Potted citrus outside of growing zone

Continuing the discussion from Striping leaves on central leader:

I’m bouncing into a new thread so we can talk about this more without continuing to hijack the stripping thread.

I also enjoy growing containerized citrus out of zone. One of them is a Meiwa kumqumquat, which gave us lots of fruit last winter. It’s bloomed once this season and is now on its second, heavier set of blooms.

They are a bit different from other citrus in that they do go quite dormant once it gets cold, and they are slow to wake up.

i could presume you also grow calamondins? Among citrus, they seem to be the most cosmopolitan and most adaptable

Nope. Calamondins aren’t to my liking. Actually, I don’t particularly care for the taste of even the Meiwas, but consider them almost pleasant, in a face puckering sort of way. I grow those because someone else likes them a lot. It makes them feel special when I give them a bowlful and I allow them to eat to their heart’s content. :blush:

My Owari satsumas, OTH, are MINE. People can consider themselves fortunate and well favored when I offer them a single segment. To me, those are the most delicious of all citrus, and I can’t just go to the store and buy them. Someday I’ll have that tree big and sturdy enough to plant it in the ground, but I will have one or two backups just in case.

Other than those I have the compulsory Meyer Lemon and a gawky Ponderosa lemon. There’s a Key Lime and Persian (probably Bearss) Lime, which has limes ready for picking now, but I’d like to try them yellow. A pineapple orange which had lovely fruit last year until someone did a klutz move and threw lumber onto it, breaking off the entire top and leaving only about 8" of partially stripped trunk. It has survived and is growing nicely now, but it will be awhile before I can allow it to fruit. There is also a Washington Navel, and a couple of others that I can’t think of at the moment. Nothing super fancy or exotic.

I do drag everything in for the winter, and drag it all back outside once a week to get sprayed down with Neem or insecticidal soap and get inspected. One or another seems to be blooming all winter. It’s a different kind of air freshener.

thanks for sharing!
and yes, satsumas are awesome, and no debating over that
re: calamondins, i am more impressed with them not for the taste, but for the hardiness.
lemon grass, aloe vera, and calamondins are three of the edibles i know of which will be fruitful in humid hawaii , just as they will be fruitful in this bone-dry mojave desert.

That is: grown outdoors year-round, and not requiring shade or cooling during summer, and not requiring heat during winter.
it is the only fruit-bearing edible(not just among citrus) i know which will thrive in any of the above-mentioned extremes. And anything in between!

It’s not citrus, but won’t prickly pear cacti grow in Hawaii? They grow and fruit here where it is humid. Hawaii also has quite a variety of climates between windward and leeward sides of islands and varying elevations, from rainforests to areas where it seldom rains.

they will grow in suitable areas there, but will not bear fruit like clockwork. And will die in areas with too much rainfall.
calamondins are consistently productive in rainy/humid areas, arid areas, and even frigid areas in higher latitudes.
i have grown prickly pears in hot and humid southeast asia, but was never successful in getting them to fruit. Could be the lack of pollinators.
dragon fruit cacti will bear plenty fruits in asia, but strangely, it is scarcely productive here in the desert, and will suffer under full sun in summer, and die during hard freezes during winter.

My potted finger lime has been blooming pretty steadily all summer. Once the flower falls a 1cm long “fruit” is left behind, but they don’t seem to get any larger or do much of anything. Any ideas?


Scott, that is probably the size of the fruit for that particular Finger Lime cultivar. There are many cultivars, but not very many available here in the USA. My purple Finger Limes are about the same size. Mine is also potted. Very prolific setter.

Scott, is it outside for the summer? Are you using the regimen of a slow release fertilizer in the potting media combined with weekly feedings of a well balanced liquid fertilizer with micro-nutrients?

Citrus does sometimes stay tiny for awhile before it starts to size up. As long as the fruit stems and fruit don’t start paling to yellow, it’s still viable fruit. Larger fruits seem to grow very slowly and put on bursts of fattening up. Right before starting to ripen is when mine seem to have their biggest burst of size increase.

