There is an obvious fascination in having an orange or lemon tree at home, but if you want it to bear fruit, then you will have to buy a citrus trees selected for their ability to grow indoors. The problem is that plants raised at home from pips will not fruit until they are too large for an ordinary room. The dwarfs sold as house plants are shrubby trees which have glossy leaves and produce fruit while the plant is still quite young.
Summer is the usual flowering period for citrus trees, but the Calamondin orange (C. mitis) may produce white fragrant flowers and small bitter oranges nearly all year round.
Cultivation is straight forward – the basic requirements for growing citrus trees are good drainage, freedom from draughts, careful watering, ample feeding and cool but not cold conditions in winter. Summer should be spent outdoors.
Two tips for successful growing citrus trees:
– pollinate the flowers by dabbing with cotton wool,
– apply MultiTonic if yellowing leaves reveal magnesium deficiency.
Types of citrus trees
A number of citrus species and varieties can be relied upon to form oranges or lemons indoors, but you will have to provide good conditions and even then you cannot expect to match the quality of shop-bought fruits. Citrus mitis is the most popular species – a 4ft bush which bears small bitter oranges whilst the plant is still quite small. The fruit matures to about an inch and a half across and is often used to make marmalade. Its glossy, deep-green foliage is the perfect backdrop for its showy fruits. Grows well in bright light and average room temperatures.
Other indoor types include the Sweet Orange, Lemon (the dwarf varieties are meyeri and the large-fruited Ponderosa) and Seville Orange (3ft spiny tree). An interesting house plant variety, if you can find it, is the Otaheite Orange (Tahitian Orange). The pink-tinged white flowers are very fragrant and are followed by orange-colored fruit.
Secret of success
Temperature: Average warmth – minimum 50°F in winter.
Light: Choose the sunniest spot available.
Water: Water moderately all year round.
Repotting: Repot, if necessary, in spring.
Propagation: Take stem cuttings in spring. Use a rooting hormone and provide bottom heat.
Read also: Garden Designing With Fruit Containers