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how to grow citrus trees as houseplants

How to Grow Citrus Trees as Houseplants

If you’ve been browsing through any of the houseplant hashtags on Instagram lately, you’ve probably noticed that tons of people are growing and harvesting actual lemons, limes, and oranges from trees they’re growing at home. If you assumed these lucky ducks are all Florida natives, you might be surprised to learn that you don’t have to live in a sub-tropical area to grow your own citrus tree! There are many new dwarf citrus varieties you can grow in Powell River, and with a little care, you can totally grow one, too. Here’s how.


How to Choose an Indoor Citrus Tree

Meyer Lemon, Kaffir Lime, and Calamondin Oranges can easily be grown as houseplants. Calamondin Oranges do very well indoors and are the easiest ones to start with. When you’re choosing a tree, find one that is already 2-3 years old, as it will produce fruit much sooner. 

how to grow citrus trees indoors

How To Care For a Citrus Tree Houseplant

Citrus trees do have a few specific needs, but they’re not too complicated. Even a beginner can manage one successfully with a good plan and some careful attention.

  1. Use a pot with good drainage and the right amount of room. If you’re going to re-pot your tree when you get it home, go up by no more than one pot size. Choose a container with good drainage holes in the bottom, and make sure you have a tray or saucer to fit.  
  2. Plant citrus trees in well-drained soil. They prefer soils with lots of organic matter that is slightly acidic. You can add sand to regular potting mix, or you can use soil designed for cacti or succulents. 
  3. Citrus trees need lots of sunlight. They will do best in a sunny south-facing window. They need a minimum of 8-12 hours of sunlight per day, so you’ll need to supplement with grow lights from October through February.
  4. Keep citrus trees in areas with even temperatures. They will do best when the temperature stays between 18-25˚C. They really don’t like drafts, whether hot or cold, so keep them away from doors and heat registers. They also don’t like cold water, so let your water sit at least overnight so it can warm up to room temperature.
  5. Keep soil to be on the dry side of moist. They don’t want to dry out completely, but they won’t like too much water. A moisture meter, available at our garden centre, is your friend when it comes to these picky trees. Check a few different spots around the pot, and once your soil meter is averaging a 2-3 measurement, its time to water. Water until it comes out the bottom into the tray. Leave the water in the tray for 12 hours, and then empty any excess (a turkey baster is a great way to remove excess water without having to move the tree).
  6. Fertilize every 3 weeks in spring and summer. Use a high-nitrogen fertilizer, also available at our garden centre. Cut back to feeding every 6 weeks in fall and winter.

indoor citrus tree moving outdoors

Moving Your Citrus Tree Outside in Summer

Your citrus tree will be thrilled to enjoy a few months outdoors in the summer, but you’ll need to acclimate it slowly. Start by placing it in a shaded spot for an hour or two for a few days. Then start to shift it to a sunny spot for a little while each day, starting at half an hour. You can add 15-30 minutes of time in the sun each day. Keep bringing it inside every night until we’re well past the risk of frost. 

Once your tree is acclimated to full days outside, find it a sunny sheltered spot to spend the rest of the summer. You’ll need to re-acclimated it to the house again in the fall, so start the process 4-5 weeks before the first expected frost. 

While it’s outside for the summer your citrus tree will need more frequent watering, so keep your moisture meter handy, and check it every day—especially on hot days. 

Watch out for pests; citrus trees can be particularly susceptible to scale, spider mites, mealybugs and aphids. If you do find pests, deal with them organically as much as possible—you don’t want insecticides on your fruit! When your tree is outdoors, you may also want to consider fruit tree netting if you think you’ll have trouble with hungry birds. 

Ready for the challenge and amazing reward of growing and harvesting your own oranges, lemons, or limes? Come visit us at Mother Nature. We can help you get started with a citrus tree, the right soil and pot, and lots of tips for growing citrus in Powell River.

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