Citrus Trees—Wonderful Citrus!

Bonnie Nowicki, MG

Is your refrigerator full of aromatic oranges, lemons, and grapefruit? Were they harvested from your trees or your neighbors? Now’s the time to carefully assess the needs of your citrus trees to assure a great future crop you can share.

These favored plants will thrive for many, many years with proper care. If you are a new homeowner, there are numerous types of citrus that grow in the low desert. March and April are the best months to plant citrus. Important considerations when selecting trees include location in your landscape, size at maturity, and taste of the fruit. When buying citrus, it is recommended they be properly tagged with the fruit variety, the rootstock, and the original grower’s name. Young two-to-five-year-old trees, purchased in a container with an intact root ball, transplant easily.

The most important thing you can do to maintain the health of your citrus is to water it correctly. Newly planted and young citrus trees-up to three years old require more frequent watering than mature, established citrus. Water deeply, penetrating below the root ball, every two to three days during the month after planting, to establish a strong root system. Mature trees, four or more years old, require deep water at least every 21 days as temperatures start to warm.

Fertilizing newly planted citrus is unnecessary. Fertilizer is not required until the tree has been in the ground for two years. Once established, citrus are heavy nitrogen ‘feeders’ and supplemental fertilizer is required to assure a good fruit crop and a healthy tree. Do not over-fertilize, you may burn the tree roots. Fertilize three times a year with one-third of the tree’s total annual nitrogen requirements applied each time in April-May, August-September, and January-February. Water before and after application.

March and April are the best months to prune. Citrus wood is naturally strong and does not need to be regularly pruned. Do remove sprouts by hand if small, and cautiously eliminate weak limbs within the tree canopy with hand pruners. On-going maintenance should include mulching around the tree base, with several inches of mulch to help maintain soil moisture.

More detailed citrus information can be found at our U of A Pima County Extension Center located at 530 East Whitehouse Canyon Road. Phone 520-648-0808. Hours are Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-noon.

Save the date: Saturday, April 4, 2020, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. for the 40th annual Green Valley Gardeners Spring Garden Tour. Three home gardens in Quail Creek will be featured this year, along with two others. Tickets are $12 and will be available beginning March 2, at the Chamber, Desert Bloom, Happy Quail, Nancy Pantz, and Native Gardens Nursery. It’s a great day’s outing! Enjoy!