The arrival of citrus plants is a sure sign of spring. And guess what, they are here! This week’s shipment yields a lovely assortment of tree forms and bush shapes that are sure to deliver sweet rewards for years to come.
Citrus plants belong to the Rutaceae family, commonly known as the Rue or Citrus family, and are native to South Asia. This is a great plant outdoors with our warm, hot summers. Indoors it can add great foliage and form to a room. Citrus trees are prized for their fruit, but also for their sweet-smelling flowers and aromatic leaves.
Check out the amazing varieties we have in store!
Citrus x meyeri
A hybrid citrus between Citrus medica (one of the original citrus fruits from which all other citrus types are derived) and a mandarin/pomelo hybrid. Meyer lemons are typically smaller than regular lemons but also sweeter and less acidic. This variety was introduced in the United States in 1908 but was likely established thousands of years before. Delicious as an ingredient in cocktails and summer spritzers, or as a welcome addition to salad dressings. Check out these recipes for Meyer lemon inspired cocktails! Did someone say gimlet?
Citrus x aurantifolia
Key limes are also a citrus hybrid – a cross between Citrus hystrix and Citrus media. These limes are smaller than regular limes, seedier and higher in acidity, but packed with intense flavor. They are best knows as a key ingredient in Key Lime Pie (drooling) as they was naturalized the Florida Keys in the early 1900’s. Trees cultivated from seedlings often take 4-8 years to produce fruit and attain maximum yield at about 10 years of age. Vegetative propagation by way of air layering may yield fruit in one years’ time. Our friends at Fit Foodie Finds are cooking up Key Lime Pie Bars for the win!
Citrus australasica var. sanguinea
The red lime is similar in shape and size to a regular lime, but when mature has a reddish-orange peel as well as red-orange flesh. Their unique flavor is highlighted with hints of sweet kumquat. The Red Lime is a hybrid of the Australia Red Finger Lime and the Ellendale mandarin and was first available commercially in Australia in 2004. The skin can actually be eaten along with the fruit. Uses include preserves, condiments, and beverages. Here’s a tasty recipe for blood lime marmalade!
Light: Citrus trees and bushes thrive in full sun both indoors and out, preferably 8-12 hours a day. If you are growing your citrus plant indoors, make sure you have a huge sunny, South facing window to grow it in. You may even want to consider turning on a grow light for the winter.
Water: Because these plants will be exposed to full sun, they will drink up a lot of water which is essential for flower and fruit development as well. Outdoors, make sure you are checking your tress or bush on the daily for water. Indoors it will take a little longer to dry out between watering. Check weekly and cut back on watering during times of inactive growth. Allow the top 2-3 inches of soil to dry out before giving it a good drink.
Temperature: When growing citrus indoors, warmth is key. Cold, drafty windows are not your friend. Also, avoid placing your plant near doors, fireplaces, or any other element that causes the temperature to drastically change – they don’t like it and may drop leaves.
Fertilizer: Fertilizer is key plant health because these plants need to be big and strong to produce fruit. We recommend Espoma’s Organic Citrus Tone to support vibrant green growth, strong branching, and vigorous fruit production. A pre-bloom (January or February) application will enhance flowering while a post bloom application in late spring (May or June) will encourage fruit set. A third application in the fall (September or October) will ensure overall nutrient needs are met.
Pollination: When growing lemons and limes indoors, manual pollination is key. Outdoors, insects do the job. Once your citrus begins to bloom, simply transfer pollen on a cotton swap from one flower to the next making sure that it lands on the stigma (the female reproductive part that in the center of the flower).
Pests: Citrus are susceptible to several pests, especially when indoors. Scout your plant often for signs of infestation. The top three pests to look for include scale, mealy bugs, and spider mites. Keep a bottle of Neem Oil and Insecticidal Soap on hand to handle any pests at first sight.
Chef’s kiss and happy Lemony-Limey planting!