Growing Dwarf Citrus Trees Indoors (Citrus Success Tips!)

Growing Dwarf Citrus Trees Indoors

Growing dwarf citrus trees indoors can be a rewarding and convenient way to enjoy fresh, homegrown citrus year-round.

Not only do these small trees add a touch of tropical beauty to your home, but they also provide a source of nutritious fruit without the need for a backyard garden.

We will provide you with some great tips to successfully grow dwarf citrus indoors in your home.

What Is Citrus? A Bit Of Background On Citrus Trees

Citrus is a genus of flowering trees and shrubs in the rue family, Rutaceae. Plants in the genus produce citrus fruits, including important crops such as oranges, lemons, grapefruits, pomelos, and limes. The genus Citrus is native to South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Melanesia, and Australia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citrus

The mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata), also known as the mandarin or mandarine, is a small citrus tree fruit. Treated as a distinct species of orange,[1] it is usually eaten plain or in fruit salads.[1] Tangerines are a group of orange-coloured citrus fruit consisting of hybrids of mandarin orange with some pomelo contribution. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandarin_orange

Citrus trees can hybridize quite easily so here is a diagram that may help you understand the different types of citrus trees.

citrus hybrids
Agricolae, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Benefits of growing citrus trees indoors

• Citrus trees are attractive plants that can add a touch of greenery and a pleasant aroma to your home.

• Growing citrus plants indoors allows you to enjoy fresh, homegrown fruit even if you don’t have outdoor space or live in a climate that is not conducive to growing citrus.

• Citrus trees can be grown in containers, so you can move them around as needed or bring them outdoors during the warmer months.

• Indoor citrus trees can be a natural air purifier, as they release oxygen and can filter out harmful pollutants from the air.

• Caring for citrus trees can be a relaxing and therapeutic activity that can help reduce stress and improve mental health.

• Growing your own fruit can also be a cost-effective way to incorporate fresh produce into your diet.

Growing Dwarf Citrus Trees Indoors And Selecting the Right Variety For Indoor Growing

lemon tree

When it comes to selecting the right variety for indoor growing, it’s important to choose a dwarf variety that is well-suited to life in a container.

Dwarf citrus trees are smaller and more compact than their full-size counterparts, making them a great choice for indoor growing.

These varieties are also more cold-hardy than full-size trees, which is important if you live in a cooler climate.

Some popular dwarf varieties for indoor growing include calamondin oranges, mandarin oranges, lemon trees, kumquat, key limes, kaffir lime, and limequat.

Flying dragon rootstock and why dwarf trees are grafted

The flying dragon rootstock is a type of citrus rootstock that is commonly used to create dwarf citrus trees.

Rootstocks are the roots and lower parts of a plant that are used to propagate new plants.

When a dwarf citrus tree is grafted onto the flying dragon rootstock, it creates a small, compact tree that is well-suited to life in a container.

There are several reasons why dwarf citrus trees are often grafted onto the flying dragon rootstock.

One reason is that it helps to control the size of the tree, making it easier to manage and care for indoors.

Additionally, the flying dragon rootstock is known for its cold hardiness, making it a good choice for those who live in cooler climates.

It is also resistant to certain pests and diseases, which can help to keep your tree healthy.

Overall, the flying dragon rootstock is a reliable and effective choice for creating dwarf citrus trees that are well-suited to indoor growing.

The best dwarf citrus varieties to grow indoors

Calamondin: Calamondin oranges are a small citrus tree with orange-like fruit that is perfect for indoor growing. The fruit is often used to make marmalade and can also be eaten fresh.

Kumquat: Kumquat is a small, oval-shaped citrus fruit that can be grown indoors. The skin of the fruit is sweet and the flesh is tart, making it a unique and tasty addition to any indoor garden.

Limequat: Limequat is a cross between a lime and a kumquat and is well-suited to indoor growing. The fruit is small and lime-like in flavor, making it a great addition to cocktails and other dishes.

Citrus reticulata: Citrus reticulata, also known as mandarin orange or tangerine, is a small citrus fruit that is easy to grow indoors. The fruit is sweet and juicy and can be eaten fresh or used in cooking. Clementines are in this family.

