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Fertilizing Citrus Trees – Best Practices For Citrus Fertilizing

Fertilizing Citrus Trees – Best Practices For Citrus Fertilizing


By: Heather Rhoades

Citrus trees, like all plants, need nutrients to grow. Since they can be heavy feeders, fertilizing citrus trees is sometimes necessary in order to have a healthy and fruit bearing tree. Learning how to fertilize a citrus fruit tree properly can make the difference between a bumper crop of fruit or a bummer crop of fruit.

When to Apply Citrus Fertilizer

In general, you should be doing your citrus fertilizing about once every one to two months during active growth (spring and summer) and once every two to three months during the tree’s dormant periods (fall and winter). As the tree gets older, you can skip dormant season fertilizing and increase the amount of time between active growth fertilizing to once every two to three months.

To find the best citrus fertilizing time frames for your tree, judge based on the tree’s physical appearance and growth. A tree that looks lush and dark green and is holding onto fruit does not need to be fertilized as often. Fertilizing too much when the tree has a healthy appearance may actually cause it to produce inferior fruit.

Citrus trees are most nutrient-hungry from the time they bloom until they have firmly set fruit, so make sure you apply citrus fertilizer when the tree is in bloom regardless of health so that it has enough nutrients to properly produce fruit.

How to Fertilize a Citrus Fruit Tree

Citrus tree fertilizing is either done through the leaves or through the ground. Following the directions on your chosen fertilizer, which will be to either spray the fertilizer onto the leaves of your citrus tree or spread it out around the base of the tree as far as the canopy reaches. Do not place fertilizer near the trunk of the tree.

What Kind of Citrus Fertilizer Does My Tree Need?

All citrus trees will benefit from a slightly nitrogen rich or balanced NPK fertilizer that also has some micro-nutrients in it like:

  • magnesium
  • manganese
  • iron
  • copper
  • zinc
  • boron

Citrus trees also like to have somewhat acidic soil, so an acidic fertilizer can also be beneficial in citrus tree fertilizing, though not required. The easiest citrus fertilizer to use is the kind made specifically for citrus trees.

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Masterful Tips for Growing Lemon Tree in a Pot

1. Do not Grow the Plant from Seeds

Though you can grow lemon from seed, it will be a long process. Also, you won’t be able to get a grafted variety that will offer you more yield. Always get a plant from a nearby nursery.

2. Pick the Right Variety

Choose a lemon plant variety that suits containers. Meyer lemon is a naturally smaller tree and lasts long in pots. Dwarf lemon plants produce the same size and quality, but the yield can be 50-60 percent less.

You can also go with grafted lemon plants as they begin to yield fruit in the same year. In comparison, a plant propagated from seeds takes about 4-6 years to start fruiting.

Tip: Instead of ordering online, take a trip to a nearby nursery and look for different plants yourself. If you have any confusion, ask the staff.

Check out different types of lemons with pictures here

3. Give Proper Light

Place your lemon tree where it receives 4-6 hours of sunlight. A south-facing window will be the most optimum spot to place your potted lemon tree. A well-lit balcony near a room will also be an awesome place for it.

4. Selection of Pot

Take a 12-14 inches pot or a container for the lemon plant. As a thumb rule, always go for a size that’s about 25 percent bigger than the root ball of the plant. Just make sure that the pot has ample drainage holes at the bottom.

5. The Right Soil Mix

Citrus plants prefer well-draining soil, and using a mix of 30 percent cocopeat, 30 percent compost, 20 percent sand, and 20 percent garden soil will do wonders for the growth of your lemon tree.

Also, place styrofoam bits at the bottom of the container. This will prevent the dampness of the roots, thereby eliminating the chances of root rot.

6. Mulching

Lemon plants dislike weeds, and the best way to ensure they don’t trouble the plant is by covering the top layer of the pot with mulch.

7. Water Appropriately

The newly potted lemon tree requires to be deeply watered on alternate days. Before watering again, check the top 2-inches of the soil for dryness by poking your finger in the potting media. You may have to water the plant more frequently in summers or hot days.

8. Fertilize Right

Cirus plants are heavy feeders and need fertilization to produce lush foliage, fragrant flowers, and juicy fruits. Use citrus or any good quality slow-release water-soluble balanced fertilizer once a month. Also, don’t forget to side-dress the plant with compost or well-rotted manure.

Pro Tip: For strong growth, pour a cup of unflavored plain yogurt once in 4-6 weeks around the base of a lemon tree.

9. Re-Pot Timely

The lemon tree will outgrow the original pot in 3-4 years. It is essential to re-pot the plant timely before it gets root-bound.

10. Pruning and Pinching

You can boost the plant’s growth by pinching the tips when they’re 5-6 inches long. Also, start pruning when new growth emerges but only snip away dead or diseased branches as excessive pruning can result in poor yield.

