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Lemons & Oranges

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Botanical name: Citrus spp

Plant type: Fruit

USDA Hardiness Zones: 8, 9, 10

Sun exposure: Full Sun

Soil type: Loamy

Soil pH: Slightly Acidic to Neutral

Although Citrus is a subtropical genus, northern gardeners can grow lemons, oranges, and other citrus trees in containers to enjoy fresh fruit. Standard-size orange and grapefruit trees can grow 18 to 22 feet tall, whereas dwarf varieties only grow 8 to 12 feet tall. Most citrus varieties are self-fertile, so only one tree is necessary. On average, fruit bearing begins when the trees are between 3 and 6 years old; however, exact timing will depend on the type of citrus (lemons, oranges, grapefruit, etc.), the cultivar, your climate, the health of the plant and its care, and other factors. Flowering is not seasonal, but occurs during warm weather and regular rainfall. Flowers and fruits may coincide.

Planting

  • Citrus trees should be planted in a sunny and wind-protected area.
  • In the citrus belt, trees can be planted at any time, however, spring is the best time for container grown plants.
  • Standard-size trees should be spaced 12 to 25 feet apart and dwarf trees should be set 6 to 10 feet apart. The exact distance depends on the variety. The bigger the fruit, the farther the distance.
  • If the soil is not well-drained, plant the trees on a slight mound to prevent waterlogging.
  • To plant citrus trees inside from seeds, remove the seeds from the desired fruit. Soak the seeds overnight in water and plant them 1/2 inch deep in moist potting soil. Cover the pot with a plastic bag or wrap and let it sit in a warm and sunny spot for a few weeks until the seeds start to grow. Then, remove the plastic but keep the pot near a warm and sunny window.

Care

  • A few weeks after planting, and for the first few years (before bearing age), feed the tree a balanced (such as 6-6-6) fertilizer.
  • For newly bearing trees, provide nutrients to continue branch and leaf growth but also to replace nutrients lost by fruit forming. A citrus blend is ideal.
  • Check manufacturer’s directions, or ask a garden nursery, as to how often and how much to apply during each year of a tree's growth.
  • Mulches are not recommended for citrus trees, but if trees are located in a cultivated plant bed where mulch is used, keep at least 12 inches of bare ground between the tree trunk and the mulch. Pre-emergent herbicides may be used to prevent weed seeds from germinating.
  • Fruit thinning is unnecessary.

Pests

  • Aphids
  • Spider Mites
  • Root and Crown Rots
  • Fungal Leaf Spots
  • Fruit Flies
  • Tristeza Virus spread by Aphids

Harvest/Storage

  • Depending on the climate, fruits may take 6 to 8 months to ripen.
  • The best indicator of ripeness is taste.
  • Harvest the fruit by cutting them off with pruning shears or by pulling the fruit stalk from the tree.
  • Undamaged fruit can be stored for several weeks at cool temperatures.

Recommended Varieties

  • Limes - 'Bearss' and 'Rangpur'
  • Sour Oranges - 'Bouquet de Fleurs' and 'Seville'
  • Lemons - 'Eureka' and 'Sun Gold'
  • Grapefruits - 'Red Blush' (pink flesh), 'Marsh Seedless' (white flesh) and 'Star Ruby' (red flesh)
  • Mandarins - 'Clementine' and 'Satsuma'
  • Tangelos - 'Minneola' and 'Orlando'
  • Sweet Oranges - 'Valencia' (Valencia), 'Ruby' (Blood) and 'Washington' (Navel)

Recipes

Wit & Wisdom

Make your own air freshener: Slice some lemons, cover with water, and let simmer in a pot for about an hour.

Comments

I have two dwarf lemon trees

By Renee Winkler on October 21

I have two dwarf lemon trees that I bought this past summer and planted in pots. When I bought the trees both had tiny lemons on them that are now quite big. The two trees have been together all the time but appear to be behaving differently.

About a month ago one tree started flowering and now has A LOT of tiny lemons (in addition to the now large lemons that were on the tree when I bought it). It seems to be doing quite well, but now I am noticing there are faint yellow spots on the leaves (nothing crusty, or with black in the spots like I see on pictures online).

