The Q&A Archives: Ants On My Citrus Trees

Question: I have 5 of your dwarf trees: lemons, organge lime and grapefruit trees. I have had them since early spring this year.

RED BLUSH GRAPEFRUIT: no fruit and has ants leaves are not bright green

CARA CARA PINK NAVEL ORANGE:I have two organges that are about the size of tennis balls and haven't gotten any larger nor have they ripened. Also have ants

LISBON LEMON:Lemons have started to bud, leaves are not bright green, ants.

WASHINGTON NAVEL ORGANGE: no fruit and the leaves are not bright green.

LIME:I have limes but they do not get bright geen, ants.

I have five of your dwarf trees. They receive full sun about 12 hours per day. I water them when they become dry about 3-4 inches below surface.

When do I fertilize? Because they are in clay pots how do make certain I don't over fertilize.

The trees will be moved inside when there is a threat of hard freeze. How do I fertilize for winter?

I'm sorry for all of the questions but I am real new at this.

Answer: Growing citrus trees can sometimes be a challenge and you seem to be having more than your share of challenges! To begin with, you should start moving your trees indoors now, before you turn on the heat in your house. Plan on gradually acclimating them to the lower light levels and lower humdity in your home by moving them indoors at night and taking them back outside during the day. Keep them in for longer and longer periods of time until they're inside 24 hours a day. I do this with my citrus trees, taking 7-10 days for the entire process. You'll reverse the acclimation process in the spring when you want to take your trees back outdoors.

Ants are attracted to citrus trees either because the flowers are exuding sweet nectar or your trees have a population of aphids (whiteflies or scale insects). Aphids suck the juices out of plant tissues and excrete a sweet substance called honeydew. Ants herd and protect aphids because they know they are a source of honeydew, something they enjoy eating and taking back to their nests.

To rid your trees of ants, you'll need to rid your trees of sucking insect pests. If there are no insects, the ants are stealing the nectar from the flowers. You can place a sticky barrier around the trunks of your trees to stop ants from invading them.

Citrus fruit ripens over a long period of time. Fruits might turn color from green to yellow or orange and still not be quite ripe. Sometimes it seems to take forever to ripen and about the time you're ready to give up, the fruit will be mature and ready to harvest. Fruit should slip easily from the stem when it's ripe. You can allow it to drop on its own or you can give the fruit a gentle tug every few weeks to see if it's ready to be harvested.

The safest way to fertilize any plant in a container is to use a half-strength dilution of a liquid fertilizer, applied every 2-3 weeks. By diluting by half, you'll eliminate the risk of over-fertilizing and burning the roots, plus you'll be providing a constant diet of important nutrients. Regular feeding all year around will help the foliage return to the normal deep green color.

Citrus trees can produce several crops of fruit each year and can even flower while fruit is maturing. The tree's age will determine how heavy the crop is and how soon a tree can begin producing fruit. Don't give up on your fruitless trees; when they are mature enough they will produce flowers and fruit.

Hope this answers all your questions about citrus trees!

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