Citrus Fruits for the Northern Gardener

September 9, 2011

If you’re a regular here at Veggie Gardening Tips you know how much I enjoy growing unusual and challenging varieties of fruits and vegetables in the garden. One thing that’s been missing in my backyard is any type of citrus fruit.

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of growing citrus plants and have often been tempted to purchase one of the lemon or lime trees that I’ve seen on occasion at local greenhouses. So of course I was interested when Brighter Blooms contacted me and asked if I would like to trial one of their Meyer Lemon trees.

The Perils of Ordering Plants by Mail

I wasn’t familiar with the company and didn’t know what to expect but was surprised when a box showed up on the front porch containing a large lemon tree. Obtaining live plants through mail order can be hit or miss and you never know what you will receive…

In the past I’ve gotten bare roots, no roots, or potted plants; a decently sized specimen, puny seedlings, or even plants that were a complete waste of time and money to bother with! Sometimes plants arrive dried up, with broken limbs, or in generally poor condition; you just don’t know what to expect when dealing with a new supplier and can’t predict how they package, care for, or ship their plants.

The Meyer Lemon Tree that arrived from Brighter Blooms was packaged better than any plant I have ever received, especially when you consider that it was potted and easily five feet in height. It appeared to have been dug out of a nursery field, was fully rooted, and looked very healthy, vigorous, and has suffered no set back or leaf drop since I replanted it into a permanent container.

Tips for Growing Citrus Plants in Containers

The tree also came with a detailed information sheet that included instructions for cultivating citrus trees indoors or out. Here in the harsh winter climate of Pennsylvania my plan is to use the lemon tree as a decorative patio plant during the warm growing season and to move it indoors to maintain it during the colder months.

Hopefully the tree will actually produce some fruit for me in spite of the northern climate. And for those of you lucky enough to live in a warmer region growing citrus should be even easier and more productive as an outdoor crop year-round.

Following is a sample of the cultivation tips supplied by Brighter Blooms for the potting up and indoor culture of citrus plants:

  • Use a layer of pea gravel at the bottom of the container for drainage
  • Add a high concentration of perlite and vermiculite to the potting soil mix
  • Spread the citrus tree’s roots when placing it into the container
  • Leave a ¼ to ½ inch space at the rim of the pot to allow for watering
  • Don’t fertilize until you start to see new growth and avoid over watering
  • For the winter place the tree in front of the sunniest window you have
  • Don’t move the tree back outdoors until after all threat of frost has passed

My lemon tree is doing great and even rode out the effects of Hurricane Irene in spite of being toppled over a time or two in the high winds. I’ll leave it outside as long as possible before moving it indoors to spend the winter months in the comfort of the house.

Other Exotic Offerings for the Adventurous Gardener

Now that the Meyer Lemon Tree is established, I’m already considering adding additional citrus trees in the future. Brighter Blooms carries other interesting citrus fruits such as; Clementines, Key Limes, Kumquats, a variegated Eureka Lemon, Satsuma oranges and more.

I’m also curious to see how an Arbequina Olive tree or the Dwarf Cavendish Banana tree would take to container culture and dividing its time between the house and patio. So if you’re interested in testing your own green thumb with a bit of exotic fruit check out the selections that Brighter Blooms Nursery has to offer.

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  • Jennie

    I’m jealous – my meyer tree was a LOT smaller than yours when I first got it, around 4 inches tall. But it’s a quick grower – that was this spring, and it’s already 2 feet tall with blossoms. An old neighbor of mine had an indoor lemon tree in zone 6, and he had ripe lemons in April. So there’s definitely hope for us! Good luck with your new tree!

  • Considering it came in a box, it looks really good! And what a lovely addition to the garden!

  • Citrus is one of the best plants a gardener can plant. Aside from it being delicious, it has numerous nutrients that people can gain making it the best garden choice.

  • Luke

    Nice! I have yet to mail order any plant, but good to know there are good sources out there. I have a few container citrus(bears lime, kumquat, and dwarf wash navel). I had an improveyed meyers lemon but it was overrun with scale before i even know what the little buggers were! So keep a close eye on scale, they can spread very quickly before the tree even shows signs of stress. Manual control is the safest. Good hort oil works, but so does diluted rubbing alcohol/soapy water mix. These sprays work best on the babies, before they develope their shell.
    Besides that, have very good draining soil mix, and let it dry out a 2-3 inches down before drenching again.

    Enjoy the fruits!

  • Erin

    I am lucky enough to be near a nursery that carries Meyers Lemon trees. I am going to get one this fall, transplant into a huge pot I have just for it and winter it in my modest greenhouse. I am thrilled at the prospect of having lemons. I wish you luck with yours. What a treat having it shipped to you!!

  • Kenny Point

    Thanks Erin, good luck with your lemon tree as well. Mine is still outdoors but will be coming inside by the end of the week.

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