Author holds a fruit that's larger than her head
Pomelo fruit can weigh up to 3 pounds!

Do you need to give a holiday or birthday gift but you’ve run out of ideas? Consider giving a citrus tree. There are so many different kinds! You can gift an orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, kumquat, pomelo, tangerine or even a mandarin tree. Just tie a bow around it and print a copy of this article!

Citrus – Easy Care Trees

Citrus trees are the easiest type of fruit tree to grow. Plant them in an area that gets at least 8 hours of sun. Dig a hole twice as wide and the same depth as the container. Tip the container on its side and slide the tree out. This reveals the “root ball,” or area of soil and roots. Place the root ball in the hole, and then fill around it with garden soil. It’s critical that you do not: 

  1. bury the root ball, or 
  2. cover over over the top of the root ball with soil. 

If you bury the root ball, your tree may mysteriously die years later. The trunk does not belong below ground, where diseases can penetrate wounds and slowly kill the tree.

If you cover over the top of the root ball, water may run off and not reach the roots, causing the root ball to dry out and possibly kill the tree if not caught in time.

You should still see the top of the root ball when you are done planting.

“Shouldn’t you add a soil amendment to the planting hole?”

Years ago, nurseries sold a bag of soil and fertilizer with every tree. I should know, I used to work at one! However, research from the University of California shows that adding a soil amendment to the planting hole makes it more difficult for roots to establish in the soil.

“What about fertilizer?”

Fruit trees produce a crop, so they do need fertilizer, but timing is important. Fertilize when the tree is actively growing, and follow directions on the package. Avoid fertilizing in fall and winter, which stimulates new, succulent growth appreciated by pests like whiteflies, scale, aphids, and helps them extend their breeding season. 

Kumquats are tangy and sweet, just pop the whole thing in your mouth. One of the best kinds of citrus trees to grow in containers.

“Can citrus be grown in a container?”

Yes! Citrus are the only type of fruit tree that can successfully live long-term in a container. As the tree grows, it will need to be replanted into a pot one size larger every few years. Eventually, it can thrive in a container that is 18-24” wide. When repotting, choose a container with a drainage hole, and do not add gravel in the bottom of the pot. Contrary to popular belief, this actually causes drainage problems. Use a high-quality potting soil. It is not recommended to use garden soil, as this makes the pot heavy, can cause the soil to become compacted and have poor drainage, and may introduce a disease to your new plant. The easiest way to fertilize citrus trees in containers is by using slow-release fertilizer stakes.

Watering a Citrus Tree

Two lemons hanging on a small tree in a pot.
Dwarf Improved Meyer lemon

The amount of water a fruit tree needs is dependent on the age of the tree, time of year, and the soil type. For plants in the ground, keep the root ball moist. Create a small basin around the bottom of the tree to hold the water. Or, install drip irrigation, which is ideal for watering trees as they grow. To start, place emitters near the root ball (but not next to the trunk) and then as the tree grows, add more emitters.

Trees roots need water, which is why it’s not advisable to water trees using sprinklers, which lightly water the surface of the soil. In order to thrive, mature trees need water to reach their roots which are at a depth of 12-18.”

“How much should I prune the tree and when?”

Citrus trees need little to no pruning, which is why they are the easiest fruit tree to take care of. In spring, prune lightly to desired size and shape and remove any dead branches. Deciduous fruit trees (trees that lose their leaves) like peaches, cherries, and plums need specialized pruning and often need to be sprayed for various problems. A well-taken care of citrus tree is less likely to have pests.

How and when do you harvest the fruit?

Great question! For more information, read my post about that at

Citrus, the Gift that Keeps on Giving

Citrus trees make a great gift that will remind them of you every time they savor a fresh piece of fresh fruit! Did you gift someone a tree? Which variety did you choose and why? I recently gave a dwarf Meyer lemon as a gift (see above photo) and was rewarded with a smile telling me I had chosen the right gift.


Organic Amendments for Landscape Soils. Downer, James and Ben Faber. for an article that explains the research in simpler terms, visit 

Growing Citrus. Four Winds Growers.