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Growing Citrus in the Ground

Citrus trees work extraordinarily well in most any landscape, offering beautiful evergreen foliage, lovely (and fragrant) blossoms, and colorful fruit.
Growing citrus trees in the ground can be immensely rewarding, and it naturally produces the biggest and most vigorous specimens. However, before planting a citrus tree in the ground, you must determine whether or not the location you have in mind will provide a suitable home for your new citrus tree.

Planting Zones
Our Citrus can be planted in USDA growing zones 9-11 only.
Trees that are planted in the ground that experience freezing temperatures above zone 8 need protection in unusual inclement weather.
Planting in the wrong hardiness planting zone will void the warranty.
Planting zones- https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/

Planting In The Ground
1. Do not plant a new tree in a space where an old tree had died, the soil may be contaminated and create problems for your new tree. Mature Avocado trees can grow to a height of 20-30 feet tall, so choose your planting site carefully.
2. The location should be chosen that is sunny, protected from wind and a well-draining area. Avocado trees will not thrive in heavy clay soils. For heavy clay soils, the tree should be planted in a raised bed.
3. Place the potted tree in a chosen location for 2 weeks and allow the tree to acclimate to the area before you plant in the ground.
4. Dig a hole double the width of the root ball or double the size of the pot and fill with water and wait 24 hours.
5. Fill the hole with water again. If water has drained from the hole within an hour this area has good drainage and the tree can be planted.
6. If the area has bad drainage choose another area. Avocado trees are susceptible to root rot and need to be planted in good drainage areas.
7. Add a mixture of compost and well-draining soil into the hole and remove the tree from the pot.
8. Place tree in the hole. DO NOT allow the tree to drop down into the hole-The soil line of the tree should be above the existing soil grade approximate1-2 inches above the existing grade.
9. Do not bury the root-crown with soil or mulch. A photo of the root crown can be found here  - https://lemoncitrustree.com/store/pest-disease
10. Keep other plants away from the tree.  Having a 5-foot circumference around the trunk will ensure the tree is not robbed of moisture and nutrients.
Planting more than one tree can help in cross-pollination.

Size
Our Citrus trees  are all grafted on cold-hardy rootstocks that are perfect for container growing. If planted in the ground our trees can be expected to reach “Semi-Dwarf” size – up to around 16-20 feet in height, depending upon variety. In a pot, the trees will stay much smaller, especially with judicious pruning. Standard size citrus trees, available at Florida, Texas or California nurseries, are best suited for growing in the ground and can be expected to get much taller – up to 25 feet, depending on variety. Be sure to provide more space in the ground for standard size trees. Generally, a tree needs a 12-14 foot diameter space.

Location
A sunny, frost and wind-free location with southern exposure are best. (If in doubt, leave the tree in its plastic container and place it in the spot you have in mind. Water as needed, and after a week or two, you should be able to tell if the tree is acclimating to the area.
Reflected heat from sidewalks, walls, driveways, or other structures can help to create a warmer "microclimates." Avoid planting citrus trees in lawns that get frequent, shallow sprinklings.
Don't crowd your tree, it will need room for its eight-ten foot ultimate diameter. The root system can reach far beyond the drip line.
 
Soil
Citrus trees are famous for tolerating a wide variety of soils, including clay. However, good drainage is essential, as citrus trees can't survive standing water for long. To test your drainage, dig a hole 30" deep where you would like to place the tree. Fill with water to saturate the soil. The next day refill it with water. Your drainage is OK if the water level drops 2" in two hours. If the water does not drain well, plant your tree in a raised bed and then amend the soil as described in the following paragraph.
Soils rich in humus are best. For heavy or poor soils, we recommend digging a large hole and filling it back in, half with the best of the original soil, and half with a good-quality amendment mix. Plant the root ball high to allow it room to settle over time. Crown roots should remain visible just above the soil line.
 
