How to Grow Dwarf Citrus Trees Guide (2022)

Home gardeners and plant enthusiasts love growing dwarf citrus trees. If you do not already have some planted in your own garden, you really are missing out. These beautiful, evergreen plants are prolific and give birth to sweet-smelling flowers and colorful fruits. These fruits are super delicious, and the plants easily adapt to a variety of conditions and environments.

You can actually choose between a couple of dwarf citrus tree varieties for your garden. These bear different kinds of citrus fruits but belong to the same family. Actual large citrus fruit trees are not very suitable for most small home gardens and indoor planting. Therefore, gardeners came up with these dwarf versions so that plant enthusiasts could grow them even if they did not have enough space.

A dwarf citrus tree is part of a large citrus tree that has been cut off and grafted onto smaller plant rootstock. Dwarf trees are exactly similar to regular trees and bear delicious fruit and fragrant flowers. The only difference is that they do not grow as tall or wide and can be planted in smaller spaces.

Dwarf citrus trees grow to a maximum height of 8 to 10 feet, which makes the fruit quite accessible. This fruit is similar in size to a fruit from a regular tree and tastes exactly the same or even better if you take good care of your plants. Moreover, you can get more fruit in one yield as compared to a regular-sized tree. Truly a win-win!

We are pretty sure that if you do not own dwarf citrus trees by now, you must be convinced that you should plant one.

Worrying about how you can grow your own?

Look no further as this guide has been put together to enable you to plant dwarf citrus trees successfully. We will cover everything from tree types to plant care and even diseases. Let’s get going!


OUR FAVORITES

  • Style: Meyer Lemon tree
  • Prolific
  • Can be given as a gift
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  • Size: 20 seeds
  • Adequate quantity of seeds
  • Prolific plants
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  • Size: 10 seeds
  • Non-GMO seeds
  • Most seeds Germinate successfully
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Best products for dwarf citrus trees

If you are confused about where to get good dwarf trees from, don’t worry. We have compiled a list of a few top products you can order right from the comfort of your home:

1. Mandarin Orange Tree Seeds / Dwarf Edible Fruit Citrus Fruit Plant – Top choice

The trees thrive well in summers, but the fruits can get damaged in drought-like conditions. It is best to bring this plant indoors during the winters.

Style: Dwarf Mandarin seeds

Application: Indoors or outdoors

Size: 20 seeds

Treatment area: Well-drained soil

Pros

  • Adequate quantity of seeds
  • Prolific plants

2. Meyer Lemon Gift Tree by The Magnolia Company – Best for gifting 

Most trees will bear fruit in their first year once blossoms start to appear between February and April.

Style: Meyer Lemon tree

Application: Indoors or outdoors

Size: 12 pounds

Treatment area: Well-drained soil

Pros

  • Prolific
  • Can be given as a gift

3. Orange Seeds – 10 Trifoliate Orange Tree Seeds Bonsai – Non-GMO seeds

Make sure to follow the planting instructions that come with the seeds to successfully grow your trees.

Style: Trifoliate dwarf orange tree seeds

Application: Indoors or outdoors

Size: 10 seeds

Treatment area: Well-drained soil

Pros

  • Non-GMO seeds
  • Most seeds Germinate successfully

Planting dwarf citrus trees

Once you decide that you want your very own dwarf citrus trees, it is time to look into where you can actually plant these. Whether you go for a tree that bears lemon, orange, grapefruit, lime, tangelo, or kumquat, there are tons of places where you can plant your dwarfs.

These plants can be used to create hedges and are also great for creating barriers. You can mark off your property and can even create other various enclosed spaces. However, this is not a definite layout, and you can really place your plants wherever you like in your garden. You can grow one or many; it is up to you!

Most gardeners love creating perennial backgrounds using these trees, while others go for an espaliered look. Espaliering is achieved by making trees, shrubs, and vines grow flat on one side. This is made possible by barricading them with a wall, fence, or any other boundary to prevent them from spreading and growing in all directions to create one flat side.

