Don’t Be Deterred, Citrus Success Is Within Reach
By Nina Grebin, Indoor & Tropical Plants
I’m a firm believer that nothing quite compares to homegrown citrus. Yes, the fruit is stunning, sweet and tangy but the lustrous foliage and fragrant blossoms are equally popular in my house. Here in the Pacific Northwest, planting evergreen citrus trees and shrubs is best done in containers. Container citrus is ideal for our climate, and it means that I can appreciate my citrus trees both in and outdoors as the seasons change.
Caring for citrus plants in the PNW requires a bit of focus and attention but I promise it’s well worth it.
In this blog, I’ll list the citrus trees and shrubs best suited to the PNW, share tips on care, pest deterrents, pruning and repotting. Citrus plants are rewarding year-round, even gardening newcomers should bring home a citrus plant this spring.
At Molbak’s we carry a wide assortment of citrus shrubs and trees. We also provide a rotating selection of harder to find varieties in spring and summer.
Molbak’s Best Selling Citrus
Meyer Lemon – 1, 3, 5 and 10 gallon plants
Key Lime – 1 and 3 gallon plants
Variegated Pink Lemon – 1 gallon plants
Molbak’s Seasonal Citrus
Calamondin Orange – 5 and 10 gallon plants
- Cocktail Tree | lemon and lime combo – 3 gallon plants
- Kumquat – 5 and 10 gallon plants
- Minneola Tangelo – 5 gallon plants
- Tangerine – 5 and 10 gallon plants
All of the varieties carried at Molbak’s can be grown here in the Pacific Northwest but eventually all of your citrus plants will have to migrate indoors for the winter. There are a few marine areas in Washington and Oregon where it’s possible to grow certain citrus varieties outdoors all year long. These areas correspond with Zone 9. The Sunset Western Garden Book is a great resource for finding your plant hardiness zone. The hardiest varieties that can withstand lower temps include Meyer Lemon, Variegated Pink Lemon and Key Lime citrus plants.
Citrus Plant Characteristics
Dark green, waxy and shiny foliage punctuated by round, orange fruit. When flowering, the blossoms of Meyer Lemon blossoms are a burst of white with an intoxicating, tropical scent. A cross between a lemon and Mandarin Orange, this citrus plant grows between 6-10 feet tall and makes a great container plant.
Variegated Pink Lemon
A unique cultivar, this citrus tree produces noteworthy fruit and is known for its decorative appearance. With a yellow and chartreuse striped rind, tangy yet mild flesh and ornamental foliage, the Variegated Pink Lemon is a favorite among Pacific Northwest gardeners. A pruned tree maxes out around six feet tall and six to eight feet wide.
Glossy, oblong leaves keep their dark hue year-round. Lip puckering and tart like a Kumquat the Calamondin is considered by many to be the “small but mighty” citrus. Star-shaped blooms make the blossoming season highly anticipated, and with yearly pruning you can expect this citrus tree to grow about 18 to 22 inches in height. She’s the ideal indoor citrus plant.
Kumquat citrus shrubs can reach eight to 12 feet in height. Glossy, dark green leaves pair well with the Kumquat’s clustered blossoms and oblong-shaped fruit. Sweet, edible and pulpy skin makes Kumquats an easy on-the-go snack and they are ideal for jams and marmalades. The fruit is tiny and smooth but beware the stems often have prickly thorns.
Sweet and basically seedless, this citrus plant is easy to peel and on the larger size. With a thin, glossy rind and pebbly surface, the Minneola Tangelo is a unique and beautiful citrus fruit. This dwarf citrus tree can reach up to 12 feet in height but tends to be smaller when planted in a container.
Caring For Your Citrus In The Pacific Northwest
Light – requiring full sun, sunlight promotes the development of fruit and blossoms. If bringing your citrus plant indoors during cooler months many opt for a grow light.
Water – Always water your citrus trees and shrubs thoroughly and let the top two to three inches of soil dry between waterings. You can water less often in the winter when the tree isn’t fruiting.
Humidity - It is helpful to provide citrus with humidity to help prevent insect infestations. To increase humidity around the plant, mist the foliage generously and often with clean, tepid water. Another option is to use a pebble tray. This is an over-sized saucer full of small pebbles to which water is added. The water level is kept below the bottom of the plant’s container. The water will evaporate from the surface of the pebbles, adding moisture to the air around the plant.
Fertilizer – Spring and summer are the best times to fertilize your citrus plants. G&B Organics Citrus & Fruit Tree Fertilizer is a trusted brand that we carry here at Molbak’s.
- Blended special for feeding fruit trees
- Includes beneficial microbes to build life in the soil and so support healthy plant growth
- Feeds for several months
Temperature – Most citrus plants are hardy to Zone 9. If the weather is expected to dip below 28°F, citrus plants should be moved to a garage or mudroom. Indoors, citrus plants prefer a cool, bright location and may drop leaves or fruit if placed by a drafty window or heat source. When spring arrives, citrus plants can begin their migration back outdoors. To start they should be placed in partial sun and slowly moved into a full sun environment.
Pruning – While dwarf varieties can be pruned whenever your heart desires, the larger trees and shrubs should be pruned in the early spring. Throughout the year feel free to cut diseased, broken or dead branches from the citrus plant as needed.
Potting – If you feel inclined to repot your citrus plants, it’s recommended to do so every three years in the spring. If you don’t want to move up a container size you can remove the plant from the pot and trim the roots and replace the soil with fresh, nutrient-dense soil designed for citrus.
Pests – When indoors, citrus plants may fall victim to a few common pests. With a watchful eye, these pests can be prevented or nipped in the bud before they become a larger problem. Inspect your plants for signs of pests and spray the foliage with warm water or wipe the leaves clean as often as needed.
Fungal Diseases – A common fungal cause is overwatering. If you notice fungal disease or pests on your citrus plants reach out to a Molbak’s expert. We’re here to help with prevention and treatment of pests and disease.
Caring for citrus trees and citrus shrubs is rewarding. They offer so many great benefits and as edible container plants, they are a premier source of nutrition. Abundant in Vitamin C and other macronutrients, citrus is found in countless recipes from numerous cuisines.
Citrus In The Kitchen
- Don’t overlook the leaves – for use in beverages and curries, citrus leaves are more than just a pretty face.
- Don’t over scrutinize your lemon’s peel – lemons turn yellow due to temp, not ripeness. In tropical environments many lemons stay green despite being perfectly ripe for the picking.
- Edible blossoms – regardless of variety, all citrus blossoms are edible. Add them to cocktails, sweet salads, or cold soups as a garnish.
- Go Waste Free – Citrus zest and skin can be boiled, blended, pickled, or used in marmalades.
As a trusted, local garden center, Molbak’s has been Woodinville and Washington’s premier home and garden destination since 1956. Our citrus plants are hand watered, monitored daily and sourced right here in the states at Record Buck Farms.