Advice about Citrus Trees








Citrus trees are still the very popular fruiting tree today, as they were in our grandparents time.

It is great to be able to pop outside and pick a few ripe oranges or lemons for the table.
There is little reason that all New Zealanders cannot do so, if they have a few citrus trees.

Growing up in Palmerston North I had an uncle (Jack Franks) who lived in the Awapuni area and on his returned serviceman’s quarter acre, he had a wonderful citrus orchard. I think he had just about every type of citrus fruit and variety available in those days. Big, beautiful, rounded trees about 10 foot tall, with a never ending selection of ripe fruit to choose from. The really amazing thing about the whole orchard was that he had grown every tree himself, from pips!
I remember one time when my mother took me to the movies and during the shorts was “Movietone news” where we saw a feature about oranges being grown on one of the e wet soil and the tree will thrive.

I have several citrus trees growing in both size containers, 50 litres and 100 litres and have found that the larger container produces a bigger tree faster.

By the way if you have access to 200 litre plastic drums then these cut in half and with some drainage holes drilled, are ideal and cheap too. (often free from places that have to dispose of them)
Citrus trees need sunlight and will do poorly in shaded situations so the more open and sunny a spot the better. While the tree is establishing it is best to provide some wind protection such as a screen of windbreak cloth on the prevailing wind side.

If planting into a large container for either partly burying in the ground or sitting on top of the soil, use a mixture of purchased compost with a little soil or vermicast (worm casts) added.
Citrus trees require a good amount of natural food and it is best not to use Citrus Fertiliser, which harms the soil life and worms. Instead make up your own citrus feed using sheep manure pellets and blood & bone. Another excellent food is Bio Boost which is also available as Break Through.

A monthly sprinkle of Fruit and Flower Power for the magnesium and potash that the citrus require and a small amount of BioPhos (natural phosphate) occasionally caters for their basic needs.
I use old chicken mature around the root zone of my trees and find that it works well also.
Citrus trees are not free of diseases or pest insects so some controls are needed at times.
The common citrus diseases can be prevented or controlled with sprays of Liquid Copper.
A couple of sprays a month a part should fix any diseases that attack the trees or for prevention a spray of the same in the spring and autumn is good value.

The insects that attack the foliage causing black sooty mould can be controlled with Neem Tree Oil sprays. Two or three sprays about a week apart will control aphids, scale and mealy bugs.
If mealy bugs appear you need to also treat the soil with Neem Tree Granules to get the pests in the root zone.
Citrus tree borer is a problem if they attack your trees. I had two of my younger trees attacked this summer and noticed the tell tale sawdust particles from their feeding.
To kill the grubs I made up a solution of Neem Tree Oil at 25 mls to a litre of warm water and watered this mix into the root zone after applying a good sprinkling of Neem Tree Granules on the soil.

It took two to three weeks before the activity stopped so the pests must be history now.
If you have a number of exit borer holes on your tree then these should be blocked with a dab of acrylic paint. Left open they are an invitation for the adults to enter the tree and lay their eggs.
A big mistake that many gardeners make with their established citrus trees is to trim the branches to obtain a nice shape or keep under control.

Trimming branches causes congestion as each branch trimmed will produce a number of branches along its length. The best way to keep a citrus tree in a good shape and open is to remove total branches back at their source which is the trunk.
The ideal time to do this is about now, as the citrus tree borers on the wing should be finished for the season. When you remove a branch seal the wound with a mix of petroleum jelly and copper mixed together or acrylic paint with copper added.

A mature citrus tree can have all of the following, at any one time for most of the year; new flowers, young fruit along with ripening fruit. When you tree reaches this stage ensure you water it regularly during dry times as the tree will take the juice out of the mature fruit for its water needs on the maturing fruit.
A young tree will tend to produce fruit with thick skins but as the tree matures the skins will become normal.
Lack of juice and sweetness is a sign that there is insufficient potash so remember to sprinkle some Fruit and Flower Power every month.
Some old tricks with citrus trees are: throw some steel nails or bolts under the tree. These will rust and release the iron content that the tree needs.
In days gone by one would empty the family po under the citrus tree occasionally. The reason is the nitrogen in urine. As family

Po’s are not a household item these days then us men should relieve ourselves occasionally out in nature by the citrus tree. (In our PC world this is best done at night so not to be arrested for indecent exposure). The tea pot was also emptied occasionally under the citrus tree and as many do not use a tea pot anymore, throw a few used tea bags under the tree instead.
For those gardeners that are really keen on having healthy plants then a annual sprinkling of Ocean Solids and Simalith is good value for the mineral content they provide.
Occasional sprays of Magic Botanic Liquid over the foliage and under the tree will also assist greatly.
Young citrus trees can be protected in winter against frosts with Vaporgard.
In the cold of winter immature fruit may turn yellow as if they were ripe, don’t be fooled it is just the cold, not ripe fruit.
Lime trees are the most difficult to grow and they are best planted in a container so they can be moved to a warmer sheltered spot in winter.
If you buy a seedless citrus tree make sure that it is planted well away from any lemon tree that bears seeds. Cross pollination will cause your seedless to have seeds.

73 comments on “Advice about Citrus Trees

  1. Hi carol,

    how big is the pot? – it may not like the southern facing coastal conditions too – also did you wash the shells as it may be too salty.
    It sounds like it has gone into shock – perhaps a completely different location than when it was at the nursery. make sure it is not planted to deep, that it does not dry out when you are not there.