The other tree has not flowered or produced new fruit. It also has no spots on its leaves and therefore to me looks a bit healthier. I haven't fertilized or added anything to either plant - only water.

Any idea why I'm seeing such a difference between the two trees - why one is flowering and the other is not? Any idea what the yellow spots might indicate?

Our tree is beginning to

By Gayle1 on October 12

Our tree is beginning to flower (Victoria Australia)but still has some fruit which I prefer to leave on the tree until it is ripe enough to almost fall off into my hand. As the tree is flowering, should the remaining fruit all be picked?

Me and my family just moved

By Brittany BRAKEFIELD on September 23

Me and my family just moved in a new house and there is 2 fruit trees in the yard and they are about the size of a half dollar and I picked one off the tree and they smell like Orange's but they are green on the out side and white on the in side can someone please tell me what kind of fruit this is

Interesting! We do not know

By Almanac Staff on September 24

Interesting! We do not know where you live, however, there are a some citrus trees that have a greenish exterior and white interior that resemble a white grapefruit. I don't know if this is the fruit you're describing; you can see pictures on this page: http://www.sunkist.com/products/seasonal_specialties.aspx

hi! first great site! i

By emanoyhl

hi! first great site!
i already am learning about grafting citrus, and various other fruit trees, i have ordered lime seeds to plant for next year, since i know no one who has actual lime tree - must i graft in order to produce fruit or wait a very long time to produce from from a lime seed? since i would not easily be able to find a lime tree to graft from, once the seeds mature into trees, can i graft from the lime and expect fruit?

thanks!

Citrus trees are usually

By Almanac Staff

Citrus trees are usually grafted to produce the best fruit possible. What type of lime seed did you order? Most seeds are hybrid and don't grow fruit that's identical to the parent tree. If you ordered "true" or heirloom seeds you can grow a lime tree but it will take many years before it will bear fruit. Key limes, which grow true to seed, will fruit in two to three years.

how big is it suppose to get

By goo joo

how big is it suppose to get in 1 year.

Growth depends on the tree

By Almanac Staff

Growth depends on the tree variety and many environmental conditions. A healthy Meyer Lemon tree will grow to about 12"-16" tall after Year One and about 20-24" tall after Year Two.

I live in Salem Oregon and

By Karla Wilcox

I live in Salem Oregon and want to grow a lemon and grapfruit tree. I am trying to find out how to do this. I know there is a dwarf lemon tree that does good but not sure about the grapefruit. I know containers are the way to do it here. Grapefruit is my fav but want to know if I will be able to grow ruby red grapefruit that taste good. Is it worth it to try? Do they have a dwarf grapefruit tree for containers? I really could use your advice.

Thank You

In cold climates, you would

By Almanac Staff

In cold climates, you would need a potted citrus tree that comes inside in the cold months. Meyer lemons are usually sold on dwarf rootstock and can be kept at a reasonable container size of five to six feet. If you have a greenhouse, you can certainly have a range of citrus plants, including grapefruit. If you want a dwarf variety, you'd just purchase the grafted plant at a nursery; we'd suggest you ask them for local varieties.

in your care section above,

By danw

in your care section above, you say to mulch to retain moisture. I have heard that mulching citrus is a big no no. Can you help, explain this?

Good catch, Dan. We have

By Almanac Staff

Good catch, Dan. We have revised the text above. Mulch has been proven to have the potential to induce foot rot disease; keep mulch at least a foot away from the trunk.

Dear Farmer's, I live in

By Chad Regalado

Dear Farmer's,
I live in TX. I started a lemon tree from seed and is growing very well, about 6' now and is about 3yrs old. My question is when do you think it will start fruiting. O' its in a large tree pot on my patio. I give it plenty of food and water with good draining it gets 2/3rds of the days sun am I doing anything wrong or just being inpatient. Thanks for your help and have a great day.

My 15 year old dwarf lemon

By ddodt1

My 15 year old dwarf lemon tree, planted in backyard has given me years of deliicious lemons. Now, I noticed the immature lemons are yellow and falling off and feel soft, and even the green lemons, still on the tree are soft. When opening a lemon found on the ground it looks brown and ugly. But, it is so moist, it seems like it gets enough water. Looking forward to fixing the problem, I know this years harvest is gone, but what can I do to bring it back to healt?

