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Problem Solver FAQ
Q Do I live in the right zone? A
Click on the map for a high resolution view to find your zone.
You can also use the USDA's Interactive Hardiness Zone Map, just Click Here.
The above map is the most recent released by the USDA. Please be aware that this map does not account for record highs or lows, these are just average temperatures. We do not recommend planting in the ground for zones 8 or less. Our warranty only covers trees that are planted in the ground in zones 9-11. If you live in any other zone: we recommend that you keep your dwarf tree in a container, so it can be brought inside during cooler temperatures. On average, most of our dwarf trees will go into hibernation when the temperatures reach below 50 degrees fahrenheit and most varieties will die if the temperatures are below freezing for long periods of time. All of our trees can be kept as house plants during the cold weather months (and during the warm months too) and do well when provided with adequate light, water and fertilization.
Q Do you ship during the Cold Winter Months? A
While we would love to be able to ship every tree out right away, sometimes the cold weather makes it impossible for us to do so. Citrus Trees do not fair well with freezing temperatures, so sometimes we have to hold an order and wait for the temperatures to improve. If we have held your order due to cold weather, it is based on the temperatures of your local area and the transit route. Once your weather improves, the order will ship. We ship with heat packs for any questionable areas. If you would like more information regarding this, please login to your customer account and create a ticket or call us at 229-299-5555.
Q What Types of Trees for Sale? A
We sell Dwarf varieties of Citrus & Fruit Trees. Dwarf Citrus & Fruit Trees are typically grown in containers that allow for proper care year round. Our Trees are usually kept as house plants and are a very popular gift to send instead of chocolates or cut flowers. With proper care, our trees can live up to 50 years! With our three year warranty (Some Restrictions Apply), you can rest assured that you are ordering a tree that will be around for a long time to come.
Our trees are available for shipping to the Continental United States only. We cannot ship any Citrus Tree to the State of Arizona, if you would like to order a Dwarf tree and must ship to Arizona, please select a non-citrus variety such as Persimmon or Avocado. Certain varieties of Trees are unavailable in some states, please review the product description thoroughly. If a tree product description says that it is not available in your state, please do not attempt to order that tree. Instead look to see if the tree is available in a different size or select a different variety. We cannot make any acceptions on our shipping policies (we would if we could) as doing so is actually illegal due to USDA regulations.
Citrus in the United States is highly regulated by the USDA. It is recommended that you save any tags that are received with the tree, especially your USDA permit tag.
Q When will my Order be Shipped? A
We ship each week on Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday for the previous week's orders. Our cut off for shipping is Sunday at 11:59pm EST. If you need assistance with figuring out when your tree will arrive, please login to your customer account and create a ticket or call us at 229-299-5555.
We ship via Ground Service only, most states ship UPS, while a few ship FedEx and USPS. Once your order has shipped you will receive a confirmation via email with your tracking number and the carrier information. You can also log into your customer account to see the status of your order, open a ticket and retrieve your tracking number if needed.
Q How do I Treat Damage Caused By Frost & Freezing? A
Water the tree immediately as freezing temperatures pull the moisture out of the tree's roots. Be patient! Wait and determine the extent of damage before pruning. Identify the graft or bud union, and make sure the fruiting wood above the graft is still green and healthy. If it is viable it should produce new buds in the spring. If there is little rain, check soil to make sure it is evenly moist. Fertilize lightly.
If the tree experiences leaf drop, watch for the appearance of new buds. After bud break you can prune trees back about 25-50%. Citrus trees' winter store of food is primarily in the leaves, so if the tree defoliates it must draw from limited reserves in the roots.
If necessary, protect trunk and branches from sunburn by painting with a 50% dilution of white latex paint.
Bordeaux spray (10 parts Copper sulfate, 10 parts zinc sulfate to 100 parts water) is good for winter diseases when there is a lot of rain or high humidity. Follow label directions carefully.
Q How should I fertilize my Citrus Tree and what should I use? A
Since citrus trees are heavy nitrogen feeders, make sure your fertilizer contains more nitrogen (N) than phosphorous (P) and potassium (K). Use at least a 2-1-1 (N:P:K) ratio. Miracid Soil Acidifier is a water soluble product that works well and has a 3-1-1 ratio. In some regions, you may be able to find fertilizers that are formulated specifically for citrus and avocados. Buy a good brand and apply according to package directions. Many all-purpose products will work, as long as nitrogen is the highest element in the ratio.
