Citrus plants

A long cold winter makes me start to think more about my houseplants and how I could add to them so that there is living proof of something green in the world. My houseplants sit in the basement of my house and are grouped together under a grow light. My small little garden in our winter wonderland. As I was looking up another fellow gardener’s houseplant problem, I ran across some interesting information on growing citrus in our homes.

I have seen lemon trees for sale in various magazines, but I have never tried to raise them. They look very interesting and there are several kinds that you can try. Tangerines, lemon, kumquat and small orange trees can be grown easily in our homes. There are a few tricks to the trade, so to speak, but there usually is, right?

The key to growing citrus is that we need to grow dwarf varieties and the right type of soil. The growing conditions are pretty simple. A 65 degree growing area in an area that at night the temperature doesn’t fall below 5-10 degrees. The plants need to be clean by giving the plants a regular washing. The plants are easy to grow but the real challenge is to get them to eventually bear fruit for us.

If you decide that you want to try your hand at growing citrus in your home, there are a few varieties of plants to look for. In the oranges category, try calamondin oranges or Otaheite oranges. The calamondin oranges can be sour but work great as a marmalade. Tangerines, specifically Satsuma oranges, which are really a tangerine, are fairly good tasting. Lemons may work the best for a houseplant. Ponderosa and Meyer varieties are the easiest to raise and you will often find the Meyer lemon in catalogs. Citron and kumquats can also be grown in your home.

I find it interesting that citrus plants enjoy a more acidic soil (and are often acidic in their fruit pH). Since in Minnesota, we have a hard time reaching that soil acidity because of our higher pH soil, using soil from our gardens is probably not a good choice. Instead, use 1/3 sterile potting soil, 1/3 perlite or vermiculite and 1/3 peat. Fertilizing is not necessary unless the plant is actively growing which is from April to about August. Plants can be moved outside during the summer months.

There are only a few pests to look out for: scale, white fly and spider mites. The plants are easy to grow, as I said, but on the other hand getting them to flower and produce fruit is another matter. If you have the correct soil, you should have flowers. To get the fruit, you will have to pretend to be a bee. You will need to pass the pollen around to the flowers either by shaking the tree or use a cotton swab to collect and touch the flowers. For more information, please go to the U of M Extension document located at https://extension.umn.edu/es/node/16236.

If you are interested in becoming a Master Gardener, please contact me. The Master Gardeners of Lyon County would love to have folks “volunteer shadow (like job shadowing) to see if you would like to participate in this volunteer program. There is training involved and the Lyon County Master Gardeners will assist you every step of the way. It is a lot of fun to be able to share your love of gardening with others in our communities. For more information on gardening or how to become a Master Gardener, please email me s.dejaeghere@me.com.


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