Citrus and the City
One of the most popular fruiting plants to grow in pots would have to be citrus, especially Lemons and Limes. Which may have something to do with their suitability to a wide range refreshing Summer cocktails!
Regardless of whether you desire the citrus zing for cocktails, soothing teas, refreshing flavoured water, or to add fresh zest to chicken and fish dishes, vegetables, salads or baking – if you are wanting to have a steady supply of citrus on hand then growing a couple of varieties in pots may be just the answer.
Commercial citrus growers have perfected an extensive collection of varieties that maintain both a compact habit and bountiful fruiting – making them ideally suited to growing in pots where space is limited, but the desire for plenty for fruit certainly isn’t!
Look out for varieties that are clearly labelled as “Dwarf” or “Compact”. Ranges such as the “Pipsqueak” series are a collection that have proven very successful, offering several different varieties of Mandarins, Oranges, Lemons and Limes.
Some traditional citrus varieties also adapt very well to growing in containers, keeping a smaller size by a combination of pruning and the constraint of the container on their root system. These include Lemon “Meyer”, Lime “Tahitian” and most varieties of Mandarin.
Such is the sustained interest in citrus and the desire to grow them in containers, new varieties bred with compact habits are regularly being released. Here’s five of the best newcomers:
IPPOLITO Blood Orange
This highly regarded new release is an Italian Blood Orange, with extremely deep red flesh and a delicious juice of raspberry orange and rose flavour.
With its hardy and compact growth habit, Ippolito is the perfect blood orange for pots and containers in balcony and courtyard gardens.
WINTER SUNRISE Orange
The Winter Sunrise Orange is the first of the oranges of the new season to ripen, beginning to bear fruit as early as May. Winter Sunrise is considered a “juicing” orange, although it’s warm, sweet and fresh flavour makes it an equally good eating fruit.
Again, this variety has been grown with small spaces in mind, making it a fabulous performer in pots.
SEEDLESS EUREKA Lemon
Eureka has long best considered one of the best Lemons. Sharp tasting, large juicy fruit that appear in crops all year. The development of the Seedless Eureka takes everything we love and dials it up, whilst dispensing with the annoying seeds.
It grows more prolifically and crops more heavily and even growing in a pot, chances are you’ll be offering excess lemons to your neighbours!
LEMONICIOUS Lemon & SUBLIME Lime
Lemonicious and Sublime are two super-compact growing varieties, bearing very juicy, and versatile home-grown fruit.
Whilst many other varieties will still resemble a small tree in a container, both Lemonicious and Sublime will appear more like a bushy shrub, making them a very attractive potted plant. But perhaps best of all is just how resilient these new varieties are – suited to all climates, happy at altitude on balconies and tolerant of wind and salt, so a view of the beach is just fine.
The one non-negotiable for all citrus is sunlight – as much as possible, but at the very least a position that captures a few hours Northern or Western afternoon sun each day.
So, if you’re ready to have a go, here’s my Top 5 Potted Citrus Tips
- Bigger isn’t always better…
When it comes to choosing a pot, it can be tempting to choose the largest sized container you can manage for your space to give your tree room to reach its full potential.
However, it’s often wiser to start smaller and repot your citrus into a larger pot after a year or two. This is because excess soil around the roots may hold onto moisture that isn’t needed by the plant, causing it to waterlog and cause rot root.
- Don’t be a tightarse
When you are growing a citrus in a pot, instead of the ground, you are essentially controlling the soil, nutrients and microbes available to the plant. So, buy the best potting mix you can afford – this is your citrus trees home. So, a high quality potting mix, packed with ingredients designed to support healthy growth is essential to success.
- Feed Me!
Much like the point about potting mix, the food you provide your plant is the only food it’s going to receive. The work of developing flowers and then producing fruit uses lots of energy and makes citrus very hungry plants.
Use a citrus specific fertiliser at least twice a year in early Autumn and Spring to ensure the essential nutrients are topped up, just as the plant needs them.
- Pest Patrol
Sadly, a range of pests love citrus nearly as much as we do! The best way to keep your plant pest free is ensure the pot is positioned with as much airflow around it as possible and by keeping it well fed and watered.
Also consider growing some long-flowering plants that attract beneficial insects like ladybirds and hoverflies – a couple of Alyssum, Borage or Sedum nearby can work wonders. Otherwise, have some organic EcoOil on hand so you’re ready to swoop on any nasties.
- Deep, Deep Down
Just as with food, citrus like plenty of water to be able to produce those big, juicy fruits. But, like many plants, too much water can be just as much of a problem.
A deep soaking occasionally is much better than a light watering often. Each time you water your citrus, wait for water to flow out of the base of the pot. This way you’ll know the water has reached right through the soil. To help retain moisture in the soil, a good layer of mulch on the soil surface will help prevent drying out. It’s also a good indicator that it’s time to water – scratch back the mulch and little and check with your finger, if it’s dry, it’s time to water.
The team at Dig Emporium are here to help ensure you get the very best results, so let us know how we can help.