Citrus in container

timscott9(8)September 13, 2005

I'm considering growing citrus trees in 25 gal. containers.What type of soil and fertilizer would be best and since my containers have no drainage holes, should I drill these and if so, where should they be drilled?

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gcmastiffs(z10 Florida)

You **must** have good drainage or your trees will all die. Overwatering is probably the most common cause of death of container citrus.

You can drill holes in the bottom of the containers and/or along the lower edge, nearest the ground. The very best mix I've used for citrus (I have many, many containerized tropical fruit trees)is coconut husk chips and peat moss. This drains rapidly and gives the correct ph. I use Osmocote for slow release fert, and a granular fertilizer from the local Rare Fruit Tree club, but most any granular citrus fertilizers will do.

Are you getting dwarf citrus? Standard trees get very large, and citrus do not take well to pruning-it removes the flowering and fruiting parts.

There is a separate Citrus forum here on GardenWeb, and lots of people there grow citrus in containers. Come on over!


    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 7:22PM
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jessiac_3(5 WI)

I have a dwarf Eureka lemon tree that I purchased from Four Winds Growers. They have covered most of your questions and more on the Citrus forum, so give them a try. Also, even though a dwarf citrus will be smaller than a regular citrus, the size of either one of them can be maintained by the size of the container.

Also, on, they offer lots of advise on getting started, and their customer service is amazing. (Ok, I'm not trying to advertise for them, but I was very impressed when I went through them)



    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 3:25PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

You **must** have good drainage or your trees will all die. Overwatering is probably the most common cause of death of container citrus.

Amen! I love it. ;o)

I do wish to throw something out on the table, though. First, I haven't yet tried the coconut husk chips, but I intend to at my first opportunity. Just had a conversation with Lydia, a regular here about that very subject.

I would strongly discourage you from using a soil with any more than a 25 - 35% organic component. 25 gallons is a BIGsize> container and you're going to be reluctant to repot/root prune. After 2, maybe 3 years, as an all-organic soil is collapsing & small particles are accumulating in the bottom of the container, aeration will be greatly compromised and drainage will be a problem. It's likely you'll find your tree in decline and a repot mandatory.

A soil composed of 1/3 pine bark (or perhaps chc's - since I haven't tried them, I can't recommend or disparage them, but I can vouch for the durability of pine or fir bark in soils), 1/3 Turface - volcanic rock (pumice) - or Haydite, and 1/3 crushed granite would be perfect for your citrus tree. (Note the absence of peat moss from the recipe.) This is a durable soil that holds air, water, and nutrients well & should last beyond the time when a repot/root-prune is absolutely necessary. I absolutely guarantee you will find this soil easier to grow in and that your tree will show superior vigor compared to that exhibited if grown in an all organic mix.

A fertilizer program using an acid forming fertilizer intermittently along with your favorite soluble balanced fertilizer should do nicely in the nutrient dept. Since container soils usually fall in the category of "micro-nutrient deficient", you'll want to research a source of the minor elements - perhaps a seaweed emulsion would suit you?

You'll notice little difference between the growth rate or size of plants advertised as dwarf varieties (even genetic dwarfs) and regular trees. With judicial root and canopy pruning applied at appropriate times, you can enjoy a compact plant that yields a modest crop of fruit.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   September 15, 2005 at 11:19PM
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Hi Al,

I like your soil mix for citrus. I also like using Turface for indoor gardening. I have been using Turface and a wick for wicking african violets. Before I repot my dwarf citrus trees, I have the following questions:

