How To Grow Citrus Fruit
Citrus trees are definitely not your typical garden plant. Better suited to dry and sunny lands of California or Spain they do need a little TLC in our harsher UK climate but when the reward is loads of lovely tangy fruit why not? With more varieties being bread for colder climates these sun-loving flavour bombs are becoming a regular fixture in adventurous gardens.
Who doesn’t love being able to use their own fresh lime in their G&T?
This family is a large one that has grown over centuries of careful cultivation. There was only three species originally but that has exploded to include old favourites like orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit, along with newbies like mandarins, satsumas and the unusual Kumquats. There will always be something new to try once you have the hang of it. I have collated all of these into one article as growing conditions are essentially identical and you will be able to apply the advice found here across any citrus variety.
Citrus are the perfect container plant as unless you have a large green house with beds you will have to bring your plants inside over winter. If you have a really sheltered patio or live on the sunny south west coast you could give growing outdoors a go but if it gets frosty your plants will suffer.
Various sizes depending on variety
The citrus family is huge! Made up of so many different plants it would take a life time to try them all. The plants you buy from a nursery will often be grafted on a root-stock that will dictate the size of the plant and make it hardier to your local climate so always check the variety you want has been grafted to the right root stock for you. Below are a few of my favourite hardier varieties I would consider a good place to start!
Tiger- CALAMONDIN orange
This orange tree will do well in pots when a dwarf root stock is used and produces lovely sweet oranges good for eating straight from the tree. It can be quite vigorous so pinch out the stems regularly to keep it nice and bushy.
This seedless lime will fruit well even on a young plant and is a good staple in any citrus grove. The leaves are also very fragrant and can be used when cooking.
Star Ruby - Grapefruit
These grapefruits have great flavour and the plant will withstand our damp British summers well
Lunario/four seasons - Lemon
These lemon trees are almost magic! Fruit can store on the branch for up to 6 months and because they produce fruit all year round you can lemons at all stages of development on the tree which means never being caught lemon-less
As you will probably be growing your trees in pots you should include plenty of fine grit into the soil to help with drainage and use a soil based compost. It is always better choosing a pot only slightly larger than the current pot the plant is in to prevent it getting overwhelmed with a too big pot.
Depending on the root-stock, plants grown in pots shouldn’t exceed 5ft in height.
Simply pot up your plant upon purchase and then continue annually or as needed into a pot no more than 3 inches wider. Preferably pot up in early spring.
Even though you’ll likely be planting your citrus trees in pots you can still companion plant around them. Try crops such as garlic or herbs this as they keep the insects who love citrus plants at bay. You could also plant shallow rooted lettuces around the base of the tree if in a larger pot to add colour and
Fruits won’t drop off the tree and can be “stored” in this was for quite some time. Bare in mind that the more fruit you store on the tree the less energy and space it will have to make new ones.
When you need a citrus fruit simply twist and pull.
So if you are feeling brave and want to give citrus a try here are some recipes you could use your citrus fruits for;
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