    Hope that helps



  2. My lemon tree has only been planted a few months and all the leaves are curling.What do I need to give it?
    Am looking forward to picking my own lemons,and want to give it the best of care.
    thank you.

  3. Monique Nielsen on said:

    I’m wanting to plant citrus as a screen to neighbours. Can I buy large specimens for instant cover, can you recommend a supplier? thx

  4. Rae MacDougall on said:

    I am having the same problem as Bruce.
    The leaves curling on my lemon tree which is in a container
    There is a lot of new growth coming on as well but the leaves seems to be ok

  5. Question is, WHY doesn’t my Feugoa ( Sorry, Not sure of Spelling,) Trees grow very big and it doesn’t produce very much Fruit after being in the Ground for 8 years,

    I have put Super Phosphate and Blood and Bone, Plus Epson Salts and Gypsum around it over the years, BUT, it is all spindly like with no main trunk to speak of,

    Any answers would be very helpful,
    Thank you,

  6. Question is, just over 8 Years ago, I planted a dozen, Fuschia Trees, ( sorry Not sure of Spelling,) and over the Years, They haven’t grown much more than a couple of feet tall at the best of time, Plus, today, I only have 4 left as most of them have died off for no apparent reason,

    Each Year they Flower well, But, There is No Growth in them as I would have thought by now they would be quite Tall for their age, at least 6 Feet, But No, the tallest one is only about 3 feet tall and what is left are really stunted in growth,

    Any suggestions would be Appreciated and Yes,

    I have fertilised them every year as the above,
    BUT, After 8 years, I am disappointed in their growth, 🙁

  7. Hi Edward – the spelling is Fuchsia – named after Mr Fuch I think and any botanical name with ‘ia’ after it means it is named after a person. (abit of trivia)

    It Sounds like you may have a soil problem or the location may not be – you have made another post about your Feijoa trees doing teh same thing – where are you based and what is the soil like – Do you neighbors have similar problems?

  8. lemon fruits are dry

  9. Hi Doug,

    They are probably a bit old. Lemons tend to get pithy and dry when they have been hanging on the tree for a while.

    Hope that helps

  10. My small lemon tree gets brown spots on the lemons as soon as they become ripe. Is there anything i can do on the cheap side as am in a rental and don’t want to spend too much on it 🙂 LOVE your blogs by the way!!

  11. Oh this guy is great, I’m reading Wally’s Down to Earth Gardening Guide at the moment lent to me by my sis.

    It’s the most informative book I’ve come across in my early days of gardening.

  12. I have a lime tree in a pot, it is around 4 years old. This year it has lots of small fruits, however they fall of before they reach the size of an olive. The plant looks health and I have fertilised it. Doesit maybe need a bigger pot or is it needing something? Hope you an help

  13. Try thinning the fruit when they are small – basically take some of the fruit off the plant and a larger pot will definately help.


    Tim Durrant

  14. hi there i live in waimate and would like to know can i grow lime tress and oranges here?

    ive seen very healthy lemon tress growing in the neighborhood.

    any and all advice would be welcome

  15. If you can grow healthy lemon trees you can grow other citrus 😉

  16. Hi. I have just recently moved onto a property on D’urville island. There is a reportedly, 100 year old lemon tree here that is quite sick. It apparantly was a little too close to a house fire a year or two back. It did not get burned as such, just too hot. Most of the tree appears to be dead, but there are a few very small branches that are green. Should I prune back the dead branches? Any help on this would be greatly appreciated as the tree is of significant sentimental value.



  17. Hi Paul,

    What a great spot to live!

    Pretty much all you can do is remove all dead wood being careful not to cut into any green or living branches. It sounds like all the cells have exploded in the heat from teh fire and has been set back in a big way. There may be a large structure of roots under the ground that could take off and grow new branches but the habit / shape of the bush is going to be all over the place. I guess you just want to keep it alive… so try that – give it a feed of citrus fertiliser being careful to sprinkle around the root zone evenly but not too much – give it plenty of water but dont drown it. Feel free to send a few pictures to

    Good luck!


    Tim Durrant

  18. Gareth on said:

    Hi there,

    I just moved a lemon tree about 3 metre’s from where it was. the roots were shallow and we pulled all of the lemon’s and flowers off before we moved it. My question is, should i prune it? it looks wilted and in shock…but it lives in grade 2 soils near bombay and has a good supply of water.

    many thanks

  19. Hi Gareth,
    Remove any dead wood if there is any. It will definitely be in shock – don’t over water it (drown) but keep the soil moist. You can give it a light prune to reflect the loss of roots when moving the plant.

    good luck


  20. Mary Love on said:

    hi gareth we have recently moved to blenheim and the lemon tree upon picking the friut we find there is no flesh to it and very dry inside,can you advise as to what we need to do please

  21. Evelynh on said:

    I have a lovely lime tree. It is sheltered but anyway we don’t get frosts. It is covered in baby limes but so many are dropping off. In the 6 years I have had it it has only produced 5 fruits. Help please.

  22. Hi 
    I have a small mandarin tree. There are small black blobs all over the branches. What is this.

  23. Lorraine on said:

    What do I need to do to keep the skin  clear without dimples and what looks like a crusty scale? It is not on every lemon or on a particular trunk.

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