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Caring for Citrus Trees 19 February 2024

Citrus fruits will thrive in UK conditions given adequate sunlight, regular feeding, and some protection from very severe weather.  The biggest threats to their wellbeing are over-watering and being considered a house plant which they most certainly are not!
After having received your fruit tree, unpack immediately and place in a sunny spot and sheltered from very cold winds and temperatures which regularly go below +4c. When the tree has acclimatised to UK conditions, (usually one complete year) it will withstand lower temperatures.
Your tree will not need potting on for at least the first year. After that time, we suggest that a pot of 10-12 ltr capacity is chosen.  It should have very good drainage holes and a 7cm thick layer of shells or crocks should cover the base. A John Innes No.3 Compost is best, and to that should be added one quarter grit and stone. Re-potting should be carried out between mid-March and mid-April.   
TIP. Do not use a multi-purpose peat-based compost for Citrus.


During the first year no pruning will be necessary other than removing damaged branches.  In subsequent years pruning should be carried out, reducing the previous year’s growth by about one third. This will maintain the tree in a good, rounded shape and allow fruit buds to form.


This is the most important part in citrus care.  Watering should be kept to a minimum in the winter, with the soil being almost, but not completely dry. During very wet spells of winter weather, it is worth considering wrapping a layer of cling film over the soil to prevent it becoming too wet.  As spring starts, so does the increase in watering, with the amount per week in mid-summer being at about 5 ltrs per week for a 15 ltr potted tree.  Additional rains will obviously affect this, and an adjustment should be made. Should flagging of the leaves occur, then additional watering may be given.
TIP.  If the leaf starts to take on a yellow hue, then it is most likely that the compost is too wet.


The feeding of citrus in pots is very important but must not be carried out during the winter months when root growth has ceased. Proprietary branded citrus feed can be used, but any slow-release pelleted fertiliser suitable for trees and shrubs is a very good substitute. We recommend that you apply a small handful of pelleted fertiliser every 8 weeks throughout the spring, summer and early autumn and cease feeding in mid to late October. Do not apply fertiliser to the plant if the temperature drops to a maximum of +8c during daylight hours.  

Winter Care:

Although citrus can easily withstand a temperature of -4c for short periods, the combination of wet soil and low temperature will be very detrimental to them. If a suitable unheated glass house or well-lit shed is available, then this should be used but only after mid November at the earliest, and only until mid March. However, the plant should be brought out into the open air once the temperature reaches above +5c regularly. Large protective woven cloth bags can also be used which we find are very good indeed as they let in almost 80% of the available sunlight and shed rain as well.
Citrus are NOT HOUSE PLANTS, and will quickly defoliate in central heating. If there is no alternative in very cold weather but to bring them into the house, then place them in a shower room or bathroom where there is a moist atmosphere. As soon as the temperature rises to above freezing then place outside once again.
TIP. Remember that Citrus fruits can never have enough sunshine.
Finally, just enjoy them!

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