A citrus tree is often the ideal choice as a landscape fruit tree. With its appealing shape, fragrant blossoms and edible fruit, a citrus such as an orange, grapefruit or lemon tree can enhance many sites receiving an abundance of direct sunlight. The key drawback to the citrus is its intolerance of cold. Even a moderate freeze can seriously damage or kill a citrus tree.
Citrus trees require a great deal of sunlight so shaded locations are generally not suitable for planting them. Citrus trees will grow in a variety of soils providing that drainage is good.
Since an occasional period of freezing weather is expected in this region, choose a site on the protected south side of a building as well as prepare to wrap the juvenile tree during extreme cold periods.
Planting a Citrus Tree
Planting your tree is a relatively simple process.
1. The first step is to wash off about an inch or so of the potting material all around the root ball to allow the roots immediate contact with the surrounding soil. If the tree is severely potbound, it may be necessary to use a knife to make several cuts through the base of the ball to stimulate root growth. A citrus tree is often the ideal choice as a landscape fruit tree. With its appealing shape, fragrant blossoms and edible fruit, a citrus such as an orange, grapefruit or lemon tree can enhance many sites receiving an abundance of direct sunlight. The key drawback to the citrus is its intolerance of cold. Even a moderate freeze can seriously damage or kill a citrus tree.
2. The second step is to clear an area of bare soil in a minimum three foot diameter around the planting hole to allow for watering and to prevent any vegetation from competing with the young tree.
3. Next, dig a planting hole to exactly the same height as the root ball. This is critical. Never plant a citrus too deep as it is extremely susceptible to foot rot, particularly in the area around the graft.
4. Place the tree in the center of the hole, backfill about halfway up the root ball and then water. After watering, fill the hole with soil and tamp lightly. Then add about another inch of soil on top of the root ball to seal it with the surrounding soil in which the tree will grow and prevent the root ball from drying.
5. Finally, build a raised watering ring of soil, about six inches high, to surround the planting hole. Then fill the ring with water and allow it soak in. Check to see if the sinking water exposes any of the roots in the root ball. If it has, cover with a little more soil.
Planting a Citrus Tree: Post-Planting Care
Ensuring that your new tree has adequate moisture for the first year of life after planting is important. Water your newly-planted tree two or three times the first week and one or two times every week for the first few weeks thereafter. After this period, water any time the soil dries out one to two inches down.
Weeding and Mulch
Controlling weeds and surrounding vegetation is essential to get your citrus off to a good start. Make sure the ground is clear to a diameter of three feet surrounding the tree. Avoid the use of an organic mulch to minimize the possibility of foot rot disease. Your tree care specialist may prescribe a herbicide to help in weed control. As always when using chemicals, follow the directions carefully and do not exceed the recommended application.
New citrus trees can benefit from the application of a specially formulated fertilizer but not until growth begins in the spring. Fertilizers should contain the necessary macro- and micronutrients. Avoid fertilizing with a quick-release fertilizer between approximately August and mid February for the first two years to avoid stimulating vulnerable growth during the cold weather.
Newly planted trees can benefit right away from the application of mycorrhizal fungi. This beneficial fungus aids in root development and establishment.
Citrus Care Tips
While sensitive to cold and vulnerable to some diseases and insects, citrus trees are not otherwise unduly difficult to care for.
Maintaining the proper level of soil moisture is the critical element. During dry periods, check the level of soil moisture several inches down from the surface and water as necessary. A slow, steady drip irrigation is preferable to a rapid watering. However, do not overwater. The area surrounding your tree should be kept clear from weeds and grass. Pruning of citrus trees is generally not necessary except to remove dead wood which is both unsightly and may harbor fungal infections like melanose.
Fertilizing Citrus Trees
When providing nutrition to your citrus trees, it is important to consider both the specific mineral needs of the plant, and soil conditions that affect a plant's ability to take up nutrients.
Mineral Needs of Citrus Trees
Citrus trees, like all trees, require ample amounts of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. These nutrients are contained in most fertilizers. But citrus trees also require other nutrients like Magnesium, Boron, Copper and Zinc. These so-called "micronutrients" are generally not available in standard "Lawn and Turf" fertilizers, but are contained in specially formulated, high-quality citrus fertilizers. Slow-release fertilizers are preferable to quick-release formulations.
Mycorrhizal fungi is a beneficial fungus that lives in the root system of most trees. It enables the tree to have more and better access to the available nutrients in the soil. Although the fungus is usually present in a tree's natural environment, it is often lacking in urban soils where trees are transplanted. You can add mycorrhizal fungi to the soil at the time of planting, or even after the tree is established.
The most common symptoms of iron deficiency are seen on the younger, newly formed leaves, which appear pale green or yellow. When you examine the leave you can see a distinct skeleton pattern on the leaf surface because the veins in the leaf remain green but the soft tissue of the leaf is yellow or pale green. In extreme cases of iron deficiency, the new leaves are all yellow, smaller in size or completely stunted.
It is easy to correct an iron deficiency. Simply placechelatedirontablets in the soil at the tree’s drip-line. The Iron Tablets will slowly release iron and adjust the ph level so that the tree can absorb and utilize the newly replenished iron.
The importance of PH
Citrus trees often suffer from iron deficiencies, as well as deficiencies of other micronutrients such as copper, zinc and manganese. The deficiencies can occur when the ph level is very alkaline, meaning over a reading of about 7.0. At ph levels over 7.0, trees have a difficult time utilizing key nutrients such as iron. Excessive use of lime or the leaching of lime from gravel, cement and bricks can cause the alkaline soil condition. This is a very common situation where recent construction has occurred or new patio stones have been installed. Alkaline soils are also common in geographical regions where limestone is prevalent and rainfall is low.