You can grow a citrus tree in your kitchen this winter!
With dropping temperatures, now is the time to start thinking about gardening indoors.
Horticulturist Sheriden Hansen says one great way to do this is to add a citrus tree to your home.
Find details on this months classes at usubotanicalcenter.org.
How to Grow a Citrus Tree Indoors
A small citrus tree can sit on a large kitchen island. Or, it can brighten a sunny corner. Citrus is compact, fairly easy to grow, adds interest to your space, fills the room with fragrance (blooms smell AMAZING), and bears FRUIT! Oranges, lemons, limes, tangerine, lemons, and kumquats can thrive indoors.
- Start with a healthy plant. Many of our local nurseries have citrus for sale right now. Inspect the leaves (top and bottom) and look at the branches to make sure there are no insects and that the leaves look healthy and bright green.
- Large, well-draining container that will hold the root ball and give some room for root growth and expansion. Citrus grown indoors (and typically sold in our local nurseries) are dwarf varieties, which means they will not grow to full sized trees. Instead, they are well-adapted to growing in small spaces and in containers and make a great houseplant.
- Citrus prefer slightly acidic soil, so purchase an acidic soil mix or add peat moss or a soil acidifier to the soil mix. Soil should be light, loamy, and well-draining, but heavy enough to hold up the plant. Cactus mix can work well
- Bright light for 8 hours each day. You can place plants in a sunny location inside the home, a few feet from a south facing window works well, or you can add some full spectrum grow lights to supplement light.
- Citrus is sensitive to overwatering. The leaves are thick and a bit succulent-like which is a clue that trees are good at controlling water loss through leaf tissue and do best with less water. Watering once a week to every 10 days during the winter is usually sufficient. During summer months, when placed outside, trees will likely need to be watered more often, every 4 to 7 days depending on temperature.
- Fertilize when the plants are actively growing usually spring to early fall. Use an acidifying liquid fertilizer to best support the plants. Fertilize as needed.
- Pollination can require a little help. When citrus is grown outside, it is pollinated by insects, but indoors we have to help out. When flowers open, you can flick the flowers to move pollen, shake the tree, or use a paintbrush to move pollen around from the male to the female parts of the flowers.
- Proper temperature to best support growth is between 55 to 80-degrees F. A 10-degree drop in temperature from day time to nighttime temperatures will best support growth when indoors (75 in the day, about 65 at night for example).
- Plants can be moved outdoors in the summer. Once the temperatures at night are consistently above 50 to 55 F, plants can be moved outdoors. Watch Falll temperatures and move plants back indoors typically in September each year. Plants that get too cold can shed leaves and cease growth. When moving plants from indoors to outdoors, acclimate them slowly. Move plants to dappled sunlight first and then gradually to full sunlight over a period of about two weeks to prevent sunburn and plant shock.
- Treat Pests Early: Common troublemakers are aphids and scale. Be sure to inspect plants frequently for insects so that potential problems can be managed early and effectively.
Sheriden Hansen serves as an assistant professor of horticulture with the Utah State University Extension. She holds a Masters in Plant Science from Utah State University. Sheriden loves to teach about fruit and vegetable production, how to grow crops in small spaces and container gardening. Sheriden is married with two sons. She is a registered nurse and beekeeper.
Sheriden is with the USU Botanical Center in Kaysville. Here you will find beautiful walk-through gardens and a full roster of classes and family activities. Get connected with the Botanical Center at extension.usu.edu/botanicalcenter