Care of citrus and olive plants

Citrus trees make interesting & attractive indoor plants. They provide year-round interest, with fragrant white owers, followed by small fruits which take 4-6 months to reach full size.

Light

All Citrus enjoy high light levels, so smaller plants will do well on a windowsill. Larger plants need a conservatory, greenhouse or sheltered summer garden. Be careful not to allow leaf scorch in direct summer sun through glass. When there is no danger of frost, Citrus trees like to be outside in the summer months. However, they must be acclimatised gradually to the new light level, by being moved first to a slightly shaded area outside for 2-3 weeks before being put in their sheltered, sunny spot for the summer. Equally, when being brought indoors in Winter, they should be kept in the shade for 2-3 weeks before coming inside. This reduces any stress to the leaves that the sudden light change could cause.

Heat

Citrus trees can tolerate temperatures down to 4 degrees Celsius (even 2 degrees Celsius for short periods). They must not be frosted, but a cool period is useful over winter to rest and help control pests and diseases. They are also tolerant of high temperatures, but prefer to be at neither extreme for too long.

Water

Water less often in winter without letting the pot dry out completely. Increase the amount of water once growth starts in the spring. In a hot conservatory the trees will dry out more quickly than outside & may need watering as often as once a day in sunny weather. In cloudy winter weather in a cool conservatory, it may only need to be watered once a fortnight. Be careful of over-watering, as this can encourage root diseases.

Feeding

The trees should be fed every week with a Citrus fertiliser. There are 2 types depending on the time of year, a winter formulation or a summer formulation. Each will provide the tree with the correct balance of nutrients.

Flowers & Fruit

Generally flowering takes place in May, but can occur several times in the year. Only 1% of the flowers on large Citrus trees will set & form fruit. Avoid dry, hot conditions as this will not favour fruit set. Mist the owers to improve this. The fruit gradually develop & turn colour around Christmas time (the colder weather tends to act as a trigger for colouring). The fruit can stay on the tree for several months after ripening.

Leaves

Citrus trees are evergreen & will naturally drop an old leaf from time to time. If however, there is a lot of leaf drop, then the first thing to look at is whether the tree is too dry. This is generally the cause, particularly in the lower half of a big pot. The second most common reason is poor light, so moving the tree to a lighter position may solve the problem. Overwatering can also cause problems – do not give more water until the surface of the compost is looking dry. Inadequate feeding may also cause leaf drop: this can be rectied by using the special citrus fertilizer. Often heavy owering & new leaf growth trigger some leaves to drop in spring. This is normal & new leaves will ll the gaps.

Pruning

To keep the tree in shape, pinch out the growing tip once a new branch is 10-15cm long. Regular pinching out will encourage bushy growth nearer the middle of the tree, & this can be carried out at any time of year. Pruning of large branches is best done in February, just before growth starts speeding up.

Repotting

In general it is best to repot just before or during the growing months, rather than in autumn & winter. Use the special Citrus compost, which is available in the Houseplant Sundries area, with crock at the bottom of the pot, to improve drainage.

Click to download our Care of citrus & olive plants leaflet

The Care of Olive Trees

Young Olives plants are not entirely hardy and will need to be brought into a cold greenhouse or conservatory for winter protection.Mature plants are more frost tolerant, and may survive in open ground, tolerating short exposure to freezing conditions, but suering damage once temperatures fall below minus 10 degrees Celsius.

Pruning

Prune in early summer, once all danger of frost has passed & before it owers. This will encourage a bushy, compact plant.

Watering

Although drought tolerant, Olives grow better if watered freely during the growing season. Reduce watering in winter, without allowing the compost to dry out completely.

Apply a balanced liquid fertiliser monthly during the growing season.

If you would like any help or advice, please do ask any of our friendly staff.
Click to download our Care of citrus & olive plants leaflet

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