Growing Citrus in Containers

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Growing an herb garden is charming and useful. But growing citrus in a container? Well, now you are just showing off.

Quick review: Container gardening is a great way to make the most of small spaces. And the addition of new breeds of dwarf citrus trees make growing lemons, limes, and oranges in a container a juicy proposition!

A dwarf citrus tree, grown in a container, will add height, volume, color and a sweet scent to your patio or balcony. And if you have a cold winter – they are a pretty little addition in a bedroom, living room or kitchen until it’s safe (warm enough and past any danger of frost) to move them back outside. They are easy to grow, simple to care for and the rewards – so tangible! So sweet!

Why settle for grocery store citrus when you can grow your own? Ready, set, dig in!

Materials List

  1. Container (8-10″ container for one year trees and a 12-14″ container for 2-3 year trees; mature dwarf trees need about 15 gallons of growing space for the roots)
  2. Potting soil
  3. Gloves
  4. Trowel or shovel
  5. Citrus specific fertilizer
  6. Dwarf citrus (Meyer lemon)
  7. 4” trailing perennials


  1. Choose Your Container: Citrus, even dwarf citrus, requires a large container. This variety thrives in containers. We suggest a container that is at least 24″ across the top and 24″ deep to accommodate a mature dwarf tree.
  2. Purchase Your Tree: There are many varieties of citrus. You will need to choose a dwarf variety for planting in a container or if you have only a small space available for your tree. We are using a dwarf Meyer Lemon – a cross between an orange and a lemon – which is great for cooking and baking, cocktails, and even making Lemoncello.
  3. Soil Up: Fill your container half way with potting soil. Be sure to leave adequate space for the root ball.
  4. Time to plant: Carefully remove your tree from its nursery container and place it in the pot. It’s important to take a few minutes to break up the root ball before planting. Finally, use the remaining potting soil to fill the container to the top of the tree’s root mass, but leave the top of the root ball slightly above the soil level. Slightly compact the soil and add more soil to bring it back to the top of the root mass.
  5. Water Well: After planting, water the container thoroughly to make sure the root ball is completely hydrated and that there are no air pockets in the soil.
  6. Fertilize Regularly: About a month after planting, you can begin a regular feeding schedule. Add a moderate amount of organic citrus-specific fertilizer using the instructions or the advice of a nursery or garden center professional as a guide.
  7. Fancy & Free: You can make your container extra beautiful by planting small flowering plants such as lobelia or sweet alyssum around the base of the tree.
  8. What Matters: Water Matters: Water deeply and thoroughly. Weather Matters: If you live in an area where it gets very cold in the winter, plan to cover your tree during times of frost. Don’t use plastic. Use a sheet or blanket. Sun Matters: Be sure that you place your pot in an area that gets ample sunlight. Citrus trees like full sun—at least 6 hours per day. Size Matters: You can keep your tree at whatever size you like by trimming it regularly. Consult with your local nursery or garden center professional for pruning tips.