Trace minerals such as iron, zinc, and manganese are also important, so make sure those are included in your fertility program. Foliar applications of trace minerals may be derived from kelp or other soluble fertilizers, and can be especially effective when applied to leaves that are about half of mature size.
Follow rates on the package carefully as fertilizers come in different strengths, release rates, and application schedules. Yellowing leaves indicate a lack of fertilizer or poor drainage. Dark green, lush leaves with burned tips indicate excessive fertilizing.
We prefer slow release fertilizers in the granular form rather than fertilizer stakes, which can burn roots, even to the point of killing immature trees.
Quality Organic fertilizers are available in granular form, which can simply be applied to the soil surface. Because organic fertilizers are not as concentrated as commercial citrus fertilizers, you will need to apply more often. Soil-applied Organic fertilizers can be supplemented with foliar applications of fish emulsion or fish emulsion plus kelp to keep foliage green and trees healthy.
Q What are the Citrus Tree Preparations for Frost? A
Preconditioning helps; trees exposed slowly to cold will fare better than those subjected to a sudden frost. Also, prolonged exposure to cold is more damaging than a brief plunge in temperature. Here are some methods we have used to help protect plants when freezing temperatures may pose a threat.
- Listen for news of cold fronts, and be prepared to take action!
- Water all garden plants thoroughly before a freeze, since freezing soil will pull sustaining moisture from the roots.
- Use anti-transpirant sprays. Common brands: Anti Stress and Cloud Cover.
- Put old fashioned, heat-producing Christmas lights in the trees or in landscape lighting under the trees. This method often yields excellent results for cold-sensitive lemons and limes. Hot bulbs can scorch leaves, so take care to angle them so that they directly touch foliage as little as possible.
- Use frost cover blankets, also known as floating row cover or Remay. This is a spun polyester material designed to cover trees and plants. It can be draped directly on the plants and secured at the ground to trap daytime heat. Unlike plastic covers, it can be left on during the day without fear of overheating the plants. Used in combination with lighting, it is a great way to protect cold-sensitive plants.
Q What is the Productivity & Ripening Time for Citrus? A
Once the trees are about 3 years old, they are mature enough to handle fruit production without impacting branch and foliage growth. Often younger trees will bloom in the spring; however, we recommend pinching the blooms off to let the tree develop branches, roots and leaves to better support fruit production later.
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. The best way to determine ripeness is to pick a fruit and sample it, since rind color can be an unreliable indicator.
Average Crop Yield
In appropriate climates, a mature Dwarf Citrus tree planted in the ground can produce about 2/3 as much fruit as a full sized standard citrus tree in the ground. Some varieties "hold" fruit well on the tree for extended periods, while others need to be picked promptly, because fruit quality will deteriorate quickly after ripening.
Q What's the proper way to Water my Citrus Tree? A
- In the ground, water deeply once a week.
- In outdoor containers, water deeply once or twice a week.
- Indoors, water with 1/4 - 1/2 gallon every 5-7 days or less.
Please bear in mind that each environment (microclimate) is unique, so it is important to monitor your plants to learn what they desire. Eventually you will find a consistent schedule which changes with the seasons. You will learn what works, between you and your plants. Each watering practice may also vary slightly as sun, wind and temperature conditions change. Watering a containerized tree can be challenging, but correct soil mix conditions will make caring for your tree easier.
Citrus trees like deep, infrequent watering so that the conditions move towards dryness and remain on the dry side of moist! Watering frequency will vary with soil porosity, tree size, and temperature. Allowing the top of the soil to become dry will not hurt the tree. A moisture tester can be used to read moisture at the root level. This inexpensive tool can help you resist the urge to over water. A wilted tree that perks up within 24 hours after watering indicates the roots got too dry. Adjust watering schedule accordingly. A tree with yellow or cupped leaves, or leaves that don't look perky AFTER watering can indicate excessive watering and soggy roots. In this case one should water less frequently.
For heavy/clay soil: Air spaces are tiny in clay soil, making it impossible for water to drain away rapidly. You should adjust your watering schedule to be somewhat less frequent. Allow time for the soil to drain and the surface to dry out, but don't go so far as to let new growth wilt. You can also amend your soil before planting with compost, potting mix or wood shavings. Feeder roots gather nutrients in the top foot of soil and can spread beyond the tree’s dripline. Mulching will help retain moisture and nutrients in the soil where roots are active.