When a proper layout or pattern is followed, the end result is gorgeous. The tree will look like a showpiece once fully grown. It is also possible to allow the open side to grow naturally, and you can maintain the branches by pruning.

All of the above may sound great if you have a garden or yard available for planting. However, if you do not have such a space, don’t worry – dwarf citrus trees can be grown in pots as well!

You can plant these trees easily in pots or containers and place them indoors, in your patio, porch, or other spots. Make sure to keep your potted plants near a sheltered space, as they need to be brought inside during harsh winters.

Dwarf citrus tree varieties 

Let’s now look at the different dwarf citrus tree varieties. Once you know them, you can decide which ones are your favorite and which varieties you really are interested in planting. All regular citrus trees can be found as dwarf trees. So, you can easily enjoy all your favorite citrus fruits without having to plant huge trees in your garden. Dwarf citrus tree varieties include:

dwarf citrus tree types

Oranges 

Oranges can be found in both kinds of varieties, sour and sweet. Sweet varieties include the Valencia oranges, Washington navel oranges, Palestine Jaffa or Shamouti, and Trovita oranges.

Plants with smaller fruit include Robertson navel oranges and Marrs oranges. Sanguinelli, Moro, and Taroco are blood-orange varieties. Sour orange varieties available in the market include Bouquet de Fleurs and Chinotto. Chinotto can be grown in containers. The Bouquet de Fleurs plant only grows about 8 to 10 feet, so it is also very well suited for smaller spaces.

Tangelos/Mandarins

Tangelos or Mandarins go by a couple of names. These are also known as clementine, satsumas, and even tangerines. Moreover, hybrids are always being produced, so this variety has a ton of types to offer. These are either dwarf plants or ones that are small enough to be grown in containers. The most popular tangelo varieties include:

  • Calamondin (sour acid mandarins)
  • Dancy
  • Gold Nugget
  • Kara
  • Kinnow
  • Satsuma group
  • Tango

Lemons

Regular lemon trees are very tall and can reach heights up to 25 feet. Dwarf varieties allow small garden owners to plant their own lemons. Some of the most well-known and lived varieties are:

  • Improved Meyer
  • Ponderosa
  • Variegated Pink
  • Eureka

Out of these, the Eureka lemon plants can actually grow quite tall, so they need to be pruned to keep the height in control.

Limes

Limes can be found in dwarf varieties as well. Popular varieties include:

  • Bearss lime
  • Mexican lime
  • Kieffer lime

Grapefruit

Grapefruits are larger citrus fruits that are well known for their sweet and sour taste. Regular plants are very large, so dwarf varieties were created. However, these dwarfs should be grown in containers to prevent the plant from getting too large and uncontrollable. These dwarf varieties include:

  • Cocktail
  • Oroblanco
  • Redblush
  • Rio Red
  • Star Ruby

Kumquat

Kumquat plants are usually smaller than other types of citrus trees. Their dwarf varieties, too, are quite small, and their plants usually grow only as tall as 4 feet. The most sought-after Kumquat varieties are:

  • Fukushu
  • Marumi
  • Meiwa
  • Nagami

Management and care

Let’s now look at specifications and factors that must be taken into consideration to help your dwarf citrus trees grow and thrive. A healthy tree will bear good, juicy fruit and will be less susceptible to diseases.

Sunlight

All plants need a good amount of sunlight so that the chlorophyll in the leaves can render the process of photosynthesis. Proper sunlight will help create a healthy plant that yields good fruit.

Dwarf citrus trees thrive well in both the morning sun and afternoon daylight. These prolific plants love direct sunlight and are happiest in summers. The fruits they bear are flavorful, juicy, colorful, and ripe at the right time.

Soil

Dwarf citrus trees require well-drained soil. It should be wet and moist but should not get waterlogged as this can damage the roots. A lightweight, perlite potting mix is the best thing for these plants as opposed to organic soil.

