How to grow indoor citrus plants ?
April 2, 2012 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Do you have an indoor citrus plant ? Can you share how you select one, care for it, winter it, etc ?

I'd like to try growing a potted/indoor citrus plant, but don't quite know where to start. I saw a few Meyer lemon questions in the archives, so that sounds like one possible plant.

What types are easy to grow ? Are they porch-plants that over-winter inside, and how do you care for them ? Do you need to hand-pollinate to get fruit ?

I live in zone 7, so I think I could put one outside in the summer.

(Yes, I did some google search, and seemed very SEO'd results that didn't look promising or informative).
posted by k5.user to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: We have a Meyer lemon tree and a variegated kumquat that do just fine indoors. They get a lot of bright light and a good bit of sun. (We do have to hand-pollinate. Though I think we got lucky--or they got lucky! As it were!--on the balcony in the last round) But you know, they fruit like monsters! (Well, very slowly. Compared to, like, buying lemons.) But it's great!

Don't be afraid of all the naysayers. You'll have to water really conscientiously and, like, do some pest control sometimes maybe. And feed it stuff. Totally doable. The yanking in and out a couple times a year is a pain, if you have a bad back, but other than that....

(Also you may kill a couple plants in the learning, and, well, they're not kittens. I always feel bad when I kill a plant but it's not like a long grieving process exactly.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:36 PM on April 2, 2012

I had planted a few lemon seeds (from a lemon from the grocery store) when I was a kid and they grew very well. One is still alive, about 2 decades later, at my parent's house. It goes outside in the summer when it's warm, and stays inside the rest of the year. It needs to be trimmed every once and a while since it gets really tall and spindly if you don't trim it. It is easy to grow, but I have never seen it bloom or produce fruit. But easy to grow, and makes a nice looking plant.
posted by randomgirl at 12:37 PM on April 2, 2012

secondhand: my grandparents had a little lemon tree for a long time (maybe 1.5-2 feet high), which grew a few lemons every once in a while. It was indoors year-round, near a window but not much light (northern climate, long dark winters). I don't think they had to do anything fancy with it. It's definitely worth a shot!
posted by randomnity at 12:46 PM on April 2, 2012

Best answer: Rupert, our miniature orange tree, is straight-up thriving in direct sunlight in a south-facing window. This spring when it's warm enough he'll go outdoors but he's been inside since we got him. He had a rough-ish winter (we're waaaay up north and my watering skills are a work in progress) but since the days are already so long he has more flowers on him than I've ever seen before (I'd say well over 500 at the moment; prior blossoming periods have been a fifth of that). In the past I've tried pollinating with a paintbrush but it didn't seem to generate more fruit-- seems like that just happens on its own, even in a rather breezeless room. I do add fertilizer to the water every couple of months.

Mind you, Rupert's fruit is most definitely not edible, but it is possible to grow citrus indoors. We bought him from the local greenhouse. Here are pics from when we had him in our living room-- he had to be moved to a window as he dropped many of his leaves when he wasn't getting direct sunlight. He is much larger and broader now-- like I said, thriving! And I'll tell you this-- if someone could bottle the smell of orange blossoms perfectly, they would be extremely wealthy. Those blossoms are short-lived but intense!
posted by mireille at 1:17 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had a little Meyer lemon tree years back. Did have to hand-pollinate, but actually got fruit! Flowers smelled wonderful. It summered outside (Arlington, VA — zone 7, I think), wintered indoors in a sunny window. What finally killed it was a scale infestation.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 1:18 PM on April 2, 2012

Forgot to mention-- I'm in Zone 1 (!), and putting the tree outside in the summer even here will be no problem.
posted by mireille at 1:24 PM on April 2, 2012

Best answer: Seconding Mirelle on the miniature orange. It's also known as a calamondin orange, and the fruit is edible! You eat them peel and all, much like a kumquat. They are extremely sour, but the peel is the sweet part. Also, they do grow very well indoors in good sun, and they are self-pollinating. Also, it's fairly cold-resistant and tend to be relatively hardy as long as they have good sun. I have lived with mine in zones 5, 7, and 8. It even survived moving by car, and it's five feet tall!

Also seconding the blossoms. They smell amazing!
posted by Gneisskate at 3:39 PM on April 2, 2012

Best answer: I have had one for two years now, and have nearly killed it but it revocovered. Then I compulsively bought four more from a sweet old lady on craiglist, and those I have done a better job of not killing. I put them outside in the summer, also in zone 7, and they are happy. The citrus growers forum has been really helpful and even has a section on container plants. I discovered that in the winter they need either plenty of light and warm "feet" or they are fine with less light and cooler temperature. Watch for spider mites and things. Make sure the soil drains well but don't let them dry out too much (about an inch down or so).
posted by sepviva at 4:19 PM on April 2, 2012

Best answer: Nthing the miniature orange/kumquat, here. My mom brought one of those airport-gift-shop bare-root sticks with roots wrapped in paper towels from Orlando about twelve years ago. I planted it not expecting much. It's now in a three-gallon pot that comes inside in the winter and goes back out in the spring. I get at least one harvest of oranges per year, sometimes two if everything times out correctly. It's an extremely showy plant, nice shiny leaves and bright orange...oranges... about the size of ping-pong balls. Said oranges are very much NOT a taste treat, though one year we sliced and candied them and baked them into a cake, which turned out pretty good.

I do have to trim the tree back every few years, but it's maybe three feet tall.

Oh, and Mireille - props on naming your tree Rupert, but Rufus is very obviously the best name for a miniature orange tree.
posted by OHSnap at 11:22 PM on April 2, 2012

Best answer: Dwarf meyer lemon here in zone 5. It stays indoors unless it's over 65 (preferably 70) out when it gets a short daytime vacation. It lives out on the deck day/night in July and August. It's pretty easy to care for actually. It's now two years old, has produced 1 lemon (it made 3 the first year, but one a squirrel 'ate' outside, one fell off when it was small, the third survived). Overwatering is bad; the main thing we've had to watch is to let it dry out sufficiently between waterings.

I hand-pollinated last year, and will probably do so this year, even if it may not be strictly necessary. I got my planet from Springhill. It's currently still in the pot it came in. Next year we'll likely move it to a larger one.
posted by ejaned8 at 12:06 PM on April 3, 2012

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