A Tip: Whenever you notice suckers, prune them immediately.

11. Keep an Eye on Weeds

Weeds will take all the essential nutrients away from the plant. Remove unwanted grass and weed along with their roots from the pot when you spot them.

12. Avoid Keeping the Tree in Dark

Citrus love to be in the bright sun, and keeping the plant in a shaded or dark spot will refrain its growth and fruiting.

13. Keep the Plant Away from Cold Drafts of Air

Well, lemon trees are quite resilient to cold, but they won’t survive the exposure to the intensely cold air or weather. Keep your plant protected from such conditions.

14. Use Buttermilk and Yogurt

Apply a cup or two of plain yogurt or buttermilk around the base of your potted lemon plant during the growing season, once in 4-6 weeks. It will aid in lush growth and promote fruiting.

15. Give Plenty of Air Circulation

Keep your lemon tree away from cramped places or with too many plants. Keep it where it can get plenty of air circulation.

16. Keep a Track of Pollination

Most potted lemon trees are self-pollinating, but you can speed up the process by keeping the plant in a balcony. You can also manually pollinate by picking the flower from another lemon tree.

17. Keep the Plant Away from Strong Winds

Exposure to a strong gush of winds will make the plant lose its leaves and flowers. It will also result in deformed fruits. It is a good idea to stake your potted lemon when it is young.

18. Use Plant Caddy

Using a plant caddy will allow you to move the plant around easily. This comes especially handy when you want to keep it in the balcony for some sunlight exposure.

19. Use Epsom Salt

Mix one tablespoon of Epsom salt in a gallon of water and use it to water the plant. As Epsom salt is a form of magnesium, it will aid in fruit production.

20. Use Fish Heads and Scraps

Mix fish scraps in a blender and use them in the soil. You can also bury a fish head in the pot. It will aid in lush growth and also promotes fruiting.


Q. Orange & lemon tree leaf drop

Help! Until a few weeks ago we had a healthy lemon tree and orange tree in our greenhouse. No idea what has happened. Can't find anything like it on the web that looks like this disaster zone. Started to lose the odd leaf and suddenly we have the equivalent of tree alopecia. Can you help please? Thanks Colin

The most common reason for leaf drop on Citrus is uneven watering.
Here are some articles that will help you pinpoint the issue.


Time Frame

Nutrients must be available in the soil to support the initial growth spurt in spring on grapefruit trees. Subsequent fertilizer applications occur in early summer and again in late summer to ensure the breakdown of the slow-release fertilizer granules keep the soil rich in minerals for roots. Fertilization of citrus trees in regions that sustain some winter frosts tends to end in late summer, according to "Sunset Western Garden Book."

  • Plants use fertilizers to supply various necessary minerals.
  • In citrus-growing regions, "citrus-special" fertilizer granules are available for purchase, formulated to provide amounts of nutrients based on a region's native soils.

Ask a Question forum→Satsuma Tree has very bitter fruit and big thorns

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Has it produced good fruit in the past? How old is the tree? Have you been cutting the suckers out?

If the fruit was pretty and orange but really bitter, it could be you are cultivating a rootstock tree. That means the grafted tree died or was mistakenly cut out and the rootstock is Sour Orange.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming. "WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org

So TLDR: You should probably feed your tree to get good fruit. This link tells you when. We used spikes so it's pretty easy.

Apparently I can't add a link, so.

You are right, citrus are heavy feeders but.

Don't use tree spikes as they only fertilize parts of the roots system. Use citrus specific granular food that you can spread evenly.

Trees don't need as much fertilizer as other plants because they grow more slowly. Fertilizer 3 or 4 times each year: Now, late spring, mid summer, late summer.

In @Concerned's case, Satsuma trees do not have thorns. But, if the grafted tree was lost for some reason, the root stock could very well be Seville Orange, a pretty orange fruit that is so sour it taste bitter and has big thorns.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming. "WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org


I'm concerned with this as well along with how do I prune this thing and get it producing sweet fruit this year

Is that the tree way back there on the other side of the lawn? I can tell you now its not a Satsuma.

Can you take close-ups of the leaves and post them?

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming. "WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost


Tree Age Considerations

Both the Universities of Arizona and Florida comment that young trees need more frequent applications of fertilizer. According to reference charts posted by both universities, a smaller overall amount of nitrogen is needed by smaller trees but is supplied over more-frequent fertilization events. Older, larger trees need much more nitrogen, but the fertilizing occurs no more than three times a year. Once a tree is five years old, provide it with 1 lb. of nitrogen for each year of age, up to a maximum of 10 lbs. at a time.


Watch the video: How to Feed u0026 Fertilize a Fruit Tree, part 1