For those of us that live here in the Northeast, in the cold winters, growing citrus is out of the question, right? Wrong, don’t shy away just yet! If you have the right conditions, you can grow them indoors in your own home.
Some of the citrus plants that can be grown inside include. but are not limited to, Ponderosa and Meyer lemons, Calamondin and Otaheite oranges, and Kumquats. The Meyer lemon is a very popular choice for an indoor houseplant that bears fruit. It produces medium size, sweet lemons with soft, thin skin. The Ponderosa lemon produces fruit a little bit larger than the Meyer lemon and is has a sour taste, more like a true lemon. As far as the Calamondin oranges go, they produce tiny fruits, one to two inches in diameter. They are very sour, but they can be used in many recipes and can be added in place of lemon in water for extra flavor. The Otaheite orange is not technically an orange, but a lemon and tangerine cross. The taste is often compared to a sweet lime. Another popular indoor citrus is Kumquats, which are about an inch in diameter with an oblong shape and sour taste. Most varieties come in an option of compact or topiary form, typically ranging in container size of one to three-gallon.
The best way to grow citrus is for your house to maintain a temperature between 65 and 70 degrees during the day and range from 55 to 60 degrees at night. The room should be bright and allow for a few hours of direct light during the day. Make sure that your citrus plant is consistently moist but not soaked. It would be best if you didn’t allow the plant's soil to dry out fully. Most homes have dry air, especially in the wintertime; you may need to invest in a humidifier to put in the room with your citrus. Avoid rooms with a wood stove if possible. You will want to fertilize your citrus from March through September then discontinue during the winter months.
In the springtime, when temperatures are consistently about 50-55 degrees at night, you can slowly start to adjust them to the outdoors. You can do this over two weeks, gradually increasing the light. This also goes for when you bring them back inside for the winter, gradually decrease sunlight for this period. You also want to make sure to scout for any insects before getting them inside so you do not spread to other houseplants you may have.
Although it can take many months for these types of fruit to produce in the home, it is such an accomplishment to grow your own fruit, especially indoors!
Resources: Cornell Cooperative Extension and University of Minnesota
Last updated November 9, 2021