What could be better than growing your own fruit at home! Many people don’t realize that we can actually grow citrus plants like lemon, lime, and oranges right here in Ottawa. In this article, we’ll cover what you need to know about how to care for your citrus plant at home.
Let’s start with the basics. Citrus plants grow naturally in warm tropical climates, so they won’t be able to survive our Ottawa winters outdoors. Don’t make the mistake of trying to plant them in your outdoor garden! Instead, keep your citrus plant potted. You can bring them outside in the summer months when the temperatures are warm, but make sure to bring them inside at the end of the summer, to protect them for the cooler months.
Lighting: Indoors, citrus plants will need a nice bright spot, ideally with a bit of direct sunlight if possible. They will do best in south-facing windows but can also grow in east-facing or west-facing windows too. When you bring them outdoors in late May or early June (after the risk of frost has passed), do not put them in full sun right away. This is because your plant is used to indoor lighting and will need to be acclimatized before going in full sun outdoors. Otherwise, you’ll cause a big shock to your plant. Start by placing it in a more sheltered spot with a bit more shade, and slowly move it in a spot with more sun over the course of a couple weeks, so that they can get used to the sunny conditions.
Watering: This one is key. Make sure you allow most of the soil to dry in between each watering. Citrus don’t like to be constantly wet or sitting in water. We always recommend using a moisture meter, which can really help you identify when your plant needs water. Wait until your meter reads #3 (dry) before giving the plant a good watering. Make sure that you allow the water to drain through the bottom holes of your plant’s pot and empty any excess water if you have it sitting in a decorative pot or saucer.
Humidity & Temperature: Keep your citrus plants in areas with even temperatures. You’ll want to avoid drafts, whether hot or cold, so keep them away from doors and heat registers. Since they come from tropical climates, they do appreciate a bit of humidity. They thrive in around 50% humidity levels. Our homes often have very dry air during the winter months, so there are several things we can do to increase humidity levels. You can frequently mist your plant, add a humidifier nearby, or use the pebble tray trick. A pebble tray is very simple and effective: take a shallow plant saucer, fill it with a thin layer of pebbles, and fill it with water just to reach the top of the pebbles. Then, sit your plant on top. The water will evaporate around your plant, creating a sort of mini micro-climate with added humidity.
Fertilizer: We recommend fertilizing with citrus-specific fertilizer every 3 weeks in the Spring and Summer, and then cut back to only every 6 weeks in the Fall and Winter. This will keep your citrus plant happy, blooming and producing fruit.
Repotting: Citrus don’t like to be repotted too often. Many people often think that as soon as they get a new plant, they have to change the pot to a bigger one right away! This is not the case and more often than not can lead to a decline in your plant’s health if you are not careful. Citrus don’t like to be repotted too often. Small citrus plants can stay in their pots for roughly 2 years before needing to be repotted, while larger citrus trees that are already in big pots can often stay for several years before needing a change of pot. When you do decide to repot your citrus plant, make sure you choose a pot with good drainage. They like a slightly acidic and well-draining soil mix. We recommend using Fafard Indoor Potting Soil, with a bit of extra perlite mixed in.
That’s all you need to know to get started with growing your very own citrus plants or trees at home! Here at Robert Plante Greenhouses, citrus is an extremely popular plant and we always try to carry a wide range of them including lemon, lime, orange, calamondin, kumquat, and more. Come see us in-store or contact us if you would like more information!