Growing Citrus as Houseplants
Believe it or not, you can easily grow a happy, healthy, and productive citrus tree indoors! Key elements for success are good light, adequate humidity indoors in the
potting soil, additional
Frequently Asked Questions: Care and Culture
What varieties are the best for indoor growing?
By far, the Meyer Lemon is the most popular. It is slightly sweeter than the classic commercial varieties (Eureka and Lisbon). Its thin skin and distinctive, mystical flavor combines lemon with a hint of tangerine. It is easy to grow, prolific and does not need a lot of heat to ripen the fruit. Bearss Seedless Lime is great for beverages and cooking. Kieffer Lime Leaves are used extensively for Thai cooking. Calamondin (Kalamansi/”miniature orange”), with its small tart orange-colored fruit and fragrant blooms is also very popular. Trovita Orange has sweet fruit in the spring.
How big do they grow?
This depends on where they are planted, and the care received. In general if you plant a dwarf citrus tree in a container, over the years with good care it will top out in height, after a good number of years, at around 8-10 feet, depending upon variety. The same tree might get twice as tall in the ground, and would be considered in that case, “Semi-Dwarf.” Pruning is always an option for keeping them shorter.
How do I grow dwarf citrus in my area?
Is my situation adequate for growing an indoor citrus tree?
Blooming and fruiting is dependent on sufficient light and heat. Citrus trees in a dark or shaded space may produce foliage but not flower. If you do not have a bright (preferably South facing) window, skylight or greenhouse, you may need to supplement with grow lights. For best results indoors, simulate California weather by providing a minimum of 8 hours of direct light each day. Grow lights can be used to supplement sunlight and may be left on to extend day length. See grow light info here.
When will the trees bloom and produce fruit?
Since our trees are grafted, the scion (fruiting wood) is capable of flowering at a young age. Most citrus bloom in the spring, but the ripening times can vary greatly. See our variety list for specifics about ripening. If fruit develops the first year, we often pinch the fruit off to encourage leaf and stem development. Generally a Two-Three Year tree will bloom in the spring if given adequate light, water and fertilizer. Each year as the tree grows; it will have more fruit producing capacity.
How do I care for citrus trees?
Growing information is sent with each order. Basic needs are ample light, moisture and fertilizer. For details, visit our In the Ground, In Containers, As Houseplants, In A Greenhouse/Solarium pages or our searchable Citrus Problem Solver.
How often should I water?
Here are some general guidelines:
Vary watering as conditions change! A simple moisture meter, available at garden supply stores, will read moisture at the root level. This inexpensive tool can take the guess-work out of watering. See our complete watering guidelines for more details.
Why do blooms or fruit drop off?
Some fruit drop is normal, especially in hot summer months. If fruit or bloom drop is excessive, proper watering is often the solution. Extremely hot, dry, windy weather will trigger fruit drop. Be sure trees are well watered in these situations. If you observe excessive fruit and leaf drop a few days after a heavy watering, the tree became too dry before it was watered. In the future, be consistent in your watering schedule. Protect from excessive wind exposure.
Why do leaves drop off or twigs die back?
Leaf drop and twig dieback can be caused by lack of light or too much water. Outside, hot windy conditions can cause foliage stress.
My tree grows at a rapid rate and has for years, but it doesn't fruit. Why?
Possibly a rootstock sucker has taken over. Learn more.
Why is the foliage yellow?
Two possibilities exist. Yellowed foliage can indicate lack of fertilizer, or overwatering to the point that the root tips are rotting and are not taking up nutrients. Cut back on watering to recommended rates, and be sure to fertilize appropriately. If uncertain of the condition in the roots it is ok to gently tip the tree out of its pot to take a look. Healthy roots have a whitish cast and are succulent. Trim off dead or brown slimy roots and correct soil quality and moisture conditions if necessary.
When will fruit ripen?
Usually, once the trees are about three years old, they are mature enough to handle fruit production. Younger trees are capable of bearing, but doing so does slow branch and foliage growth, which are important for the tree's long-term development. See our Citrus Variety Information Chart for specific information by variety.
How do I tell if fruit is ripe?
Keep in mind that all citrus fruits only ripen on the tree. In temperate areas, the best way to determine ripeness for oranges is to watch for the color to change, then check for a slight softening of the fruit. Lemons are ready when yellow, and generally hold on the tree for months. Because fruit coloration is triggered by cooling nighttime temperatures in fall, trees in tropical zones may not color up when ripe. The development of a waxy opaque sheen on the rind is another indicator of ripening. It may be necessary to taste fruit to be certain of ripeness. See our Citrus Variety Information Chart for specific information by variety.
What is the time from bloom to edible fruit?
For lemons and limes, the time from bloom to edible fruit is generally 6-9 months. For winter oranges and other citrus, it is generally 12 months. Keep in mind that all citrus fruits only ripen on the tree. One of the best ways to determine ripeness is to pick a fruit and sample it, since rind color can be an unreliable indicator. See our Citrus Variety Information Chart for specific information by variety.