Giving and receiving plants has become a popular Christmas tradition. And here in the “Sunshine State,” potted citrus ranks high among favorite gift plants. If you’re thinking of such a gift, we can help you decide what to look for when shopping. Should you receive a potted citrus plant this Christmas, you might benefit from our tips on how to care for it.
A potted citrus plant can be an attractive addition to a home’s holiday décor. It can provide pleasure for many years to come. My information on selection and care of potted citrus was provided by Fruit Crops Specialist Dr. Pete Andersen of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Citrus trees can make very attractive container plants for the homeowners who have the space and the access to natural light indoors to support citrus growth or for those who need to move their plants inside occasionally to escape winter freezes. Of course, from the stand point of size, the smaller members of the citrus family like limes, kumquats and calamondins are the best choices for house plants but all citruses will adapt to containers until they reach a certain size.
The container must be large enough to give the citrus room to grow. Any material will do, really, from old wooden barrels to large planters available from you local garden center. However, if you are going to be moving your plant occasionally, weight is a consideration. Whatever container you choose, make sure that it has holes in the bottom to allow for drainage.
All citruses require lots of sunlight to grow properly. However, you may wish to choose partial shade as opposed to full sunlight to slow the growth of your tree and acclimatize it if you plan to move it indoors from time to time. Make sure, though, to avoid subjecting your container citrus to lengthy periods of full shade as this will hamper its development. Probably the biggest problem with growing potted citrus indoors is that the plants have a tendency to become spindly or leggy due to a lack of sufficient light. If this happens, prune your tree back about one-third. After pruning, the plant should thicken and become bushy.
Water only as needed. Too much water is as bad as too little. After thoroughly wetting the soil, allow the top inch or so to become dry before watering again. If the surface soil feels damp, water is not needed.
Naturally, potted citrus requires fertilizer, but, like watering, fertilizing can be overdone. The best policy is to apply small amounts of water soluble fertilizer about every five weeks. If the mature leaves are deep green in color, the plant is receiving ample fertilizer.
As long as your potted citrus plant receives proper care, it usually will not develop disease problems. About the only pests it might have are scales or spider mites, and these rarely kill a plant. If you suspect an insect problem, spray the plant with an appropriate insecticide from you local garden center.
For more information on Potted Citrus contact the Gulf County Extension Service @ 639-3200, 229-2909 or visit our website: http://gulf.ifas.ufl.edu.