How to Grow Citrus Fruit Indoors

Have you always appreciated citrus trees but felt that growing your own would be too much work? As it turns out, growing citrus indoors is actually fairly simple! The plant itself can be a beautiful accent piece in a room, and the indulging scent its white blossoms produce is enjoyable for everyone. Not to mention that taking good care of your citrus tree means you eventually get to enjoy the fruits of your labor! Here’s how to do it.


Citrus plants don’t like to sit in wet soil, but they don’t like to totally dry out either. This is why it’s important to plant them in a well-balanced soil like Espoma’s Cactus Mix. Be sure to check the top few inches every few days until you figure out the best watering schedule. Generally speaking, it should be about once a week.



Your citrus tree will require 8 to 12 hours of sunlight each day. This means you should try to situate it near a south facing window or supplement with an indoor grow light if necessary.


Citrus trees that live in pots require regular feedings every 2 to 4 weeks as some of the nutrients are washed out with regular watering. And what you feed your citrus trees can often determine the taste of its eventual fruit! That’s why Espoma’s Citrus! Organic Fertilizer is specially made to address the needs of citrus plants and help you grow some of your tastiest fruit yet.


Other tips

These plants like temperatures between 55 and 85 degrees and dislike sudden shifts in temperature. Try to avoid placing it near chilly drafts and space heaters to keep them in their ideal environment.

Citrus plants can also be vulnerable to spider mites, mealybugs, and aphids. Unlike bees or worms, insects that enjoy your gardening, these pests are harmful to your plant. If you notice any of these pests, spray them with our Organic Insect Soap, and that should be the end of them. And don’t worry about the Insect Soap harming your plant, because our organic recipe was created to help without drying out or damaging your hard work. 

Now that you know all about raising your citrus tree from seedling to fruit, the possibilities are endless! Whether you choose lemon, lime, orange, or any other citrus variety, these tips are sure to help you reach your indoor gardening goals.


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Video: How to Grow & Care for Citrus

Take a look at how the folks at Petitti Garden Centers use Espoma to keep their citrus plants happy and healthy!

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Video: Citrus Growing Update & Care Tips!

Laura from Garden Answer updates on her indoor Lemon & Lime trees she grows indoors. Watch for important care & growing tips!

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Growing Food Out of Your Zone

As “The Citrus Guy” in a non-citrus producing area of the country, I appreciate this guest blog opportunity to show folks that anybody can grow their own citrus fruit and many other types of food in containers.

One of the first questions I get is, “Can you actually get fruit from containerized trees”?
I enthusiastically answer, YES!

I grow most (okay, ALL) of my 55+ Citrus in containers. Even though I live in Charleston, SC (Zone 8) and they can grow in the ground here, I prefer growing them in containers. I should include in this list my figs, blueberries, jujubes (Ziziphus mauritiana), miracle fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum) as well.

Lemon Guava (Author Photo)

Here is a brief “how to do it”.

The Container
Anything is possible to use, IF, you have a large enough container 15 to 30 gallons. Don’t expect as big a tree or bush as one grown in the ground. Dwarf rootstock is helpful, but not essential. Root stock dwarfs the tree (still giving you full size fruit) but the container will do that to some extent also. With that being said, I have some seed grown trees that are producing fruit on their own roots.

Nagami Kumquat (Author Photo)


Be aware that plastic containers retain moisture longer than other types of pots. Terracotta pots, not only being much heavier, wick water out faster, unless of course it is glazed inside. As with most plants, allow the upper surface of the soil to become semi dry to the touch and maybe an inch down, then water thoroughly. Fruiting plants need lots of moisture, but don’t like wet feet all the time. If you keep the soil about the consistency of a wrung-out dish sponge, you will be well ahead of the game.

Papaya grown from seed. (Author Photo)

All the Dirt on Soil
Espoma makes a great potting soil that can be used for all indoor and outdoor container plants.  A good blend of Peat with either Sand, Perlite and Vermiculite will suffice. If it is well draining, retains some moisture, and is sturdy enough to support the plant, it is good to go.

Pomegranate and Banana (Author Photo)

Feed Me to Feed You

Good nutrition is essential, but over fertilization can result in excessive vegetative or leafy growth, poor fruiting and possible death due to fertilizer salt accumulation.  I am huge proponent of Citrus-tone, also made by Espoma, for my citrus trees and many of the other fruiting plants. Holly Tone is also very good for some extra acidity, such as what blueberries need. I have never had any issues of salt accumulation with these products.

