By National Gardening Association Editors
- In the citrus belt, trees can be planted any time of year. Spring is the best time to plant container-grown trees from a nursery outside.
Standard-size orange and grape fruit trees grow 18 to 22 feet tail; dwarf varieties grow 8 to 12 feet tall. Dwarf varieties are suitable for growing outdoors or in containers.
Most citrus trees begin to bear at 3 to 6 years.
Pollination is generally accomplished by insects and sometimes by the wind. Indoor gardeners can hand-pollinate. Most citrus varieties are self-fertile so you need only one tree.
- Citrus will grow in most soils that are moist but well drained. Avoid salty soils.
Choose a site protected from wind, with maximum sun exposure.
- Set standard-size trees 12 to 25 feet apart, set dwarfs 6 to 10 feet apart. (Distance will depend on type and variety.) Set standard-size oranges 20 feet apart, standard-size grapefruit 25 feet apart. Limes and lemons require less space.
Plant the trees no deeper than they grew in the nursery container.
- Water the entire root area deeply about once a week.
Prune any time of the year. When the trees are young, prune over vigorous growth. Prune mature trees to remove dead, broken, and diseased branches.
- Give mature trees 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of nitrogen a year. Apply in four portions throughout the year, or just once 6 to 8 weeks before bloom.
- See our article Fruit Pests and Diseases for controls of common citrus pests such as aphids, scale, red spider mites, and gummosis.
- Although some varieties ripen their fruit all at once, many others ripen fruit over a period of several months (fall through winter). Taste is the best indicator of ripeness.
Clip ripe fruit off with pruning shears.
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