Citrus Trees in containers

Baker, LA(Zone 8b)

I just purchased 3 dwarf citrus trees that I plan on potting. I've heard many DG members talk about Espoma Citrus Tone and how good it is. I purchased some but I don't see any instructions on how much to put in containerised trees. I assume there is a reason for that. Can Citrus Tone be used in potted citrus trees, if so how much? I trust you more experienced container citrus growers for your advice. I'm in need of guidance.

Thanks for your help.

New Iberia, LA

Potted Plants
Use one teaspoon per 4 of pot diameter.
Double for pots over 12.

Baker, LA(Zone 8b)

Thanks Oldude. I noticed that you are in New Iberia. Do you grow citrus in containers? OR do you plant yours in the ground? You are a little south of me so I suspect you plant yours in the ground. My DH doesn't like to mow around trees so I'm limited to dwarf citrus in pots.

New Iberia, LA

A couple of owari in containers but mostly in the ground. I stat a few trifoliate in containers as root stock for grafting. Home depot also has the citrus/Avocado fertilizer, which also works well for containers.

Pilot Point, TX(Zone 7b)

My Meyer Lemon trees -- which have to be in containers because of our winters here in N. Texas -- have this white 'stuff' on them. Anybody know what it is ??

I just moved my trees to get more sun --- they were only getting morning sun previously and just did NOT look good. Within a week of moving them for more sun they started getting some fruit buds and new leaves on they definitely needed more sun. I'm just not sure what that white stuff is ??


Thumbnail by jannz2
New Iberia, LA

It's hard to be sure but it looks like Scale.

Glen Ellyn, IL(Zone 5b)

Oh, ick! Sure does!

Pilot Point, TX(Zone 7b)

Is scale kind of like dense spider-webs ? That what it sort of feel like. I'll have to look up 'scale' to see.

Glen Ellyn, IL(Zone 5b)

Try "cottony cushion scale".

Pilot Point, TX(Zone 7b)

Thanks for that photo...but I don't think that's what I've got. It does look cottony....but a lot more stringy than that. What I found is that there a bunch of WHITE 'bugs' of some sort . I went to clean off this white gunk with a cotton swap with alcohol and they started to JUMP. Is this what an aphid is ? I seen some on roses before but they didn't look like this.

Colton, CA(Zone 8b)

jannz2, sounds like you have a white fly infestation. Soapy water sprayed in a fairly hard jet will wash them off, but you have to repeat the treatment as needed.

Pilot Point, TX(Zone 7b)

I'm trying to take a picture but these buggers jump away too fast. I've been googling and I think they may be 'mealybugs' ..??.. Mostly because they seem to congregate a stem / leaf junctures.

I used the alcohol on swabs last night and the day before I sprayed them with some watered down castille soap. ugh. We'll see what happens.

Colton, CA(Zone 8b)

janz22. mealie bugs hardly move let alone jump.

(Zone 6a)

I think they're called woolly aphids.

Snellville, GA(Zone 7b)

Jannz2...I have them too on my potted lemon, lime and orange. I have been hosing them off with the garden hose with the nozzle on hi pressure spray...seems to remove them but they do come back every 3 days or so. I tried finding out what the culprit was by pulling the stringy cotton stuff off and I noticed something jumping out of the midst of that cotton. I don't like using any soaps, oils or insecticides in this high heat were having, I almost lost a tree using too strong of a dilution of insecticidal soap in hot weather. So its the garden hose.

Colton, CA(Zone 8b)

Hi all, can someone post a picture? The description sure sounds like whiteflies. Washing them off (continuously) is one way to deal with them. Just laundry soap works pretty well for me. It streches the time between washings out a little. They absolutely love hibiscus. Maybe plant a hibiscus nearby and they will concentrate on it. Don

(Zone 6a)

mealy bugs just sit there
white flies fly away like ashes on the wind.
wooly aphids jump- like leaf hoppers jump. In fact, mine look like small leaf hoppers with a white fur coat.

Pilot Point, TX(Zone 7b)

Yup -- After looking at the link in the previous post I think the white, sticky gunk I had on my meyer lemons was the "wooly aphids". I haven't had any more problems since I last posted but it's good to know what they are at least.

Thanks for all the suggestions.


Matthews, MO

I want to start things in containers for I have been uprooted from my Midwest Garden to no Garden except a section at my Daughters. I have to do container for I never want to have to leave behind stuff like I had to do. My grandaughter is my inspiration. She wants a lemon tree. I live on the Atlantic in Mass. great windows of sun..right on the beach. Help me somebody!! I am searching and reading here...amazed at how big this has become since I started a long time ago in Mo.

San Marcos, TX(Zone 8b)

You should update your profile so it says Mass. and put your gardening zone as well. Mass is funny because it has zones 4-7. I assume you are a 6 or 5.

Lemon trees do fine in pots culture. Kumquats also do pretty good. Just give them as much sun as possible and gradually increase the container size until you get to 25-40 gallons. You can stay smaller but I assume you want something about 5-7 feet tall. Just bring them inside once the temps start to freeze and then take them back out once the lows only get to the 40's. Fertilize 3 or 4 times a year with a citrus fertilizer. Olddude had links and info at the beginning of the post about this.

Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

Wow, sunny windows and a beach view, with a granddaughter, sounds pretty cool. But yeah, not what you're used to.

If you're missing having some dirt to play in, I just wanted to put in a plug for public gardening. A bus stop, a median, maybe something at your granddaughter's school?

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

I just acquired a 10 yr. old Meyer Lemon (!!).
But in it's long life, so far it's never fruited, only flowered.
My first thought is that it's the rootstock that's growing.
But I know there could be other reasons too.

I posted about it over in the tree forum.
If anybody here is willing to give some advice on it, here's the link.

Thumbnail by paani
San Marcos, TX(Zone 8b)

The pot is pretty small too.
If it were me, I would give it a bigger pot, heavy citrus fertilizer in early spring and find a spot with full sun all day long. Next to a south facing wall would be good to try to steal some extra heat. I bet it doesnt get very hot up there.

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

sadly, it gets as hot (and sticky) as Texas - really!. But not for so long.
It'll have to come inside by the end of November at the latest.

Meantime it's getting close to full sun, and has a protected spot.

I don't know when it was last fertilized.
But I've been tempted to do it now (hoping for a crop this year).
Would you say I should wait till spring?

San Marcos, TX(Zone 8b)

If you are bringing it inside, you should fertilize every 3 months with an option of skipping fertilization in December. I would take it up one or two pots sizes for sure. You will probably see a flush of growth within 2 weeks of doing so. I would then fertilize two week after transplant and then fertilize again in early spring after threat of last frost has past. I was not a big fan of heavy fertilization of citrus until I saw the results. They are really in another category than other fruit trees when it comes to fertilizer.

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

thanks for all this advice jujube. Will follow it. Though coming up with a pot that big may take awhile!

With the tree they gave me a couple of fertilizer sticks for citrus. Any views on using those in containers?

I guess the idea is to have continuous feed, but I'd worry about root burn. It says to put them at the dripline, and never closer than 2 feet from the trunk. Can't do either in the pot.

So I was just going to use my regular acidic mix.

San Marcos, TX(Zone 8b)

I wouldnt use the stick and would use the granular like they do in nurseries.
What is your current pot size? It looks like a 12-15 gallon.

This message was edited Sep 10, 2010 10:50 AM

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

current pot is 2 feet across and 17" high.

the lemon tree is 7+ feet high and about 4 feet across (foliage extends to 5+ feet at widest points)

what's the right size pot for that?

(I won't be letting it get any taller since it has to come inside).

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

I was just typing the answer while you were typing the question !!

San Marcos, TX(Zone 8b)

Maybe it is bigger than I thought. It is tapered so the actual average width is 19 inches and the actual height is 14 since you have 3 inches of soil missing from the top. That comes out to around 21 gallons because there are 7.48 gallons per cubic foot. Maybe just try the fertilizer and see how it goes but be on the lookout for a decent pot that is maybe 25 gallons or bigger.

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

Probably the angle of the photo made it look smaller. Or just all the surrounding greenery.

I could repot in the current pot for now, and try to find a 25 gallon by the time it's going outdoors again in the spring.

That way I could bring the soil level up (make use of those 3 inches) and amend it at the same time, while keeping the rootball intact but also getting the crown clear of soil.

This tree is sounding healthier by the minute.
Do you like Meyer lemons? If I get a crop I should send you some!
Of course you can pick the real thing outdoors down there can't you...

San Marcos, TX(Zone 8b)

I have one in my backyard. Dont bring the soil up too much because it makes it hard to water it. I found that out with my Indian Jujube this summer.

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

right. don't want a pot that big overflowing once it's in the house!

which reminds me to ask: what do you see as the pros and cons of really pruning it back -- say to a 5 ft. high 3 ft. wide tree,
versus letting it keep its height and width and just thinning so the light reaches down ? Other things being equal, I'm thinking in terms of fruit production.

I notice in the PlantFiles a lot of much smaller ones with loads of fruit. It would certainly be more manageable that way.

Since it's got its own thread over there, the pics of the leaves and crown are posted in the Tree forum. Here's a link to the first pic, and the other 2 are in the next postings:

La Grange, TX(Zone 8b)

Your "Meyer" lemon doesn't appear to be a dwarf. The space between the nodes is too long for it to be a dwarf. Contributing to the internode length is inadequate sunlight. In the photo it appears to be in the shade.

Standard "Meyer" lemons planted in the ground will get between 10' - 18' tall. In a pot, it can be kept shorter, but you will have to prune it more often. "Meyer" lemons grafted on Flying Dragon trifoliate dwarfing root stock are much easier to keep small with little to no pruning. Everything is smaller so it can stay in the same pot for a longer period. Transplanting citrus is not without danger.