Is the tree itself healthy?

By Almanac Staff

Is the tree itself healthy? Have you added nutrients to the soil?  You may need to test the soil to see if you need to add minerals or any other supplements. Please see link below for more information about citrus diseases and disorders.
www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/C107/m107bpfruitdis.html

I just brought 2 orange trees

By markc steudlein

I just brought 2 orange trees today 5/18/2014 is their a certain time to transplant these trees and is their a special way to plant them ? Thanks for your help.

Are there special hints for

By Phyllis Shout

Are there special hints for growing Citrus trees in zone 8b (Souther CA high desert)? Citrus trees do not seem to be common here.

It can be challenging, but

By Almanac Staff

It can be challenging, but we've heard from readers who have grown some varieties such as Meyer Lemon and Kumquat. We would suggest you grow dwarf varieties in pots so you can haul them inside when temperatures drop.

Thank you. I love your web

By Phyllis Shout

Thank you. I love your web site!

Hi Almanac Staff, I was

By Brett Schlesier

Hi Almanac Staff,
I was wondering if you have the date which this information/page was published and last updated? I am putting together a research presentation on the orange and would like to use some of this information as a reference!

Thank you!

Does the fruit of the

By Jimbo38

Does the fruit of the grapefruit tree grow on new growth or older growth? I don't want to let the tree get scraggly but don't want to prune if I'm going to impact fruit setting.

Grapefruit flowers form on

By Almanac Staff

Grapefruit flowers form on new wood, and the plant requires a certain number of leaf nodes before it will form fruit--so too much pruning will set the yield back. In the home garden, pruning of grapefruit trees is usually not recommended, unless there is dead, damaged, or diseased wood; crossing branches; suckers below the graft point; or an older tree needs rejuvenation. For young trees, sometimes gardners do light pruning for shaping. For dead wood or crossing branches, or for suckers, you can prune any time. For live wood, in spring after last expected frost is one time, or at least before summer heat; or, some prune just after the last fruit is harvested. Exact timing depends on your area and your goal. Rejuvenation pruning is done just before major growth starts.

Thanks guys. Big help. Guess

By Jimbo38

Thanks guys. Big help. Guess I'll let it grow for awhile. (Other than suckers).

I am planning to raise lemon

By aksgopalan

I am planning to raise lemon tree in a small piece of land say around 6000 s.ft.pls suggest how many trees can I grow and is it profitable once the tree start yielding fruits after the specified period...Your advise pls..Regds..Aks

In the first paragraph I see

By Gordon Seifert

In the first paragraph I see "Fruit bearing begins at three to six weeks." Is that supposed to be 'three to six years' perhaps?

Under CARE I see "Spread about 2 pounds of fertilizer over 2 or 3 doses in regular intervals." That needs explaining. You've just talked about growing from seed and about feeding high nitrogen fertilizer for the first few years. Two pounds of fertilizer sounds like it will bury or kill a seedling or young tree, even applied in 3 applications. At what growth stage (possibly in height or months) would that two pound suggestion apply?

Thank you, Gordon. We updated

By Almanac Staff

Thank you, Gordon. We updated the page to address your comments and queries.

Hi, I live in Nelspruit in

By Roxane Hendry

Hi, I live in Nelspruit in South Africa. I have finally found limes at a store and was hoping to grow them from the fruits I bought. The weather here constantly changes between hot and cold. It can be very hot or just rain for days. I really want to grow these limes indoor so that when I move I can take them with me. Any tips on the best way to grow lime trees from the seed will be really helpful and also the care for the limes with this odd weather (currently moving into winter which means its rainy) thanks a lot for all the help!