1. Do you recommend using your soil mix for citrus in a clay pot or in a plastic pot or does it matter?

2. Do you recommend attaching a wick at the bottom of the pot for drainage even with using the soil mix for citrus?

3. Instead of using crushed granite, why not use more Turface instead?


    Bookmark   May 26, 2006 at 1:14AM
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I have more questions. What is a good terra cotta pot size for dwarf citrus trees? Will 19" terra cotta pots be too big if I use Al's mix? Thanks.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2006 at 4:00AM
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Interesting enough I grow my grapefruit trees in 5 gal. buckets with peat moss included. Peat is only one of mixes yes but it can help to control the need for deep roots. And as for the width of the container needing to be -WIDE- you use food grade containers. Also I use winter pruning where the trees are given enough light to survive over winter. The leaves don't die thru the winter but once new growth starts they fall off about a month after it gets warm. New growth starts and you begin again. Stopping the growth isn't really heard of with plants. It's always more,more and still more. But it can drawf a tree just like a bonsi and if you REALLY, REALLY want to keep that tree...well

    Bookmark   June 14, 2006 at 7:16PM
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I replanted a Satsuma tonight from a 10" pot to a 14" terra cotta with Al's mix. The crushed granite was easy to get at a local feed store since I live in "chicken country". They had 3 different sizes of grit, I got the grower. $6.00 for 50lbs. I found the Turface at an athletic supply place 50lb bag $7.00 and the pine fines are vevrywhere since I am in the piny woods of East Texas. Drainage is execellent. I just wonder how often I will need to water in this 90-105 degree Texas sun? I also mixed up some of Al's pottig mix for some indore plants and man did it drain.


    Bookmark   June 14, 2006 at 11:05PM
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lokidog(Z5 UT)

I have grown lots of different Citrus in containers. I think I may have used soil (or soiless mixes) with too much organic matter. I am getting new plants soon and will try out coir and perlite and vermiculite mixes (with some standard sunshine mix.

Oh, and terra cotta versus plastic. Terra cotta here is great looking, and works well for some things. However it it both HOT and DRY (summer) AND COLD and WET (winter) here. So when it's hot and dry, it is nearly impossible to water the containers and get the whole root zone watered (I know because I've repoted after heavy watering and found lots of dry zones). Terra cotta allows for too much evaporation. They will treat terra cotta with tar or asphaltum to prevent this. Then - in winter, if you leave the terra cotta outside it breaks down (high quality terra cotta will not break down as fast). Citrus can not stand the pot freezing so this may not be an issue. Lastly, moving terra cotta is a real challenge compared to plastic. So I use high quality plastic that looks pretty much like terra cotta for Citrus. Terra cotta for succulents.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 2:40PM
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Sorry to bump in here... I have a few sorry looking plants of aegle marmelos, which I believe is related to the citrus family.
They are in miracle grow potting soil, but havent grown in months, have lost a lot of leaves - just generally, very sick.
However, I believe they can be revived. They do have very long roots, last time I checked.
I have read a bit about Al's Gritty mix and I would like to transfer these plants into it. I have been able to locate a source for the Gran-i-Grit and Turface Allsport. For the pine bark fines, I think I will have to make so with Repti-bark from Petco.
My question relates to the fertilizer. I havent read all the threads and discussion on fertilizing the plants grown in Gritty mix.
Can Al or someone please recommend what I can do for the fertilizer? Or should I even fertilize it before the plants recover? I think I have the liquid Miracle Grow (green bottles) and I also have a small bottle of SuperThrive. I am going to go and get the Turface and Gran-i-Grit this weekend and also the repti-bark. I am wondering what to get for the fertilizer part - I read about Foliage Pro. Is that something readily available. If not, is there something else readily available at Home Depot/Lowes/Walmart?
I live in Raleigh-Durham, NC.
I will try to post pictures of my sorry looking plants in a day or two. And then hope to post pictures of revived plants in a few months time :), for comparison.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2010 at 9:40AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Since you have started a new thread for your post, I'll add a link (below) that will take members to that thread.


Here is a link that might be useful: Aegle Marmelos in Containers

    Bookmark   December 30, 2010 at 2:41PM
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Following you over, Al... see you there! :-)

    Bookmark   December 30, 2010 at 6:58PM
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