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Citrus Tree Care in Containers

Even if you can’t grow Citrus in your backyard, you can grow them in pots.
Growing your very own citrus fruit is no longer dedicated to those who live in the sunny south, but can be enjoyed by everyone throughout the United States. Growers in colder regions can now happily benefit enjoying potted citrus trees, so it's no longer just the fruits and vegetables in northern climates, now growing your favorite citrus in containers is gaining popularity.

Growing essential crops like oranges, lemons, satsumas, kumquats, and limes add versatility to the home with pleasant fresh citrus fragrance and beauty for years to come.
Citrus trees are especially suited for container growing as they can be kept at manageable sizes. Whether you have the everbearing Meyer lemon, Persian lime or a sweet orange variety, you’ll enjoy the health benefits of your home-grown fresh fruit.
Whether it's growing the lemons for lemon juice for lemonade, or a source of vitamins using the outer rind for lemon peel in recipes, or for freshly squeezed orange juice to build the immune system to fight the common cold, growing citrus trees can be a unique thrilling undertaking.
Trees planted in decorative pots are attractive on a patio or an apartment balcony.
When blooming and fruiting, the appealing eye-catching colors of orange, yellow and greens are sure to please. The scent of spice or hints of citric acid fill the air with rich and robust fragrances that create nature's aromatherapy, plus the added benefits of making lemon oils or other essential oils, growing citrus trees are a uniquely delightful experience.

WHEN THE TREE ARRIVES:

Remove the plastic bag around the container pot and if the soil looks very wet then do not water.
If dry do the deep watering method. (directions below)
Do not transplant the tree until you've had the tree for 2 weeks.
If the temperatures at night are above 40 degrees, your tree can be placed outside in partial sunlight for the first week.  If you purchased an Avocado please place the tree in the morning sun only.
This allows the tree to get acclimated to its new environment. After a week or so, the tree may be placed in full sun. (except avocados)


INDOOR TREES

DO NOT PLACE TREE NEAR HEAT SOURCE OR HEAT VENTS
DO NOT WATER WITH COLD WATER IN THE WINTER
Tap water comes out of the tap a lot colder in the winter, this can damage your tree
Indoor trees are already in partial sunshine, move it to a sunny window. You can supply additional lighting immediately.
The tree needs 6-8 hours of full sun. Add lamps for extra lighting as needed. Indoor lighting should be on 10 hours daily.
When receiving the tree it is important to use a tape barrier immediately. Please protect your investment.
Directions for using a tape barrier are in the pest section below.

If you purchased the 1-2-year-old tree and the tree is in a Citra-pot (tall slim pot) do not place the tree in full 8 hours of sunshine (outdoors) until the tree is transplanted into a larger pot. These younger trees need to be repotted in 2 weeks.
Citra-pots dry out very fast, so please check these trees with a moisture meter daily.

If there is a problem with the order DO NOT THROW AWAY THE BOX AND PACKING MATERIAL
Call us immediately at  866-216-TREE (8733)  
We expect small breakage to the tree, nothing can prevent a few small limbs from being broken.
Our growers will do their best not to prune a tree that doesn't fit perfectly inside the box.
All trees grow differently so we do our best not to prune branches that might snap in shipment. If we automatically prune the tree before shipment, you'll lose the growth so we do our best to avoid it.
When reporting breakage we do not need to know about small things like a few leaves or a loss of fruit or small breakage, those are expected. What you should report is any major damage done to the tree.
    

RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS
We have a list of recommended products to help make things easier located HERE
Or you can click on any of the products listed below. 

RE-POTTING

Do not re-pot your tree for the first two weeks. This gives the tree time to adjust to its new environment. 
When re-potting you can double the size of the pot, but do not go beyond a 10 gallon.
Do not plant the trees in fabric pots.
Trees need to be in pots that have sturdy sides, soil shifts around during watering, and fabric is pliable and pliable pots can cause a tree to fall out of the pot tearing the rootball apart.
Never plant trees in cloth pots.

