Growing Citrus in Pots

  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate
Growing Citrus in Pots

Imagine being able to pick fresh lemons, limes and oranges right from your patio!

Thanks to advances in plant breeding, you can find several different dwarf and semi-dwarf fruit trees that grow well in pots. Although these trees can grow up to 10 to 12 feet tall in the ground, the plants stay smaller in containers.

These dwarf trees allow you to move them indoors in the winter, and back outdoors again in warmer weather. Above is a Minneola Tangelo tree, which is a mix between a grapefruit and a tangerine tree.

You can purchase dwarf and semi-dwarf citrus trees from mail order catalogs, online companies or local independent garden centers. Typically, they are sold as bare root plants.

1. Soak the roots in water overnight to rehydrate the plant before moving into a container.

2. Select a container with several drainage holesand enough room to allow the plant’s root system to grow. Don’t make the pot too large, or it will be more difficult to control the soil moisture.

3. Repot your citrus tree about every 3 years. Use a good quality potting mix, not regular gardening soil.  Avoid soils with fertilizers already added. Feed the soil yourself with fertilizers designed for citrus, and follow directions carefully.

A Rangpur citrus tree gets watered with Fiskars Easy Pour watering can.

Dwarf citrus trees grow best with 8 or more hours of sun, with some wind protection.  Water citrus trees so the soil is moist, but never soggy.  Often yellow leaves are a sign that the tree has excessive water and soggy roots. Consider buying a water meter, so you can maintain proper moisture levels.

In climates that freeze, move your citrus tree indoors for winter. Gradually prepare the tree by letting it sit in a shadier place for a couple weeks before moving it indoors. (Reverse the process in the spring, when gradually bringing the tree back out.)

Indoors, place your citrus tree in a sunny window with southern or western exposure. Add grow lights if you receive less than 6 hours of light daily. Be sure to keep the tree away from heating vents.

Meyer lemon tree pruned with Fiskars PowerGear Pruner.

Pruning citrus trees with a bypass pruner encourages growthand allows you to maintain a nice shape. You can prune throughout the year, except in the winter for outdoor plants.

If you live in a moderate climate, and there’s a chance of an unexpected frost, wait until the danger has passed before pruning your tree. You don’t want to stimulate new growth susceptible to the cold temperatures.

Meyer lemon flowers in bloom.

It can take anywhere from 6 to 12 months to go from blossoms to fruit, depending on the type of citrus tree.  When harvesting fruit, look for citrus that is heavy and deeply colored. The best way to see if the fruit is ripe is to taste it. Start picking from the bottom of the tree, and work upwards.

Whether it’s the delicious fruit or the beautiful flowers (such as these Meyer lemon blossoms), there is a lot to love about growing citrus in a pot.