5 Citrus Tree Care and Maintenance Tips
Vitamin C is a vital nutrient that helps to support many systems in the body and fight off a variety of health problems. Most people know that it boosts the immune system (although contrary to popular belief, it does not cure colds), but you might not realize that it’s also good for your skin, your eyes, and your cardiovascular function, amongst other things. What most everyone is aware of, however, is that citrus fruits are an excellent source of vitamin C. And whether you like oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, lemons, limes, or another citrus fruit, you might be keen on the idea of growing your own as a way to ensure that your larder is always stocked with fresh produce. Of course, not every climate is suited to growing this warm-weather plant, and you’ll need to properly maintain your tree if you want it to flourish and bear fruit. So here are just a few tips to help you care for your citrus tree and get the fruit you crave.
- Warm temperatures. When the temperature falls below about 40? Fahrenheit, the potential for damage to your citrus tree rises. There’s a reason these fruits are predominantly grown in California and Florida, which feature the temperate climes to support them year-round. However, you don’t have to give up on the idea of cultivating your own harvest of oranges or tangelos just because you live above the 40th parallel. Citrus trees tend to do quite well in containers (although keeping them in small containers will stunt their growth, so you might want to opt for dwarf varieties that only grow 8-12 feet naturally anyway). Provided you move them into a greenhouse environment or put them in front of a window where they’ll get plenty of sunlight, they should be fine until you can move them back outside for the summer.
- Watering. Although citrus trees need plenty of water, you don’t want to induce root rot, so you need to make sure there is proper drainage, especially if you house your plant in a container. You should avoid soil that is salty, which can leech away water intended for the tree, and provide water at least once a week, ensuring that it gets all the way through to the roots.
- Pollination. For outdoor plants, you shouldn’t have to worry about pollination; this will be accomplished by bees or even by the wind. And if you have only one tree, don’t fret. Most citrus varieties are self-fertile, which means they can pollinate themselves, so to speak. As for indoor plants, you can hand-pollinate if you don’t keep bees for this task.
- Pests. Like any type of fruit tree, citrus plants are bound to attract no shortage of pests looking to use them as a food source. Ants then to be particularly problematic, although several insect species find citrus trees attractive, depending on the region you live in. You’ll simply have to figure out which types of insects are native to your region and keep an eye out for infestation so that you can use appropriate pesticides.
- Pruning and harvest. Pruning is something of an art and a science, but there are two ways to do it when maintaining a citrus tree. If you plan to keep your tree indoors, you’ll want to prune it for size. As for outdoor trees, you should simply endeavor to clear away any portions of the tree that are dead, diseased, or infested in order to keep your tree healthy. Failing to perform this crucial task could lead to dead trees. And although you won’t likely need tree removal permits to get rid of them, as with some other trees, it will be a hassle to take down a fully-grown tree. For healthy trees, you can harvest fruit as it ripens, either over time or all at once, depending on the tree, and you should clip the fruit rather than pulling it to promote future growth.