Overwintering Citrus Trees
The best option is to grow your citrus tree outside in full sun for as long as possible and move them inside during winter. The exact time to move your potted citrus indoors will vary based on your climate.
When to Move Your Citrus Trees Indoors
Once temperatures are hovering around 40 degrees Fahrenheit it is time to bring your tree inside. Surprisingly most citrus trees can handle a mild freeze or two. However, it is best to avoid that exposure especially if your tree has flowers or fruit on it. I’d prefer you bring it in early rather than late. If temps are warmer during the day and your plant isn’t too heavy you can still move it out during the day and back in at night. Honestly this isn’t something I have ever done myself. I have always just brought them in and kept them in, but our climate is pretty mild here in North Carolina. It could definitely be worth the effort for colder climates especially if your indoor environment isn’t optimal for your citrus tree.
How to Move Your Citrus Trees Indoor
You have determined by monitoring temperatures that it is time to bring your citrus plant indoors. What next? Choose your perfect spot! It is as simple as choosing the sunniest spot you can find in your home. Southern or south-western windows or glass doors will provide the ideal location for growing citrus indoors. But work with what you have. Thriving in the right spot is ideal, but as long as you can keep your tree alive through winter your are good to go for a happy tree in spring when it can move back outside and bask in the warm sun.
Don’t put your plant near a vent. Any draft, cold or hot, can dry your citrus tree out. The biggest problem most people have when caring for citrus trees is caused by a lack of humidity. This is especially prominent with indoor citrus in winter. I will go over how to combat this problem in the next section.
Caring for you Citrus Trees Indoors in Winter
The more sun the better. Provide as much sun as possible for your citrus tree. If you absolutely do not have a spot that will provide sun, plant lights are an option. Real sunlight is best for citrus like Key Limes and Meyer Lemons, but plant lights can get your plant through the winter indoors. I have had some success with good quality full spectrum grow lights. If you use just a basic lamp with a single bulb you will likely need one per tree when growing multiples citrus trees. I hung mine about 12 to 18 inches from my trees.
Water your plant when the soil has dried down to at least 2 inches. Be sure your pot is draining well. Water settling at the bottom of your pot can cause root rot and ultimately death.
Citrus plants like humid environments. Mist the leaves once or twice daily depending on the humidity level in your home. I have also kept my pots elevated on saucers that were lined with rocks and filled with water to add humidity to the air. Just be sure the water line is below your pot so you avoid saturated roots. If you want to get fancy and spoil you Meyer lemon and Key lime plants you can get a humidifier. This is very effective and less work for you, but an added expense.
I would not fertilize your tree until right about when you are preparing to move it back outside unless you have flowers or fruit on your tree. In that case I would go ahead and fertilize with our balanced slow release fertilizer to give your citrus plants a boost.
Stay tuned for our early spring blog when I go over transitioning your citrus trees back outside!
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