How to Grow a Citrus Tree From Seed in a Pot Indoors
Growing citrus from seed is a low-cost way to get your very own source of limes (Citrus latifolia), lemons (Citrus x limon), oranges (Citrus x sinensis), mandarins (Citrus reticulata) or grapefruits (Citrus x paradisi). However, you won’t enjoy that first harvest for several years when growing citrus trees from seed. In addition, citrus trees are very sensitive to cold, so unless you live in USDA zones 9 through 11, you’ll need to plan on growing your citrus trees in pots so that they can be brought indoors when temperatures drop.
Growing Citrus From Seed
Sprouting and growing citrus from seed is relatively straightforward, but care must be taken in choosing the best seeds for growing indoors in containers. Many citrus tree seedlings for sale (especially those marketed for indoor use) are grafted onto mature dwarf rootstock. This rootstock limits the size of the citrus tree, regardless of what kind of fruit is produced on its branches. For example, planting lemon seeds or lime tree seeds obtained from a fruit grown on dwarf rootstock could produce a full-sized tree (nearly 30 feet tall) unless the fruit itself is from a dwarf variety, too.
Growing a dwarf citrus tree will also ensure that the roots stay manageable inside a container, and that the tree does not become top-heavy and fall over. Dwarf citrus trees can be pruned back to limit their growth even more and to encourage a more bush-like appearance.
According to Four Winds Growers, suitable citrus varieties include:
- ‘Improved Meyer’ lemon (6 to 10 feet)
- ‘Trovita’ orange (8 to 12 feet)
- ‘Kara’ mandarin (8 to 10 feet)
- ‘Persian’ lime (6 to 10 feet)
- ‘Oroblanco’ grapefruit (8 to 12 feet)
Harvesting and Germinating Citrus Seeds
Once you have obtained organically-grown fruit from your chosen citrus variety, cut the fruit in half and remove the seeds by either scooping them out with a toothpick or squeezing the juice over a mesh colander until the seeds fall out as well. Transfer the seeds to a damp paper towel and gently clean them to remove any pulp or sugar.
Place the seeds in a bowl of room-temperature water and discard any seeds that float, as these are not viable. Allow the remaining seeds to soak overnight to soften the protective outer shell. According to Fruit Mentor, an optional step involves scrubbing the seeds with vermiculite and blowing away the seed coats with a fan. You can also use sterile scissors to cut off the pointed end of the seed coat and extract the seeds by hand.
Prepare a seedling tray with sterile potting soil (choose a variety intended for citrus for best results). Spray the soil with water so that it’s moist but not soggy before placing seeds half an inch deep and about 1 inch apart. To help the soil remain moist and warm, cover the tray with plastic wrap until the seeds have sprouted.
Growing Citrus Trees in Pots
Because most citrus trees are self-pollinating, you can eventually enjoy a fruit harvest even if you have enough space to grow only one tree. To avoid wasting water and creating a pot that is too heavy to maneuver easily, transfer the strongest citrus seedling to a lightweight 5-gallon pot. According to Pennington, citrus trees prefer cool roots that can breathe a little, so choose a light-colored pot that won’t absorb heat, and leave the top roots slightly exposed. Cover with a fluffy layer of mulch.
Choose a potting soil labeled for citrus to get your seedling off to a good start. Citrus need an NPK fertilizer with a 2:1:1 ratio applied every two to three weeks. Apply a source of micronutrients – like fish emulsion – at the same time. Do not fertilize in fall or winter, since the tree will naturally slow its growth at this time.
Citrus trees do not like soggy roots, but they also cannot withstand drought. To achieve a balance, water when the top 2 inches of soil are dry, but without allowing the soil deeper down in the pot to dry out. Watering requirements decrease in winter, but you might need to water every day during the summer. Keep citrus trees in full sun as much as possible; a south-facing window is ideal.
Citrus Seed Storage: Tips On Harvesting Seeds From Citrus Fruits
There is very little quite as satisfying as propagating your own fruit or veggies. Not everything can be started via seed, though. Is growing citrus by seed a possibility? Let’s find out.
Citrus Tree Seeds
There is something exciting about starting with just a tiny seed and watching the plant grow to fruition. In the case of citrus tree seeds, it must be noted that the seed you plant from say, a Valencia orange, will not have the same qualities as the original orange tree. This is because commercial fruit trees are composed of two distinct parts.