Meyer lemon: Meyer lemon is a small, cold-hardy lemon variety that is well-suited to indoor growing. The fruit has a thin skin and a sweet, aromatic flavor, making it a favorite among citrus enthusiasts.

Citrus paradisi: Citrus paradisi, also known as grapefruit, is a large citrus fruit that can be grown indoors if given enough space. The fruit has pink or red flesh and a tart, slightly sweet flavor.

Citrus sinensis: Citrus sinensis, also known as sweet orange, is a popular citrus fruit that can be grown indoors. The fruit is sweet and juicy and can be eaten fresh or used in cooking. Includes blood oranges and navel oranges.

Citrus limon: Citrus limon, also known as lemon, is a versatile citrus fruit that can be grown indoors. The fruit has a tart, acidic flavor and is commonly used in cooking and as a garnish.

Pummelo: Pummelo, also known as pomelo or shaddock, is a large citrus fruit that can be grown indoors if given enough space. The fruit has thick skin and a sweet, juicy flesh.

Citrus aurantifolia, Key lime
© 2009 Jee & Rani Nature Photography (License: CC BY-SA 4.0), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Choosing the right container and soil

Container size and material

The size and material of the container you choose for your dwarf citrus tree will depend on the size of the tree and the type of soil mix you plan to use.

Generally, you should use a pot that is twice the size of your tree’s rootball.

Any pot you use should have drainage holes because citrus does not like wet feet.

A ceramic or terra cotta pot is a good choice for most citrus trees, as these materials allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings.

However, plastic pots are also an option and are generally cheaper and lighter than ceramic or terra cotta pots.

Use A Pebble Tray To Add Humidity

You can add a couple of inches of pebbles to the bottom of your pot to improve drainage. You can also set your pots in pebble trays.

They are good choices to give your plants more humidity. The water in the tray should not be above the top of the pebbles as they are for providing humidity and not watering.

Soil mix

When it comes to the soil mix, it’s important to choose high-quality potting soil that is well-draining.

Citrus trees don’t like to sit in soggy soil, so a soil mix that drains well is key to preventing root rot.

You can also add a small amount of perlite or sand to the soil mix to help improve drainage. You can use a moisture meter if you are unsure when to water.

Planting and caring for your dwarf citrus tree

oranges hanging on a tree

Planting instructions:

Before planting your dwarf citrus tree, make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom of the pot to allow excess water to drain out.

Citrus requires good drainage to thrive. This will help prevent root rot and ensure that the soil stays well-draining.

Choose a location for your tree that gets plenty of sunlight and has good air circulation. Citrus likes full sun.

A south-facing window is usually a good choice. Citrus trees need 6-8 hours of direct sunlight.

To make sure your citrus tree gets enough light you may need to use a grow light.

mandarin orange tree
Jebulon, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Watering and fertilizing:

When it comes to watering and fertilizing your citrus tree, it’s important to pay attention to the soil moisture level and fertilize according to the tree’s needs.

Water the tree when the top inch or two of soil feels dry to the touch, and fertilize with balanced citrus fertilizer according to the package directions.

Avoid over-watering or over-fertilizing, as both can lead to problems.

You can use a spray bottle to mist the leaves if the air is dry and it will also remove any dust that collects on the leaves.

Pruning and training:

Pruning and training your citrus tree will help encourage new growth and shape the tree to your desired form.

To prune, remove any dead or damaged branches and thin out excess growth.

You can also train the tree to grow in a particular direction by gently bending the branches and securing them in place with plant ties.

Common challenges and solutions

Dealing with pests:

Like all plants, dwarf citrus trees can occasionally be plagued by pests such as spider mites and scale insects.

To prevent pest infestations, keep an eye on your tree and take action as soon as you notice any problems.

Spider mites can be controlled with a strong spray of water or with insecticidal soap, while scale insects can be removed with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.

If pests persist despite your efforts, you may need to use a more heavy-duty treatment such as a chemical insecticide.

Adjusting to changes in light and temperature

Citrus trees are sensitive to changes in light and temperature, so it’s important to provide a consistent environment for your tree.

If you notice that your tree is not looking its best, it may be due to a sudden change in its environment.

Keep the tree in a location with consistent sunlight and avoid placing it near drafts or heating vents.