1-2-year-old tree - 3 gallon - 10-inch pot ( 11 liters)
2-3-year-old tree 5-7 gallon, 12 to 14-inch pot  (15 - 19 liter)
3-4 and 4-5-year-old trees- 10 gallons 16-inch pot (22.5 liter)

You can plant any tree into a 10-gallon as long as you use a meter when watering.
When repotting do not transplant using stones in the bottom of the pot or use stones on top as a decoration, this will cause a drainage issue and lock moisture into the pot which will cause root rot.
Do not use self-watering pots or globes.
Do not use pots with the drainage tray attached to the pot. 
When choosing a pot for transplanting if you don't see holes on the sides or on the bottom, it's the wrong type of pot.
SOIL
We recommend using commercially available potting mixes. Miracle-Gro Palm, Cactus, Citrus soil is a soil mix that is lightweight and drains well.
Rosebush garden soil mixes (formulated for outside use) work well.


DO NOT BURY ROOT CROWN!



ROOT CROWN AREA- Burying the root crown will rot the tree from the root system.  

POTTING SOIL:
We recommend outdoor potting soil WITHOUT wetting agents. When repotting your tree, make sure you do NOT bury the root crown with soil.
A good potting mix is Cactus Palm and Citrus potting mix. You may double the size of the pot the tree came in, but DO NOT put a small tree in a pot that is too large. Maintaining proper moisture levels during watering and fertilizing becomes much more difficult if the pot is too large. The container should have good drainage holes in the bottom. For the older trees, a 10-gallon pot is the recommended size and the 10-gallon is for the life of the tree.

THE GRAFT
The arrow shows growth below the graft.
Growth below the graft will kill the tree eventually.

WATERING:

Citrus Trees prefer infrequent, deep watering. Generally, once a week is all that is needed.
We strongly recommend utilizing a Moisture Meter before watering, because once a week can still be too much moisture for a container-grown, indoor tree.

A simple moisture meter takes the guesswork out of watering.
We recommend a meter that reads from 1-10. The tree requires the deep watering method 



 


DEEP WATERING METHOD

Citrus trees will die if they don't have the basic requirements and the biggest mistake made is incorrect watering.

1. Check the tree with a moisture meter before watering.
2. The prong should be deep into the pot.
3. Only water when the meter reads 4 (for a meter that reads from 1-10)
4. All trees require deep watering. Deep watering is drenching the soil until water pours from the holes at the bottom of the pot.
5. Watering with a few cups of water is not acceptable, this will cause deep roots to die. Never be stingy with the water when the tree needs to be watered.
6. Once the tree has been watered properly, check the soil with the moisture meter again to make sure the meter reads high, about 9 or 10, then do not water again until the meter reads 4.
7. In the winter you will water far less, like twice a month for indoor trees. (But always check the tree with a meter weekly because this can vary)
8. The meter should never be left in the pot when not in use.
9. DO NOT WATER WITH SOFT WATER  salt from  a water softener is detrimental.

HIGH SUMMER TEMPERATURES
There is only 1 exception to the deep watering method.
If temperatures are 90's and above you may find that your meter reads 10 showing the tree does not need to be watered. If you see leaves curling up like a canoe shape or wilting leaves that are limp looking and your prong is deep into the soil and it reads 10, water the top of the soil regardless of your meter reading. The top portion of your soil has a fine root system and due to high temperatures, the topsoil is drying too fast. The tree will tell you what it needs, so watch the foliage in high temps.


NEVER ALLOW TREE TO SIT IN STANDING WATER
A space between the bottom of the pot and a Catch Tray is required otherwise the tree is not being watered correctly (indoors) without a proper set-up you'll have to move the tree around just to deal with drainage water when using the deep watering method. Never allow the pot to sit in standing water.


