Saturday, November 27, 2010
How to Grow Citrus Plants Indoors During the Winter
Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club (http://www.paulparent.com/) sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM. Paul recently sent this article out called "How to Grow Citrus Plants Indoors During the Winter" (I occasionally add a few comments in italics) and here it is:
"You do not have to live in Florida to grow good citrus plants. With today's new hybrids and grafting methods it is possible for you to grow a few oranges, lemons, limes, kumquat, and even grapefruit right in your living room no matter where you live.
They are not just citrus trees, they are decorative plants that will produce edible fruit and marvelous white flowers that are so fragrant that your entire home will smell of the great outdoors in spring time. Citrus plants are evergreen and the glossy, dark green, oval shaped leaves are even aromatic when crushed.
The flowers of the citrus are star-like and usually develop on the plant during the early spring in clusters on the tips of the branches. The flowers are about one inch in diameter and last on the plant for several weeks.
Citrus is traditionally pollinated by insects but because they are growing in an unnatural climate, your home, you will have to do the pollination by hand if you want fruit to form on the plant.
This will be fun--all you have to do is purchase a small artist's paint brush and tickle the flowers when you notice that the center of the flower has a yellow powdery substance forming on it. This is pollen; you have to move it from the pollen sacks and place it on the swollen center of the flower called the "pistil."
Move your pollen-covered brush from flower to flower every day that the flowers produce new pollen and new flowers open on the plant. I find that if you sing while you do this, it will work better! So "Buzz, Buzzz, Buzzzz." As the plant is accustomed to the romance of the buzzing bee, try this buzzing while your spouse or children are in the room and wait to hear the reaction from them.
Most years you will have new flowers and fruit at the same time on your plant as the fruit ripens slowly. If you're successful at pollinating the flowers, a small rounded fruit will form where the flowers were, and in time it will grow in size, forming a green fruit that will bend the branches it develops on. The fruit will form slowly and the color will change as it develops, from a dark green to orange or yellow depending on the fruit you are growing.
Grow Citrus in a sunny or bright lit window or in front of a sliding door, as the plant needs a lot of sunlight to make fruit indoors during the winter. When the weather changes and becomes frost-free place the plant outside in a full sun location until the fall arrives, then back indoors.
When you place the plant outside in the spring, I would like to see you repot the plant in a pot one size bigger but still small enough for you to handle. Use a good quality potting soil that contains a lot of organic matter like Coast of Maine's Bar Harbor Blend. Fertilize every 2 weeks, spring to fall and then monthly during the winter months.
Water the citrus plant weekly when the plant is outside and more often if the weather gets hot. During the winter, water sparingly while indoors but keep the soil moist; do not let it dry out. (I let my calamondin orange go too dry and did get some leaf drop. But citrus plants are durable; it will bounce back!) During the winter, it is best to keep the plant on the cool side--50 to 60 degrees if possible--and avoid temperatures above 70 degrees, as the plant is resting.
Fertilize with an acid-based fertilizer such as Mir-Acid and keep lime away from this plant. When you put the plant outside for the summer, add a little bit of Holly Tone organic fertilizer to give it a push and help the plant make new growth. To keep the feeding natural I use all natural Citrus Tone by Espoma or even Neptune's Harvest Fish and Seaweed fertilizer.
If you start to see the foliage color fading or turning yellow, use Mir-Acid fertilizer as a foliar feed. Citrus loves humidity, so keep the plant on a tray of stones that you can add water daily to. This will help provide moisture to the air around the plant. A humidifier will help keep the plant happy--and daily misting is wonderful also.
When you purchase plants, be sure that they are labeled as dwarf or grafted plants. This will insure that they will flower and fruit while still small, usually when the plant reaches 3 to 6 feet tall. Non-grafted plants will need to grow 10 feet plus to produce fruit in your home--like growing an apple tree in your house.
When you eat citrus and save the seeds for potting, they will grow, but because they are not grafted or dwarf they will not bear fruit for you unless you have real high ceilings. The plants are beautiful, the flowers smell great, and with some luck you can have "native citrus" in your living room at this time next fall, no matter where you live. Enjoy!"
We have some awesome Citrus choices right here at Skillin's for you right now!
Thanks again, Paul Parent
November 27, 2010