A Guide to Planting Citrus Plants & Trees
Nothing evokes the feeling of warm, southern California sunshine better than an invigorating glass of freshly squeezed citrus juice. With a rich history of citrus cultivation going back centuries, California is one of the top producers of citrus fruits in the country, which is evident in the verdant trees and bushes that dot the coastal landscape.
In addition to their lush and colorful aesthetic, citrus plants also provide a bounty of delicious fruits that add zest to any summertime dish, from tangy tangerines to tart grapefruits. If you’re considering brightening your outdoor space with citrusy blooms, grab your gardening gloves and tune into our guide on planting citrus trees and bushes.
Types Of Citrus Trees For Your Landscape
Orange, yellow, and green, sweet, or tart—there are so many varieties of citrus trees and shrubs to grow in your own backyard. Here are some of the tasty fruits you could be squeezing into your next margarita or marmalade:
- Orange Trees – A true California classic, the sweet, bright fruits of an orange tree will surely make a splash in your landscape. Although mandarins and oranges are often confused, some common orange varieties perfect for an edible garden include Washington Navel and Valencia.
- Tangerine Trees – Tinier and sweeter, tangerines come in a wide range of colors and cultivars, each with their own distinct flavor profiles. Try Clementine or satsuma for hardy and prolific bite-sized sweet treats.
- Grapefruit Trees – Whether you like your grapefruit ruby red, pink, or white, the large, semi-sweet fruits will be a welcome addition to any garden scape. The glossy leaves, broad canopy, and oversized fruits will surely make a stunning statement.
- Lemon Trees – Alongside an endless supply of lemon wedges for water, cocktails, and delicious dishes, lemon trees lend a chill Mediterranean vibe to your landscape or patio. A Meyer lemons perfect for baking, or you could try the gorgeous Variegated Pink Lemon Tree to make a bold splash in the garden bed.
- Lime Trees – The smaller leaves of a lime tree contrast beautifully with the verdant variations in green from the lime fruits. Fresh limes come with incredible flavor – you’ll be amazed by the taste difference when you make a key lime pie with fruits right off your very own Key Lime Tree.
How To Grow Citrus Trees At Home
With so many commercial citrus groves commanding space in the landscape, you might think growing citrus trees require too much maintenance to be worth the effort. Surprisingly, citrus trees are easy to grow, and with a little love and citrus tree care, you’ll have bowls full of flavorful fruit for you and all your neighbors to share.
If you’re ready to grow your own refreshing citrus grove at home, follow these planting and citrus tree care tips to make sure your fruit trees are healthy, happy, and thriving:
Step 1: Choose The Right Cultivar For Your Zone
When selecting a citrus plant or fruit tree, you need to be familiar with your climate and your grow zone. Planting the right citrus tree for your zone will give them a chance to survive and thrive without requiring an abundance of extra care and precautions on your end.
Different varieties of plants have different needs, whether it’s climate, potting soil, or water. For example, if you live below Zone 9, you might want to consider a more cold-tolerant type of fruit tree, or try growing citrus in pots that you can move indoors during winter.
For areas that are generally warm but get some cool dips, citrus shrubs like satsuma and kumquats are a good option—when mature, they can thrive in temperatures as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
You should also consider what you plan to do with your citrus fruits—do you want a fruit you can eat off the tree, like a tangerine, or are you a foodie looking to have fresh lemon or lime garnishes for your favorite dishes? Find the right flavor profile to fulfill all your culinary dreams.
Step 2: Tuck It Into A Sunny Spot
Citrus plants need lots of direct sunlight to infuse their tasty fruits with sunshine flavors. The sunniest, warmest spot in your yard is usually the best locale to keep it healthy and encourage growth.
If available, pick a south-facing location with a little space between your young tree and any permanent structures—generally, 6 to 8 feet is recommended. Ideally, you want your citrus tree to receive a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight a day, although the more, the better.
Step 3: Give It Some Pampering
A little love goes a long way when it comes to caring for citrus trees and reaping juicy, flavorful fruits. As such, pay special attention to your citrus plant’s care:
- Planting – When it’s time to plant citrus trees, dig a hole twice as wide and deep as the root ball. Give them plenty of arid, well-draining potting soil around the roots. Like many other types of plants, citrus trees don’t like to have wet feet for long.
- Watering – Keep your newly planted citrus tree regularly well-watered for the first year until it’s well-established—around twice a week should be sufficient. Avoid overwatering, as this may cause leaf discoloration, affect fruit production, and lead to root rot.