PLANTING OUTDOORS:
If you live in planting zones 9 or 10, your tree can be planted outdoors. (A larger tree may arrive without a grower's container in California or Florida) 
DO NOT PLANT IN ZONES BELOW USDA ZONE 9. Planting in lower zones will void the warranty of your tree.
You can check your zone on the link, by entering your zip code:
http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/


LIGHTING FOR INDOOR TREES
Good lighting is a requirement for all citrus. Green leaf drop is the #1 problem caused by a lack of light. We recommend a compact fluorescent light (CFL) 5000k grow bulbs, which is a full spectrum bulb that promotes overall plant growth. This should be screwed into a reflector, so the light is directed onto the tree and not used just as a bulb in a standard lamp or overhead light. Without the reflector, the light is too dissipated to be of much use. The lights can be purchased as a full set, bulb with the reflector at :
https://www.acfgreenhouses.com/green-thumb-clamp-on-grow-light.aspx


Green Thumb Clamp-on Grow Light
ITEM #: 5605160

The AFC greenhouses have the drop-down menu tab in the link. Make sure the 5000K is chosen before ordering.

 

The grow lights should be left on a minimum of 10-12 hours.
DO NOT BUY JUST ANY LIGHTING! 
The light bulb needs to be in a reflector

The bulb needs to be full-spectrum
The bulb needs to be at least 2650 lumens or higher.
If you purchase lighting that is NOT full-spectrum with high lumens the tree will drop green leaves.
In that event,  you'll need to upgrade the lighting.

WARNING

Many customers through the years have attempted to purchase lighting and still have a problem with leaf drop. Please be warned, Do not attempt to provide just any plant light, Citrus trees have particular needs, so be careful when purchasing lighting, otherwise you'll end up with a continuing leaf-drop problem. If the tree is still dropping a lot of foliage, it's likely the lighting is useless.
You need full spectrum (5000K-or higher) and high lumens (2650 or higher) which will help the tree flourish in the winter, not just get by.

If the tree gets good sunshine and the sunshine is shining directly on the tree a few hours every day, then you may be able to turn the lights off after 8 hours.
When lighting is supplemented, turn lights off at night. Plants require day and night.




I HIGHLY recommend Dyna-Gro it helps plants thrive in low light environments and that is exactly the concern in the winter.  



WASH TREE WHEN TAKING INSIDE FOR THE WINTER
Pour dawn dish soap into a dishpan with warm water (like you are washing dishes)
add washcloth and toothbrush and go through each branch washing -top and underside of each leaf.
Treat with Neem Oil and add a tape barrier

WATCH TREE CAREFULLY IN SPRING/ FALL AND WINTER
Before taking the tree indoors for the winter completely wash the tree (directions are in the pest section)
Very important to use a tape-barrier on the tree in the winter for indoor trees.
When the weather fluctuates between warm and cold in the fall, winter, and early spring, it is important to watch the tree when it is inside.
Warm weather that suddenly changes to a cold front can cause spider mites to enter your home and set up camp at the food source, your tree. It's always a good idea to have a Tape Barrier.
Pest Guide- http://lemoncitrustree.com/store/pest-disease

FERTILIZING SCHEDULE (CITRUS ONLY)- Includes Avocado and Miracle Plant
Do not use these products on fruit trees (Look under the Fruit tree recommended fertilizers)

I highly recommend Dyna-Gro Foliage Pro. This product helps plants thrive and has nutrients that other fertilizers may not have enough of. I use this product as a foliar spray,  although you can also water the tree with it. The great thing about this product is when using it as a foliage spray, it goes straight to the tree within days, so you don't have to wait to water and feeding through the root system of the tree takes time for nutrients to break down.