Lemon & Orange - flowers well

By Tiffan

Lemon & Orange - flowers well but doesn't grow much OR fruit.
We planted a 3-gal Valencia Orange and a 3-gal Meyer Lemon last spring and each small tree produces lovely flowers but hasn't really grown past its original size. The orange produced a fruit, but the lemon hasn't. I am in the Houston area, with a clay gumbo soil in coastal prairie 9a.
This year in late March I provided it with a citrus tree fertilizer (about 1/4 cup each) around the trunk (but not ON the tree to burn). The orange has been able to fend off the St. Augustine grass growing beneath, but the lemon has a full bed of grass beneath.
My three questions are: 1)should I continue with fertilizing every other month even through a Texas summer; 2)should I clear and mulch the base of the trunks / does the grass growing beneath inhibit growth; and 3)does a clay soil really prevent a tree from growing, and if so, how can I amend the soil without digging up the rootball to add sand and compost? Thanks a million, your advice is greatly appreciated!!

Citrus trees need

By Almanac Staff

Citrus trees need well-draining soil. You may add some compost to the soil around the tree and dig down outside of the rootball and add some compost. Add mulch around the trees (not too thick) and consistant watering is important when the trees bloom and set fruit. Citrus trees are heavy feeders so continue fertilizing every other month during the summer months.

Thank you! Also, I originally

By Tiffan

Thank you! Also, I originally planted them about 20-ft apart in the backyard, and it has been advised to me that they are too far away to be pollinated to each other. Should I dig up one or the other in the fall and bring it closer to the other tree? That would give a good opportunity to amend soil..

I'm looking to plant some

By Sean Roustio

I'm looking to plant some citrus trees behind my back yard fence because they are going to be building houses further in the distance which used to be woods. I have been wanting some citrus trees anyway and figured this would be a perfect time. I would like it to cover a 45' stretch and was curious if I could plant four different trees. I see they could be anywhere from 10-25 feet apart but would like the trees to eventually touch completely obscuring the view. I would be planting a ruby red and have not decided on the others completely. The area would be in full sun.
Questions:
1. Would spacing them 10' apart be acceptable and how far from the picket fence should they be planted?
2. Are there any suggestions as to where to buy good quality trees (good root stock) here in central Florida (Polk County).
3. Any suggestions on types of other citrus to plant (yes I know its subjective).

Thanks,
Sean

It is adviced not to plant

By Almanac Staff

It is adviced not to plant citrus trees too close to other trees or structures. They may not produce much fruit and develop disease and insect problems. Make sure there is good air circulation around the trees.
See https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs132 for information about different varieties. You may want to plant varieties that bear fruit at different times during the growing season.

i planted a few lemon trees

By matthewMLemons

i planted a few lemon trees from seeds about 2-3 months ago. And they began to grow until they stopped once they reached about 3-5 inches in height. So i moved them into bigger pots and they still dont seem to be getting any taller...any advice or knowledge you can share??

Thanks,
Matthew

You'll need several hours of

By Almanac Staff

You'll need several hours of bright sunlight each day. Please note: Though you can grow lemon trees from seeds, it can take about 15 years--a long time. It takes about 5 years to harvest lemons if you graft from the seedling to a mature lemon tree (i.e., usually bought at a nursery).

Our navel trees in Arizona

By Nate from AZ

Our navel trees in Arizona have been producing the best oranges for the past 10 years. They have always been seedless. This year, each orange has about 6 large seeds. Any ideas why this happened?

Generally speaking, navel

By Almanac Staff

Generally speaking, navel oranges are generally seedless, though they can have occasional seeds.
Do you have regular orange groves nearby? Could the flowers have been pollinated by a nearby plant?

I rent a home with 2 orange

By MaeCourtney

I rent a home with 2 orange trees and 1 tangerine tree. My tangerine tree produces great fruit but, both of the orange trees produce terrible tasting fruit for the past 10 years, maybe longer my fiance has lived here longer. Only thing he said that we can do to help the tree is grafting. Which he says involves sticking branches of a new orange tree inside the old one. Not joking. Would really like to know if there's anything I can do. Thanks

Many orange groves and trees

By Almanac Staff

Many orange groves and trees were established by grafting the sweet orange onto sour orange rootstocks because the "sweet" orange is susceptible to disease. If you orange tree is old, it's possible that the root stock has taken over. However, you can easily graft a new citrus fruit (that's more edible) onto it. Or, you can choose to re-plant. We'd advise that you speak to your local cooperative extension or a tree nursery on how to graft. All the best.

