Oh, the fragrance of a citrus tree in bloom is about as dreamy as a sandy beach in the middle of a long winter.
Last month I walked by one of our lemon trees that was in full bloom. It stopped me mid-stride; the colorful aroma of citrus cemented my feet and my thoughts traveled to warmer climates as I breathed in deeply, keeping my tropical daydream going just a little longer. Ahhhh… a bit of paradise.
Then I got a little idea and moved it from the hallway to my office so I could take in as much of the aroma as possible while I worked. It is so lovely during the middle of winter when the ground is covered in a blanket of snow and everything outside is an Ansel Adams image.
We live in the north and it gets cold up here and as I mentioned there is a white layer of snow covering all horizontal surfaces right out my door. It’s not the citrus trees of Sunnyvale, CA where I plucked lemons, from my grandparents trees, at whim as a child. I now take pride in growing my lemons carefully here in the mountains. I’ve had good luck but also some great advice from seasoned gardeners and I’ve learned a bit by trial and error.
Citrus varieties that don’t mind pots and moving in and out-of-doors: Meyer Lemons, Kaffir Limes and Calamondin Oranges
Think about all the Marmalade, Limoncello and desserts your oranges and lemons will produce. Maybe you love Thai curry… imagine adding your homegrown lime to this dish. Perfection!
Choose a dwarf tree that is 2-3 years old, for instant gratification of bloom- don’t worry you will still have to wait 6-9 months for the fruit to ripen. I found my trees at my Local 98856 garden center.
Pick a deep pot that is either terra-cotta or plastic and has more than one hole at the bottom for drainage. Keep the pot on the smaller side- just a bit larger than the root ball, this will keep your tree smaller and more manageable to move with the seasons. The deeper pot will keep it grounded and less top-heavy as your citrus tree grows. Here are some simple steps to take:
1. Line the bottom of the pot with pebbles to help with good drainage, citrus trees do not like“wet feet”. If the pebbles make the pot too heavy, exchange it for environmentally friendly packing peanuts.
2. Add soil that is specifically made for citrus and/or cactus plants. If you can’t locate this type of soil, choose one that has good organic matter so that the soil is less apt to compact over time from watering. This will help the roots grow and prevent fungal infections and root rot.
3. Place rocks in the drainage tray to create a space for moisture to collect and help with humidity. Citrus plants like moist air so feel free to give them some love and mist their leaves, especially if your home is on the drier side.
4. Location, Location, Location; place your citrus tree preferably in a south facing window or a spot that will receive up to 12 hours of sunlight per day. If you don’t have a sunny spot you can improvise and add a grow light to help give more “sunlight” hours.
65ºF is the ideal temperature, but the citrus trees can handle a range of 55º-85ºF.
During the winter/indoor months I find my lemon trees like to be watered once a week, drying out in between watering. Then, once back outside, the trees are watered everyday. In the hot summer months I use a watering system on a timer which is great for potted plants and a huge time saver. I found mine on a gardening website.
Harvesting the fruits of your labor, the first time I noticed a lemon on my potted lemon tree it was green, not yellow as one would expect. Everyone who saw it asked if I was sure I had purchased a lemon and not a lime tree, even I had my doubts about it. However, I learned that it will take 6-9 months for the fruit to mature and over that time it changes color. At this moment I have one that is half and half, and no, it is not a lemon/lime tree ;0). Once the fruit has reached its full color and has a slight “give” when gently squeezed it is ready to be picked and enjoyed.
Happy winter gardening to you!
Rachelle @ Caramelize Life
“Making Life a Little Sweeter through Food, Travel and Community“