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How to grow citrus trees

Citrus ‘Calamondin’ from Suttons

You may be surprised to learn that you can easily grow your own citrus trees in the UK – no tropical climate required! Whether you want to try your hand at traditional favourites such as lemons, limes and oranges or some of the more unusual varieties like calamondin, caviar lime or yuzu, there’s a zesty fruit for every occasion. Here’s how to grow citrus trees at home. 

Where to grow your citrus trees

Yellow Patio Citrus tree ‘Lemon Eureka’ from Suttons
Lemon trees can be moved to a sheltered outdoor patio in the summer months
Image: Citrus tree ‘Lemon Eureka’ from Suttons

Citrus trees grow best in a sunny greenhouse, conservatory or windowsill with a minimum temperature of 4ºC (38ºF). If the indoor atmosphere is quite dry you might find that the plant suffers from leaf drop. If that happens, simply stand it on a saucer filled with pebbles and water, and move it away from radiators. Through the warm summer months, citrus trees will also thrive outside, provided they’re placed in a sheltered, sunny position. 

How to care for your citrus trees

Closeup of Citrus Plant ‘Mandarin’ from Suttons
The Mandarin orange is a small citrus tree producing delicious orange coloured fruit
Image: Citrus Plant ‘Mandarin’ from Suttons

When your citrus trees arrive, remove them from the packaging immediately and water if necessary. Your plants have already been grown on to fill the pot provided, so you can enjoy them as they come or plant them into larger pots as required.

  • Water thoroughly each time the surface of the compost becomes dry. 
  • In the summer months, your plants may need to be watered daily during hot weather. 
  • In the cool winter months, this might be reduced to fortnightly, or just enough to keep the roots moist. Don’t allow the compost to become waterlogged as this will kill the roots. 
  • Feed your plants weekly during the spring and summer with a citrus fertiliser or seaweed-based fertiliser to promote fruit growth. 
  • Citrus trees don’t thrive when there are high salt levels in the compost. Take them outside twice a year and drench with lots of clean water to prevent any build-up of excess fertiliser salts.
  • To encourage a bushy plant and to maintain a good shape, trim your plants just as the new growth starts to sprout in the spring.

Harvesting your citrus fruit

Bowl of Citrus Plant ‘Kaffir Lime’ from Suttons
Both the leaves and the fruits of this lime tree can be enjoyed in the kitchen 
Image: Citrus Plant ‘Kaffir Lime’ from Suttons

Citrus plants are very rewarding to look after and provide plenty of interest. Delicate foliage make them an attractive houseplant, and the small scented white flowers that appear in spring are followed by zesty fruit. With the correct conditions, the fruit grows steadily over the next six months until it’s ripe enough to eat. The fruits can be picked off or left on the tree for ornamental purposes. 

Citrus trees make an attractive addition to conservatories, sunny windowsills or greenhouses and, provided you keep them sheltered, can happily spend summers on a bright patio. See our full range of fruit trees and soft fruit plants here.

Lead image: Citrus ‘Calamondin’ from Suttons

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