Written by Ingrid Hoff
A very happy lunar new year to you. Whether you celebrate this season or not, it is a perfect time to think about ways to bring more luck, and wealth into your life. I mean, couldn’t we all use more luck and wealth in our lives? Wealth can come in many forms from the obvious financial windfalls to the wealth that comes from having loved ones surround you, or wealth of good health, or even just wealth of surrounding yourself with beauty. If you want to celebrate this season and perhaps even ensure an auspicious year of the tiger, I suggest that you look no further than a citrus tree.
Imagine a plant that has beautiful glossy green foliage, sweet scented delicate white star-shaped flowers, and then provides you with a tasty crop. An indoor citrus tree gives the grower many gifts. But did you know they also bring wealth and luck. In the ancient traditional Chinese philosophy of Feng Shui citrus are said to bring good fortune when placed in the kitchen, or in the southeastern corner of your home (the wealth area). To me that is also just good planning since the kitchen is where you will use a yummy fresh picked Meyer lemon or key lime, and since this is a plant that needs a lot of sunshine the south part of your home is going to be perfect for growing conditions.
Growing citrus indoors is rewarding, but full disclosure, it can also be a little bit tricky. Citrus are a giving plant but they do demand a few things in return, they are not an easy and forgiving plant to grow. However, don’t get discouraged, if you arm yourself with a bit of information you can set yourself up for success. Here are a few tips and tricks to ensure you give your lucky Lunar New Year tree more than just good luck.
As I’ve already mentioned citrus need sunlight (there is a reason that orange groves are mostly found in Florida). A sunny south-facing window is going to be required since they need a minimum of 8-12 hours of sunlight per day. However, if you get closer to 6 hours, as you might in the winter of our more northern climes, then consider using supplemental light.
Drainage and Water
You need a pot with good drainage, wet soggy soil for any prolonged period is going to equal an unhappy citrus. It’s also for this reason that it’s a good idea to not plant them in a pot that is too big. This is because you end up in a situation where there is too much soil instead of roots, and all that soil holds water and takes longer to dry out. You might end up with rot. Get yourself a good quality well-draining indoor potting mix and if you think your home might be on the cooler side then you might consider adding a bit of sand to the mix. When it comes to watering, they are happiest on the dry side of moist. My suggestion would be to get yourself a moisture meter and water them when your numbers hit around a two. When it’s time to water, soak the soil until water flows out of the bottom of the pot. Then let it drain away if you can move your plant to a sink, or if your pot is too big then water until you see the saucer start to fill, let it sit for 12 hours and then remove any water still in the saucer (a turkey baster works great for this). Never, let you plant sit in water for extended time periods.
Citrus also appreciate an even temperature; a happy plant is best kept between 18-25°C (which is pretty easy in most homes. The secret is to make sure there are no drafts or heat extremes. So, beside the door or heat vent is not a good spot. Now, this does sound a bit fussy but they also don’t like cold water (really, can you blame them?). So, either turn your tap a little to the warm setting or do what I do and just have a container of water sitting around at room temperature. That way when it’s time to water I’m all ready to go. The only time I might recommend a fluctuation in temperature is if you are trying to encourage a plant to flower, citrus require 5 to 10° temperature difference between day and night to initiate flowering. Many people move their plants outside for the summer, which is a great idea, but just make sure temperatures are warm enough and do it gradually. The last thing you want to do is shock your plant.
Get yourself a good quality citrus fertilizer (there are specialty mixes you can find in store). And make sure to fertilize every three weeks in spring and summer. Cut this back to every six weeks in the fall and winter. Growing, blooming, and making fruit is hard work and your tree is going to need a little nourishment.
Keep an eye on your tree for signs of pests, since we aren’t the only ones that love citrus. Some culprits to be looking for include scale, spider mites, mealybugs, whitefly, and aphids. The best way to prevent pests is to have happy and healthy plants capable of being resilient to attack. But if you do get an outbreak head down to your local GARDENWORKS and you can get some help and advice from one of our knowledgeable staff.
Top Citrus to Look For
Calamondin orange (Citrofortunella microcarpa): A cross between a kumquat and a mandarin orange, this tree is quick to produce bright orange fruit that are very tart and perfect in cooking. A plant that grows well in a container.
Key limes (Citrus x aurantiifolia): a cross between two lesser-known citruses called a papeda and citron, the small round fruit of this tree are delightfully acidic. Perfect for using in cooking, squeezing into a drink or even a key lime pie?
Meyer lemon (Citrus meyeri): A self-pollinating cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. It can flower and produce throughout the year so is perfect for using in cooking and making lemonade. A beautiful combination of slightly sweet but still wonderfully sour.
So, may luck, wealth and fortune smile on you this year. If you are fortunate enough to get yourself a new citrus tree than it will inevitably lead to a truly auspicious year.