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How to Grow a Dwarf Citrus Tree

Justine Nalbach has had her dwarf trees featured in an article on "Gardens All," titled: "Dwarf Fruit Trees for Your Backyard Orchard."

This article will break down some of the differences between various dwarf citrus trees and provide information on how to grow and care for your own.

This article will break down some of the differences between various dwarf citrus trees and provide information on how to grow and care for your own.

Dwarf Citrus Tress: Oranges, Limes, and More

Do you wish to master the art of growing your own citrus trees regardless of the climate? Then the dwarf varieties are your best option.

These smaller versions make it possible to enjoy a bountiful citrus harvest without actually living in a tropical climate. Whether you wish to grow oranges, lemons, or limes, here is a detailed guide on how to choose which variety best suits you. This article will also go into detail on how to grow and care for a dwarf citrus tree to receive optimum yield.

My dwarf calamondin orange tree.

My dwarf calamondin orange tree.

What's the Best Kind of Soil?

  • Citrus trees love a sandy, well-draining/high-porosity mix.
  • You can use commercial potting soil, but making your own organic mix is much healthier. Equal parts of sand, peat moss, vermiculite, and non-manure compost can be mixed together in a large tote with a shovel.
  • You could also add worm castings and perlite. And if you didn't have access to peat moss, you could add coco coir.
  • One brand of soil I use is pro-mix HP, it contains peat moss, limestone, and mycorrhizae. It's a good base, and you can always add sand, vermiculite, non-manure compost, worm castings, or whatever you have access to at your local nursery or gardening center.
  • The best pH for the soil is between 5.5 and 6.5. Anything above or below that may cause the plant to have nutrient deficiencies. Too acidic or alkaline of soil will cause too much stress on the plant. That's why creating your own soil mix allows you to have the most control over its environment.
Here is my six-year-old dwarf calamondin orange that reaches over 6 feet tall—I've even placed it on wheels for easy transportation!

Here is my six-year-old dwarf calamondin orange that reaches over 6 feet tall—I've even placed it on wheels for easy transportation!

Which Variety of Dwarf Citrus Tree Is Best for You?

  • Most all varieties of dwarf citrus trees need at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day, though some varieties seem to do OK in a shadier climate.
  • Some good dwarf varieties to start with are Meyer lemon, calamondin orange, or key lime.
  • Dwarf varieties that tolerate a shadier spot include Bearss seedless lime, Campbell Valencia orange, and Redblush grapefruit.
  • You can also order many of your trees online from a website. I ordered from Gurney's Seed and Nursery Company in the past, and I am very pleased. That's where I purchased the orange tree you see here in the photographs.
Here's one of my trees just six months into fruiting.

Here's one of my trees just six months into fruiting.

What Size of Pot Should You Use?

Generally, a good rule of thumb is to use a pot 6 inches bigger than the pot in which it came in from the nursery. Using a pot too large may cause root rot from too much moisture, whereas a pot that's too small will restrict growth.

Keep in mind that the plant will need to be potted into a larger one every two to three years, basically whenever you can see roots coming through the bottom drain holes. The best time to transplant is early spring, before the big push for new growth starts.

After a year into fruiting, they're almost ripe!

After a year into fruiting, they're almost ripe!

How to Care for Dwarf Citrus Trees

Make sure to read the care instructions if you receive any from the nursery.

  • If you're placing it inside, it's best to put your dwarf citrus wherever it will get the most sunlight. In the Northern Hemisphere, that is the most south-facing window, unless the light is obstructed. Generally speaking, fruit trees require at least six to eight hours of sunlight. If your tree is not getting the required amount of sunlight, it will not fruit.
  • When first putting your tree out in the spring, make sure to place it in a shady spot for a couple of weeks before moving it into brighter sun. The young leaves are really susceptible to sun bleaching, and overheating or shocking it will stunt the growth of the plant and possibly even kill it. Slowly let your plant adjust to direct sunlight over a period of time, increasing the amount daily.
  • In the fall, when temperatures start to reach 45–50°F degrees at night, start bringing in your tree when it starts to get cold at night. Citrus trees thrive most in 55–100°F temperatures. Regular citrus trees that are grown only outside in warmer climates will go dormant in winter. So don't be too afraid if your tree drops a few leaves during the process. Any temperatures below 35°F will start to damage the leaves and fruit of the tree.
  • Water the soil more frequently in the summertime, making sure to keep the soil moist about an inch below the surface. Stick your finger in the soil to make sure that it is not too dry.
  • Fertilizing your tree on a regular basis is also a good habit to get into. Fruit trees enjoy fertilizer that contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Look for organic options, with a label reading 10-10-10 or 12-12-12. Mix the fertilizer according to instructions on the label, and of course, use safety precautions when working with them. You may find a pellet fertilizer that can be spread around the base of the tree, or a liquid fertilizer that must be diluted in water. When fertilizing, try not to put fertilizer on the leaves of the plant, which can cause your plant to get a chemical burn in the bright sun. Just pour it on the soil at the base of the tree. Fertilizer should not be needed until the second year, however, because there should be enough nutrients in the soil you made to feed the plant.

How Long Does It Take a Dwarf Citrus Tree to Produce Fruit?

  • Oranges usually take 12 months from the time they bloom flowers until the time the fruit is ready to be picked.
  • Lemons and limes take six to nine months before they are ripe.

They may take even longer to become fully ripe, however. Sometimes you may have to grow the tree for three to five years before it will begin flowering. Often, the first year they flower they may fail to produce any fruit, but don't get discouraged! Just remember they need lots of time and care. Good luck on your gardening journey!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Justine Nalbach


Justine Nalbach (author) from Ohio on August 25, 2020:

Thank you Liza & Amalendu for your wonderful comments.

Amalendu Nath from Ghaziabad, India on August 25, 2020:

Very useful information on how to grow dwarf citrus tree in a pot and time needed to get actual fruit.

Liza from USA on April 02, 2020:

This is so cool! Back in my hometown, we grew many citrus trees, such as lime and clementine. I look forward to better weather this year and I'd love to have my own orange tree inside my house. Thanks for sharing.

Justine Nalbach (author) from Ohio on February 08, 2019:

Thanks Marlene! Happy Growing!

Marlene Bertrand from USA on February 08, 2019:

This is an excellent article with lots of valuable information. I am glad to see that Meyer Lemons are easy to grow in containers because they are my favorite.