The root system and lower trunk are composed of rootstock, or stock. The scion is engendered by inserting the tissue of the desired citrus into the rootstock. This allows the commercial citrus grower to manipulate the characteristics of the fruit, selecting only those traits that are most desirable, hence marketable, in the fruit. Some of these may be pest and disease resistance, soil or drought tolerance, yield and size of fruit, and even an ability to withstand cold temperatures.
In fact, commercial citrus is usually composed of not only the above, but grafting and budding techniques as well.
What this means to home grower is that, yes, it is possible for citrus seed removal to result in a tree, but it may not be true to the original fruit. Certified, true to type, disease free propagation wood or seed is difficult to get, since it is usually sold in bulk quantities which are unsuitable for the home gardener. Experimenting with store bought citrus or that from a relative or neighbor is the best bet when growing citrus by seed.
Harvesting Seeds from Citrus
Harvesting seeds from citrus is fairly simple. Begin by obtaining a couple of the fruits you wish to propagate. This is to increase the chance of getting seedlings. Carefully remove the seeds from the citrus fruit, taking care not to damage the seeds and squeezing them out gently.
Rinse the seeds in water to separate them from the pulp and remove the sugar that clings to them; sugar encourages fungal growth and will jeopardize potential seedlings. Place them on a paper towel. Sort out the largest seeds; those which are more white than tan with a shriveled outer skin are the most viable. You may now plant the seeds or prepare them for citrus seed storage.
To store the citrus seeds, place them on a moist paper towel. Keep about three times the amount of seeds that you want to plant in case some of them are not viable. Wrap the seeds in the damp towel and place them inside a sealable plastic bag. Place the bag in the refrigerator. Citrus seed storage in the fridge will last for several days to several months. Unlike other seeds, citrus seeds need to stay moist. If they dry out, it is very likely they will not germinate.
Growing Citrus by Seed
Plant your citrus seeds ½-inch (1.3 cm.) deep in nutrient rich soil or sprout them right on a moist paper towel. Start the seeds indoors in a warm, sunny area. Moisten the soil a bit and cover the top of the planting container with plastic wrap to aid in heat and moisture retention. Continue to keep the soil moist, not sodden. Be sure the container has drainage holes to let excess water drain away.
Good luck and be patient. Citrus started from seeds will take many years to reach a maturity for fruiting. For instance, lemon trees started from seed will take up to 15 years to produce lemons.
Using Citrus Seeds to Grow Your Own Citrus Fruit
Have you thought about growing citrus by planting your own citrus seeds?
Citrus plants are very fragrant, have beautiful flowers, and usually grow very well indoors. Citrus fruits are a healthy and delicious snack and can also add a lot of flavor to various gourmet dishes. But if you live in an area where citrus fruits aren’t in season all year round, or if you want to have control over what fertilizers and chemicals are used on the fruit that you eat, you can grow your fruit indoors at home using citrus seeds. Make sure that the seeds you use to start your plants are from a high quality supplier so that they have a better chance of growing properly.
You don’t have to have a green thumb in order to successfully grow your own citrus at home. If you are diligent about protecting the seeds and later the plants from drafts, direct sunlight, and other things that can kill or hurt newly grown plants then you should be able to successfully grow your own citrus fruit all year round. The first thing that you will need to start growing your own citrus fruit is seeds. You can get seeds from a piece of fruit that you’ve eaten, or you can buy seeds from a nursery or home and garden center.
Once you have some high quality seeds you can start the seeds growing by planting them in a small pot using a mixture of potting soil and mulch. To help the growth process of the plants place a cover of clear plastic wrap over the plants when they are not being watered. This helps to protect the growing plant from the cold and will make the citrus seeds germinate faster. The plants should be kept in a room where the temperature is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It will take a few weeks for the plants to really start growing but after about three weeks you should start to see leaves growing. When the plants are well established it’s time to transplant.
Move the plants to bigger pots and use a good quality potting soil to make sure the plants get the nutrients they need. Place the plants in a location where they can get plenty of sunlight but make sure it’s not direct sunlight. Direct sunlight can be too harsh for young plants and can burn the newly developed leaves. As the plant grows you will need to keep repotting it into bigger containers but the plant should always be kept in an area with bright sunlight and a temperature of about 70 degrees in order to get the best fruit.
The quality of the potting soil and even the water that you use can make a difference in whether or not the citrus seeds that were planted grow properly and eventually bear fruit. Remember that because the plant is being grown indoors all the nutrients it needs have to come from the potting soil and choose a potting soil that is recommended for citrus plants. It’s best to use distilled water to water the plants so that the leaves aren’t harmed by any of the chemicals that are usually in tap water.