Citrus fruits growing in Barry Beetham's garden. Barry's fruit and vegetable garden is in the finals of the Trevellan Garden Centre's garden competition.
Citrus fruits growing in Barry Beetham's garden. Barry's fruit and vegetable garden is in the finals of the Trevellan Garden Centre's garden competition. Claudia Baxter

Getting the juice on all the citrus trees in your garden

CITRUS are such a wonderfully versatile fruiting family of trees, it is hard to know quite which ones to plant.

Usually people settle on a lemon as their first choice, as it is the most versatile.

Whatever variety you select, please follow these simple tips noted here, and you should have great success growing citrus trees in your backyard.



The best site for citrus is in a hot, sunny spot, preferably sheltered from strong winds.

Excellent drainage is essential, as they do not like waterlogged roots.

Plant on a slightly raised mound if there is a drainage problem.

Protected from winds and heavy frost, in full sun, is the best. Citrus in half sun will not bear as much fruit, and the tree may be susceptible to disease and insect attack.



Generally citrus can be planted all year round, except in colder regions where it is best to avoid planting in the winter months.

Dig a large hole and incorporate a generous amount of compost.

If there is clay, remove as much as possible, dig deeper than required and add gypsum at the bottom of the hole.

Pour in a bucket of water and check that it drains away fairly quickly.

If the water sits for a while, you must improve the drainage before planting.

Set the plant in the hole so that its soil is at the same level as the surrounding soil; firm in and water well.

Do not fertilise until the citrus tree has been in the ground for a few months.


Feeding and watering

Never fertilise close in to the trunk of the citrus tree - spread the fertiliser out to the drip line of the tree.

Keep the ground around clear of all plants.

Use Fruit and Citrus Food in spring, and then a follow up in mid to late summer. Water in the fertiliser well.

A mulch of cow manure in autumn is beneficial, and also a surface mulch of chopped lucerne added after each application of fertiliser will ensure moisture is retained in the soil.

Lucerne adds nitrogen to the soil, promotes worm activity, helps keep weeds down, retains moisture and eventually breaks down to wonderful compost.

Don't cultivate around citrus trees, as they have feeder roots close to the surface.

Water well during the summer months - a long deep soaking once or twice a week is preferable to short daily sprays.



This is generally done when all danger of frost is past, and the weather is warming up.

Keep the centre of the tree open and airy, for the general good health of the plant; otherwise just remove the weak straggly growth and diseased limbs.



It is best to remove most of the fruit for the first two or three years. This will enable the citrus tree to establish itself well; after that then let it bear its crop fully.


Citrus in tubs

Any variety may be grown in a tub, providing the container is a decent size.

Generally, cumquats and calamondins are well suited, as are meyer lemons and lime trees, but these days many citrus varieties are available grafted onto dwarf rootstock which makes them even more suitable for growing in containers.

Citrus in tubs require more care - that's more watering and more frequent fertilising. As the plants become more "pot bound", regular doses of Seasol will be beneficial.


Yellowing leaves

This can he caused by mineral deficiencies in the soil if there is a continued distinctive pattern of yellowing on the leaves.

The common deficiencies are either zinc or manganese which cause mottling of the foliage.

Bring a sample in to your garden centre for further advice and treatment.

Foliage may be yellowish during winter or after a heavy cropping of fruit; this is not uncommon.

Correct with fertilising in spring. Yellowing leaves can sometimes occur if the ground is too wet.

If it is, drainage must be improved or the tree will never grow well.


Bronze orange bug

Commonly called the "Stink Bug". This develops into a large flat ugly beetle about the size of a 10 cent piece.

It sucks sap from foliage and emits a disgusting odour when touched or alarmed.

It is best not to venture too close to these bugs as the secretion they squirt can cause temporary blindness in the eyes, allergy reaction on the skin, and at very best, an unpleasantly smelling discoloration of your skin for some time, if they squirt you.

If you must pick them off wear gloves and protective spectacles.


Citrus leaf miner

Squiggly lines on distorted and twisted new growth in late summer and autumn, can make the tree look dreadful.

Spray with Eco-oil, Pest Oil or White Oil from mid-spring onwards as a prevention.

These oils are also excellent for aphid and scale control.


Leaf drop

Many reasons, but mainly due to inadequate watering, poor drainage which results in "wet feet" and malnourished trees.


White louse scale

On the trunk and limbs can only be controlled with lime sulphur (white oil is ineffective against this).


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