May 15, 2017

Top 10 Tips to Grow Citrus in Perth

All parts of Western Australia are ideal for growing citrus.
All parts of Western Australia are ideal for growing citrus.Picture: Getty Images

If I had a dollar for every question on citrus I have answered over the years, I would be a millionaire. The reason is that nearly everyone can grow some sort of citrus, even if it’s in a pot.

Citrus is so versatile, there is an astonishing variety and now they are available on dwarf and semi-dwarf rootstock to fit even the smallest gardens.

In France and Italy potted citrus were a sign of wealth and very elaborate glasshouses were built to keep them over the winter months. They were called orangeries or limonaeas. The earliest surviving English orangerie was built at Kensington Palace in 1761. Once the French King Louis X1V included an orangerie in Versailles, it became a must-have addition for the wealthiest families in France.

All of WA is ideal for growing citrus — you just need to make sure you get the variety that suits your climate because most citrus will not tolerate frosts. If you live in a cold climate I suggest growing a semi-dwarf variety in a pot, then you can move it to a warm spot during the winter months.

Mandarins.Picture: Danella Bevis

The top 10 most important facts you need to know about growing citrus

1. They don’t like heavy soil and need to drain freely around the lower root system. Once they get waterlogged the leaves go yellow, drop off and then gradually die back.

2. All citrus trees are surface feeders and do not like root competition from trees or shrubs. They need to be fed little and often every three months.

3. Most citrus in WA gardens suffer from trace element deficiencies of iron, manganese, magnesium and zinc. You should apply a foliar feed to the entire tree and ground every two months on top of granular fertiliser. I use Nutrian Turbo Trace.

4. Citrus will drop its leaves if it is waterlogged, over-fertilised, heat stressed or has a disease such as collar rot.

5. Lemons will flower on and off all year if they are warm and moist. They will produce many flowers but only 9 per cent will actually develop into fruit. The fruit will hang on for months; some varieties take up to six months before ripening.

Grapefruit.Picture: Danella Bevis

6. All citrus must be grown in full sun otherwise they will not fruit and will be susceptible to disease and insect attack.

7. Never prune back trees in summer. Citrus are very susceptible to sunburn so only prune in early spring and autumn.

8. Citrus grow well in pots but add some compost and manure in with the potting mix. Always have the pot raised off the ground to allow for drainage.

9. Fruit fly will attack citrus so prepare for their arrival with traps, baits and netting if required.

10. Never leave fallen fruit on the ground or hanging branches where the fruit touches the soil — you are asking for fungal diseases to enter the tree.

Citrus trees grow well in pots.
Citrus trees grow well in pots.Picture: Simon Santi

Need to know: Maturing times

If you are thinking of planting a few different citrus you will need to know the season the fruit matures. This is determined by many factors including weather patterns, the health of the tree, nutrient availability and the variety.

Navel oranges mature from May to September.

Lanes Late andValenciaoranges mature from September to March.

Lime.Picture: Getty Images

Eureka, Lemonade and Lisbon lemons fruit on and off all year round.

Meyer lemons fruit mostly from June to September.

Mandarins mature from April to October, depending on the variety.

Native finger limes can fruit on and off at different times of the year depending on the climate and variety.

Finger limes.
Finger limes.Picture: Astrid Volzke

Tangelos mature from July to November.

Grapefruit mature from June to December.

Tahitian limes fruitfrom June to September and West Indian limes on and off all year.

Mike Peace