Traditionally grown in warm and sunny regions, citrus fruit trees are evergreens that can now be found in many cold regions. Recognizable by their round bearing, their small white flowers and very fragrant fruit, these trees usually grow both outdoors and indoors, provided of course that all the growing conditions necessary for their development are met. 

Mainly grown in the Mediterranean region, citrus trees are broken down into three main genres. Thus, we first find the Citrus genus, which includes widespread species such as the lemon, orange, bitter orange, Bergamot orange, mandarin or pomelo. Then there is the Fortunella genus which includes species such as kumquat. Finally, the Poncirus genus, which is also known as the Trifoliate orange. Very appreciated for their juicy and slightly acid fruit, citrus are distinguished by their rounded shape, their small trunks, their glossy foliage and sweetly scented flowers through which we find their sweet flavour. In general, the great majority of species planted in the ground have a fruiting period that begins in November and ends in late May. Unfortunately, most citrus fruits poorly tolerate dry air from artificially heated rooms and it is unusual for species grown indoors to be able to bear fruit. In fact, to thrive, citrusses mostly need air, heat and sunlight, which is why they grow much better in the Mediterranean regions. However, be aware that some species are hardier than others and therefore much more suited to cold climates.

Which citrus fruit to choose?

If you live in an area where winter temperatures are around 50 degrees, you can opt for growing orange and pomelo trees in the ground. In colder areas where winter temperatures will range from 23 to 14 degrees, choose slightly hardier species such as lemon, Bergamot orange, mandarin, pomelo or kumquats. The hardiest and most adapted to the cold species are undoubtedly the bitter orange and Poncirus because both can withstand rather low temperatures without much difficulty. In contrast, in regions winter climate conditions can be extreme, growing citrus fruits in the ground is strongly discouraged. Accordingly, growing in containers will be encouraged so that trees can be overwintered as early as late fall.

How to plant citrus fruits?

Citrus fruits should be planted in the spring so that the roots have enough time to grow before winter. In addition, they should always be sheltered from the wind and placed in a sunny location that is not exposed to direct sunlight. However, if you live in an area where summers are hot, make sure your trees are in light shade so that the leaves do not yellow. Citrus trees generally like well-drained land rich in humus that can also be amended with manure. If your garden soil is rather calcareous, you should always make sure to amend it with a good amount of heath. Before planting your citrus, start by moistening the rootball to properly rehydrate it, after which you can put your young tree in the ground.

Citrus maintenance

Once planted, your citrus should be watered regularly, especially in summer when the earth will tend to be drier. However, watering frequency should be substantially reduced in winter to prevent leaf yellowing. For your tree’s foliage to retain its full brightness, all the leaves should be sprayed weekly with a little water. Rather demanding, citruses planted in the ground enjoy rich land. Therefore, always make sure that the soil is amended in organic fertilizer before each flowering and fruiting. The hardiest species that spend the winter outdoors must be protected with suitable winter protection. Regarding the most fragile species, they must imperatively be overwintered in cold greenhouses until early spring. If you do not have a greenhouse, you can simply bring your trees indoors while ensuring that they are kept in a well-ventilated area. From the onset of spring, you can prune your citrus trees to give them more strength. You can do this every other year by airing out the tree’s centre or by reducing the branches’ size by about 1 or 2 buds, cutting off dead wood, or thinning puny twigs. To improve drainage and keep the roots from stagnating in moisture, lay down a layer of clay pebbles or gravel when repotting. To remove dust that can suffocate plants, clean the leaves with a sponge.

Citrus fruits are often victims of diseases and insects such as aphids, mealybugs, mites, or whiteflies, their main enemies. Treatments based on low polluting products such as white oils, Bacillus thuringiensis, mancozeb and benomyl-based products, copper oxychloride, or a acaricides may be used.

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Published in Specific by Alexander on 06 Jul 2011