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wikiHow to Grow Citrus Fruits

If you're looking for an easy-to-grow plant with luscious fruit, look no further than the citrus! Citrus trees are relatively easy to grow, provided that you have a warm enough climate. Even if your conditions are not ideal, there may still be a citrus tree for you. Read on about how to grow an assortment of citrus fruits after the jump.


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    Choose a location for your tree. A warm, sunny, southern or western exposure is best. Shelter is a big help, too, if cold is a concern. Choose or create someplace with well-drained soil, and avoid putting a citrus tree directly into a lawn. A nearby reflective wall, fence, or even patio can provide both shelter and a bit of extra warmth, too.
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    Select and obtain a tree.
    • Choose the type of citrus you would like to try growing (oranges, lemons, grapefruit, etc.).
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    • Ask the nursery about the climate that the particular tree is suitable for.
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    • Ask about or look up the season for the tree(s) you intend to get. Citrus generally ripens in winter, but different fruits ripen throughout the year, as well. [1]
    • If you live somewhere that's a bit colder than a strictly Mediterranean climate, look into cultivars bred for cold resistance.
    • Taste the fruit, if you have the opportunity. Not all oranges are alike. If you can taste fruit grown on a tree in your area, perhaps from a neighbor, even better.
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    • Find out if the fruit produced has many seeds, or not.
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    • Ask for certification of the health of the tree, or ask someone who's experienced with citrus trees to inspect it. See Warnings.
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    Choose a size of tree that is appropriate for your setting. Ask at the nursery or look up online how large the mature tree will get.
    • Try dwarf citrus trees if you are short on space. You can even grow them in large pots, and they open up the possibility of covering the entire tree in a shelter during the delicate winter months or even bringing the tree indoors. Even though they are small, dwarf citrus trees can produce a very reasonable harvest.
    • On the other end of the spectrum, a couple of large lemon trees can form a good-sized hedgerow. It all depends on just how much citrus you want.
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    Dig a large hole. The saying goes that you should dig at least a $60 hole for a $20 tree. As a practical matter, make sure you know where you want to place the tree, then dig a hole that is about three feet (1 meter) in diameter and as deep as the container. Do not bury the root crown, the transition from trunk to roots, as this will cause problems down the road. Plant the tree slightly higher than the surrounding soil to allow for some settling, most container grown nursery stock has high organic matter content that will decompose causing the plant to settle in the planting hole dropping the root crown below grade if not planted slightly high.
    • If you have any concerns about drainage, such as in heavy clay soil, fill the hole with water and see how long it takes to drain out. If you have drainage problems (that is, if the water is not gone by the next morning), dig the hole even deeper and plant the tree up higher.
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    • For a dwarf citrus tree, select a large pot. Try for two feet in diameter or a half-barrel, at least.
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    Partially refill the hole with good, well-draining soil. Depending on the quality of what you took out of the hole, you might try a half-and-half mixture of compost and the now-loosened soil. Create a mound of soil in the middle of the hole that supports the root ball with the crown (the base of the tree trunk where the roots begin) slightly above it.
    • Mix in some citrus fertilizer with the soil, if you like.
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    • If you are planting a dwarf citrus in a pot, use straight potting soil and fill it in to a similar level. Place the pot up on blocks and be sure there are plenty of drainage holes in the bottom. Don't let the pot sit directly in a saucer or puddle of water.
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    Remove the tree from its pot and remove any burlap around the roots. Place the tree on the mound of soil. Add or remove soil underneath to adjust the height so that the crown is level with the soil or even slightly above it.
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    Fill in the remaining hole with a mixture of compost or potting soil and the soil from your garden.
    • If you are using a pot, fill with straight potting soil. Leave at least two inches at the top to allow space to water thoroughly.
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    Do not apply mulch.
    • Stay away from organic mulch, as it increases the likelihood of foot rot disease.
    • A safe bet is that the roots are at least as wide as the branches, so make the mulch area at least this large. You can even add a rim of mulch around the circumference of the circle to aid in watering.
    • Do not mulch right up to the base of the trunk. Leave a little margin so that the crown has breathing room and doesn't stay wet when you water.
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    Water the tree at least weekly until it is established, unless you get sufficient rain to do the job. Water even mature citrus trees regularly. Citrus trees have relatively shallow, broad root systems. Once established, the trees may tolerate some drought, but they won't produce fruit that's as good.
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    Fertilize the tree with an appropriate fertilizer. Fertilizers are available in citrus or citrus-and-avocado formulations. Apply them according to package instructions, typically three to four times a year for slow-release types.
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    Prune citrus trees occasionally. They don't require heavy or regular pruning.
    • Remove any "suckers", or shoots growing from the rootstock. Citrus trees are grafted, meaning that a tree with desirable fruit is cut and attached to a sturdier rootstock. You don't want the rootstock taking over.
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    • Remove any "wild" shoots growing beyond the general shape of the tree. These will often be long, straight, quick-growing branches that don't follow the overall form or shape of the tree.
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    • Moderately thin the foliage if it grows excessively dense, to promote air circulation and availability of light.
    • Generally, train citrus trees as shrubs or hedges. If you'd like to remove a few lower branches to give it more of a tree shape, go ahead, but don't overdo it.
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    Harvest fruit when it is fully ripe. Oranges, lemons, and grapefruit should all be completely free of green coloring. They will not ripen off the tree. Limes are generally picked green, so go by size and season. See the external links for more details on limes.


