How to Grow Citrus Indoors

Citrus trees do not qualify as one of the easiest plants to grow indoors, but they can be some of the most rewarding. If you live outside of a climate zone that supports growing citrus outdoors year-round consider growing a dwarf variety in a container. Restaurant owners are one potential client that will be drawn to using citrus in their interior landscaping. The plants are not only attractive and fragrant, but many produce edible fruit as well. Citrus trees will also thrive in bright foyers and corridors in large business complexes. Before you begin using citrus plants in your indoor arrangements be sure you are able to commit the time needed to care for these plants.

Location

Citrus can be picky and often demands warm temperatures, a lot of sunlight and very high humidity. Choose your location well when placing a citrus tree. Place the plant away from any heating vents or drafty areas. Make sure the plant gets at least 5 hours of direct sunlight. More sunlight is even better. If the humidity is too low, as it is in most heated buildings, place trays of rocks submerged in water near or underneath the plant. In severe cases you may even want to use a humidifier. Placing other plants nearby will also increase the humidity a bit.

Variety

It is important to choose the right plant for growth in containers. Apartment Therapy suggests Calamondin Orange, Improved Meyer Lemon, Ponderosa Lemon, Eureka Lemon, Persian or Bearss Lime, Eustis Limequat, Rangpur Lime, Otaheite Orange and Nippon Orangequat as varieties that are ideal for growing indoors.

Potting

Plant the citrus in a slightly acidic potting soil that includes organic matter and peat. Choose a container that is a bit bigger than the rootball. It is not likely that you will need to repot a dwarf citrus, but you may need to prune the roots if the plant becomes too root bound. You can fertilize the plants in the spring and summer growing months.

Producing Fruit

The University of Purdue Horticulture Department suggests that in order for the plant to produce fruit indoors you may need to hand pollinate it. You can also place the plant outdoors after the danger of frost has passed. Gradually introduce the plant to more and more time in direct sunlight so that the plant is not shocked. When you bring the plant indoors in the fall increase the amount of time indoors a little bit each day. Start well before you expect the temperatures to drop severely. Any sudden climate or atmosphere change will make it difficult for the plant to survive. If you plan to move a citrus from indoors to outdoors as the weather permits consider using a container that works with a coaster to make the job easier.

Pests

The University of Minnesota Extension office suggests that the three most common pests for citrus plants are scale, whiteflies and spider mites. To cut down on pests be sure to clear away any dropped foliage. Also inspect both the tops and bottoms of leaves  regularly to catch an infestation before it becomes severe.

The beautiful glossy leaves and compact size of a dwarf citrus tree will look beautiful in an indoor display. As a bonus, the tree may produce fragrant flowers and fruit. It takes some extra care, and the right conditions, but a dwarf citrus can be worth the effort. A high gloss container will look especially stunning when showcasing a citrus tree. Have you grown citrus plants indoors? What challenges did you face?

 Photo “Meyer Lemon” courtesy of Debra Roby

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