Leaf drop: If you observe excessive leaf drop a few days after a heavy watering, this is a sign that the tree became too dry before it was watered. In the future, be consistent in your watering schedule. Trees that are watered excessively will often show yellowing leaves before they drop.
Q Why should I Prune my Citrus Tree? A
Citrus may be pruned to any desired shape. Pruning is fine any time of year, except in the winter for outdoor trees. Pinching back tips of new growth is the best way to round out the trees without impacting future fruit.
Citrus will look fuller with occasional pruning to shape leggy branches. Very leggy branches indicate the need for more light.
Some trees may develop erratic juvenile growth above the graft. If so, prune for shape and balance. Any growth above the graft can eventually bear fruit.
Pruning to Optimize Fullness & Fruit Production
Any branch with fruit is putting its energy into fruit production. Prune the other branches now, make the pruning cut just above a leaf without leaving a stub. If you take off more than 1/3 of the length, the tree will make multiple branches at the pruning cut, thereby making the tree more full.
Pruning Container-Grown Trees
Pinch new growth when small to keep the tree in bounds for optimal container growing. The degree of pruning will depend on the desired size of the tree.
Q Can I Grow Dwarf Citrus Hydroponically? A
Citrus trees are long lived plants and may be challenging to grow in hydroponic conditions. However in certain circumstances the effort may be worthwhile. As long as growing conditions match the needs of citrus trees; Full sun (8 hours a day minimum), Air in the root system, adequate nitrogen and trace minerals; it should be possible to grow hydroponically, however we currently do not have concrete guidance to offer about this specific growing technique.
Q How do I Provide Proper Humidity Levels? A
Adequate humidity and light are essential to keep indoor citrus trees healthy. Cooler rooms of the home typically have higher humidity in the winter.
Make sure your trees receive as much full sun exposure during the winter months as possible. Humidity can be increased in rooms in a number of ways. Leaves respond well to a light misting of pure water from a spray bottle or humidifier. You can also place trays of pebbles and water near the base of trees to increase ambient humidity in the growing area.
Efforts to increase indoor ambient humidity levels can be especially helpful to citrus trees during the cold dry months. Make sure plants are not near forced air heating ducts or appliances that generate heat. Remember that citrus like moist soil, but not water-logged roots, so do not let misting turn into over watering. Also make sure that the bottom of the pot does not sit in drainage water, to prevent overwet root issues.
When bringing trees indoors in the fall from a summer outside, they will benefit from taking this extra precaution (which your back will appreciate too, because it decreases the pot's weight): Allow trees to dry down about 50%, or to the point at which it's time to water them again. If they are a bit thirsty (but not wilted!) at the time they are brought in, they can adjust to indoor conditions more easily. Be sure to water as needed as soon as the move is complete.
Q How to Grow Dwarf Citrus Indoors & Outdoors? A
Container-grown citrus trees can be kept on patios and decks in warm weather, then moved inside to avoid frost damage in winter. To avoid shocking your tree with a sudden change of environment, move it gradually. Place the tree in partial shade for a week or so, to make the transition from full sun outdoors to partial sun indoors. It is best to let the roots get a bit dry before moving trees indoors, to ease the transition and reduce the chance of roots staying too wet through the winter. Later you can reverse this process after any danger of frost has safely passed. You will find that you need to water less indoors. A moisture meter will help prevent over watering.
If your tree will receive less than 6 hours of full sun per day indoors, it is best to supplement with grow lights. Adequate sun exposure is important for fruit production. We recommend a 5000K full spectrum bulb (with reflector) which promotes overall plant growth. We recommend that you use the light for 8-10 hours per day.
Q What are the Best Citrus Varieties for Growing Indoors? A
By far, the Meyer Lemon is the most popular. Like all the lemons, it is easy to grow, prolific and does not need a lot of heat to ripen the fruit. The Meyer is slightly sweeter than the classic commercial varieties (Eureka). Its soft skin develops an orange hue when fruit is fully ripe, and its distinctive, mystical flavor combines lemon with a hint of tangerine. The Meyer lemon can be very productive, even indoors.
Kaffir Lime leaves are used extensively in Thai and Cambodian cooking, and zest of the fruit is an ingredient in some curry paste recipes. Keep your Kaffir lime tree close at hand in a sunny window and you'll be able to create authentic recipes year-round.
Calamondin (Kalamansi) is a diminutive tree originating in the Philippines. It's ornamental form, fragrant blooms and small tart orange-colored fruits have made it a favorite for centuries. The sour juice of ripe fruits can be used in salad dressings and other recipes.
