Those of us who live in a colder climate often find ourselves viewing plants that are just far off dreams. We’re like the kid in the candy store who sits staring at a chocolate bar until the mom caves and says you can have it. Citrus trees are a gardener’s chocolate bar.
When you think of lemons and limes, you get the picture of warm temperatures, sunny days and a few palm trees. And as for cold regions..they lack year-round warm weather, experience a few cloudy days and they definitely don’t have palm trees.
If you would have asked me yesterday if citrus trees could handle growing in areas that get a winter, I would have said no way.
But, it’s not impossible and the answer to the question: can you grow citrus in cold climates? YES, yes you can – thanks to pots, patios, a sunny window and this blog!
Growing your own lemon or lime tree has never been easier! And, it definitely hasn’t tasted better either. Our Improved Dwarf Meyer Lemon Tree is perfect for growing indoors and in pots since it is..well a dwarf variety!
But, it’s smaller stature doesn’t limit this tree from still producing a large harvest of fresh tasting lemons. The same goes for our Eureka Lemon Tree – it can bear fruit all year long with it ramping up in the spring and summer.
Are you more of a lime person? A Mexican Key Lime or Bearrs Lime Tree both perform well in pots. Imagine being able to walk out onto your patio, pick a perfectly grown lime and use it in a variety of drinks and culinary dishes. You’ll really impress the house guests then!
Hang on..what if you want both lemons AND limes? Say hello to the Cocktail Tree, where we have an Improved Dwarf Meyer Lemon and Mexican Key Lime growing together in the same container. Now that is the best of both citrus worlds.
You can never go wrong with growing your own mandarin oranges. If you ever have a sudden craving for something tangy, pick a homegrown mandarin off your patio!
Go bigger with a Cara Cara Sweet Orange Tree that’s perfect for pots too. However, this unique orange has pink flesh, creates pink juice and tastes almost like a berry! You can even grow a Ray Ruby Grapefruit Tree in a large container for a healthy snack at your fingertips.
Maybe you have an ambitious attitude and you want to grow a more unique citrus. A Buddha Hand Fruit or a Kumquat Tree are different takes on growing fruit in pots. Both of which produce delicious fruit while being fire conversation starters!
So you’ve decided to pot a citrus tree for your cold region. Now, how does one take care of it properly? It’s really just a process of monitoring the temperatures!
Here are some of our most frequently asked questions about caring for a potted citrus tree:
Once the days start to get cooler, it’s time to start preparing your citrus tree to be brought in for the winter months. We don’t want to put our trees into shock, so this switch needs to be made gradually instead of instantaneous!
Your first transition is watering– slowly start reducing it! Since the plant’s growth rate will slow down substantially during the winter, there is no need to be drowning the fruit tree. Instead, use the finger test to check the moisture level.
Do this by sticking a finger into the soil down to your knuckle. If the soil is still wet, take a break on the water. Only water your tree when the soil is on the dry side!
Always be sure to pour off any excess water that has drained through the pot into the tray underneath. Citrus trees hate soggy or wet soils - especially during the slower growth period during the winter time.
Your next transition is location– move your tree closer and closer to a more shaded location near your house! A porch normally radiates heat from the house; therefore, it’s a good interim location to acclimate your citrus plant. Once the night temperatures drop down to mid 40s, move your tree inside to avoid exposure to frost.
Now choose an indoor location that gets an ample amount of sunlight. South facing windows are normally what works best. For extra light, add in a Grow Light. The Sun White Pro Spectrum is the best for growing vegetation indoors.
Avoid growing your citrus near a heat vent or cold drafts. Forced air heating can really dry the air so misting the foliage is very helpful. Hold off fertilizing your plant until closer to spring when new growth will soon develop with the longer days and sunnier periods.
It is very common for citrus trees to develop yellowing in the leaves or other leaf discoloration when bringing them indoors for the cold weather. Most of the time, it simply means your tree is acclimating itself to the lower light of being indoors.
Keeping the soil too moist can also lead to leaves yellowing and dropping from your plant. Check the soil moisture with your finger and hold off adding more water when the soil still feels moist. Always remove any yellowing leaves and do not leave them on top of the soil.
If you start to notice that your tree is dropping its leaves, it needs more light! Make sure you have a grow light and sunny window accompanying it. Citrus trees crave sunlight when indoors.
Whether they're coming to your cold region or some place warmer, citrus plants in pots or grounds need a little extra love from time to time. That's why Plant Sentry™ starts them out with a generous dose before they hit your doorstep.
All of the plants from Nature Hills Nursery are inspected for invasive pests, diseases, and plant status before leaving the grower to ensure you're getting the happiest plant out there!
Just like how you prepared your potted citrus variety to be placed inside, you also need to prepare to be brought back outside once the weather warms up! Again, this acclimation process is necessary to avoid shocking your tree.
Once the cold months have passed, start monitoring the temperatures in your area. Once the danger zone of frost is gone and the nighttime temps no longer get below 40 to 50 degrees, you can begin the preparation process.
First, bring your citrus tree to an outdoor location with bright, yet indirect sunlight and an area that is protected from wind. For this day, only let your tree get about an hour of direct sunlight.
Then, continue to add hours of direct sunlight as the days progress until your tree is ready to receive 8 full hours of direct sun each day! As for watering, be sure to supply it with plenty and avoid the soil getting too dry.
And now that your citrus tree is outdoors again, start fertilizing regularly without overdoing it. We suggest one that is designed for citrus trees in particular. The leaves should be a glossy, dark green.
Keep in mind that citrus trees are like a bear that hates being poked with a stick– poke it too many times and it will get angry fast! But in this case, it’s temper tantrum consists of losing leaves.
They don’t like to have a load of soil surrounding them because the soil moisture will be higher than their liking and this can cause root rot.
So, your pot only needs to be a little bigger than what your tree is. Just enough space for the citrus roots to have room to stretch their...roots?
When your citrus tree starts drying out more quickly between waterings, that probably means it is ready to shift your plant to a bigger pot. If you do need to get a larger pot, only size up one pot bigger than what you have currently.
Now, we know what you are thinking– what are the cold regions waiting for?! You CAN grow those citrus fruits you’ve been eyeing, gazing at and longing for. With the help of Nature Hills, the colder growing zones can achieve their dream of having tasty citrus on hand just like the warm regions.