I seem to do a good job of growing citrus in conainers, but will say that finger limes aren’t something that I grow or have experience with.

Really? I’m surprised at that. One centimeter is less than a third of an inch. I’d heard that the smallest variety fruits were supposed to be around an inch and a half long. That’s still small, but much bigger than a centimeter. Maybe those tiny ones should be called something special like Pixie Finger Limes.

It is outside and I have been using a granular citrus fertilizer (but I brought a quart sized bag of it home from Florida and don’t know if I’ve been using too much) and miracle grow at half strength during the first part of the summer, though the growth has been good.

The leaves are all green or purple (new growth) and the fruit are all green and look good

I’ve also got a Meyer lemon with fruit on it. Meow were already yellow when I put it outside in June and one is developing nicely

Thank you

I think looks tell you a lot. Potted citrus seems to communicate well through the reactions of its leaves and growth.

I’m one of those who uses the Osmocote Plus timed release fertilizer for the micronutrients it provides. The only known vital one missing in the newest formulation is calcium. One thing about the timed released balls is that they release more during warmer weather, which is when the plants are putting on the most growth and being watered more frequently. I like that aspect. I also use the Foliage Pro liquid concentrate once a week or so during the entire summer. I use that one because the ratio of the NPK is supposedly just right for citrus.

As long as something different is working well for someone else, I’m reluctant to suggest changes. Yours appear to be doing well as they are, though you might consider whether going back to feeding liquid fert while the growing time is still active might be more beneficial for you.

I have them under fluorescent and red/blue led lights all winter. I do not cycle on and off, I just turn them on in October and off again in May.

I haven’t fertilized in the winter, though the Meyer lemon did put on some weird super large puckered leaves last winter (2 actually).

When do you know a lemon is ready to pick and is there any problem with just having the fruit on long-term (since last fall)?

Thank you once again.


Scott, you do turn those lights off at night, don’t you? Plants, like us, need some “sleep” time, too. It’s a different set of necessary biological processes going on when it’s dark.

I, too, use a combo of lights throughout winter. For me that’s usually late November until some time in March. The main arrays are high output flourescents in the vegetative range. Also there are arrays of multi-spectrum led’s that are supposed to include all the wavelengths for both veg and bloom.

I think large leaves are produced under lower than optimal light levels, but I could be wrong there. Mine do put on growth during winter after they finish pouting about the change in lighting and temps. They also bloom and start setting fruit while in there. It scents the house. Sometimes I feel like it’s too perfumey in here.

Patty can probably tell you more about the when to pick than I can. I think I just get lucky on that. Either that or it’s intuitive. The fruit tends to be full and heavy for its size, colored up (though that’s not always a true indication for citrus) has the right texture, and feels right in the hand. With my Owari satsumas, the skin becomes looser and they have a puffy feel, but that isn’t the case with most others. With limes, the weight is there, the skin is lightening toward yellow in color, and becomes smooth. Like many fruit, they’ve gone through a spurt of fattening up just before and as the skin changes take place. Peels on all the ones I have get the proper fragrance when scratched.

Judging ripeness is a little more tricky with container grown. Since the trees are only carrying a limited number of fruits, I try not to sacrifice any too early by picking one to try out. But if you leave them too long, the taste can change and be a bit off. Many citrus will hold their fruits long beyond optimal ripeness.

If yours has been on there a full year and is well hydrated, I’d guess that it has probably been ready for awhile. Maybe it doesn’t affect the trees in the long run, but l prefer not to let them continue to expend effort supporting ripe fruit once it’s ready. I think that energy might be better used to produce the next round.

I don’t consider myself an expert by a long shot. Most of what I say is just relaying my own experience, which is likely to vary at least a little from the next person’s.

I actually don’t turn the lights off, but there is a window there too and while during the day it is plenty bright there, during the night time the light level is probably a third as intense. I have bamboos, citrus, passiaflora and various other unusual things (Camilla sine sis, dragon fruit, guavas, etc)

The big leaves are the only strange thing I’ve seen. Are there any other signs I should look for with regard to over-lighting my plants?

