Have you ever smelled the open blossoms from a citrus tree? This is one reason why I decided to learn how to grow citrus trees indoors. The fragrance of the blossoms is sweet, intense and powerfully infuses the air in the vicinity of the tree. Never having the opportunity to see a citrus grove in bloom, I can only imagine the intensely intoxicating fragrance that would meet my every breath. Truly, this is one of life’s sweetest joys. The Creator of the Universe (YHWH) must have taken a particular delight when He created citrus trees.
Citrus trees naturally grow in subtropical climates where they get plenty of light, heat and humidity. These zone requirements are typical for Florida and Southern California where citrus trees successfully grow. The citrus tree is native to parts of China, and its cultivation traveled to India, the Middle East, Europe and finally to the Caribbean and the Americas.
Did you know that you can have the beauty, aroma and delicious fruit from citrus trees growing right in your own home? The use of an Orangery originated in the Renaissance gardens of Italy where they grew citrus under glass (in a glass house or today’s greenhouse.) An Orangery is a protected space for growing orange (and other citrus trees) in climates that are not ideal. When I visited Ireland a few years ago, I visited an Orangery that grows citrus trees and pineapples; on one of the Regency period estates.
We are growing four citrus trees from Duarte growers: Washington Navel Orange, Calamondin, Improved Meyer Lemon and Variegated Pink Eureka Lemon. Our trees and are five years old now, so we are finally allowing them to fruit and will eat them for the first time. When growing any fruit tree, it is important to know that you should not let them produce fruit during the first three to four years. This gives the branches time to strengthen enough to be able to hold the heavy fruit. It is also part of the instructions for living that we find within the pages of Scripture- you can read about it in Leviticus 19:23-25.
Right now our Calamondin tree is full of fruit that is small, diameter of 1 ½ inches, and the taste is slightly acidic but has an incredibly intense orange flavor. This variety of citrus is eaten whole–flesh and peel, just like with Kumquats. It is perfect for making an orange sauce that can be used in salad dressings, to flavor cake icing or to use in marmalade. Yummmm! The Lemon tree has a few lemons growing and several recently started fruit from fresh blossoms. The other trees have blossoms right now, and my office smells fantastic!
How to Grow Citrus Trees Indoors
Here are seven tips to help you be successful when growing citrus trees indoors:
- Grow dwarf trees because they do well when grown in containers and do not reach maximum heights. Patio or dwarf trees are the result of grafting standard citrus varieties onto dwarf root stock. This keeps the tree a manageable size but provides full-size produce.
- Start with container grown plants that are 2-3 years old when purchased. This cuts down the wait time for edible fruit and provides the dwarf-size that is best for growing indoors.
- Choose a consistently warm place that will get maximum sunlight. The best location is in a Southern exposure window that provides the longest period of sunlight each day.
- Keep temperatures no lower than 55 degrees during the winter season. You can easily keep this temperature when growing indoors. However out in a greenhouse, an additional heat source may be needed.
- Provide a constant humidity level that stays in the 60 to 70 percent range. This can be managed by using a humidifier in the area or by regular misting of the trees each day. We are using a small personal humidifier that works perfectly for the small trees that we have. Once the trees grow to about 4 feet in height, we will switch to a regular room size humidifier. We have forced air heat, and it is extremely drying to plants and humans.
- Plant or transplant your trees into sturdy containers using a soil mixture specifically formulated for growing citrus trees. Citrus roots do better with less soil moisture and do not like constantly wet or damp conditions. We have successfully used Miracle Gro Cactus, Palm and Citrus Soil. Most multipurpose potting soils contain too high a proportion of sphagnum peat moss to the other constituents. This makes for soggy citrus roots, and that is a serious thing. If making your own mixtures do not use pine or other evergreen bark or shavings.
- Correct watering of citrus trees is crucial to their development and ability to succeed. They do not like “wet feet” or excessively moist roots. Do allow the top 1 inch of soil to dry out between watering and deep soak the plant when it is time to water.
For more information, the Duarte website FAQ page has growing information and links to further information on various university websites. Here are a few more articles on how to grow citrus indoors and out Brighter Blooms and P Allen Smith.
We recently purchase a kit for a quick and easy-to set-up greenhouse. We will use it to grow off-season tomatoes and lettuce and once the citrus trees are too large to keep in the house during winter, they will be moved out to the greenhouse. Here is a search results link for several affordable greenhouse kits from Tractor Supply.
I hope that you will start to grow citrus trees indoors. You will very much enjoy the fragrance of the blossoms and the delicious tree ripened fruit.