  • Most citrus trees bloom fragrantly starting in early winter and developing through spring, then produce small, green fruits that mature through the summer and fall, but there are some ever-bearing varieties, especially for lemons. They may not truly produce the whole year, but their season will be longer, at least.
  • To give your new citrus trees a head start on life, you might want to remove that first year's fruit (i.e. "pinch" it as it starts to form). It will let the plant put its first year of energy into establishing healthy roots and branches rather than into growing fruit, and it will be more likely to produce fruit (a lot of it) in the following years.
  • Try some of the sweeter lemons, such as Meyer lemons.
  • Look up the "fruit salad tree" or, if you're really adventurous, make your own. It is possible to take a citrus tree and graft on branches of various other citrus fruits. The resulting tree may be more delicate and less productive, but if you really want to, you can get oranges, lemons, and limes from the same tree.
  • Don't hesitate to grow citrus trees because you think they will take a long time to produce fruit. It isn't necessarily so. You may even find trees at the nursery with a few fruits already on them. If you don't get fruit the first year or two, don't give up.
  • Give your new citrus tree at least 5-6 hours of full sun or light (minimum amount needed for survival), or even 8-12 hours if possible. If growing indoors, maybe try supplementing natural light with grow lights.
  • Don't forget the less-common citrus fruits. Growing your own can be a great way to get some unusual fruits. If you'd like, try growing kumquats, blood oranges, tangerines, mandarin oranges, or pomelos.
    • Certain more exotic types of citrus require more specialized care. Lemons, limes, grapefruit, and oranges have all been cultivated into many varieties, so you will probably be able to find something suited to your conditions and needs. For the various other sorts, it's worth reading up on the specific fruit of interest. Try a web search on your variety or cultivar.
    • Don't let this put you off growing these other fruits; do read up a bit before you plant them.


  • WLD(Winter Leaf Drop)is a phenomena that appears when the roots and the leaves work asynchronous. Especially in colder areas the roots work slower because of the "cold" earth, while the leaves are shone by the sun and work properly. An evidence that your plant(s) start to suffer from WLD can be the discoloring of the leaves.
  • Look out for thorns. Some citrus trees grow long, sharp thorns, and getting citrus juice in the cuts from these thorns is absolutely painful. Look closely, and wear gloves or use a long-handled fruit picker.
  • Don't plant your tree near septic tank lines, or the roots may eventually cause issues with clogging.
  • In citrus producing areas and other parts of the US, if there is an "epidemic" of any contagious diseases or pests, the Dept. of Agriculture may come on a person's property, rip out the trees, and haul them away to be burned. That is why it's important to ensure the health of a tree before buying it.
  • Use caution when handling the fruit as the citric acid can cause eye-irritation.
  • Full-sized lemon trees can make a lot of lemons. Think about what you will do with that many before you plant them.
  • Too much of a good thing, including fertilizer, is no longer a good thing. Fertilize according to package instructions and don't overdo it. Excess fertilizer (either too much or too often) can lead a plant to grow too fast and weaken the plant and leech into ground water or run off into the surrounding environment.

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