Not knowing how much time you have before you need to take it indoors, it's difficult to tell you how much to prune, but you'll have to just to get it inside. I read your other post. I think your citrus tree is not blooming because it doesn't get enough light. It's also possible that it was started from seed and they can take years before they bloom. It needs fun day sun and that means that you will have to supplement lighting even at a south facing window leaving the lights on about 16 hours. Citrus grow in spurts so you may or may not see any new growth for some time. Here in central Texas my "Meyer" would start blooming early in February while it was still in the greenhouse. I din't have to hand pollinize because bees always seem to find a way in to get to the flowers. When you fertilize, use citrus fertilizer which also contains the micro-nutrients citrus need. Divide the amount recommended into 3 or 4 smaller amounts and space the feedings out through the year. The trick is to learn when it starts a new growth spurt and to feed just before so it has access to the fertilizer you have just given it.

Ecrane3 gave you excellent advise about its cultural requirements, but just as a reminder. Citrus have very fine roots which are very sensitive to overwatering. I understand you don't want water on your floor, but you will have to remove all the water from the saucer. It would help if you could use something to elevate the pot off the saucer making it easier to remove the water. I use a turkey baster.

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

bettydee. So you think it's most likely an own-root full sized tree? Well, with the way things are warming up here, I might be able to put it in the ground in a few years!

I just got it from someone who was moving and they didn't have time to tell me anything much about it. So I'm in the dark about when it was last fertilized and so on. But they did say it has flowered but never fruited. Since it would likely have been inside when flowering, that could be just a pollination issue.

It definitely wasn't getting much light on their back porch. It almost full sun where I have it, which is the best I can give it (that pic. was taken in the late afternoon on a partly cloudy day). But it's only been here a couple of weeks. It has another 1 to 2 months outside.

I too think it will need supplemental lighting inside. I could bring it in at the current size (just) - but it will be the elephant in the room, that's for sure! So I'm thinking to take it down to 5 1/2 feet or so. I've seen recommendation that if you're pruning then a pear or pyramid shape is best so that the light can filter down to the lower branches better. Makes sense. Yet I don't think I've ever seen a picture of one of that shape. Maybe that's because they're mostly on the dwarf stock and not needing any pruning though.

Good idea to raise it off the pot saucer. Thanks. A couple of low pavers should do it.

I saw someone saying they put gravel in the saucer, and also raised the pot a few inches above so it wasn't get wet at all. Then they let water stay in the saucer and claimed it was getting some needed humidification from that. In a chilly house I can't see that it would do much humidifying, but maybe it would at least be okay that way, and then it wouldn't be necessary to drain it.

La Grange, TX(Zone 8b)

If planted in the ground and left to winter outdoors, t won't survive in your 6a zone. Citrus are sub-tropical evergreens that never really go dormant and as such are not prepared for cold weather. The fruit is frozen and ruined for everything except maybe juicing, when the temperature drops below freezing. The mature trees of some varieties may survive short drops in temperature below 32F, but even the trees themselves are killed when the temperature drops into the low 20s. With citrus, it's also how long they were exposed to below freezing temperatures that kills them. Young trees are more sensitive to freezing temperatures.

There are a few "hardy" citrus varieties that will survive some cold winters, but the fruit is usually inedible. I'm seeing more and more of these "hardy" varieties cropping up. I don't have any experience with them nor with how they taste. One thing to take into consideration is that the plant hardiness zones are based on the lowest temperature and not on how often they reach those temperatures nor the duration of those low temperatures. Not all zones 6a are the same.

The pebbles would have to raise the pot well away from the water in the saucer. They shouldn't come in contact with the soil in the drain holes or they could wick some water up into the soil. It works with short plants, but I doubt it would help a tree the size of your. I think the standing water would be a breeding ground for undesirable pests, molds and fungi. If your house is too dry, you could set up a humidifier on a timer to get short bursts of cool fog. That way you start off with clean water. I would make sure the pavers don't block the drain holes in the pot.

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

bettydee, Not to worry, I'm not going to plant it outside here! I'm from a lot farther north, but I admit we do get some genuine winter here. Armadillos have started showing up in this area, but we're still a long way from being able to plant regular citrus in the ground.

I will be careful about not blocking drainage when I raise it up. Agree about not letting water sit around underneath too. Sounds like trouble. Old fashioned misting should do.

I moved things around today and got it some more afternoon sun. Next weekend I'll try to repot and prune.

Thanks for all this good advice.

This message was edited Sep 12, 2010 7:43 PM

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

jujube, bettydee and everyone who helped me out with the big meyer lemon. pics. of the results to date are over here:


San Marcos, TX(Zone 8b)

I will browse around. I live in Texas which is a citrus locked state. We cant have any citrus shipped here to help keep the diseases that plague Florida and California out of here. I always have to buy local.

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

jujube, don't go to any trouble over this, please. Didn't know about the Texas restriction (which sounds wise), so I just thought you'd know who was reliable. I should probably stick with this one tree to start with and see if I can keep it healthy and get it to fruit. When/if I get ready to try grafting, then I'll start looking for sources.

I think buying local is better, whether there's a state restriction or not : plants are adapted to the local growing conditions; less fossil fuels expended to get it to the garden; local grower supported. Even with mail order, other things being equal I'll choose closer by.

But with tree stock, and an out-of-zone plant to boot, I'd probably go for whoever is known for really healthy saplings, wherever they might be located.

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