February Gardening 2016

by Jane Ahrens
Meyer Lemon Tree

From Mélie’s Garden

Growing Citrus Inside

When I was a child I loved growing things on my NYC windowsill. I started with an avocado pit in a jar of water with toothpicks carefully inserted so the pit didn’t sink. Then I graduated to orange or grapefruit seeds in pots. When I was on my honeymoon in Taormina, Sicily, I took the seeds from small oranges that appeared on our breakfast tray and brought them home. One grew into a six-foot orange tree that I still have forty-seven years later. It lives at Fishers Island inside in the winter and outside in the summer much to the annoyance of the men in my family, who have to haul it inside and out twice a year! It has only bloomed once and has never produced an orange.

My son, Jeremy, has seemed to have inherited my interest in growing citrus with much more success, due to two small trees that he got from Leila Luce. They bloom beautifully every year and have produced fruit quite regularly. I think one is a Ponderosa Lemon and the other a Kaffir Lime. They both were unmarked when he got them.

This winter, I decided to buy from Logee’s in Danielson, CT a “Meyer Lemon” plant, which is now about to bloom in my South facing New York window. I will move it to the Island this spring and it will continue its life there with the other plants. I am very excited by the idea of having some real lemons!

Growing Citrus indoors

  • Primary blooming season is late winter.
  • Fruit ripens in the late fall to early winter.
  • Best growing temperatures are 55 – 85 degrees with 65 degrees being ideal.
  • Sunlight should be 8 to 12 hours per day in growing season.
  • In Zone 5-6 the plant should be outside in the warmer months and definitely inside after it goes below 55 degrees.

Plant in regular soil mix in a terracotta pot – they like to be somewhat pot bound, so you don’t have to repot often. Keep the plants well pruned, so they are strong and can support the fruit.

Let the soil dry between watering to avoid root rot. They like the bottom of the pot to be somewhat warm.

Humidity is helpful during winter months; the plants do not like hot dry air.

Feed by weekly during active growing season (spring to fall) with an organic fertilizer. Do not feed in the fall and winter when the light is low and temperatures are cool.

Citrus plants can suffer from iron deficiency (leaves turn yellow) add a bit of chelated iron to the fertilizer until the leaves green up. There are special citrus fertilizers that help with this, Logee’s has a very good one.

Insects: Spider mites, mealy bug and scale

Spray twice before bringing the plant inside in the fall with insecticidal soap or Neem oil. If the plant gets these bugs in the winter, put the plant in the shower and after a good wash, spray again. If it is too big for the shower you can put a cleaning bag over the plant and tape the larger opening shut around the trunk and spray through the smaller opening at the top. Leave the bag on for 12 hours and the bugs should be killed. If it is scale, you will have to attack that with a Q-tip dipped in alcohol and remove each piece of scale. If the plant was well sprayed in the fall you shouldn’t have this problem.

For further growing advice you can go to YouTube and see videos of “Growing Citrus Indoors” with Byron Martin from Logee’s Greenhouses in Danielson, CT.


Good Varieties to try
Ponderosa Lemon (citrus limon medica)
Meyer Lemon (citrus meyeri)
Key Lime (citrus x aurantifolia) “Bartenders Lime”
Kaffir Lime (citrus strix) leaves used in cooking
Myrtle Leaf Orange (citrus myrtifolia)
Calamondin Orange (citrus citrofortunella mitis)
‘Gold Nugget’ Mandarin Orange (citrus reticulate)
‘Nagami’ Kumquat (fortunella margarita)
‘Sunquat’ (citrus hyb)
‘Meiwa’ Sweet Kumquat (fortunella crassifolia)

Featured Photo

USCG Eagle passing the Race early morning March 18, 2023 on her return from the Chesapeake Bay . Photo Credit Marlin Bloethe

A Fishers Island Community Center Program

FishersIsland.net and the accompanying Fog Horn eNewsletter serve as the communications resource for the Fishers Island community. The content – news, calendar, links and photos, milestones, ads, and more create a clear image of Fishers to those on and off the island.

© 2023 – FishersIsland.net All Right Reserved.