How to Grow Citrus at Home

How to Grow Citrus at Home

By Michael Jenkins

Citrus plants, and their resulting fruits, are prized in cultures around the world. They’re grown as ornamentals both indoor and outdoor, in commercial orchards, and as fruit trees at home. It wasn’t long ago that oranges were given as Christmas gifts, making these fruits and plants a special part of the holiday season.  So, for those of you looking for an indoor garden project this winter, Gardzen has good news—you can grow citrus at home. As it turns out, it’s relatively easy to grow some citrus plants indoors as houseplants and outdoors in containers. Let’s dig in!

Growing citrus plants at home has a number of benefits. These are lovely plants, with beautiful deep-green leaves and lovely tiny flowers that fill the home with a beautiful aroma when in bloom. Many of them will happily produce fruit as indoor plants, adding life and flavor to your cooking and snacking!  The trick is finding a houseplant-sized variety of citrus—called a dwarf variety—which will be more suitable for indoor or patio container growing. There are a number of citrus plants that come in dwarf varieties, so you have a fair number of options to choose from:

  • Calamondin orangescome in dwarf varietals and are a great place to start. Dwarf calamondins tend to grow small, sour fruit that’s great for adding flavor to marinades, salad dressings, and flavored oils and vinegars.
  • Tahitian oranges are actually a cross between lemons and tangerines. They offer fruits with a subtle sweet-yet-earthy flavor.
  • Tangerines are a favorite citrus around the world with a distinct citrusy, fruity flavor and come in a number of dwarf varieties.
  • Satsumas, afavorite in many East Asian cuisines, are a hybrid orange varietal with a sweet taste, and are available as a dwarf variety.
  • Kumquats may have a funny-sounding name, but these small tasty fruits can be grown on dwarf plants and do especially well indoors. Fair warning: they often produce A LOT of fruit!
  • Kaffir Limes are used in Southeast Asian cuisines for both their fruit and their leaves, and are available in dwarf varietals.
  • It sounds obvious, but both limes and lemons are available as dwarf plants, and are another easy place to start growing citrus plants indoors.

With so many choices, where do you find your dwarf citrus plants? Many nurseries carry dwarf citrus varietals, and most nurseries can order them for you. Another unexpected place to look is your local specialty market; health food stories and shops catering to Middle Eastern or Asian products often sell plants at various times of the year. You can order dwarf citrus plants online, but make sure you’re doing so from a reputable source in order to ensure health and quality of the plant. Regardless of where you get your plants, double check and make sure you’re getting a dwarf variety! Getting surprised with a full-sized plant can really throw a wrench in to your indoor gardening plans!

Caring for indoor citrus plants is surprisingly easy as long as you bear  a few things in mind. Citrus plants, like all indoor plants, need a container large enough to support their grow so don’t skimp on container size if you want any chance at your plant producing fruit. We recommend using a potting soil and fertilizer formulated for citrus plants; most garden stores can recommend the right product for your needs. If you want your citrus to just be an ornamental house plant, it will tolerate a wide variety of conditions. However, if you want it to produce fruit, you’ll need to ensure that indoor temperatures remain around 65F/18C during the day, dropping a bit at night. Fruiting plants also need 5-6 hours of full light a day, whether from a sunny window or from a grow lamp. When the weather warms up, you can move your citrus plant outside.

Growing citrus indoors is a fun experiment, giving you some gardening to do all year round and offering a chance to learn about how these marvelous fruiting trees and shrubs grow. Well cared for, a home-grown citrus plant will last for years, giving you a chance to explore, experiment, and enjoy!

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