Q Are Citrus Tree Leaves edible? A
Any Thai cookbook that alludes to the use of citrus leaves really means Kaffir (Kieffer) Lime leaves, the only citrus leaves used with regularity in a wide array of favorite Thai dishes. The luscious perfume and striking flavor of the leaves cannot be easily substituted with other kinds of citrus leaves.
Q Can I determine Ripeness by the Color of the Fruit? A
Cooling night time temperatures trigger the appearance of orange and yellow hues in the rinds of citrus fruits. In temperate climates that have gradually cooling nighttime temperatures toward winter, fruit coloration is generally a good indicator of ripeness.
In tropical climates and also in many indoor growing situations, fruit coloration may not be the best indicator of ripeness because the tree is not receiving the necessary climactic cues for fruit coloring. This is why the Key lime is harvested green in the more tropical areas of Mexico and Florida where it is grown commercially. These limes are ripe when picked, even though they are still green. Limes in California and other areas that receive cooler temperatures during the ripening season, will actually turn yellow when ready to pick.
Like most citrus, lemons are green as they develop, then turn gradually to yellow when ripe. (Extremely ripe Meyer lemons actually take on a lovely orange hue.) Once mature, most lemon varieties will hang on the tree for several months, slowly growing larger and developing thicker skins.
When coloration is not a reliable indicator, ripeness can be determined with other methods. Look for the development of a dusky appearance on the rind of ripe fruits. The final determinant of ripeness will be how the fruit tastes. Sampling is often the most reliable indicator of when to harvest. Remember that citrus do not ripen further once picked.
Q Can I Grow Citrus from Seed? A
Yes, you can, but if you are most interested in growing your own citrus fruits for home consumption, we suggest planting our grafted trees which are guaranteed true to type and come into bearing in a few years with good care.
A customer once shared this story: As a child he had planted a grapefruit seed. The resulting plant accompanied him, in a pot, throughout his life, and on his 65th birthday he harvested his first fruit.
If you have the patience, and wish to plant citrus seeds you will find them fairly easy to grow, but resultant tree and fruit quality may be disappointing.
Instead of growing from seed, we use grafted cuttings of well matched proven varieties - combinations that reach maturity and fruitfulness faster. We produce quality fruiting trees that are guaranteed true to type.
Q Can I Prune the Thorns on my Citrus Tree? A
Thorns are removed from rootstocks when citrus trees are propagated. As the young trees grow, it is not unusual to see thorns on the juvenile fruiting (scion) wood. This is a young plant's way of defending against grazing animals. Usually as the tree matures, thorniness of the fruiting wood decreases. Thorns may be pruned off without harming productive potential.
Growth from the root stock will always tend to be thornier than the fruiting wood. If all of the foliage appears to be thorny, check to be certain that a rootstock sucker has not taken over. All growth below the graft line should be removed. Be sure to keep all rootstock suckers trimmed off as they appear, so that the energy essential for fruiting is all directed to the fruiting wood.
Q Can I use Mulch with my Citrus Tree? A
Liberal use of mulches will conserve precious water and help inhibit weed growth. A 2-3 inch layer of redwood shavings, fir bark, compost, or other organic matter can be very helpful for water retention. To reflect heat and hasten fruit ripening, some people mulch with light colored gravel or crushed rock. “Living mulches” such as nitrogen fixing clovers can also be planted between trees in an orchard. To avoid root diseases, always keep grasses and other vegetation away from the root collar area. Keep all mulches at least six inches away from the base of the trunk. We do not recommend the use of Mulch when you are growing in a container.
Q How do I Pollinate by Hand? A
Generally, citrus trees (grown indoors or out) are self fruitful and do not require pollination. Some people enjoy pollinating their trees, and this can be done using a small soft brush or cotton swab to transfer the pollen among flowers.
Some mandarin varieties are more productive with a pollinator, but the tradeoff is usually more seediness.
If you grow two different citrus trees next to each other, fruit may or may not flower concurrently, allowing cross pollination. Regardless of whether pollination occurs, the tree's fruit will be true to variety type.
Citrus seeds that are the result of cross pollination may or may not develop into productive trees with flavorful fruit. A customer once shared this story: As a child he had planted a grapefruit seed. The resulting plant accompanied him, in a pot, throughout his life, and on his 65th birthday he harvested his first fruit, but it was not like that of the parent tree.