Hi, I have an older orange

By Joe V.

Hi, I have an older orange and lemon tree that are together. One side orange the other side lemon. This year it seems the lemons are taking over the orange side. Will the lemons eventually take over the whole tree.

Yes, different varieties of

By Almanac Staff

Yes, different varieties of citrus may be budded on the same tree. It sounds as if the original rootstock was a lemon and it is outgrowing the "orange" top that it is grated onto. This often happens. The original orange top may still be there as a part of the tree. If it is still there, you can cut away the "lemon" and restore the orange.

i have a lemon tree grown

By Amy112081

i have a lemon tree grown from a seed in the ground. Live in Texas. The tree is between 10-15 years old and has never produced one flower! i have read they take 7 years to fruit. Am I at a loss with this tree? since it has been twice as long, does that mean it won't ever produce? thanks.

If this tree is from a

By Almanac Staff

If this tree is from a seedling, it may or may not produce fruit. You really never know what you are getting as all seeds are different. A new fruit tree is best grown, or propagated, not from a seed but by grafting or budding. After this many years, we would guess you'll have a pretty plant, but no fruit. If you wish, Google "grafting fruit tree" to learn more about this.

I grew an orange tree from

By Don Hart

I grew an orange tree from seed, it was from my grandmother's 60 year old tree, best oranges ever. The tree I grew is now 7 years old and I have a feeling it will not produce fruit. Is it possible to graft from the 7 year old non fruit producing tree to a new tree and expect fruit?

I live in a zone 9 area. I

By Gisselle

I live in a zone 9 area. I bought and transplanted 2 navel orange trees and 1 valley lemon tree. The valley lemon tree produced one huge lemon. The leaves of my orange trees are wilting and they have white tracks on them. How can I get rid of this? Also, I have three 50+ year old Oak trees that give plenty of shade throughout the day. How much does that affect them? Am I depriving the trees of their needed sunlight?

Citrus trees need full

By Almanac Staff

Citrus trees need full sunlight. If possible transplant your trees to a sunnier spot away from the oak trees. The trees also need a lot of water. Give them a deep watering every week. Add a layer of mulch around the trees to help keep moisture in the soil.
 

Our oranges (Washington &

By Warren Cowan

Our oranges (Washington & Lane's Late) and mandarins (Japanese seedless, Imperial & Ellendale) have all produced fruit that is without juice - very very dry. Any idea what the cause is and how I might remedy it? Thanks.

Dry fruit is often associated

By Almanac Staff

Dry fruit is often associated with fast growth. It also occurs more often on young trees, in humid climates and on trees growing in sandy soil. Make sure that your trees get sufficient water and fertilizer, and fruit should be harvested early. Amend sandy soil with loam or organic matter.
 

I have a Satsuma mandarin and

By John Villarreal

I have a Satsuma mandarin and Washington navel that do very well. I also have a grapefruit tree that was grown from a pink grapefruit seed. It took a very long time for it to produce but the last two years have been good. This year it didn't produce one single blossom. What happened? They are all in the ground and I live in the San Diego area.

Hi John, It could be weather

By Almanac Staff

Hi John,
It could be weather related. Cold temps in the spring may have damaged the buds. If the tree is big it may also need a bit of pruning to help new growth and fruit set. Fertilize the tree next spring and again in late summer.
 

I have some very important

By Jeff in Australia

I have some very important tips, as I grow citrus fruits very successfully in my home garden.....

Don't fertilise your citrus tree when it is flowering - it will tend to drop its fruit and just produce lovely leaves! When you fertilise - spread the fertiliser around and inside the "drip line" (where the outside of the tree comes to meet the ground)

Potash is great to spread around the tree once it has finished fruiting, as this will help produce the flowers the following season.

Citrus trees hate having things growing around the bottom, like grass - so keep below your citrus trees free from any plant.

Good Luck Everyone from Down Under!

Jeff, Great tips! Thanks for

By Almanac Staff

Jeff, Great tips! Thanks for sharing your advice from Down Under. We really appreciate it! –Your OFA editors

I recently moved into a home

By Patrice Wood

I recently moved into a home in February and we had about two or three oranges on the orange tree. It is now September and we have about 6-8 green oranges.. Do I need to fertilize in order to get a larger amount of oranges or do you think this is all I will get out of it. I have no idea how old the tree is... but I want to say it is at is full height..its huge... is it to late to fertilize to get more oranges?? oh I live in Pensacola flordia..thanks for any help.

