Not only do citrus trees provide a delicious fruit harvest, but also shade and beauty. When caring for citrus, it is key to take into consideration proper water and fertilization, as citrus need many different minerals. This means you need specific citrus fertilizers that have nutrients including phosphorus, potassium, copper, magnesium, boron and zinc. With proper care, you will have your lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, mandarin or kumquat tree producing healthy fruit.
Caring For Citrus
Keep your citrus tree on a strict watering cycle, especially during the first couple years of its life. Water a tree that is newly planted two to three times a weeks, and after the first six months, water the citrus tree twice a week, deeply. Once the citrus tree is 10 months old, only water deeply it when the top couple inches of the soil around the trunk is dried out.
Mulch around the base of the citrus tree, about 3 feet outwards, to retain moisture, protect the roots and control weeds. It is important to control weeds around a citrus tree.
Protect your citrus trees from freezing temperatures, particularly if the tree is less than 5 years old. Mound soil up around the trunk 12 to 15 inches high to insulate and absorb daytime sun. You can also use a tree wrap for older trees. For smaller citrus trees, like kumquats, drape light sheets over the top and hold them down with rocks.
Prune citrus trees to keep them healthy and to ensure proper fruit production. At any time during the year, remove diseased, broken or dead branches, cutting them back to the trunk of the tree. During the dormant season, prune back citrus trees with pruning shears and loppers. Cut back any branches that are overcrowded or cross others to provide more air circulation and let in more sunlight. You can also prune to shape a tree or reduce a tree's height. Cut branches at a downward angle right at the base of the branch. For larger branches, cut them in half first before cutting off the thickest part that connects to the trunk.
Fertilize in spring each year, following the package instructions. Do not fertilize from August to February during the first two years of growth. Use a fertilizer that is a slow-release citrus formula and has macro and micronutrients including ample amounts of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, but also magnesium, boron, zinc and copper.
Add mycorrhizal fungi to the soil when you plant a citrus tree, as this is a beneficial fungus that lives in the root system of most trees, allowing the tree to absorb more nutrients from the soil. This is usually lacking in soil where citrus trees are transplanted to, particularly in urban areas. You can purchase this from a local nursery and add it to the soil even after the tree is established.
Watch your citrus tree for iron deficiency, especially in younger trees. Look for new leaves that are yellow or pale green, a skeleton pattern on the leaf surface or completely stunted growth. If your citrus tree encounters any of these symptoms use an iron supplement that's suitable for your citrus, climate and soil type.
About this Author
Lauren Wise has more than eight years' experience as a writer, editor, copywriter and columnist. She specializes in food, wine, music and pop culture. Her writing has appeared in various magazines, including "Runway," "A2Z," "Scottsdale Luxury Living" and "True West." Wise holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Arizona State University.