- Feeding – When it comes to pampering, fertilizing works wonders for plant vigor. Your citrus tree will benefit from a hearty, nitrogen-rich meal a few times a year, but avoid end-season fertilization to keep fruit production prolific. If you’re growing your citrus tree in a pot, use smaller, more frequent feedings.
Step 4: Protect It From Pests & Diseases
Being a good caretaker means giving your plants a fighting chance when it comes to fending off pests and diseases.
Regularly inspect your citrus tree for any signs of disease or damage, and be proactive in pruning away yellowing or dead leaves. You’ll also want to be vigilant in watching for citrus greening disease, which is a new threat to California that could have devastating effects on the citrus industry. Consult with your local agricultural coop or garden center for pest control options as needed.
Another important part of pest and disease control is avoiding imports. Instead, choose plants and trees that are grown and shipped locally. At Plants Express, all of our trees are grown in California, for California, so you can rest easy knowing you’re not introducing invasive pests or spreading devastating botanical diseases.
Step 5: Keep It Cozy When The Temperature Dips
Citrus trees and bushes are sensitive to cold weather, so if you have an unexpected cold front in the forecast for your usually tropical-like climate, give them some extra protection to keep the leaves, flowers, and fruits in good shape.
Pick any fruits you can salvage, and then wrap the trunk in burlap, blankets, or other protective materials. Water deeply around the roots a few days before the temperature dips, and cover the whole tree with a cloth.
Cold isn’t the only environmental threat. Planting in a protected area from the wind and elements also helps to keep your citrus tree looking and feeling good when inclement weather arrives.
Step 6: Enjoy The Fruits Of Your Labor
Citrus trees offer the best of both worlds—they’re a gorgeous addition to your landscape with glossy green leaves and bright, colorful fruits, and they provide fresh produce that offer loads of flavor and beneficial nutrients.
Whether you choose a blood orange or kumquat, or you want your own citrus grove filled with many different varieties, citrus plants are a perfect addition to your ornamental garden or food forest.
Growing Citrus Trees Indoors
If you’re in a colder climate or just don’t have the yard space to plant a citrus tree in the ground, many citrus varieties will still thrive and produce fruit when grown in pots. Go for bush, dwarf, or semi-dwarf varieties that trend on the shorter side. You’ll also want to keep up with pruning to make sure they don’t fully take over your living room—unless you dig the jungle vibe.
Some citrus plant varieties perfect for pots include:
- Meyer Lemon Bush
- Persian 'Bearss' Lime Bush
- Blood Orange Bush
- Clementine Mandarin Bush
- Nagami Kumquat Bush
Not only will you benefit from fresh citrus fruit when you grow these citrus bushes indoors, but you’ll be able to enjoy their bright, cheerful beauty right in your home year-round.
Add Fresh Squeezed Goodness To Your Garden With Plants Express
Planting citrus trees is an easy way to brighten your space and have scrumptious homegrown citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and limes right at your fingertips. At Plants Express, we have tangelo trees, lemon trees, and whatever you need to turn your yard into a citrus grove oasis.
Browse our selection of citrus trees to find your new main squeeze today.
And if you’re looking for a full landscape renovation or hoping to amp up the natural wonders of your backyard, we carry the best native plants that will thrive in your grow zone. With over 10 million California-grown plants living their best lives in California backyards, we’ve got the knowledge and the experience to elevate your locally sourced landscape.
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Chico Enterprise-Record. California citrus and the Mother Orange Tree | The Real Dirt. https://www.chicoer.com/2022/10/14/california-citrus-and-the-mother-orange-tree-the-real-dirt/
Clemson Cooperative Extension. Cold Tolerance in Citrus. https://hgic.clemson.edu/cold-tolerance-in-citrus
Fine Gardening. Growing Citrus in Northern California. https://www.finegardening.com/project-guides/fruits-and-vegetables/growing-citrus-in-northern-california
HGTV. Saving Citrus From Frost. https://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/flowers-and-plants/trees-and-shrubs/saving-citrus-from-frost
Master Gardeners of Ventura County. Planting and Care of Young Citrus Trees. https://ucanr.edu/sites/VCMG/Planting_and_Care_of_Young_Citrus_Trees/
Master Gardener Association of San DIego County. Should I fertilize my citrus trees and if so, with what and when? https://www.mastergardenersd.org/when-to-fertilize-citrus/University of Minnesota Extension. Growing Citrus Indoors. https://extension.umn.edu/houseplants/growing-citrus-indoors