Avoid putting plants under shelves or in the shade of larger plants.

 

Ventilation
Flowers and ripening fruit can give off ethylene gas which can build up, particularly in enclosed spaces. This can lead to leaf and flower drop, and may be responsible for the leaf drop. To keep all plants in best condition, try to open the vents/windows enough to allow for an exchange of air either continuously or 2 or 3 times a day.

Citrus - Click to enlarge  

Citrus - Click to enlarge

 

 

Citrus - Click to enlarge

Temperature
Citrus prefer to have a cool period in winter, below 10°C, when they can rest. Small plants can be kept within the house on a south facing windowsill or by patio doors, away from radiators and larger plants kept in conservatories or greenhouses. Whilst most Citrus can withstand temperatures just above freezing, they will fare far better if kept warmer. At the nursery we over-winter plants at 4°C (40°f) minimum.
Try to avoid sudden extremes of temperature as this can stress plants and cause leaf and blossom drop. Temperatures in conservatories can vary considerably between day and night, ventilate well during sunny days.

In houses, they do not do well in areas of high central heating like Living Rooms where the temperatures with a fire or radiator can rise very high and the air becomes very dry.
They do better in a cool bedroom or other area where the temperatures do not fluctuate drastically. In garden centres, avoid positioning the plants in the path of a heater or near a radiator.

 

Losing leaves
If plants do lose many of their leaves, they will most likely re-grow them in the spring. The stems should be cut back by about half to encourage the new growth to come from the middle of the plant, and the plant should be kept only slightly damp until temperatures warm up and new growth starts. Then again follow the rule of watering only when the top of the compost is starting to dry out and watering through the pot everytime.
We find the use of citrus feed very effective for optimum leaf production and condition.

 

 

 

Citrus - Click to enlarge

Citrus - Click to enlarge

Stocks of lemons, oranges, cumquats, limes and other varieties are available for the best part of the year. Ring or email to check availabilty and to place your order, and start your citrus adventure!

Like us, many people say that citrus blossom produces one of the best fragrances you can ever experience!
Recommended reading for citrus growing  
Citrus Fruits (Success with Gardening) (Paperback) by Catria Sigrid Hansen (Author)   Success with Citrus (Hardcover) by Patricia Oliver (Author)  
All About Citrus and Subtropical Fruits (Ortho's All about) (Paperback) by Maggie Blyth Klein (Author), Paul, Jr. Moore (Author), Claude Sweet (Author)   Growing Citrus: The Essential Gardener's Guide (Hardcover) by Martin Page (Author)  

COMPLETE GARDENING BOOK LIST

We have a comprehensive list of gardening books we have read and heartily recommend for inspiration and tips:

Our recommended reading listLechuza Quadro planters with self watering system and wheels

     
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