Planting In The Ground
1. Do not plant a new tree in a space where an old tree had died, the soil may be contaminated and create problems for your new tree. Mature Citrus trees can grow to a height of 20-25 feet tall, so choose your planting site carefully.
2. The location should be chosen that is sunny, protected from wind and a well-draining area.
3. Place the potted tree in a chosen location for 2 weeks and allow the tree to acclimate to the area before you plant in the ground.
4. Dig a hole double the width of the root ball or double the size of the pot and fill with water and wait 24 hours.
5. Fill the hole with water again. If water has drained from the hole within an hour this area has good drainage and the tree can be planted.
6. If the area has bad drainage choose another area. Citrus trees are susceptible to root rot and need to be planted in good drainage areas.
7. Add a mixture of compost and well-draining soil into the hole and remove the tree from the pot.
8. Place tree in the hole. DO NOT allow the tree to drop down into the hole-The soil line of the tree should be above the existing soil grade approximate1-2 inches above the existing grade.
9. Do not bury the root-crown with soil or mulch. A photo of the root crown can be found here  - https://lemoncitrustree.com/store/pest-disease
10. Keep other plants away from the tree.  Having a 5-foot circumference around the trunk will ensure the tree is not robbed of moisture and nutrients.

Planting more than one tree can help in cross-pollination. Stake the tree as needed until well-established. Green plant ties are a good choice for tying trees to stakes.
Citrus trees are best planted during the active growing season. In summer it is best to plant in the early morning hours when temperatures are cool to moderate. Try to keep the roots out of the sun as much as possible. Water thoroughly after transplanting. If desired, use a solution of Vitamin B-1 Rooting Tonic in the first few irrigations to help fine feeder roots recover more quickly. You may wish to pinch off fruit and blossoms for the first year or two after a new planting to encourage stronger root and branch development.
 
Watering
Consistency is the key with citrus watering! As with so many plants, citrus trees like soil that is moist but never soggy. How often to water will vary, depending on soil porosity, tree size, and temperature. Allowing the top of the soil to dry slightly is OK. A simple moisture meter, available at garden supply stores, can be used to determine moisture down to about a 9” depth.
Water when the meter moisture level read 4 ( for a meter that goes from 1-10)
Never leave the meter in the ground or pot, to keep it functioning properly
 
A wilted tree that perks up within 24 hours after watering indicates the roots got too dry. Adjust the 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 that case, water less frequently.
In the ground, citrus trees prefer deep watering. Creating a watering basin around the drip-line of the tree can aid in deep watering. As the tree grows, be sure to expand the basin as needed to keep it as wide as the spread of the branches. Deeper watering promotes deeper root growth and strengthens your tree. Generally, once-a-week watering works well for in-ground plantings. Be sure to adjust based on weather conditions!

Fertilizing
Citrus trees feed heavily on nitrogen. Your fertilizer should have more nitrogen (N) than phosphorous (P) or potassium (K). Use at least a 2-1-1 ratio.
In some regions, you may be able to find specialized citrus/avocado fertilizers. Any good citrus formula will contain trace minerals like iron, zinc, and manganese. Many all-purpose and commercial organic products will work.
Never use fertilizer stakes for a tree planted in a pot, fertilizer stakes can burn fine root fibers.
Fertilizers come in different strengths, release rates, and application schedules, so follow package instructions carefully. We recommend that you fertilize more often than recommended due to nutrients getting washed out of the pot when watering.
Yellowing leaves indicate lack of fertilizer, overwatering, or pest infestation.

For fertilizing suggestions -  https://lemoncitrustree.com/store/citrus-blog/2015/08/11/feeding-recipe-for-a-happy-tree/
Any good citrus formula will contain trace minerals like iron, zinc, and manganese. Many all-purpose products will work. Just add trace mineral supplements if your fertilizer is deficient. We prefer slow release fertilizers in the granular form rather than fertilizer stakes. Follow rates on the package carefully as fertilizers come in different strengths, release rates, and application schedules. We recommend that you fertilize more often than recommended with most slow release fertilizers. Foliar applications of trace minerals in the form of kelp or other soluble fertilizers can be effective. Yellowing leaves indicate lack of fertilizer or poor drainage.
Commercial organic fertilizers can work well for citrus trees. Lily Miller, Dr. Earth and a number of other companies now sell Organic tree fertilizer formulations. Supplement granular applications with foliar sprays of fish emulsion and kelp. Some people brew compost ‘teas’ which can be helpful when applied to plant roots.

