January 6, 2012

Uncommon Home Grown Citrus

As a teenager, I was a bit of a nerd ( which I've been thinking about lately - see end of post). Not really into competitive sports, nor other typical teenagy stuff like comic books, music or pop stars; I was the sort of kid who instead of asking for a motorbike, begged my parents for money to buy a lime tree from the Park's Seed catalog ( circa 1972?). The idea that one could grow citrus indoors fascinated me for all it delivers - fragrant flowers, yummy fruit and a cool houseplant. Like many things, this was not always true. A popular book at the time had step-by-step methods for growing your own citrus from seed, ( something that I see even today suggested on other blogs), but although a great way to get children interested in plants, the truth is, most, if not all citrus from seed will not bloom and bear fruit for many years. So unless you child plants to take her citrus to college, and then to her first home, the reality of real fruit from a seed-raised plant is unrealistic.


But don't despair, there are many places online where you can purchase grafted citrus plants - grafting is  the preferred method for propagation, since it allows that root stock variety to be one which will aggressively grow roots, or perhaps be a bit more hardy than the scion ( the top part of the graft), and the best part is that fruit can be had while the tree is still at a small size - even window sill size. Most of my plants are from Logee's greenhouses, which is located not far from where I live, but a simple Google search will connect you with many sources.

There are a few things to note about growing citrus is pots. First, they often have shallow roots, and fresh soil often needs to be added each year at the top of the pot. Second, you may read that citrus like to be potbound, this this is not true - many citrus dislike root disturbance, but prefer a larger container. Third, although great indoor plants, they do best when one can bring pots outdoors for the spring, summer and autumn, to be brought in again at the first heavy frost.  Citrus also should not be trained, so forget about getting a beautiful orange topiary. It can be done with careful selection of a straight stem graft, and careful pruning, but good topiary forms are rare. A "standard" sort of topiary can be achieved, at a larger scale, but window sill sized pots trained, are unrealistic.

These images show some of the various varieties and species which do well in our cool to cold greenhouse. I adore Kumquats, so we grow 5 varieties including the very time Hong Kong Kumquat, Fortunella hindsii, with fruits no larger than a pea. They look like doll house oranges, and although edible, they are mostly skin and seed.

The Australian Finger Lime is very special and it makes a terrific potted plant even when not in bloom or in fruit. Be careful of its thorns - many citrus have them!

My Meyer Lemon trees annually provide us with an entire winter full of fresh Meyer lemons for tea and cooking. I don't think that I could have enough of this sweet lemon which tasted more like a cross between a tangerine and a lemon.

The bizarre Buddha's Hand is a treasured citron-type of citrus in the orient, as well as in some middle eastern countries. Mostly pith and skin, it can be candied for fruitcakes and seasonal treats. Preserved for generations in a timeless method which involved the fruit to be cooked in a liquid mixture of water, sugar and corn syrup, the fruit section become transparent like glass much like candied cherries or orange peel.

Currently spending the weekend in New York City.... Looking at plants? Not really.....

Attending Bronycon! ( Google it). 

Hey...we all have a day job too, you know!


  1. Your citrus are beautiful! Mine always look like dead twigs for about two months...and then I realize they ARE dead twigs and throw them out.

  2. Looks like the makings for a great margarita! I've never attempted to grow any type of citrus, but I'm familiar with Logees and will investigate my options.

  3. hopflower9:59 AM

    Actually, Meyer Lemons are a cross between a lemon and an orange; so you were not far off there! They are common here but a real favourite.


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