Q: I have seen shrubs and small trees growing in containers. I live in a high-rise condo and would like to grow citrus in containers. Is this possible?
A: I have seen small citrus trees growing in containers indoors, but the tree has to have direct sunlight at least six hours a day. Growing citrus in containers may be the only way for those with small patio gardens, or those who live in colder high country or in high-rise condos, to enjoy their own fresh citrus.
Naturally, the larger the container the larger the tree, and the more fruit will set. Small trees in small containers are more manageable. Container plants are more mobile so they can take advantage of microclimates or be moved indoors during cold weather.
Most citrus varieties can be grown in containers. Grapefruit and lemon can quickly outgrow the container. If grapefruit is grown on dwarfing Flying Dragon rootstock, it can be grown almost indefinitely in containers. Meyer lemon, a more sedate tree, is a better choice for containers than Lisbon or Eureka.
Grow citrus in 15-gallon containers. Half-barrels available at most nurseries and gardens work quite well and are inexpensive.
Large clay pots cost more, but they are more attractive. Consider wheel supports if you plan on moving the container often. Any container should have holes around the bottom for drainage. If you use a wood container, coat the inside with a tar roof-patch to preserve the wood.
Do not use ordinary soil for growing in containers. It drains poorly, is too heavy, and may contain fungi, insects and disease organisms. Sterile potting soils are available at nurseries.
The tree will need water when the top 2 or 3 inches are dry. During hot weather you may need to water every two to three days. Install a drip irrigation system and monitor the moisture needs so the entire root ball is wet. Apply the water slowly until the root ball swells and the soil is thoroughly moistened. If the tree is allowed to go bone-dry, water will run around the root ball quickly and run out.