How to Grow Citrus Trees in Pots in the Australian Climate

Have you ever wanted to know how to grow citrus in containers? Well, one of the first steps in successfully growing citrus in containers is selecting the right tree. First, you need to consider the type of citrus that you and your family would like to consume.

Dwarf trees are ideal for growing in containers. Two popular choices are the Meyer lemon and the Bears lime. They’re both easy to grow trees and perfect for beginners. The next step is selecting the right pot. There’s a few things to think about here, to make sure you get your tree off to a good start.

First, you need to choose a pot that’s large enough to accommodate several inches of new root growth around the original root ball for the tree that you’re planting. Secondly, you need to consider the shape. The most interesting trees are going to be replanted as they grow, so think about the shape of the pot. If your pot has a tapered edge that comes in at the top, this might make it difficult to remove that root ball when you’re ready to transplant.

The next step in getting your citrus tree off to the right start, is your soil selection. You’re going to want to choose a potting mix that is designed for planting in pots, not a planter mix that’s designed for planting in flower beds or in the ground. A good potting mix is going to have a light airy material that’s going to allow for great drainage, however it’s also going to allow for some soil retention and nutrient retention.

An organic soil is really important, because what you’re putting into your pot is going to create a living environment that feeds your plant and these nutrients are going to be taken up into the citrus tree and ultimately end up in the citrus fruit that you are eating every day. When you’re ready to plant. start by carefully removing the citrus tree from the container. You are going to want to look at your root ball, and if you see any obvious dead roots, then you’re going to want to prune those back.

If you see any extra long roots that are wrapping around, you’ll want to prune those back as well. This is just going to help give your citrus tree a jumpstart when you put it in new soil, so it can root nicely for you.

I’ve planted my citrus tree, leaving a couple inches of room from the top of the pot. Some things to consider are the depth of your planting; you want your entire root ball to be below the soil surface but you want to pay attention to the the crown of your plants. You want that to stay up above so there’s a graft line where the citrus tree was grafted and you want to make sure that stays above the soil surface and I’ve left enough space so I can add my fertiliser, some compost and some topdressing.

Citrus trees are heavy feeders. I recommend an organic citrus fertiliser. Something that is specific for citrus trees. Citrus have some special needs and if you have a formula that’s specific for citrus, you won’t have any guessing work wondering if you’re meeting all the requirements. For example, citrus trees like extra nitrogen, and they like the soil to be slightly acidic. They really need a lot of extra trace minerals. These extra trace minerals might be something that you won’t find in a regular fertiliser.

I like to feed my citrus tree every month or two, all year long. When you plant citrus trees in containers, if you’re watering correctly when you put a lot of water and it can leach nutrients out of the soil so it always requires heavier fertilising than something that’s planted in the ground.

I fertilise my citrus trees by adding some organic compost to the soil surface and then I’m going to top truss everything with a wood bark or wood mulch. Organic compost is the nice stuff that I like to use because I think of it as feeding the soil. When you have a healthy soil, that soil is going to do a much better job in feeding your citrus trees.

You don’t want to let the pot dry out in between each watering day, however you don’t want to put water on top of already wet soil. You want to water deeply so you want to water slowly, so that you can envision that water is really soaking in and in saturating the entire root ball. If your soil surface dries out, and you pour your water on too quickly, water tends to follow the path of least resistance and that water will skirt right off the top down the sides and out the drain hole and never really saturate that root ball.

On average in Australia, citrus trees should be watered once or twice a week. This can depend on many factors; the size of your pot, the better top dressed your pot is, and the overall weather pattern.

The last considerations is to look at the tree and decide if we need to do any pruning. One of the first things we’re going to look for is any dead branches. We also want to look at any branches that are crossing over. When they cross and rub on each other, that can cause problems and can cause an entry for infection, so we would just try to remove any branches that are crossing and causing any issues.

The hard part is done. Your citrus tree is planted and you’re looking forward to your first harvest however there will be some maintenance over the years. As your tree grows, you’re going to need to consider repotting it into a larger planter, and you’ll continue to look for planters that’ll allow for a couple inches of new growth space around the root ball.

You’ll also need to do some maintenance trimming on your tree, so you’ll want to maintain the size of the canopy and you’ll want to continue to look for broken branches or crossing branches and continue to open up the crown and let some sunlight in.

Remember, don’t skip on the fertilising your tree. It can give you some indications if it’s heavy dark lush green full canopies is indicating that you’re feeding it properly.

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