How to Grow Citrus Trees in Pots

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I have been working on a design project in Santa Barbara, California. We are creating a walled garden that will produce edibles and cut flowers throughout the year.

It’s a garden designed to be beautiful and useful. My goal is to create a haven so wonderfully distracting that when my client runs to pick fresh produce or herbs for the table she gets sidetracked and ends up relaxing in the garden, relishing the fragrance and the view.

Potted Citrus Trees

Citrus trees planted in huge, decorative containers will be a feature of the potager. In California, of course, you don’t need to grow citrus trees in pots to be traipsed indoors in nasty weather. There is no nasty weather!

I was reminded of this fact when I took a tour of a local nursery to select varieties. Oodles of lemon, lime, and orange trees are available to plant in any Sunset Zone 24 backyard. I would never covet such a climate where you can grow vegetables year round and the sky is always vivid blue with bright sunshine and everyday brings a view of mountains. No, I would not covet such a thing. For now, I’ll settle for growing dwarf citrus trees indoors where I live.

Growing Citrus Trees Indoors

I ordered a few two-year-old true dwarf citrus trees best suited for containers.

With luck, light, water, and enough nutrients, the Improved Meyer lemon will produce golden-yellow sweet lemons in a year or so.

I am excited about the Thai lime tree (formerly called Kaffir lime, an obsolete, derogatory term). Thai lime trees produce bumpy dark green fruits. I plan to use the peel for curry, but it’s the leaves that are prized for Thai cooking.

The Philippine lime tree (Calamondin or Kalamansi) produces small sour orange fruits that can be used like limes. It is a good choice for growing indoors. All of these are ornamental and useful for cooking.

California Mediterranean sun is not like Midwest sun. Ask any painter or photographer. The intensity and amount of light is different. The citrus trees in my house need supplemental light. A window just doesn’t bring in enough. I ordered an LED full-spectrum grow light to hang just above the trees so they can get the 8 to 12 hours of direct light they need.

When the weather is consistently above freezing, around the middle of May, I will move these small fruit trees outdoors and place them in the kitchen garden (just like the French L’Orangerie de Versailles, ha!). In the meantime, I will fuss over and coddle these luscious trees as if they were children. Goodness, they may require just as much expense and care.

Meet Jennifer Bartley

Jennifer Bartley grew up on a ravine near an ancient Indian mound. She remembers spending glorious childhood days picking wildflowers and playing in an old,…

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