If you have the patience and wish to plant citrus seeds you will find them fairly easy to grow. Like sprouting an avocado seed, it can be a fun and educational activity for children. For best quality and early fruitfulness, however, we recommend growing citrus that are grafted, using proven techniques.
Instead of growing from seed, we use grafted cuttings of well matched proven varieties - combinations that reach maturity and fruitfulness faster. We produce quality fruiting trees that are guaranteed true to type.
Q How do I protect my tree from too Much Heat & Sunburn? A
In areas where intense sun and heat may scorch your tree, precautions should be taken to reduce damage. Trunks can be wrapped using appropriate materials available at garden supply stores. Another method is to mix a 50:50 solution of white latex paint and water. Use the dilute paint to whitewash trunks and exposed branches. One application is usually sufficient for a summer of sunburn protection.
The roots of potted citrus trees may also become overheated due to excessive sun exposure. One solution is to nest the pot into a larger one which will buffer heat on the roots. Whitewashing the pot with white latex may also be a viable solution in certain circumstances.
Another solution is to provide afternoon shading in the hottest summer months, using shade cloth or a temporary structure.
Q How do I Select the Best Containers? A
Overly wet roots are the leading cause of problems of container grown citrus. Many of those problems can be minimized with careful container choices. Clay pots and wooden containers are classic but heavy choices. Black plastic single walled pots when exposed to the sun can allow excessive heat in the soil. Wooden containers degrade, allow roots to grow into cracks and have irregular surfaces, making it harder to transplant. Modern plastic pots come in a wide selection of designs and colors, making them the ideal choice for citrus culture. Plastic containers are easy to drill with extra holes, are easy to handle, and resistant to breakage.
Four to five large (3/4"-1") holes are the minimum necessary for adequate drainage. We don't recommend the "self watering" designs which can cause overly wet roots.
Select a pot that makes it easy to inspect your tree or repot if needed. Smooth tapered sides work the best. Avoid shapes that are narrow at the top or other designs that would impede the root ball from easily sliding out.
Do not put gravel in the bottom of the container. Shim the container off the tray or ground to allow the water to exit the container after watering.
Get comfortable repotting your tree and inspecting its roots. It doesn't harm the tree unless the roots are exposed to direct sun for an extended period, or are allowed to dry out.
Q How do I Transplant my Citrus Tree? A
As the tree grows larger it will be necessary to move it into a larger container. This is generally required every 12-16 months. You may see roots showing through the drainage holes when it is time to repot. If the tree is showing signs of decline, a quick and easy look at the roots will most often tell the story. Healthy roots grow healthy plants. Again, the choice of container will make the job much easier. Smooth tapered sides work the best. We allow the soil in the container to dry 2-3 days before planting. The soil ball holds together better.
The job is also easier with two people. Put the approximate amount of new soil in the bottom of the new container with 5 or more drainage holes Tip the container on its side, rotating to free the root / soil ball. Grasp trunk at soil line, tip the old pot down, and slide it off. Quickly support the root mass. Some root breakage is inevitable, so don't worry. The roots should be pale and firm, visible at the edge of the soil ball. Gently loosen bottom and outer roots with fingers, prune off dead or very dense, circling roots.
Put enough new potting soil mix in the bottom of the pot to raise the top roots to within 1"-2" of the lip of the pot. Holding the tree by the trunk at the desired height, add soil mix slowly around the perimeter gently poking with the fingers of the flat hand along the sides to support the root ball in the new pot. Water in to finish the transplant or inspection.
If overwatering caused root rot, the roots will be brown and slimy. If so, prune them back to firm, healthy tissue. Prune foliage to balance roots and top. Water more lightly than before and new roots should develop. Use Vitamin B-1 rooting tonic in the first few waterings if desired, to help fine feeder roots recover quicker. It will be a while before new foliage forms, as the roots will come first.
Transplanting One Year Trees
A six to eight inch diameter pot of the same depth or deeper is a good starter pot for the one year trees. As needed, you can move up to gradually larger pot sizes until you reach the maximum size you want to have. That way you are adding fresh soil with more nutrients each time you transplant. Make sure any pot used has adequate drainage. Avoid jumping to much larger pot sizes, since small root systems have limited capacity to absorb a given volume of soil moisture, and excessively large pots will predispose smaller root systems to over-wetness issues and root decline.
Transplanting Trees "Trapped" in Containers
If your tree is "trapped" in a container that makes it impossible to lift the tree out for repotting -- such as a rounded container that is wider in the middle than at the top -- you can try the following method to free your tree and freshen its soil or move it to a larger home. Simply turn the container on its side, and flush as much dirt as you can from the container (gently!) with a hose. Your end result will be an intact pot and a bare root tree! If you repot into a larger container, consider selecting a container that will make future transplanting easier.
