Everything You Need to Know About Growing a Citrus Tree in Your House (For Real)
Container gardens are the premier garden trend of 2017, folks. And this spring, all the chicest ladies are taking cues from Versailles’ Orangerie and decorating interiors with potted citrus. Fortunately, you don’t need a royal gardening staff to keep these beauties happy, either. With a bit of care and planning, us mere plebeians can incorporate this fragrant trend into our homes, too. Below, a beginner’s guide.
Most importantly for beginners and black thumbers, make sure the citrus tree you purchase is a self-pollinating dwarf variety. These cuties are built to grow in pots (meaning the roots won’t outgrow the limited confines). Some of the most popular (and hardy) dwarf citrus trees include Calamondin orange, Kaffir lime and Meyer lemon.
Pretty much any type of pot is suitable, so long as there is a hole for drainage and one to two inches of space between the top of the vessel and the top of the plastic pot your plant comes in (breathing room, people). For a dwarf citrus container, a diameter between ten to 16 inches in generally best. (Pro tip: Leave the stake in place to give the tree strength while the roots get their bearings.)
Citrus trees prefer a light, fast-draining (aka sandy/pebbly) potting mix, with slight acidity. For all you gardening newbies, you can buy citrus potting mixes in the gardening section of most hardware stores. P.S. Don’t forget to first add a thin layer of pebbles to the bottom of your pot for maximum drainage, and be sure to fertilize every month or two.
The key to potted citrus is to keep soil moist but not wet. Aim to water your tree thoroughly (until you see water trickling out of the bottom of the pot) once or twice a week (depending on the climate of your particular room). A helpful way to check if your little guy needs a drink is to stick a finger into the dirt up to your knuckle. If your fingertip touches dampness, hold a beat on watering.
Main thing to know: Fruit trees need humidity.(They’ll wither and lose leaves if they don’t get enough of it.) Fifty percent humidity is ideal for citrus, and most indoor conditions teeter at a measly 10 percent, so set out humidity trays (or bowls of water) near heat sources, or perhaps consider using a humidifier. Misting your tree regularly will also help replicate the tropical climate these trees vibe with.
Citrus trees are happy in temperatures between 55 and 85 degrees (with a sweet spot right at 65), which makes them pretty amenable to indoor growing. Bear in mind that they hate dramatic temperature fluctuations, so keep them in moderately heated spots (aka away from your heaters, fireplaces and ovens).
These guys love sunlight, and need tons of it to live, let alone to produce fruit. While they crave 12 hours of direct sunshine, they can get by on about eight hours. So if possible, put your tree in a room with two light exposures (ideally south and west), and whatever your home’s orientation, do your best to place them in the sunniest spot available, and rotate every week, so they get evenly sunned.
Plants need breezes, folks. (Think about how much they’d be blowin’ around if they were outside where they’re intended to grow.) Make sure your citrus tree gets adequate air circulation by opening doors and windows when the weather allows, and running light fans during the winter months.