If life hands you lemons, save those seeds. You can plant them and grow your own trees.

I have not tried this yet, but it looks interesting.

Citrus trees are tropical to near-tropical plants that are not supposed to survive our winters. We live in USDA Hardiness Zone 7 where winter temperatures will drop as low as 0 degrees. Most citrus trees need to stay in zones 9 to 11. They cannot tolerate temperatures below 50 degrees for very long without suffering some damage or even mortality. However, there are some people who have successfully grown orange and lemon trees and others in zones 7 and 8, but they must do a lot of extra work to care for their trees.

To grow citrus such as orange, lemon, tangerine and kumquat in zone 7, you must select a variety that has consistently shown success here. That will take time on the internet to research. The tree must be planted on the south side of a building to block winter winds, and it may be necessary to wrap it in a blanket and some plastic on the more frigid nights.

However, it is possible to raise these trees as indoor plants. Meyers lemon and mandarin orange and tangerine seem to be the most successful. One or two varieties of lime also can be grown indoors. It is simply a matter of selecting a dwarf variety and learning what it needs to succeed. First, you will need patience since it takes time for a tree to reach a level of maturity where it will produce fruit. Growing it from a seed it can take five to 10 years. Starting with a transplanted seedling may yield fruit in the first or second year.

If you start from seed, extract the seed from the fruit and clean it off thoroughly, but do not let it dry out. Keep it moist until you plant it. Citrus trees prefer an acid soil, similar to azaleas and blueberries. Start the seeds in small pots, like peat or clay pots no more the 8 inches wide. It will be easier to provide the early care they need. Plant the seeds about ½ inch deep in a rich, organic potting soil. Place the pot in a sunny spot for warmth, and keep the soil wet until the growth starts to show up. Then keep the soil moist, but not too wet. Citrus trees do not like wet feet. In most cases, you will need to water once or twice a week. Move the seedling to a large pot every two years.

Starting with seedlings will get to the fruit stage faster and the tree will no need to be repotted nearly as often. The starting pot size is related to the size of the seedling. Hopefully whoever supplied the seedling gave advice on what size pot to use. If they didn’t do that, plan on 10 inches for every inch of trunk diameter at the ground. A 1-inch diameter seedling goes into a pot that is at least 10 inches in diameter. It will need to be moved to larger pots as it grows until moving it is no longer feasible. I have a tropical plant that came to me in an 8-inch hanging basket, and it is now in a 24-inch pot that is on a tray with wheels so I can move it.

Citrus trees need a lot of sunlight — 10 to 14 hours a day is best. If you cannot do that you should try for a minimum of eight hours and hope for the best. When in such a location, the tree will need to be checked regularly, especially if it is indoors. Watch for sunburned foliage and soils that dry too fast. Keep watering as needed to keep the soil moist. Insert a finger, if the upper 3-inches is dry, then add water.

Citrus trees will benefit from some very light feeding. Use a product formulated for acid-loving plants at about ½ the recommended rate twice a year. The best times to feed are early spring and again in mid-summer.

Now, to pollinate the blooms to get some fruit. Try shaking the tree when it is in full bloom to distribute the pollen. Also, try using a small paint brush to both collect and spread pollen. Better still, when the weather is warm move the trees outdoors and let the pollinators do their jobs. Many citrus trees can self-pollinate but it is always better to have another to cross with.

Now just wait for what feels like a long time for the fruit to ripen.

Enjoy your garden.

Contact Sutphin at inyard2019@gmail.com.

Contact Sutphin at inyard2019@gmail.com.

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