Q What are the Best Citrus Varieties for Bonsai? A
Bonsai is the art of growing miniature tree specimens in very small containers. If you are interested in trying to grow citrus trees in bonsai form it is best to choose varieties that are naturally diminutive.
Some good variety choices include those with naturally small leaves and fruit, such as Nagami kumquat, Calamondin & Key Limes.
Q What are the Citrus Heat & Fruit Ripening Requirements? A
Citrus like sun! At least six hours of full sun per day is required. For best productivity provide 8 or more hours of full sun per day.
Of course, the sun is much hotter in some areas than in others, so the overall intensity of the sun will also play a role. As a general rule, sour fruits need less heat to ripen than sweet-fruited varieties. Here are some general guidelines by variety:
- Lemons and limes require the least heat to ripen, making them excellent choices for cool-summer areas.
- The Washington Navel orange has the highest frost tolerance of the sweet oranges. Washington is primarily grown in California's climate zones where there are cool winter nights followed by warm days to pump the sugars into the fruit.
- Grapefruits require intense, prolonged heat to ripen fully. (Heat causes pigmented grapefruits and pummelos to develop their distinctive red colors.) Grapefruit-pummelo hybrids like Oro Blanco are better suited to more moderate areas, sweetening in the San Francisco Bay Area and other coastal climates.
- Tangerines and kumquats require high heat for best flavor. Kumquats are among the most frost tolerant of all citrus.
- Keep in mind that all citrus fruits only ripen on the tree. Ripeness is best judged by sampling flavor, though rind color and time of year can also be good indicators.
Q What causes Excessive Production of Blooms & Fruit? A
Excessive blooming, or the production of many blossoms followed by leaf drop is often a sign of serious stress in citrus trees.
A tree that senses that it is "in trouble" will flower and set fruit excessively, putting all its energy into fruit production in a desperate effort to survive.
Usually the problem can be found below the soil surface. The possibilities range from root rot caused by overly wet root to overly dry, over fertilized or over heated soils. Be sure that trees are receiving at least 8 hours of full sun a day.
Potted trees may suffer from any of these conditions. A good first step is to tip the tree out of its container and inspect roots. If they are dry or rotting, remove dead root parts, match with equal pruning on the top of the tree, and repot with fresh, well-mixed soil. Monitoring moisture in the roots can help assure proper watering and prevent root stress.
To help determine the cause for trees planted in the ground, consider these other questions: Could the tree be wetter or drier than in previous years? Has the irrigation system changed? Has there been excavation or any other changes in the root zone? Did you switch to a different fertilizer regime? Is the sunlight reaching the tree still adequate?
Q Why are my lemons and Citrus Fruit still Green? A
All Citrus Fruit (Including Meyer Lemons) will be green for about 8-9 months after they bud. Then it will take an additional 2-3 months to fully ripen and turn to their respective color. The Meyer Lemon ripened fruit color of the yellowish/orangish tint happens in the last month of their maturation process. When it has that nice orange tint (that is when they are the sweetest) then it is ready to be harvested. Also, Citrus fruit only ripens on the vine and consequently, if picked still green it will stop the ripening process and will be more sour than normal.
Please be patient as mother nature moves at its own predetermined pace.
Q Why is my Citrus Fruit Deformed? A
Deformed fruit can be a sign of citrus bud mite infestation. Lemon trees seem to be particularly susceptible. The original damage occurs when the bud mite feeds on the tiny developing fruit. Damage becomes more obvious as the fruit grows.
Citrus bud mite, spider mites, citrus thrips and many other pests can be controlled by spraying light horticultural oil at the time that pests are present. Because ants will often encourage and protect pests, it is important to prevent ants from accessing citrus trees. Infestations can often be controlled by using targeted ant baits. Do not allow ants to nest in citrus pots.
Q Why is my tree Growing Oversized Leaves? A
If new leaf growth on your tree is much larger than the existing or original foliage, it may need additional sunlight. Trees grown indoors without a bright sunny window/grow lights, or trees grown in shady spots outdoors, will produce nice foliage but tend not to bloom and fruit as well as trees with adequate light.
Also, check to be sure that a rootstock sucker has not taken over. Often rootstock branches grow more vigorously and have larger leaves than those of the fruiting wood. Be sure to remove all growth below the graft union.
