Early Spring Care for Citrus Trees

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Early Spring Care for Citrus Trees

Early Spring is a great time to plant lemons, limes, oranges, and other citrus trees in southern climates.

Wait until all danger of frost has past. This will give your tree all spring and summer to get established before cool autumn and winter temperatures stop it's growth. Be sure to pick a site with fast draining soil, or amend to spot to improve drainage. If you're growing your citrus tree in a container, pick a pot that is at least 18 inches tall and wide. If the tree came from the nursery with fruit on it, remove them before planting to allow the tree to put all of its energy into settling in to its new digs.

This is also the time of year to start fertilizing your tree again. Select a fertilizer meant for citrus trees. If your tree is growing in the ground, imagine a circular line that is one foot wider than the longest branch on your tree. Sprinkle the citrus fertilizer evenly from the base of the trunk out to your imaginary line. Do not work in in to the soil, as citrus roots are close to the surface and easily damaged, simply scratch it in lightly with a rake. If your tree is growing in a pot, sprinkle the fertilizer over the entire soil surface.

As soon as a new flush of growth begins to show on your tree, you'll know if any of the branches were damaged over the winter. No leaves means the branch is dead. Prune off dead branches with an anvil pruner or lopper, as needed. Also, be sure to remove an suckers that start growing below the graft union or are popping up from the roots. Some citrus are not grafted (limes are usually not, for example), in which case, suckers need only be removed if they are aesthetically undesirable. Remember, though, that the lowest branches are the most productive.

Unfortunately, this is also the time of year when snails come out of hiding. They enjoy overwintering in clusters at the point where main branches connect to the trunk. You can pick them off by hand, place them in a plastic bag, and throw them out. Be sure to tie the plastic bag tightly before throwing it in the trash. You can imagine what will happen if you don't tie the bag of snails! Placing a copper cuff around the trunk of the tree will prevent future snail problems.