Expert Care Tips for Growing Citrus Trees Indoors

Having fresh Lemons, Limes, and Oranges from your own potted plants is pretty exciting. However, in many parts of the country, your plants will have to come indoors to prevent them from being exposed to freezing temperatures.

We always get some calls this time of the year from people overwintering their Citrus trees inside. Their questions are usually because of some leaf drop and some general thinning of the foliage. Here's the right way to care for these special patio plants. 

Expert Care Tips for Your Indoor/Outdoor Citrus Trees

Gradually move your plants in late summer from full sun to a shaded location to get your plant used to lower light. When they make the trip indoors in the fall, they will transition much easier.

Once they are inside, you'll want to give your plant plenty of sunlight. In this case, it’s “the more the better.” Locate your potted Citrus plant in the brightest window possible. 

Serious growers may consider supplemental light for growing their plants indoors during the winter months. In the past, grow lights used an excessive amount of energy and the fixtures were very expensive. Today, small and inexpensive LED grow lights are available. If your plants continue to thin and lose some leaves, it might be worth your while to purchase one of these smaller lights to supplement the natural light to get your plants through the winter.

Shorter days and lower light exposure through the glass may cause some leaf drop and some of the fruit to fall off before it has matured. Just the adjustment alone can cause leaf and fruit drop, which is not uncommon. Simply remove any fallen leaves or fruit from the soil and discard.

Typically, plants will not put on much growth during these short indoor days.

Don't Overwater

The day you bring your plants indoors is the day that you reduce the amount of water you will need to give them. Make sure that you do not overwater your indoor Citrus plants or allow the plants to sit in water. They should be kept on the drier side indoors.

Use the Finger Test to See if You Are Overwatering 

Water is best tested by using your finger. Stick it into the soil up the 2nd knuckle to feel the soil. If it feels moist at that point - skip watering that day. When it feels dry to the touch you can add some additional water.

Make sure that water drains away from the bottom of the pot and your plant does not sit in water. Check your plants frequently at the beginning to know just how often your plants may need additional moisture. Keep in mind the simple finger test works best!

Watch another technique from one of the Nature Hills pros:

Annual Process for Indoor/Outdoor Patio Trees

Once your plant has adjusted to the indoors, you may see some new growth starting to develop on the lower extremities or along the branches of the plant. Some of the upper branches may have some dieback, but just leave all of that in place for now until you can see where new growth begins to develop. You can always go back and trim off any branch tips that may have died back as you watch where the new growth begins to develop and expand.

Keep this process in mind for upcoming winters as you bring these plants inside for the short days of winter. This process will repeat itself each year.

  1. Plants will develop new growth and lots of lush looking leaves and fruit while outside.
  2. After you bring them indoors they will learn to compensate for the lower light and shorter days.
  3. They will naturally and normally drop many of the lush leaves and fruit when grown inside.
  4. Keep your plants bright and on the drier side for best results during these winter months.
  5. Move your Citrus plants outside for optimum growth and fruit development after the danger of frost has passed in your area.

Tips for Making the Move Indoors

About 6 weeks prior to the first frost in the fall, move your plants to a more shaded location (still outside) to acclimate your plants to a lower light intensity. They need to be prepared for this lower light prior to bringing them indoors. It prepares them for the indoor winter resting period.

Mark it on your calendar for late August or early September, depending upon where you live. Plan to get your plants moved to a more shaded location. 

Recap For Best Results

This indoor/outdoor method of growing citrus trees can be a very successful way to keep your plants growing for many years. Bright light and well drained soils are best. Careful watering and possible use of supplemental lighting during their indoor stay should help get your plants through the winter.

Select a good organic fertilizer and add some to your plant quarterly if needed.