Q How can I treat Pest Issues & Other Ailments? A
Fortunately, citrus have few insect pests, and fungal problems are uncommon as well. Here are some tips for restoring your tree's health, should problems arise.
Pests, Ailments & Beneficial Insects
Having trouble identifying a problem with your citrus tree?
Keep your tree free of ants! They will farm scales or aphids, moving them from place to place, milking their secretions, and protecting them from beneficial insects. Commercial ant baits that contain boric acid or arsenical poisons can be helpful. Natural concoctions made at home can also work. You can make an insecticide spray that will also repel ants.
Other Harmful Insects (Scales, Aphids, Mites, etc.)
If you find harmful insects like scales, whitefly, aphids, or mites, a household spray bottle of water with some mild dish soap could be all you need. Use a soft toothbrush to scrub off scales if necessary. If insects persist, the usual nursery treatment is a 1% solution of light horticultural oil.
Choosing Insect Pest Treatments
Safer makes an aerosol product with Safer Soap and pyrethrin (a chrysanthemum derivative). Oils and soaps are available in nurseries or garden centers. With any treatment you use, spray the underside of the leaves as well, following the manufacturer's recommendations. Do not use stronger solutions! Repeat as needed to treat insects newly emerging from eggs. It is not advisable to spray when it is above 90°F or below 40°F, or if it is windy.
Particularly on plants that produce edible fruit, it is important to use all insecticides cautiously and sparingly. Try to avoid systemic insecticides, since they are moved throughout the plant, and residues may occur in the fruit.
Sticky substances are often the result of insect pests in the order Homoptera that excrete a sweet sticky substance called “honeydew.” Commonly, a secondary invader, a fungus called sooty mold, will colonize the honeydew exudates, giving affected leaves a blackish appearance. The insects causing the residues (usually aphids, whiteflies and scales) can sometimes be difficult to see, and the residues may remain after the pests have left the scene. Affected areas can be cleaned of with mild soapy water.
To monitor for pests, look on the underside of the leaves, on stems and in notches of branches. A hand lens can be helpful. A cotton swab moistened with rubbing alcohol or a soapy solution can be effective for cleaning off pests and sticky residues. Outside, hose off the tree thoroughly with water. If insects are still present, spray the tree with a solution of light horticultural oil or Safer soap according to manufacturer's directions. A soft toothbrush or thumbnail can help in dislodging scale insects.
Older trees may be afflicted by brown rot gummosis at the base of the trunk, caused by a soil fungus called Phytophthera. Typically, you will notice a sticky substance coming out of the tree's trunk. Weed eater and rodent damage can lead to gummy bark secretions. Keep the base of the trunk dry, and clear away any soil, mulch, grass, or weeds that might be holding moisture at the base. Trim away infected areas with a sharp (clean) knife, use tree seal to cover the wound and monitor for recurrence. Remove decayed bark to a point where no discoloration is visible. If water hits the trunk from sprinklers, that can trigger the fungus as well. Make sure water does not stand in a basin around the trunk during winter rains or after irrigating. Be sure to always clean pruners with alcohol or another antiseptic cleaner between uses to prevent disease spread among trees.
White Speckled Leaves
If the leaves on your tree are turning white, or if you see white 'polka dots,' your tree may have spider mites. They are very tiny, and difficult to see without a hand lens. They may be red or white. Spider mites suck the juices from leaf cells, causing leaves to bleach out. Spider mites can be controlled with soap and oil sprays, if the problem is discovered early. A very effective product for spider mite and other sucking insect control is Organic Orange TKO. This multi-purpose organic cleaner, used at the most dilute rate, will knock down mites and kill eggs. Be sure to monitor weekly to be ready for any pest recurrence. You may need to spray about every 10 days for three weeks to kill newly hatching eggs. Predaceous mites and many other beneficial organisms can be purchased.
Mite pests commonly appear on plants that are stressed. Stress factors for outdoor trees include excessive road dust. Mites thrive in dust! If possible, every two weeks or so, wash the dust off of tree foliage. Also, to keep trees healthy and stress free, be sure to feed your trees regularly, according to directions, with a good high nitrogen citrus fertilizer containing trace elements.
Spiders, lady beetles, lacewings, and preying mantids are some of the beneficials you may see around citrus trees outdoors. You can sometimes buy beneficial organisms, such as lady beetles at local nurseries.
