Houseplants 101: Taking Care of Citrus
Welcome back to our Houseplant 101 series, where we ask our plant experts to share their professional tips for keeping all our indoor greens thriving and lush—so you can fully realize your indoor jungle dreams. This time we’re chatting about citrus plants with Julie Czeck. Keep reading to learn how to keep your citrus plants happy (and how to easily transition them to the outdoors!).
terrain: Thanks so much for joining us again, Julie! What are some popular citrus types that can thrive indoors?
Julie: Hi there! My favorites for indoors are the Meyer Lemon and the Calamondin Orange. For whatever genetic reasons they tend to do best indoors with prolific flowering and fruiting when kept in the right conditions. The calamondin will typically flower and fruit all year long!
terrain: Can you talk to us about the optimal indoor conditions to make citrus plants happy?
Julie: Citrus can be a little more challenging than your regular tropical houseplants. If you're going to take on the task, your best chance for success is placing it a western or southern facing window, heated solarium, or greenhouse. The more sun the better! I had a client in NYC back in my plant-tending days that had a glass solarium on the roof of a brownstone, which was ideal for the citrus we had up there. The soil mix must be a well draining one—a mix of regular potting soil mixed with additional perlite, sand, or lava stone. For indoor planting, terracotta pots are ideal because they are porous. This allows for proper drying out between waterings. And speaking of watering, it is key to let the soil dry out between waterings!
terrain: Is there anything particularly tricky about caring for indoor citrus plants?
Julie: Definitely! They prefer good air circulation, which can be challenging indoors. They also like to have their foliage misted with water often (especially during the winter months), as this helps deter common indoor pests like mealybugs and spider mites. And, if at all possible, they should be moved outdoors for short periods of time during the warmer months so they can really thrive.
terrain: Can people expect citrus plants to bear fruit wherever they live?
Julie: Yes, totally expect fruit if you have a citrus plant! If your citrus grows flowers, those flowers should turn into fruit. Depending on your citrus variety, you may have to pollinate the flowers when it blooms indoors (this can be done by taking a q-tip and tapping it gently into each flower bud as if you were a bee, to cross-pollinate the flowers).
terrain: Can you talk about a citrus plant’s watering needs?
Julie: Citrus have the same watering needs as indoor tropicals. You’ll want to make sure the soil goes completely dry between waterings and when you do water, the plant is watered thoroughly enough to drain through the container it’s in. Just make sure they don’t go too dry between waterings either–there’s usually a 1-2 day safe zone before it becomes too dry.
terrain: What are some of the general tips you’d give someone who wants to plant their citrus outside?
Julie: Citrus outdoors is way more forgiving than indoor citrus! Pick a sunny location and either dig a hole or prepare your planter to make sure the soil is well draining. Water the plant frequently during its first year and then you can back off once it becomes established. All the pollination issues and pest problems that happen indoors disappear outdoors!
Ready to become a master green thumb with your indoor plants? Be sure to read our entire Houseplants 101 series where we talk through Fern care, Aroid care, Repotting tips, and Succulent care!