When fertilizing with any of the recommended products, keep in mind that the directions on the bag of fertilizer are directions for trees that are planted in the ground, not for container-grown trees, so be careful not to use too much fertilizer at one time for a potted tree.
When using Fertilome Fruit, Citrus, and Pecan Tree Food, be careful not to use too much of this product due to its high ratio of nitrogen. The ratio is 19-10-5 so it's a great product to use occasionally. Normally when using the high nitrogen Fertilome Fruit, Citrus, and Pecan Food I'll wait a month and then switch to something that is not so high in nitrogen, such as  Espoma Citrus Tone or Fish Emulsion.
Occasionally I'll add Bone Meal mixing a quarter cup to one gallon of water and water the tree with the mixture.  Bone meal will cause the tree to grow and bloom, so it is important to know bloom times.
For Orange trees, a good time to use the bone meal mixture is mid-February if your tree is indoors and protected from freezing temperatures. Don't overuse bone meal due to the tree's need for nitrogen. Citrus are heavy nitrogen feeders, and bone meal has phosphorus.
Whenever you use bone meal you must supply a nitrogen fertilizer within a few weeks or within a month.
Sometimes I'll mix equal parts of bone meal and Blood Meal together (2 tablespoons of each) to 1 gallon of water and water the tree with the mixture since blood meal is a nitrogen product.
If you are feeding an orange tree,  I would simply use the quarter cup of just the bone meal in February and then in a month use a nitrogen product. This way the tree gets the boost of phosphorus for growth and blooming.

Orange trees bloom between February through May so the bone meal will give it the boost it needs to bloom just keep in mind it is important to make sure you feed the tree nitrogen fertilizer thereafter so the tree has plenty of nitrogen to produce and grow the fruit.

Although I have recommended quite a few fertilizers, you can just pick a few of them and add to your stock over time. Dyna-Gro would be at the top of the list.

If you ordered the smallest tree then I would transplant the tree after 2 weeks into a larger pot before starting a fertilizing schedule.

A high nitrogen fertilizer like Fertilome Fruit, Citrus Pecan Food is a good product but be careful when using it for a potted tree, you don't want to use too much with the ratio of 19 on the nitrogen.
(3 gallons pots) 1 teaspoon every other month
(7 gallons pots) 1 tablespoon every other month
(10 gallons pots) 2 tablespoons every other month.

On the months you skip you can choose  Blood Meal, Fish Emulsion or Citrus Tone so you'll be feeding the tree something monthly, just use the same ratio above for the pot sizes, the Fish Emulsion needs to be diluted in water.
I try to give the trees some variety.
Also, please keep in mind, your tree is trapped in a pot, like a fish in a fishbowl and it cannot get nutrients unless you provide them. 

For trees planted in the ground please follow directions on the bag and if your winter is cold stop fertilizing in mid-September.
DO NOT USE FERTILIZER SPIKES FOR POTTED CITRUS!
Fertilizer spikes can burn a tree's root system.

FRUIT TREES- DO NOT WATER WITH MIRACLE-GRO
Do not use the Fruit, Citrus and Pecan Tree Food On These Trees

Fig: https://lemoncitrustree.com/store/fig-tree-care
Mulberry https://lemoncitrustree.com/store/mulberry-tree-care
Olive: https://lemoncitrustree.com/store/olive-tree-care
Persimmon: https://lemoncitrustree.com/store/persimmon-tree-care
Pomegranate: https://lemoncitrustree.com/store/pomegranate-care

Use an even number like 10-0-10 Fertilizer for all fruit trees in February and September for trees.
Do not over-fertilize fruit trees.
For trees planted in the ground follow the directions on the bag, make sure freezing temperatures have passed.
 

EASY SET-UP IDEAS FOR INDOOR CITRUS TREES

Purchasing Catch Trays and a Small Plant Stand is helpful for trees indoors, even if you have the tree still in a small pot. eventually, you’ll need larger trays.  As your tree grows, you'll be transplanting into larger pots, eventually, you’ll need the larger trays.
To save money, I would recommend a tray that can hold a lot of water and the tray in the photo can hold over a gallon.

Catch Tray with Plant Stand

After doing the deep watering method, the water pours from the holes in the bottom of the pot. 
When the trees are placed outside for the spring and summer, the trays can be cleaned and stacked one upon another to make storage easy, until you need them again in the fall/winter.
Having the plant stands situated inside of the trays will make watering so much easier, without the worry of the bottom of the pots sitting in standing water.

