Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

How to Winterize My Citrus Trees

By Barbara Fahs ; Updated September 21, 2017
Lime trees are among the most frost-tender citrus trees.
lime image by Tolam from Fotolia.com

Citrus trees are among the most popular types of fruit trees that home gardeners include in their landscaping. Lemons, limes, oranges, tangerines and other citrus fruits contain Vitamin C, calcium and other important nutrients. But if you live and garden north of USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 8, your citrus trees run the risk of frost damage when the temperature dips below 20 degrees F. Use one of several methods to winterize citrus trees and protect them from cold damage.

String Christmas lights over and around your tree. The warmth these lights provides can be sufficient to protect trees from light frosts, according to Four Winds Growers. Turn these lights on at night when the weather forecast predicts frost or temperatures below 32 degrees F for your area. You can also hang a 100-watt light bulb in the center of your tree, according to the University of California.

Turn on a yard sprinkler that will cover your tree with water on nights when the temperature is forecast to drop below 32 degrees F. Because running water cannot freeze, it will protect your tree from frost. Although this method uses a large amount of water, it can save your tree.

Spray an anti-transpirant over your tree in fall, before the first hard frost occurs. The University of California at Davis reports, “anti-transpirants are chemicals capable of reducing the transpiration rate when applied to plant foliage.” When plants are exposed to cold temperatures, they lose water. An anti-transpirant helps your citrus tree to retain its valuable juices.

Build a frost frame by constructing a box from 2-by-2-foot boards that is tall enough and wide enough to cover your citrus tree. Drape clear plastic over the top of the frame and around the sides, stapling it in place.

Move your tree indoors for the winter, if possible. If you grow your citrus tree in a large container, move it indoors for the winter before the first frost occurs. Provide six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day, or install fluorescent grow lights above your plant. Maintain a minimum temperature of 50 degrees F at night—warmer temperatures during the daytime will also benefit the tree. Reduce your watering of citrus trees that you bring indoors over winter as it is their dormant season.


Things You Will Need

  • Christmas lights
  • Sprinkler
  • Anti-transpirant
  • Clear plastic
  • 2-by-2-foot boards
  • Nails or screws


  • Avoid fertilizing your citrus trees after late summer, according to the University of California. Fertilizer can cause rapid new vegetative growth, which will be more sensitive to frost.
  • Mulch around your tree can cause the temperature to be lower than that around trees planted in bare soil. Bare soil radiates more heat than compost or mulch.


  • If you use a covering such as a frost frame with clear plastic over your citrus tree, do not let the plastic touch any leaves, branches or fruit. Any parts of the tree that come into contact with the plastic during a hard freeze will become frost-burned. Fortunately, frost will not hit the entire tree and citrus trees respond well when you prune damaged foliage.

About the 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 and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.