HOW TO MAINTAIN YOUR POTTED CITRUS
Citrus are one of those plants that I think are a must in the garden.
They have beautiful dark green foliage all year, sensuously perfumed flowers at various times of the year and then produce fabulously colourful edible fruit. They really are the most perfect garden specimen.
We’ve already gone through why you should grow citrus plants in pots and how you should pot them up. By now, you have some gorgeous fruit trees in pots, and thats wonderful.
Now the question is how you keep them looking lovely all year round, and for years to come.
Watering Containerised plants need more watering than in ground plants because of their restricted root run and although citrus like a hot and sunny position, they also require good soil moisture levels to stay healthy and produce well.
You will find you will need to water your citrus a least weekly in cooler months, twice weekly in summer and daily on extremely hot days or when there is a hot dry wind blowing. I like to apply a liquid wetting agent once a month in summer to ensure that the water that is applied is soaking in and being held by the potting mix rather than draining straight through running out the bottom of the pot.
I prefer to use hose with a shower nozzle on it and tend to soak the pot by leaving the hose running over the top of the pot for 20 to 30 seconds. For those without hose access, say on a balcony, then a full 10 litre watering can be gently empty onto the surface of the pot.
If you find the water starts to drain out of the bottom of the pot within a couple a seconds of starting the watering it probably means the potting mix has shrunk away from the sides of the pot and the water is running straight down the sides of the pot without soaking into the mix. The potting mix has become hydrophobic (repels water) and you will need to apply a liquid wetting agent to fix the problem.
Citrus are prone to micro nutrient deficiencies, which is exacerbated by the constant watering, so you need to ensure that you apply a fertiliser with a variety of trace elements especially iron manganese and zinc.
For citrus in containers I like to apply the rule “A little often” In spring and early autumn I apply slow release organic pellets and then supplement this with regular liquid feeds from early spring through to late autumn. The type of liquid feed I use is dependent on the growth stage of the plant. When the plant is young, I use a high nitrogen ratio fertiliser to encourage plenty of growth which will develop into a strong branch structure. High nitrogen ratio fertilisers also discourage flower and fruiting which is necessary until the tree is large and strong enough to hold full sized fruit.
Once the tree is established, feed with a high ratio potassium fertiliser that will encourage flower and fruit development instead of excess leaf growth.
Unless you are espaliering or standardising your citrus trees require very little pruning.
All I do is: Tip pruning in spring to encourage bushiness. Prune to shape by removing wayward growth. Remove any dead or diseased wood i.e. cut out any citrus gall
Pest & Disease
Citrus, if not looked after well can be vulnerable to a lot of pest and diseases. My top tips to avoid attack from pests and disease.
• Maintain your plants well –water and feed as necessary-if your plants are healthy they will look after themselves
• Do not feed with synthetic high nitrogen fertiliser, as this creates excessive, very soft growth which is susceptible to aphid, scale and snail and slug attack.
• Apply an organic pest oil spray twice a year as a preventive measure against scale, aphids, leaf miner and bronze orange bug- always apply in late afternoon or on an overcast day and make sure you cover the whole tree, especially the undersized of the leaves and stems and wash off the following morning.
• Check your plants regularly, if you find anything unusual, do some research and find out what it is, if it is going to affect your plants and how to try and reduce the damage.
• Birds such as sulfur crested cockatoos can decimate a crop so think how you could net the plants when they are cropping – Im going to write you a complete guide on this later in the year, so check back then!
Most dwarf varieties will only need to be repotted every 4 or 5 years. They can be repotted into a slightly larger container or into the same container by reducing the root area by about ¼. This is best done in mid-autumn when the worst of the hot weather is over but it is still warm enough for the plant to re-establish before the heat of next spring or summer.
So follow these few simple steps and you will find you will be growing fabulous citrus plants that not only look great but are productive as well.
Have you potted up your own citrus plant? I would love you to show me, so post a picture over on the Facebook page