Let There Be Light
Citrus and all fruiting plants love sunlight, 8-10 hours if possible, even in winter. Indoors supplemental lighting may be required. There are many different types of lighting and fixtures on the market. I encourage you to do your homework when it comes to what you can afford, what you absolutely need, light density, and color spectrum.

A word of caution here, after a plant has been inside for an extended length of time, you can still burn the leaves. Acclimate them slowly to the intensity of the sun. Bring them out for a few hours, then shade them. After a couple of days of doing this, leave it out a little longer. Do this until you are at maximum lighting.

Hot Foot

Summer time can bring other problems with container cultivation. The temperature in a black pot, outside in 8 hours of sunlight can easily reach 120 degrees. There are numerous ways to alleviate this. First, shade the pot with low growing plants in other pots. This will give you a chance to have some flowers around your tree and make a very nice display. Second, paint your pots white. The white surface will reflect the rays of the sun and keep your roots many degrees cooler. You can also do a pot inside a pot. Depending on the color of the outside pot and the air space between the that and the inner pot will determine just how many degrees cooler it can be.

In Conclusion

Pushing the limits of your growing zone can be intimidating and fun at the same time. With a little bit of work and common sense you can grow most tropical fruits in any part of the country. I say most because, I would LOVE to grow my own coconut. According to all the literature I have read, even a dwarf one will not fruit until it is 30-40 feet tall, pruning is not an option because of the growth habit and my greenhouse does not have an elevating roof…….yet!


Happy Growing!

Darren Sheriff

a.k.a. The Citrus Guy


Darren Sheriff is a SCNLA Certified Professional Nurseryman, A Charleston County Master Gardener Emeritus and is the manager for Terra Bella Garden Center in North Charleston, South Carolina. With his 220+ camellias, he is an active member of, and current president of, the Coastal Carolina Camellia Society, the South Carolina State Director for the American Camellia Society, the founder of the Lowcountry Fruit Growers Society as well as their former president. Known as “The Citrus Guy” in the Lowcountry he is an expert in the cultivation of Citrus and currently has 55+ different varieties in his yard, mostly in containers, but there is one in the ground as well. As an Exotic Tropical Fruit buff, he is growing things many people have never heard of and is well versed in all other kinds of fruit as well. He has authored numerous books all of which can be found on Amazon or his website

Espoma Organic Potting Soil MixCitrus-tone Plant Food

When Life Gives You Lemons – Grow Them Indoors!

Everyone loves houseplants – they provide greenery and pops of color to your home. Sometimes it’s fun to switch things up a little bit. Growing citrus indoors is actually easier than you think!

Unless you live in a warm climate year round, growing citrus outside can be tough. Bringing it indoors will keep it at the temperature it needs and gives it a chance to thrive.

Just imagine seasoning your salmon on a chilly night, adding fresh lemon to your water, or making a natural cleaner and being able to grab citrus right out of your living room to do it! And Meyer lemon trees smell so good too!

How to Grow a Citrus Tree Indoors:

1. Choose your container

If allowed, citrus trees will grow incredibly tall. Keep citrus trees from hitting the ceiling by choosing a container that is deeper than it is wide. This will help roots to grow down and not out, keeping the tree balanced as it grows.

If the tree will stay in one well-lit area year-round, any container will do. If you are moving it from room to room to follow the sunlight per season, a thinner plastic container is lighter and easier to transport. Make sure your container has adequate drainage holes.

2.The right soil

Citrus trees don’t like wet feet. A light well-drained soil mix, such as Espoma’s Cactus Potting Soil, works best to grow your tree in. It provides the tree with enough water to keep it happy and allows the excess to drain quickly.

Fill your container with just enough soil so your root ball is just under the lip of the container. This helps your tree to get the right nutrients and drain correctly.

3. Plant your tree

Before placing the root ball in the container, be sure to sprinkle Espoma’s Citrus-Tone on your soil as directed.

Center your tree’s root ball and fil the sides in with soil. Tuck the soil in the sides, so the tree doesn’t lean. Feed your tree regularly to ensure successful and juicy citrus.

4. Choose your location

Citrus trees require 8-12 hours of sunlight a day. Be sure to choose a south-facing window with good airflow. In the winter months, you may need to supplement with a grow light if there isn’t enough daylight.

5. Give it a drink

While citrus trees don’t like their feet wet, they also don’t like to dry out. If the first inch of the soil dries out, be sure to water your tree. If you water about once a week, you should be using around ¼ of a gallon. If the tree is standing in drainage overflow, be sure to allow it to dry before watering again.

Do you have outdoor trees that need to be fertilized? Watch this video to learn how!