Citrus fruit in pots (lemon, orange, kumquat, etc.): maintenance and repotting


The term citrus refers to both the shrub or tree and the fruit it produces. There are many varieties of citrus and all of them can be grown in containers. These plants have foliage persistent, a beautiful bright green. Citrus leaves are generally aromatic, but they are even more their flowers of an immaculate white which exhale a very pleasant, sometimes powerful perfume. As for their fruits, they are delicious. It is very interesting to plant different varieties of citrus fruits in pots in order to enjoy them on the terrace, the balcony, or even inside the house. This also allows them to be sheltered from the cold as soon as necessary, especially in the northernmost regions. Let’s see how to maintain your citrus fruits, when and how to repot them.

Maintain your citrus fruit in a jar

It is possible to grow all kinds of citrus in pots like for example the lemon tree, the orange tree, the kumquat, the mandarin tree, the bergamot tree, the sour orange tree, the yuzu (knowing that the tree and the fruit bear the same name), and many others. In this way, you can enjoy a real enchantment, both in summer and in winter. But in order for citrus fruits grown in pots to remain healthy, it is important to devote a little time to their maintenance. We do not therefore deviate from the following tasks.

Fertilizer input is essential

Giving essential nutrients to its citrus fruit in a pot is fundamental because under such conditions the substrate is exhausted very quickly, unlike growing citrus fruit in the ground. It is therefore necessary to fertilize lemon, orange, kumquat, tangerine and others with a special citrus fertilizer, but at specific times, that is to say:

  • Before flowering, the time of which varies depending on the species,
  • When the fruits have reached maturity,
  • In autumn.

It is obviously recommended to always respect the dosages indicated on the packaging by the supplier as well as the mode of dilution.

Bring in your citrus fruits in the fall

Citrus fruits can spend a good part of the year outdoors provided they can benefit from a beautiful light and full sun. They can therefore be taken out of their shelter in the spring when severe frosts are no longer to be feared. In autumn, it is then necessary to think about protecting them from the winter cold.

So that they benefit from optimal conditions in winter, we choose a cool room, where the temperature is between 6 and 8 ° C, but very bright. This kind of cold greenhouse or orangery is ideal for potted citrus fruits to spend the winter frost-free.

Cleverly dosed waterings

During the first two or three years after planting young citrus in a jar, watering must be abundant during the summer. Citrus leaves must not dry out. Thereafter, it is necessary to adapt the waterings to the needs, not letting the substratum become very dry, but avoiding however that the roots are drowned.

On the other hand, during all the time spent indoors, from the current of autumn until the beautiful spring days, when we bring out the shrubs, watering must be reduced to a minimum. They just need to prevent the leaves from drying out.

Control pests and diseases of potted citrus fruits

Throughout the year, both outdoors and indoors, you must monitor your citrus fruit very regularly in order to react as soon as you notice a problem.

1 – the cochineal, citrus scourge

Particularly sensitive to different species of mealybugs, they must be treated as soon as possible. To do this, we can remove the mealybugs manually with a methylated spirits and spray the shrub very generously with a mixture of water and black soap. Without intervention, the citrus fruit attacked by scale insects withers very quickly because the stinging and sucking insect takes up the sap.

When the eggs hatch, the new mealybugs will take refuge on the branches, twigs, under the leaves, on the stems. Each female will in turn lay a few hundred eggs. It is therefore absolutely necessary to put an end to this vicious circle. If methylated spirits and black soap are no longer sufficient to eliminate mealybugs, you have to rely on a specialist capable of offering a product suitable for fruit trees and who can control colonization of these insects.

2 – canker, a bacterial disease of citrus fruits

It is also called critical chancre or asian chancre citrus fruits. The pathogen is Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. citri. It is the leaves of citrus fruits which are mainly affected and then the fruits which end up falling prematurely. Fortunately, the citrus canker does not present any danger to human health. We can therefore eat the fruits even if they do not have a very good appearance. The recognizable signs of the disease are:

  • Pustules,
  • Yellowish or black spots,
  • Scratches on the leaves,
  • Tears on the fruits,
  • Larvae on foliage and fruit.

The prevention of this bacterial canker goes through the avoidance of water sprinkling on the foliage and the trunk and an excellent sunshine of the trees. To fight against the disease already declared, it is necessary to eliminate the diseased branches and twigs and then imperatively burn them so that they do not contaminate other plants. We disinfected then everything equipment which was used for this interview. As for the use of chemical control, it is understood to be avoided since these are trees that produce edible fruits. At most, we can deal with copper salt, but by first obtaining information from a specialist in citrus growing.

3 – parasitic gum disease, a fungal disease of citrus fruits

It causes the dry bark then, at the level of the parts affected by this fungus, one notes the formation of a rubber. This ends up blocking the flow of sap. The citrus withers then dies.

The prevention of parasitic gum disease requires good soil drainage, especially if you have put clay soil in the cultivation pots (which is not recommended). It is also necessary to apply a systemic fungicide about three times a year, especially in high-risk areas. In case of wounds on a small part of the trunk, curettage should be performed, but if the entire trunk is affected, the only solution is to remove the shrub.

Repot citrus fruits

A citrus fruit must be repotted every two to three years in a soil specially designed for this type of shrub. We choose a special citrus soil or a horticultural soil which must be sufficiently enriched in fertilizers and in particular in nitrogen. Free garden soil is not suitable.

We choose a pot a little larger than the previous one, but not disproportionately large, and whose background is imperatively pierced. The procedure for repotting a citrus fruit is as follows:

  • If possible, wait until autumn because it is the best season for repotting, knowing however that it is possible to tackle it from spring until November, but depending on the species because it is imperative that this be done distance from flowering.
  • Submit a good drainage layer at the bottom of the pot (pierced) such as for example clay balls, terracotta shards, gravel or small pebbles,
  • Distribute part of the soil,
  • Position the citrus fruit in the center of the pot after having untied its roots without hurting them,
  • Fill all the spaces with the rest of the soil,
  • Pack well,
  • Water and add a little potting soil because it usually settles after the first watering.

Thereafter, until the next repotting, one must simply prune damaged branches or those which unbalance the silhouette of the shrub, between the month of April and the month of October.

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