The wonderful appeal of dwarf citrus trees, glossy attractive foliage. Superb fragrance from their white flowers and awaiting a visit from a pollinator bee or butterfly. Of course the hope and expectation that comes with new developing fruit showering with abundance for the future harvest doesn’t have to be in the paddock or back yard. This can be as close as your back patio or outside your front door. To grow a great fruit bearing citrus plant, I recommend at least a 40cm pot, larger the better. Just remember plant size, soil and pot will be heavy if you need to move location so I stay within the 50cm zone. These dwarf citrus varieties tend to be grafted onto flying dragon root stock to control root ball size and density to allow for pot culture. Most will only reach 2m in height, though can be pruned to maximise density and maintain compact growth habit. I prune my dwarf citrus after summers last harvest around March/April, try to remove branches close to the ground and any forward leading growth I remove to allow symmetry around my shrub. No good having a lop-sided tree, once the weight of the fruit comes on, this may cause the stem/branches to bend or snap. As well, pruning will encourage more flower and bud sights next season. Citrus fruit trees do need good levels of sunlight to grow well and bear quality fruit. So, arrange your tree so as it can have 6 hours at least per day. Be adventurous with your selection of type of citrus you would like to grow. Dwarf varieties are available in a lot of fruit trees now days, though citrus do extremely well in pot culture, dwarf oranges, dwarf mandarin, dwarf lemon, dwarf lime, dwarf finger lime, will thrive on ground soil, though due to their versatility, produce full fruit, bearing similar in most cases to the full size 3-5 metre citrus. With similar flowering times, harvest, fertilisation, pruning, pest and disease management are all similar requirements as a citrus planted in the ground.
To pot up a dwarf citrus tree, using a 50cm pot, I add 75/100mm drainage gravel in the base of my pot. Cover the drainage gravel with geo textile fabric, to separate potting soils from gravel mixing together, prune lightly the plant to reduce the size of the canopy. This assists your plant using less water in establishing a root system. As well, this will be helpful when moving plant to desired location. To plant, lay the plant on its side, slowly and carefully give a little wiggle to ease it out of its container. Take care of those roots so as not to tear or pull them. Very lightly pull away tired potting mix, if necessary teasing out the plants roots. This will encourage new root growth and possibly of getting root bound.
Measure the root ball size and add potting soil to bottom of the pot to bring plant to 10cm below top of pot. Keeping root ball intact backfill pot using potting mix to sides of pot, filling any gaps. Firmly packing down potting mix to ensure no air gaps. In summer I use 50mm sugar cane mulch to hold moisture in. Water in well, take care to wet all of the potting mix, this can then be followed up with fish emulsion like seasol, to assist with plant transplant shock, this will stimulate new growth of roots as well also can help protect from heat, stresses, and pest/disease.
I do recommend a good quality premium potting mix. I use premium because it can ensure your success and investment. Searle’s platinum has added coco coir, which doesn’t brake down like lesser potting additives, maintaining even moisture to the root ball, with minimal compaction over time. While established citrus planted in the ground should only need one water a week, during very hot dry spells, citrus in pots need to be watered at least a couple of times a week.
Citrus are heavy feeders, so apply a citrus fertilizer every 3 months (seasonally), for good development of a vigorous production plant.