Tips for growing citrus plants

Citrus fruits

In a previous article, we discussed how our ancestors used conservatories primarily for growing citrus fruits. While the uses for conservatories have certainly expanded over the last century or so, growing citrus fruits is still a popular activity for conservatory owners and horticultural enthusiasts. Citrus fruits require a lot of light, and if you’re planning on having a reasonably large indoor citrus plant, placing it on a windowsill is not going to be adequate – a conservatory is required. Whether you’re looking to grow some lemons to add a bit of natural flavour to your favorite cocktails, or you’d like to grow oranges to make your own homemade orange juice, here are some tips for ensuring your citrus plants stay healthy and produce the great tasting fruits that you want.

Food and watering

Citrus plants require a lot of nutrients in order to grow strong and deliver a healthy yield of fruit, so appropriate feeding and watering is essential. As a general rule of thumb, try to use rainwater to water the plants. If rainwater is not a possibility, try adding a small amount of citric acid to the tap water (approximately 2g citric acid per 10 litres of water is a desirable ratio). Getting the right amount of water for your citrus plants can be tricky, and the differences in seasons make things even tougher. In the summer the amount of water required can dramatically increase, so take this into consideration. If the leaves start to wilt or lose their natural shade of green, then it’s definitely time to up the plant’s water intake. Over-watering can occur when you add water to soil which is already moist, thereby starving the roots of oxygen.

Citrus plants are constantly hungry for nutrients, so overfeeding is generally not a risky as it is with other plants. Use a type of feed which is specifically designed for citrus fruit. The feed should be high in nitrogen, as well as other compounds such as iron, calcium, boron and zinc, to ensure maximum health for your citrus plants. Always check the packaging for details as regular plant feed may not be appropriate. In fact, there are different feed products you can buy which vary from season to season, ensuring your plants stay healthy regardless of the weather.

Pruning

Unlike other high maintenance plants, citrus plants require only a small about of pruning. During the summer remove the tips of any fast growing shoots to encourage the plant to grow horizontally rather than vertically. Pruning will not actually affect the growth of the fruit, but it will keep the branches healthy and strong which is essential for when the fruit develops. Remember when pruning to be careful of thorns as they can be hazardous if your fingers or thumb comes into contact with them.

Pests

One of the key advantages of growing citrus plants in conservatories is the avoidance of pests. And while the risk of pests is significantly reduced compared to growing citrus plants in the outdoors, unfortunately problems can still occur. Mealybugs and red spider mites only affect indoor plants, but they can be dealt with by spraying diluted washing up liquid over the plant. Left unchecked, mealybugs will produce a fluffy white substance on the leaves of your plant which will kill them. Red spider mites will create a yellow mottling on the leaves and may also leave a fine webbing, both of which are detrimental to the health of the plant. It’s important to be able to identify the different kinds of pests so they can be dealt with immediately. This way your citrus plant will grow healthy and strong, and you will eventually reap the fruits of your labour!

(Photo by gnmills)

Tags: ,