Mulching
Use mulch for ground planted trees only.
Maintain a 3-4 inch layer of mulch around the tree to retain soil moisture and improve soil quality.
Apply the mulch in the spring and fall under the canopy of the tree.
Avoid piling mulch against the trunk of the tree.
The tree trunk needs air circulation, without circulation, the truck could rot away from the root ball so avoid piling soil and mulch close to the root crown and tree truck.
Liberal use of mulches will conserve precious water and help inhibit weed growth. Keep all mulches at least six inches away from the base of the trunk.

Graft
Know where the graft union is on your tree. It can usually be seen as a diagonal scar a branch outset or a knobby area between four and eight inches from the soil. Remove all shoot growth below the graft.
Growth below the graft will take vitality from the tree. Important to remove them as soon as they are observed, left to grow they will eventually kill the tree.
Photo of Graft here- https://lemoncitrustree.com/store/pest-disease

Thorns
Juvenile fruiting wood will sometimes have thorns; this is a young tree's way of defending against grazing animals. As the tree matures, thorns will not appear as often. Prune off thorns if desired.

Pruning and Espaliering
Citrus may be pruned as desired to achieve the look you want. Pruning is fine any time of year, except in the winter for outdoor trees. Pinching back tips of new growth can help trees to maintain a round form, without impacting future fruit.
Citrus will look fuller with occasional pruning to shape leggy branches. Very leggy branches can indicate the need for more light (etiolation).
Some trees may develop erratic juvenile growth above the graft. Don’t be afraid to completely prune off an erratic branch if it is too irregular or crossing another branch. Other fruitful branches will replace it. Any growth above the graft can eventually bear fruit. Well-pruned trees have higher fruit yields and are less prone to branch breakage.
Espaliering Citrus trees can be trained fairly easy to grow on trellises. Simply use green garden ties to hold branches in place and prune to encourage desired branching patterns. Select specimens with an open growth habit that will most closely match with your intended espalier design.

Pest Insects
Pest prevention is a necessity with trees that produce food.
Insects are attracted to food and your tree is a sweet source of food for scales, aphids, or mites etc.
If your tree is infested with a pest you must wash your tree with Dawn dish soap and warm water, scrubbing with a washcloth.  Make sure the top-side and underside of leaves are completely washed and scrubbed of sooty mold and cleansed of any sticky substance. You can use a toothbrush in hard to reach areas, such as a crevice at the Y part of a branch.
Treat the tree once it is clean with a horticultural oil or neem oil.
It is IMPORTANT that the honeydew is removed from branches and foliage because it is the honeydew that will eventually kill the tree.

Pollination
Citrus are self-pollinating, even indoors. Some people enjoy pollinating their trees and can do so by using a small soft brush or cotton swab to transfer pollen among the flowers.
 
Beneficial Insects
Spiders, lady beetles, lacewings, and praying mantids (praying mantis) are just some of the beneficial critters you may see around citrus trees outdoors. You can even buy some predator insects in local nurseries for release in your garden.

Cold Temperatures
Even temperate locations can drop below freezing, so it's good to have a plan of action ready. Old fashioned Christmas lights (that produce some heat) can be effective, either alone or in combination with frost covers. Anti-transpirant sprays such as ‘Cloud Cover’ can also be effective when used according to directions. Straw mulches, cloth covers, and even plastic sheeting can be combined as needed to provide the necessary level of protection.

Please contact us at support@lemoncitrustree.com or call if you need assistance.

Lemon Citrus Tree
866-216-TREE (8733)