Growing Citrus Trees in Pots

Updated February 21, 2017

Growing citrus trees in pots gives you the versatility of moving the plants around the landscape and bringing them indoors during inclement weather. While the harvest of fruits is not as abundant as for trees planted in native soil, the landscape interest can make up for the difference. Potted citrus plants are easier to prune and care for, as the entire plant may be a dwarf species. This allows for a plant of shorter stature and less leaf growth.

Set the 10- to 15-gallon pot on a roller stand. You can typically find these two items at most home and garden centres. The roller stand improves the portability of the container-grown citrus tree.

Place the 8-by-8-inch metal mesh screen over the lower drainage hole of the pot. Cover the screen with 1 to 2 inches of the pea gravel.

Use a commercial potting soil or mix your own with equal parts of sand, peat moss and bark mulch; mix the three ingredients on the plastic sheet.

Fill the pot one-third full of the soil mixture. Remove the citrus tree from its container.

Remove all broken and dead branches from the tree with the hand shears. If the roots are winding around the root ball of the tree, cut some of them back with the shears.

Insert the root ball into the pot. Align the top soil line of the tree so it rests 2 inches below the top rim of the pot. Fill in enough soil below the root ball to achieve this elevation.

Fill in around the outside of the root ball with the remaining soil mixture. Press the soil around the root ball with your hands. Fill the last 2 inches of empty space above the root ball with a bark mulch.

Add water to the pot until excess water begins to drain from the lower hole.

Roll the pot to a sunny location. Apply a balanced citrus fruit fertiliser to the soil of the pot. Follow package labelling for size and age of tree as to exact amounts of fertiliser to apply. Irrigate the fertiliser into the soil.

Keep the leaves pruned to a compact shape. Remove all leggy limbs if the branches grow above the overall height of the tree.

Check for moisture on a weekly basis. Insert your finger 2 inches into the soil. If it feels dry, water.

Fertilise the tree every six months. Flood-irrigate the tree every year to remove excess salts that the fertiliser will place into the soil. Move the tree and pot outdoors. Place a garden hose on top of the bark mulch. Flood-irrigate the tree's roots for a half hour. Allow the roots to drain in full sunlight.


It is better to under water a citrus plant in a container than over water. Mold and fungus may grow inside the soil medium from plants that are kept to well watered. When reintroducing an indoor citrus tree back outdoors, take two to three weeks of gradually increasing the amount of full sunlight. Quickly exposing an indoor grown tree to full sunlight will sunscald the leaves and damage the tree.

Things You'll Need

  • 10- to 15-gallon pot with lower drainage hole
  • Roller stand
  • 8-by-8-inch metal mesh screen
  • Pea gravel
  • Potting soil (optional)
  • Sand (optional)
  • Peat moss(optional)
  • Bark mulch
  • Plastic sheet (optional)
  • Hand shears
  • Water
  • Balanced citrus fruit fertiliser
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