Q What are Water Sprouts? A
In citrus, “Water Sprouts” as they are commonly called, are juvenile adventurous branches that shoot straight up and out of the canopy. They often have huge thorns and big leaves. This can be confusing as they often mimic “root suckers” in their growth habit and appearance but there are several vital distinctions to help you identify each type.
Always locate and become familiar with the graft or bud union on the trunk of the tree. This is where the rootstock is grafted to the fruiting wood or scion or varietal. ANY growth on or below the scar of the graft is a rootstock sucker and should be removed. If left to grow, it steals vitality from the fruit bearing upper part of the tree. Root suckers will have big leaves and big thorns like a water sprout. Often the leaves are a slightly different color and/or shape than the above- the-graft leaves.
Water sprouts originate from above the graft. They can and will bear fruit in time.
The thorns can be pruned off and will not re-grow. This is a genetic trait to protect the tree from marauding grazing animals. That would be you. Water sprouts can be pruned at any time to shape and form. Feel free to head them back or thin them out. Keep in mind they can and will bear fruit in the future, the weight of the fruit will bend and shape them into the rounded citrus form.
Q What causes Leaf, Bloom & Fruit Drop & Twig Die Back? A
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. Excessive fruit drop accompanied by splitting fruit is the result of too much water uptake.
Leaf Drop/Twig Dieback
Leaf drop and twig dieback can be caused by lack of light. Citrus trees need a minimum of 6 hours of full sun to grow. If growing indoors, it's possible that your trees will do better with a grow light for the winter. A sudden change in lighting or humidity can cause problems, so be sure to move your tree gradually from one spot to another, or from inside to out.
If your tree receives adequate light, and experiences leaf drop, improper watering is probably the culprit. A lack of water can cause the tree to dry out and lose leaves, while excessive watering can cause the roots to rot, so that they lose the ability to take water and nutrients up to the leaves. If you modify watering to provide even moisture, often the tree will recover, albeit slowly. A moisture meter is useful to be certain that watering is necessary, and can help you develop an appropriate watering schedule.
Should your tree lose all its leaves, don't despair. You can prune it back lightly to help push new growth; then, with improved growing conditions (adequate light, correct watering) it should recover. Remember also to feed regularly with a good citrus fertilizer (3:1:1 ratio or similar).
Check your tree regularly for pests. Severe infestations of scale insects, or mites can cause defoliation. Regular monitoring will help you to take action in time, before severe stress (defoliation) occurs.
Q What causes Yellowing Leaves on Citrus Trees? A
Yellowing foliage usually indicates either a lack of fertilizer or overwatering. Continued overwatering will cause root tips to rot, rendering the tree unable to take up nutrients. Total defoliation can result if the problem is not corrected.
Cut back on watering to the recommended rates, and be sure tofertilize properly.
Citrus are heavy feeders and require a constant steady source of Nitrogen, especially to look good and be productive. Make sure you fertilize regularly according to label directions with a quality citrus/avocado fertilizer. Make sure the ratio of any fertilizer you use has a higher amount of Nitrogen, relative to the other two elements. A 3:1:1 or 4:1:1 (N:P:K) fertilizer, plus trace elements is ideal.
For lemon trees in particular, some yellowing and drop of interior leaves is normal. Lemon trees can grow very vigorously, and benefit from some judicious pruning to keep them bushy. New branches will form where you cut.
Q Why does my Citrus Tree have Curling Leaves? A
If the leaves on your dwarf citrus are curling, there are three common possibilities:
- Some insect pests will cause some leaf curl. In spring, aphids might do this on soft new leaves. Look inside the curl for presence of insects. If none are present, consider 2 or 3 below.
- Underwatering can cause leaves to curl or cup INWARD. Also, stress from very hot weather will cause leaf cupping
- Sometimes leaves will cup DOWNWARD in the late fall or early winter. This is not a problem to worry about, as the new growth will come out with normal shaped leaves in the spring.
Q Why isn't my tree Producing Fruit? A
There are a number of possible reasons:
- Is the tree growing in the shade or indoors? Light is essential for fruit production. Foliage growth can occur in the shade, but leaves will tend to be larger than normal and shoots longer than normal. At least six hours of full sun a day is required. Provide 8 or more hours of sun per day for optimal fruit production.
- If your tree grows at a rapid rate and has for years, it's possible that a rootstock sucker has taken over.
- Have there been blooms on the tree that haven't set fruit, or small fruit that haven't developed to maturity?
Also, be sure to supply appropriate fertilizer and water.