One of the biggest misconceptions people have about growing citrus trees is that they are difficult to grow, especially if you live in the northern part of the United States. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Even if you live in the northern-most regions, you can still grow your own daily dose of vitamin C.
The first step is to figure out what hardiness zone you live in. The United States is divided into eleven different zones, each ten degrees warmer (or colder) than the adjacent zone. Although anyone living anywhere in the US can grow citrus trees, only those from zone eight south should plant them outdoors in the ground. Citrus trees can withstand a mild frost or two over the winter months in the South, but cannot withstand the frigid cold of northern winters and must be planted in containers that can winter indoors.
Citrus trees require at least eight hours of direct sunlight each day. For those living south of zone eight, as long as there is sun, your tree should thrive. Those living in zone eight should plant their citrus trees on the south or southeast side of your home. Plant the trees close to your home’s wall (about six to eight feet away) to help keep your tree warmer.
The soil you plant your tree in must be well draining; the root system must not stay saturated for extended periods of time. Take a look at the other trees in your yard and observe their health. If a shade tree or other ornamental tree is healthy and happy, chances are you have decent soil for growing citrus trees, too.
Dig a hole that is twice as large as the root ball on your tree, and half again as deep. Remove the pot the tree came in, and about an inch or so of the outer soil around the tree to give the roots room to spread. Place the tree in the hole and begin filling the hole with soil. Fill it about halfway and then saturate the soil with water to help it form around the roots and get rid of any air pockets. Finish filling the hole and mound the soil around the trunk of the tree to help water run off during wet weather. Deep root water your new tree by digging a water retention ring around the hole’s perimeter. It should be 5-6 inches tall and 8 inches thick. Fill the water basin with water and fill in any sinking spots in the tree’s soil after the first deep water.
Citrus trees have the same requirements whether planted in the ground or in a container: plenty of direct sunlight and well-draining soil. The trick to growing a citrus tree in a container is to keep in mind that container size should never out of balance with your tree’s size. As the tree grows, you’ll need to transplant it to a larger container. Only use containers that have drain holes in the bottom, as well. If you are wintering your tree indoors, it must still get plenty of daylight, so a South-facing window is best. That will provide the warmest, most direct sunlight possible.