Let’s see if I can do this explanation decently.

Optimal growth, flowering, and fruiting of plants is dependent on certain limiting factors. Ones that I’m aware of are intensity and duration of light cycles, temperature in both directions, available nutrients and moisture, CO2. Once the max use for the any single available factor is reached, the amount the benefit from any other factor can’t be utilized. Some pot growers leave the lights on 24/7 during veg to increase the growth rate, but the plants need to go onto a circadian light schedule in order to get blooms.

If you are getting little to no vegetative growth with 24/7 lighting, then the trees are being limited by some factor. It could be the intensity of the lighting. I think that is likely because of the leaf size difference. Temperature could also play a significant role. There is an optimal range of temperature for photosynthesis. It’s reduced under both too cool and too hot conditions. I don’t thinks it’s possible for us to reach the intensity of actual summer sunlight, (I wouldn’t even want to reach what I get here.) but to the extent that leaves aren’t burnt, more is usually better for thriving and growth.

Also, there is the matter of temperature. Root zones should be kept above 55F in order for them to uptake water and nutrients. This can be tricky because the roots are generally cooler than surrounding air because of evaporative cooling. In all likelihood, your growing area is not overly hot in winter. So, overheating is unlikely to be a limiting factor for you. Citrus does require less light in cooler conditions, since it can’t step up photosynthesis due to the cool temps limiting the rate. In an open environment, I doubt there would be any lack of CO2 concentration, regardless of how long the lights were on.

Since it sounds like you have little growth happening during the indoor season, I doubt if you have nutrient problems. It also sounds like they are spending the time in a somewhat dormant status, which is not necessarily bad. It could be what you want. However, if you’d like to increase both vigor and get blooms during these months, you might consider tweaking limiting factors to find what works best for you. For blooming and fruit set, light cycles will play a role.

Big leaves are an indication of low light levels compared to what the other leaves were getting outside. I think they are trying to give themselves more area to photosynthesis.

I hope this was somewhat helpful and doesn’t come across as trying to sound like a know-it-all. Every little bit that I learn just seems to increase the vastness of what I realize I don’t know.

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Thank you. I have a room in my basement in which I overwinter most of my tropical storm/semitropicals. The goal isn’t active growth, but survival. If anything my limiting factor is most likely humidity/moisture (indoor humidity drops dramatically in winter, and I sometimes am not as conscientious about making sure all plants get watered as well as they should which is how I lost a bamboo last winter). I’m also not looking for blooming/fruiting in winter, as my concern is survival til the next growing season (though I wish I could keep al my passionflower so blooming through the winter, not just Lavender Lady, which will frequently continue through Christmas in a good year)

Perhaps I will try to develop a more natural circadian light pattern as next spring is coming on…though it would mean doing so manually (the light in the basement has a pull string and I’m already running 2 bulbs in a 1-light socket.

Thank you for the explanation


I have been fighting the good fight with potted citrus for three winters now, Each winter I seem to get alittle better at it. I use a 5-1-1 mix for the soil (5 parts pine bark, 1 part perlite, and 1 part peat moss). I use Foliage Pro and Osmacote Plus fertilizers. I have them under 400watt lights on 14 hrs, off 10 hrs. My plants are: Meyer Lemon, Red Finger Lime, Key Lime, Bearss Lime, Gold Nugget Mandarin, Kishu Mandarin, and Navel Orange

Like I said I’m getting better every year at getting them through the winter. Still struggling with a few things

When you spray Neem and Insecticidal Soap In the winter and take them outside does the brief exposure the freezing cold air affect them?

Have you ever used a systemic pesticide on them to control spider mite and scale?

Do you NOT use fertilizer in the winter?

I would like to use a Systemic Pesticide on them, does anybody have a recommendation as to what to spray Citrus with?

here’s my recently-acquired and still potted finger lime which is evidently outside its growing zone(southern nv). Was wondering if anyone has pic’s or input with regards to timeline/what to expect from this curio. The fruit is currently about 1.5 " long

Can’t wait to grow them!!!