Helping the tree fruit

oranges and citrus flowers
If you want your citrus tree to produce fruit, it’s important to provide the right conditions for pollination.

Which citrus are self-pollinating and which are not? 

Citrus trees can be either self-pollinating or cross-pollinating, depending on the variety.

Self-pollinating citrus trees are able to produce fruit on their own, without the help of a pollinator, while cross-pollinating citrus trees require the presence of a pollinator in order to produce fruit.

Self-pollinating citrus varieties include:

Calamondin
Kumquat
Citrus reticulata (mandarin or tangerine)
Citrus sinensis (sweet orange)

Cross-pollinating citrus varieties include:

Lime
Lemon
Grapefruit
Pummelo

If you are growing a cross-pollinating citrus tree indoors and do not have access to bees or other pollinators, you can pollinate the tree by hand.

This can be done by using a small paintbrush or cotton swab to transfer pollen from the male flowers (which produce pollen) to the female flowers (which will eventually produce fruit).

It is best to do this early in the morning when the flowers are most receptive to pollination.

It is also possible to use a small electric pollinator, which is a device that vibrates the flowers to help distribute the pollen.

These devices can be effective for pollinating indoor citrus trees and are widely available for purchase online or at garden centers.

Some people even use electric toothbrushes for pollinating plants.

Overall, it is important to be aware of the pollination requirements of your citrus tree and to provide the appropriate care and attention in order to ensure that it produces a bountiful crop of fruit.

You can also try thinning the fruit to allow the remaining fruit to grow larger and potentially increase the chances of its setting.

citrus tree

Chilling Requirements

Most citrus trees have a chilling requirement, which means that they need a certain amount of exposure to cold temperatures in order to produce fruit.

The specific chilling requirement for a citrus tree will depend on the variety and the climate in which it is grown.

In general, citrus trees that are native to warmer climates, such as oranges and lemons, have a lower chilling requirement than those native to cooler climates, such as apples and pears.

This is because citrus trees that are native to warmer climates are adapted to grow in environments where cold temperatures are less common.

To meet the chilling requirement of a citrus tree, it is important to provide it with the appropriate amount of cold exposure during the winter months.

This can be done by placing the tree in a location where it will receive enough cold exposure naturally, or by providing artificial chilling through the use of cold frames or other methods.

If a citrus tree does not receive the appropriate amount of chilling, it may have difficulty producing fruit or may produce fruit that is of poor quality.

Therefore, it is important to consider the chilling requirement of a citrus tree when choosing which varieties to plant and where to plant them.

The amount of chilling that a citrus tree needs can vary depending on the specific variety and the climate in which it is grown.

This period of cold exposure is typically needed during the winter months in order to prepare the tree for the growing season.

For example, oranges and lemons are native to warm, tropical climates and typically need between 300 and 500 hours of chilling in order to produce fruit.

In contrast, apples and pears, which are native to cooler climates, typically need between 700 and 1,000 hours of chilling in order to produce fruit.

What temperature meets the chilling requirement?

The chilling requirement of a citrus tree is typically fulfilled when the tree is exposed to temperatures below 45°F (7°C) for a certain number of hours during the winter months.

This period of cold exposure helps to prepare the tree for the growing season by stimulating the production of hormones and enzymes that are necessary for growth and fruit production.

It is important to keep in mind that the chilling requirement of a citrus tree is just one factor that can affect its growth and fruit production.

Other factors, such as soil quality, moisture levels, and light exposure, can also have an impact on the tree’s performance.

By providing the appropriate care and attention, you can help your citrus tree to thrive and produce a bountiful crop of fruit.

Final Thoughts

ripening citrus

In conclusion, growing dwarf citrus trees indoors can be a rewarding hobby and a convenient way to enjoy fresh, homegrown fruit year-round.

By choosing the right variety, container, and soil mix, and providing proper care and attention, you can successfully grow and maintain a thriving dwarf citrus tree in the comfort of your own home.

By growing your own citrus trees, you can avoid many pests and diseases that can plague outdoor plants and enjoy the benefits of homegrown fruit anytime you desire.

With a little patience and dedication, you can be well on your way to enjoying the delicious and nutritious fruit of your own indoor citrus trees.

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