Gardeners and farmers that grow these trees for commercial purposes often use the UC mix. This is a type of soil specifically created by scientists at the Citrus Research Center and Agricultural Experiment Station. They have also come up with new citrus varieties and are constantly working on other things that can help ensure good fruit production.

The UC mix has proven to be a great formula and is quite popular amongst commercial farmers. However, this mix can only be easily obtained by people living in Southern California and only if it is required in bulk. Regular farmers and gardeners should look for plant mixes that are best suited for citrus trees instead. These mixes should be combined with the ordinary soil in a 1-to-1 ratio so that the plants can adapt to the new soil easily.

When transferring your plants to the garden soil, always make sure you place the root ball at a high level in the hole. This should be about 2 to 3 inches higher than the ground soil. This will eventually cause the last heap of soil to fall at a tapering angle from the tree trunk to the surrounding ground.

Create a moat or shallow circumference using soil around the new tree. This moat can then be filled up with fertilizers or potting mix. A layer of mulch, along with water, needs to be placed in the moat.

Make sure you pour this water down slowly and ensure it keeps dribbling for about 30 minutes to half an hour. Repeat this process in 2 to 3 days. After this, you can simply wait for a suitable time, after which you can start watering your plant normally.

Shaping and pruning

Most newly planted trees are usually one-sided but become rounder and plumper over the years. However, you can inhibit this process by going for espaliering to use these plants as embellishments for your fences, walls, and boundaries.

To keep plants within reachable heights while making them plumper, most gardeners pinch out the newly grown tips occasionally.

Pruning deadwood and crossing branches increase the airflow and maximize the sunlight each branch receives.

Fertilizer 

Fertilizing really depends on the plant itself. You may fertilize them if you feel your trees need that extra kick. If they seem like they are doing fine on their own, you may want to skip adding fertilizer to the soil.

The best fertilizer formula for dwarf citrus trees is a 10-8-8, which gives an acidic reaction. The leaves of these trees can also be sprayed with zinc and manganese, which can later be exchanged for a nitrogen spray. To cover up any iron deficiencies, you can give iron chelate to your plants.


Pests and diseases

Common pests

Dwarf citrus trees are prone to attacks by ants, snails, aphids, thrips, and even spider mites. To prevent an invasion of ants and mites, you can use diatomaceous earth.

For aphids and thrips, your best bet is to use a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap.

Scales

Your citrus trees may also contract scales. These pests are very damaging to your plant and should immediately be flushed away with a strong water jet or treated with neem oil.

Bacteria and Fungus

HLB

Apart from common pests and parasites, citrus trees are also often attacked by bacteria and fungus. The most recent disease is known as HLB or huanglongbing, yellow dragon disease, or citrus greening disease. It is believed to have originated in Asia and was first detected in the United States in 2005. The Asian citrus psyllid is responsible for this disease. Citrus trees in Florida, California, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas have also been detected with this pest.

Asymmetrical yellow discoloration on leaves and half-ripe fruit are the most common symptoms of HLB. There is no cure for this disease yet, which means that your plant will eventually die off once it is attacked by this pest. You can only prevent your trees from getting a widespread infection by immediately treating the plant with neem oil, insecticidal soap, or horticultural spray oil.

Citrus canker

Citrus canker is a bacterial disease that affects citrus trees. Affected plants will show lesions on the leaves, fruit, and even stems. This is a highly contagious disease that has no cure and can only be prevented by completely removing trees that catch this disease.

Infected tools, dirty hands, and birds are responsible for the spread of the citrus canker.

Melanose

Melanose is an infection caused by a fungus that can be treated by pruning infected areas. Symptoms are small, dark spotty leaves and scaly fruit skin. A good fungicide is another way to prevent the spread of this disease.

