How to grow citrus in pots

By Casey Joy Lister


Looking for an easy going, attractive, hardy and delicious tree to add to your garden? Look no further than the mighty citrus! Citrus trees are believed to have originated in India, but they have since spread far and wide. These heat tolerant trees are a fantastic option for Perth gardens as they don’t mind our sweltering summers and fruit prolifically throughout the year.

They also happen to grow very happily in pots!

There are just a few general guidelines you should follow if you’d like to grow a potted citrus tree. Follow these ten tips and your potted citrus will be lush, healthy and covered in fruit for many years to come.


Tip 1 Select a nice big pot

Citrus need plenty of space to grow, so make sure to get a nice big pot. Go for something at least 50cm in diameter and 50cm deep. If you plant your citrus in a small pot it will eventually get root bound and may start to suffer. In the long run it’s worth your time to go for a big pot. A good option is either a beautiful clay based pot like an Atlantis Egg. Or for a lightweight option, a premium fiberglass pot like a Fiberglass Drum. Although pots made of cement or fibreclay will be suitable, they will not have the longevity of the clay or fiberglass, so keep in mind you may need to replant at a later date.

Tip 2 Stand your pot on feet to help it drain

Citrus don’t like to be sitting in soggy soil, so make sure your pot drains well by standing it on some feet. This will help to elevate the pot off the ground, allowing water to drain freely from the holes in its base. Potentially even add drainage rocks in the bottom before the potting mix.


Tip 3 Choose a citrus tree that is well suited to containers

Dwarf citrus trees are ideal for pots as they don’t mind growing in a confined space. A few great smaller citrus varieties include kumquats, Meyer lemons, satsumas, kaffir limes and finger limes.


Tip 4 Choose a good quality potting mix

Citrus trees really benefit from growing in good quality soil, so make sure to fill your pot with the best potting mix you can find. Invest in a good quality potting mix – something light and free draining with slow release fertilisers – and your citrus will thrive. We know all potting mix just looks like dirt, but like pots, you really do get what you pay for.


Tip 5 Disturb the citrus roots as little as possible when transplanting

Citrus trees have shallow roots and they don’t like them to be disturbed. Be as careful as you can when transplanting your citrus, to minimise damage to the roots.


Tip 6 Feed your tree regularly with chicken manure

Citrus are hungry trees that really benefit from the regular application of a nitrogen rich manure. A good handful of chicken manure tossed into the top of your pot every month through spring, summer and autumn will do the trick.


Tip 7 Make sure your tree is well watered

As well as being hungry plants, citrus trees are thirsty plants. They really don’t like to sit in parched, bone dry soil, and this is especially true when they have been recently transplanted and are just getting used to their new home. Give your citrus tree regular water to make sure it doesn’t wilt in hot weather. If you are watering your tree regularly and its leaves begin to curl and yellow, that may be a sign you’re overwatering – the key is balance.


Tip 8 Put your tree in a spot that gets full sun for at least 8 hours a day

Citrus trees like sun and warmth, so make sure to pop your tree in a spot that gets at least 8 hours of direct sunlight every day.


Tip 9 Mulch on top of the soil (but avoid mulching at the tree’s trunk)

A little mulch added to the top of your pot can help prevent the soil from drying out on hot days. But remember that citrus don’t like to have mulch touching their trunk (it can cause the trunk to rot or get fungal diseases), so make sure the mulch isn’t directly touching the trunk of your tree.


Tip 10 Look out for citrus gall wasps

Citrus gall wasps are a pain! They lay their eggs within the branches of citrus trees, slowly destroying them from the inside out. Check your trees regularly for lumps and swellings along the branches – these indicate a gall wasp infestation. If you find them, prune the branch to remove the swelling (then put the pruned branches out in the sun or in a black plastic bag – the heat will kill the wasp larvae – before throwing the pruned branches away in your general waste). Check with your neighbours to see if they have gall wasps in their citrus too. Gall wasps don’t tend to travel very far, so if you and your neighbours can eradicate them together your problem will be solved.