Citrus in the Midwest?!

We love to grow citrus trees! They make a beautiful potted specimen plant for any deck or patio. The flowers smell heavenly, and the edible fruit that follows is an added bonus! Worried about the cold? We bring ours indoors; the smell of the blossoms on just one tree is an intoxicating treat in the winter! Follow a few key tips, keep them in a sunny spot and you won't regret it!

  1. Buying: Purchase the right tree!! Calamondin Orange, Improved Meyer Lemon, Variegated Lemon, Eureka Lemon, Persian or Bearss Lime, Key Lime or Mexican Lime are also all great varieties for beginning indoor cultivators.
  2. Soil: Citrus trees prefer a very rich acidic soil, a range of 5-7 is best. A soil containing a fair amount of organic matter (leafmold, peatmoss or compost) is best. Since citrus plants prefer acid conditions, use peat in the potting mix to help keep the pH down. Use about one-third sterile potting soil, one-third perlite or vermiculite, and one-third peat or other organic matter in the potting mix.
  3. Fertilizer: Use a fertilizer formulated specially for acid-loving plants. Fertilize the plant only when it is actively growing, usually April through September.
  4. Light: Citrus trees require a minimum of 5 hours of sunlight per day. Ideally, they should get 10-12...supplemental lighting may be necessary in the winter. One important thing to keep in mind is to slowly acclimate your trees if taking them from the outdoors to indoors for winter.
  5. Humidity. Citrus trees will drop their leaves if the humidity grows too low in an indoor environment. Ideal humidity should be at 45 - 50%. Use a humidifier, if necessary.
  6. Water: Regular watering is necessary for your tree's survival. When the top 2 inches of soil are dry, water (but don't soak) the tree. If water pools in the saucer, empty the saucer. During warm summer months, you may need to water as often as twice daily. During winter months, water much more sparingly.
  7. Pests: Scale, whitefly, and spider mites are some of the most common pests of citrus. Many insects can be prevented from gaining much ground by making sure the foliage is kept clean by occasionally washing the leaves. Pay special attention to the undersides as well as the tops of leaves. You'll most likely have more pest issues in the winter months, natural predators generally take care of many problems if your plant is summering outdoors!

Be sure to use products currently approved for use on houseplants on your citrus! You can leave your trees outside until the nighttime temperature drops to about 45 degrees. Gradually acclimate them to being inside. Starting about three weeks ahead of time gradually move your tree into more shaded areas. You can also move it into a sheltered spot such as a garage, sun-room or covered porch for a couple hours a day to help get it acclimated to being inside. This process is called "hardening off" and should reduce leaf drop when you do bring in it for the winter.

Follow these few easy steps and you will find growing citrus in the Midwest easy!!