Greasy spot

This is yet another fungal disease that affects dwarf citrus trees. The leaves of the plant start to blacken due to the sooty mold build-up of the fungus. You may also notice yellowish-brown blisters and spots on the leaves. Use a good fungicide to treat this.

Root rot

Root rot, brown rot, or collar rot occurs when the roots of the plants or trees contract water mold due to waterlogged soil. A dark brown patchy and hardened tree trunk is the indication that your tree’s roots have started to rot. To prevent this, make sure you place your citrus trees in soil with good drainage.


Fruit harvesting 

Once you successfully grow beautiful citrus trees, the final step really is to enjoy the fruit of your hard work, quite literally!

Not all varieties bear fruit within a similar time span. Most orange varieties can be harvested between December and May. Mandarins can be collected between January and April, while lemons and limes can be enjoyed throughout the year.

To know exactly when to harvest the fruit of your tree, make sure to do your own research and also be sure to read the instruction manual you get with your tree.

Most citrus fruits are ready to pick and can be called ripe once they achieve their final color. Unripe fruits are usually green. Some fruits simply drop off their branches once ripe!

Always pick fruits that drop as soon as possible so that they are not wasted. Picking them up right away will also prevent them from turning moldy and spreading diseases.

If you are a fan of neither of the above, you can simply go ahead and taste your fruit to see if it is ripe. Get fruits from different regions of your tree to do a taste test.

Enjoy your fruits

Harvesting may be the final step, but it is incomplete without you and your family enjoying the fresh fruits you have grown. Citrus fruits are tangy, sweet and sour, and smell amazing. They can be enjoyed as is or can be used to add a great touch to some meals. There are countless recipes that make use of these juicy fruits to help you create drinks, dessert, main courses, and side dishes that are truly mouth-watering.

A few things you can whip up in your own kitchen can include:

  • Lemonade
  • Salads
  • Fruit cream donuts
  • Sponge cakes
  • Meringue
  • Marmalade
  • Syrup
  • Custard
  • Juices and smoothies
  • Cookies
  • Jams

This is a very short list, but the possibilities are endless. Citrus fruits can really be used in numerous other recipes, and you can also always come up with something new to surprise your family!


Final thoughts

Dwarf citrus trees are truly great choices for small gardens and indoor gardening. They leave your space smelling sweet and fragrant, while the foliage and fruits add a great burst of color. These prolific plants can be grown to create borders, vines, and even stand-alone structures.

The fruits are tangy, sweet, and sour and have the added benefit of being a great source of Vitamin C. Dwarf trees are great substitutes to actual trees and are able to yield more produce in a smaller space. So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and get some trees of your own to reap all these benefits. Happy gardening!

FAQs

How big do dwarf citrus trees get?

Most dwarf citrus trees grow as tall as 8 feet, with a maximum height of 12 feet once they mature. To keep them from growing tall, most gardeners prefer to place them in small pots or containers.

How much sun does a dwarf citrus tree need?

Dwarf citrus trees love sunlight. They prefer direct light and thrive well if they are provided with at least eight hours of sunlight each day. You can stretch this up to 12 hours if you really want your plant to yield the best fruit. Even if you choose to keep your plant indoors, make sure to pick a spot that is the sunniest in your house.

Do dwarf citrus trees have invasive roots?

Yes, dwarf citrus trees do have broader, shallower roots that might become invasive. These roots can penetrate and span out over infrastructures in search of water. This is why they are mostly found penetrating water pipes.

How do you keep citrus trees small?

Dwarf citrus trees can be kept small by regular pruning. You may also place your trees in pots and containers to prevent them from getting too tall or too wide.

How long does it take for a dwarf lemon tree to bear fruit?

Most dwarf lemon and lime trees bear fruit in about 3 years. This is the age when they are completely mature and can produce full-sized fruits. They may produce fruit in their earlier years, but these may not be as large or plump. The plant may also show deficiencies as early fruit production hinders root and leaf growth.

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