With fragrant blossoms, colorful fruit, and glossy evergreen foliage, growing your own citrus, such as Meyer lemons, Persian limes or even blood oranges, is very possible in Greenville with just a little know-how and care. Citrus do great outdoors all year long in sunny Florida, but here in the Upstate we need to bring our tender tropical babies indoors in the winter to protect them from frost, freeze, and our much-too-chilly weather. With proper care, you could be enjoying your own fresh blood oranges by the fireplace during the cold winter months.
The easiest and most popular indoor citrus plant is the Meyer Lemon, which is sweeter than the classic commercial varieties found at the grocery store. A close cousin to the Meyer lemon, and another favorite among home citrus growers, is the Persian lime with its tart and tangy taste. Blood Orange and Red Navel trees are both fantastic species of orange trees you can grow in containers indoors. The kumquat tree with its small oval bright orange fruit is another favorite indoor citrus plant. Available kumquat species include the delicious Nagami and the Centennial, which offers unique variegated foliage year-around.
Most citrus generally produce their fruit in the spring and fall, and then they have a time of resting to rejuvenate their nutrients and energy for the next fruiting period. This is a time of recovery for your plant, so don’t give up on it. It’s just resting from its fruit production.
Knowing when to bring your plant indoors is key. Most citrus can tolerate temperatures as low as 32 degrees. But as a general rule, your plant should be brought indoors when nightly temperatures consistently reach 40 degrees, on average. Also, to avoid frost/freeze damage be sure keep an eye out for those troublesome nights where temperatures unexpectedly plunge.
Growing potted citrus is a “fruitful” way to garden all year long, both outdoors and in.
- Location. In the summer, your patio, balcony or pool side is the perfect place for your citrus plant as long as it’s not in a high-wind area. Indoors, a temperature-controlled sunroom or near a sunny window that provides lots of sunlight (at least 4 hours) will net a happy citrus.
- Purchase. Citrus plants from local nurseries are higher quality than plants purchased at big box stores. When picking out your citrus, look for lush plants with green glossy leaves and a healthy root system. Many citrus plants may already have blooms or fruit forming and that is great; you have a head start!
- Harvest. Lemons turn their beautiful, bright yellow on the tree, so wait to have good color before harvesting. Harvest limes while they are still green and they will mature to a greenish-yellow color prior to eating. Likewise, oranges may be picked while they are still green and will turn orange over time. Wait for Kumquats to turn orange before collecting them off the tree.
Citrus tips courtesy of Martin Garden Center