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University of Illinois Extension
Interest in growing fruits doesn’t have to end with the growing season. Growing plants that are typically found in tropical areas can be accomplished indoors during the winter says University of Illinois Extension, Horticulture Educator, Andrew Holsinger. “Citrus can add to your indoor paradise as you wait for warmer weather to arrive,” said Holsinger.
Citruses are not winter hardy in Illinois but can be transitioned inside to avoid cool temperatures. Typically, citrus grow best between 55oF and 85oF. Select an area in your home that has as much bright light as possible, preferably at least 8 hours with a southern exposure. Supplemental light can enhance the effort of growing indoors. Fluorescent or LED grow lights will be necessary if there is not enough ambient light available.
Beyond the traditional fruits available in the grocery stores there are many dwarf citrus varieties available for the homeowner. Citrus plants are available in a variety of types from sweet to sour. Citrus trees grown indoors will require a well-drained potting mix with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5 maintained. A high humidity will benefit the plants when indoors. A cool mist humidifier or vaporizer can be utilized near the citrus to raise the humidity. Misting the foliage is an alternative to raise humidity that can be supplemented with a soluble fertilizer monthly.
One of the most popular lemons to grow as a houseplant is the ‘Meyer’ lemon, Citrus x meyeri. It was discovered and brought from China in 1908 but was found to be infected with a virus that killed millions of citrus trees throughout the world. In the 1950s a virus-free selection was found and named the improved Meyer lemon. These lemons are medium-sized, seedless fruits with a very think skin and sweeter pulp than other types of lemons.
Citrus plants like a consistently moist medium. Avoid using growing media that are formulated for moisture retention. The smaller the pot used the better as it will reduce the amount of moisture available in the pot. Deep pots benefit the plants as to keep the trees balanced as they get larger and more top heavy.
Most citrus grown indoors are grown on dwarfing rootstocks that keep the plants small and are best suited for growing in containers. Cuttings can be propagated from semi-soft cuttings taken in the spring or summer.
Pruning can be accomplished on dwarf citrus to maintain height and form. Broken or dead branches can be pruned out at any time. Thorned citrus varieties may have the thorns removed without harming the plant.
With their scented blooms, citrus make a nice addition to the house all season long. If the citrus plant is not transitioned outdoors, during the winter months pollination will need to be assisted by either shaking the tree or using a small paintbrush or cotton swab to transfer the pollen from one flower to another.