ADVANTAGES 

- Prevents the trees from sitting in standing water
- Prevents overfill if you water with a gallon of water
- Prevents having to move trees around, just to water.
- Durable, lightweight and stackable for easy storage.

Remember you will probably water far less in the winter than you do in the summer.
Normally I water a few times a month when following the fertilizer recipe.
It is very important to rely on a Moisture Meter.


PESTS

REPORT TREE CARE ISSUES IMMEDIATELY! (see warranty terms)
If at any point during the life of the tree you experience tree care issues such as
Green leaf drop

Sticky leaves
Branch die-back
The tree is in serious stress and it must be corrected.


Do not just spray soapy water to drown pests.
Spraying soapy water is not fixing the massive problem of honeydew.  Honeydew is a sweet, sticky liquid that plant-sucking insects excrete as they ingest large quantities of sap from a plant. Eventually, if the honeydew isn’t washed off, fungi will begin to grow which is sooty mold. Sooty mold will damage the plant by coating the leaves so it reduces photosynthesis, which can stunt plant growth and cause leaf drop and in severe cases branch die-back.
It is VERY IMPORTANT you use a washcloth to remove honeydew and sooty mold because it is very hard to remove - the foliage has to be wiped off until the leaf is clean.

  1. Squirt Dawn dish soap into a dishpan with warm water, make sure your solution is nice and sudsy.
  2. Pick one branch and start washing the top and bottom of leaves with a washcloth. Pay attention to the bottom of the leaf, this is where most eggs and pests will be found. Also, pay attention to any distorted leaves. Some aphid species inject a toxin into plants, which causes leaves to curl and distort.
  3. Use a toothbrush in crevices that the cloth can’t reach.
  4. Once the tree is completely washed, treat the top and underside of leaves with Neem Oil.
  5.  Wrap Masking Tape above or below the graft area.
  6.  Add Tanglefoot the tape, this is a barrier to keep crawling pests from gaining an access point to your foliage.

CREATING A TAPE BARRIER:
There are a few simple preventative measures that can help considerably in pest infestation. Creating a tape barrier is an effective way of keeping your tree pest free.

Make sure to prevent the tree’s foliage from touching the walls or decks. Even with the use of a tape barrier a pest could access the foliage from the wall or the deck.



Tape Barrier

 TAPE BARRIER:

Tape barriers are simple to create with just a few products.
Obtain Tree Tanglefoot and wide Masking Tape.

Tape the tree snug and add tanglefoot wiping it on the tape only.
When changing the tape barrier you should wash the area where the tape was located and place the tape in a different area.

Tangle Foot

An effective preventative for fungus gnats and other pests that reside in the soil is Diatomaceous Earth. Please be certain that the product is labeled FOOD GRADE. 

Diatomaceous earth sprinkled on top of the soil has a consistency of flour. It kills pests by dehydration and is nontoxic to humans. Diatomaceous earth consists of fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. The diatoms in each deposit contain different amounts of silica. The soft body parts of any pest living in the soil are cut and they die from dehydration when they crawl across the surface of the soil.

Sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the top of the soil half an hour after watering to prevent fungus gnats and their larvae.


Warranty Terms
If at any point you are having issues with your tree,  you are required to contact us immediately for help in caring for your tree.
During your 3 year warranty period you are entitled to one replacement if your tree dies when cared for under proper recommended conditions (this means you are responsible for poor care of your tree if you do not contact us when there is a problem the warranty will be void when the tree is dead. Please follow our instructions sent with the tree, on our website or contact us directly with any questions or concerns you have)

DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE TREE IS DEAD TO CONTACT US.
 We make every effort to help customers that are having problems and sending us a photo of a tree that has expired without contacting us to get help voids the warranty.
Please contact us immediately for tree care issues at 866-216-TREE (8733)
https://lemoncitrustree.com/store/terms


Please do not hesitate to call or email us if we can assist you further.
Visit our blog on Recommended Products 

Kindest regards, 
Nancy

Lemon Citrus Tree
866-216-TREE (8733)