How to Garden Citrus Trees


Orange juice and lemonade are just two of the many ways you can get your vitamin C from fresh citrus fruit. When you grow your own citrus tree of any type---such as oranges, lemons, limes or grapefruit---you'll be able to experiment with these healthful fruits in many different recipes. All you need is a patch of ground in a sunny area where the soil drains well. If you have heavy clay soil or live in a climate zone that receives hard frosts in the winter, you can still have your citrus trees when you grow them in large pots.

Gardening Citrus Trees

Step 1

Plant your citrus tree in spring, after your final frost. Choose a sunny spot in your garden where the drainage is good. Dig a planting hole about twice the size of your citrus tree's root system and then mix the soil with any kind of organic compost and other organic materials, such as peat moss. Use the ratio of one part compost to four parts topsoil.

Step 2

Refill your planting hole about half full with your soil-compost mixture. Then remove your citrus tree from its nursery pot and set it into the hole. Distribute the roots evenly around the base of the plant and then fill the hole with the rest of the soil and compost you removed.

Step 3

Water your citrus tree once each week when rain does not occur, allowing the soil to dry slightly between waterings.

Step 4

Fertilize your citrus tree with a balanced fertilizer designed for citrus four times each year. Begin the first feeding in spring as soon as you notice signs of fresh growth and continue at evenly spaced intervals until midsummer. Follow label instructions for mixing and applying your fertilizer.

Step 5

Control slugs and snails by baiting with iron phosphate granules. If your citrus tree shows signs of insects such as aphids, spray with insecticidal soap every two to three days until the insects have all died.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not fertilize citrus trees after midsummer, because the nitrogen in your plant food can cause rapid new growth, which can get frostbitten if your first fall frost occurs early. Watch for signs of a white to gray fuzzy coating on your citrus leaves, because they are sometimes subject to powdery mildew. If this occurs, spray your tree with an approved fungicide, such as sulfur.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost
  • Shovel
  • Citrus fertilizer
  • Iron phosphate (optional)
  • Insecticidal soap (optional)
  • Large container (optional)
  • Acidic potting soil (optional)


  • Texas A&M Cooperative Extension: Home Fruit Production---Oranges
  • Purdue University: Orange
  • Gardening Know How: Learn About Fertilizer for a Lemon Tree

Who Can Help

  • Ohio State University: Powdery Mildew on Ornamental Plants
Keywords: citrus trees, oranges lemons limes, gardening fruit

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.