Citrus in the home garden offers stunning color with the fruit against dark green, glossy leaves, a heavenly scent and, of course, scrumptious fruit picked fresh. Caring for citrus plants is relatively simple and, depending on the area, it may be better to grow the plant in a container that you can bring in for the winter months that get below 40 degrees F. Depending on the variety, citrus plants can grow from 6 to 20 feet tall and will not produce fruit until the third to sixth year after planting.
Grow a citrus tree in an area that receives at least six hours of full sun daily and where it is protected from winds. In cooler climates, plant the tree near a south-facing wall where it will benefit from the warmth of the sun or consider growing it in a container so you can bring the citrus indoors for the winter.
Amend the soil with a 4- to 6-inch layer of compost and work it down into the soil to a depth of 1 foot. This makes the soil light and airy, allowing the water not to stand around the roots. If the soil is too compacted or heavy clay, consider planting in a raised bed or container.
Water citrus plants consistently, long and slow, using a drip irrigation system or gardening hose with the water trickling out. Depending on how quickly the soil dries out, water two to three times a week. For plants in the ground, water when the soil is dry down to 6-inches deep and for those in containers, water when the top 2 inches are dry.
Add a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch underneath the citrus plant to help control weeds, retain moisture in the soil and keep the shallow roots of the plant cool. Use a compost or shredded bark. Do not let mulch touch the trunk of the tree, as this can spread diseases.
Feed with a fertilizer specifically designed for citrus plants that has a balance of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, along with other essential nutrients such as magnesium, copper and zinc. Apply in early spring and once a month through summer, according to the package directions.
Prune a citrus plant in late spring or summer to shape the tree. Remove any dead branches, suckers that grow up from the roots and water sprouts that grow off of the branches.
Check the plant for pests that commonly infest citrus, such as aphids, scale and spider mites. The most common signs are tiny holes in the leaves and a white, cottony substance on the underside of the leaves. To help prevent pests, spray the plant once a week or wipe the leaves with a damp cloth. To treat any pests, spray with an insecticide made specifically for citrus plants.
Prepare a citrus plant for winter by watering well before the first frost is expected and then covering with a frost blanket. You can buy frost blankets at garden centers. Place a string of small lights around the plant before covering with a blanket to provide added warmth. If the citrus plant is in a container, bring the plant indoors for the winter or place it under a covered patio.