Without knowing much more, we

By Almanac Staff

Without knowing much more, we can tell you:
An orange can take five years to fruit.  Is it flowering? If so, perhaps the flowers are not getting fertilized. You may need to snap a branch to shake some pollen onto the pistons to help it along. You should also get your tree IDed so that you know what variety it is; speak to your Florida cooperative extension.

we have an indoor miniature

By margaret saba

we have an indoor miniature lime tree which has produced a lime when it was just a foot tall. How can u tell when its ripe and ready to be picked ,how long is the normal time until proper time to harvest fruit? We've had it for about 5 months when it was only a foot tall.

The time to harvest may

By Almanac Staff

The time to harvest may depend on the location/conditions, the type of lime you have (dwarf key lime, dwarf Persian lime, etc.), and the health of the plant. In general, you might expect about 3 to 4 months from flower buds appearing to the time to harvest. Various lime types appear a bit different, but in general, here are some tips about when to harvest limes:
 
Note that limes will not ripen once they are removed from the tree, so timing of harvest is important.
 
Fully ripe limes are yellow, but you don't want to pick them at this stage, because they are bitter and don't have good flavor. Limes are actually picked when slightly immature. Look for when the green skin turns lighter, a sort of yellowy green or medium green color. Dark green skin indicates the fruit is not ready.
 
Also check that the skin is smooth (wrinkled means that the fruit is past its prime).
 
Fruit is fairly firm, just a bit soft; not hard.
 
When you cut it open, it should be juicy--if it isn't, it isn't ripe yet; in this case, allow the other limes on the tree to ripen a few more days.
 
The fruit should release fairly easily with a twist off the branch (although, fully ripe limes will come off even more easily).

planted a valencia orange & a dancey tangerine

By Anonymous

We planted these trees about 2yr. ago. They do not seem to be growing. Could the grass that is under they be absorbing the fertilizer?

citrus not growing

By Anonymous

If the soil is heavy clay, the roots may not be able to grow.

We don't know much about the

By Almanac Staff

We don't know much about the age of the tree you planted, but note that it can take up to five years to mature. In the meantime, enjoy the tree itself!

wierd tree

By Anonymous

My husband and I moved into a house where there is a citrus tree. my son picked some were greenish and lime like when we cut them and some where pinkish and grapefruit like. has anyone heard of this from the same tree?

Maybe lemon

By Anonymous

This sounds like a lemon tree that I have. It is a verigated pink lemon. The outside is lime color with stripes, the inside is pink lemonade color and tastes like a lemon. Hope you get some good fruit off of it, whatever it is!

It could be a lime tree or an

By Almanac Staff

It could be a lime tree or an exotic type of tree. The best way to identify a tree is often by the shape of its leaves as well as fruit. For example, the leaves and fruit of a lime are oblong. We'd suggest you take a sample of both to the nearest Cooperative Extension office or a local nursery that has citrus to ID it. Here's another resource: http://www.treehelp.com/trees/citrus/citrus-types.asp

Oranges from Seed

By rononPI

This article offered great advice with regard to caring for citrus, but it should have mentioned that most varieties of oranges do not run true to seed. If you plant the seeds from a navel orange for instance, you will get a thorny sour orange. It is best to buy grafted trees for best results.

One other thing, you didn’t mention my favorite variety of citrus as a recommended variety, which is the Poncan Tangerine. They produce a large, very sweet fruit that peels very easily.

Dwarf Meyer Lemon in Container

By Crslyn

Tree is 4 yo and lost all of it's leaves and thorns, then bloomed and then zippo. Have fertilized with citrus fertilizer. Placed in full sun. I live in North Central Texas. Last year we got a bumper crop off of this tree. What else can I do?

pruning a lemon tree

By Sheila Stout

I have this lemon tree, for about 2 years, when can i exspect to get fruit? should I prune this tree, and if so how do I prune it

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