How to Repot Indoor Citrus Trees at Home

My indoor citrus trees generally require repotting every 2-4 years, depending on their age, size of the current pot, and variety. Stunted growth and roots growing through drainage holes indicate it is time to repot sooner. I always repot citrus trees in spring as I would do for any other houseplant, watering immediately after to prevent shock and stress. This article will cover everything you need to know about when and how to repot indoor citrus trees, from why and when to a step-by-step guide on how to get it right.

When and How to Repot Indoor Citrus Trees (Essential Guide)

Why Repotting Your Indoor Citrus Tree Might be Necessary

All types of indoor citrus trees cannot live in the same pot for their entire lifespan.

Firstly, they will eventually outgrow the existing pot, with roots circling around the base and becoming tangled. In these conditions, the tree will not grow any further, and the stress can result in fewer fruits the longer the problem persists.

Secondly, soil quality in containers does not remain consistent. Over time, the soil loses nutrients, but it also begins to disintegrate, unable to hold onto water or additional nutrients added through fertilizing.

In these cases, it’s vital to repot your citrus tree to continue its growth, no matter the variety.

How Often Do Indoor Citrus Trees Need Repotting?

A potted indoor citrus tree with ripe orange fruits

How often you need to repot will depend on the type of citrus you’ve chosen and its age. There are many species you can consider growing indoors, but these are the most popular:

  • Calamondin
  • Lemon
  • Kumquat
  • Lime
  • Tangerine

Younger trees will benefit from more frequently repotting to accommodate for their quick growth. Every 1-2 years is usually suitable – preferably closer to 2 unless they show any signs of trouble before that.

Larger and more established trees only need repotting every four years or so. As repotting can be tricky for larger trees, you’ll want to hold off on doing so as long as you can. In between repotting, you can always refresh the top layer of soil to improve growth in the meantime.

Faster-growing species will understandably need repotting more often than slower-growing ones. It’s essential to keep a close eye on your plant and understand when it’s struggling to take action rather than waiting a specified amount of time, potentially leaving it too late.

No matter the plant, it’s always best to repot with caution and only do so when absolutely necessary. Repotting is a stressful time for plants, and they will take a while to recover, so make sure they are in good health before you get started.

Best Times of Year to Consider Repotting

Due to the stress that this process can place on citrus trees, it’s best to repot during the active growing season for the quickest possible recovery. Spring is preferred before fruit production really gets underway, but summer or early fall is also suitable.

Try to avoid repotting when the tree is blooming or fruiting. Not only can handling the plant cause blossom drop, but the sudden change in conditions can also cause the citrus tree to drop leaves in the coming weeks, limiting your potential harvest.

If your tree is really struggling with a lack of space and stunted growth, it’s always better to repot than wait for the ‘perfect time’ to complete the task. The quicker you resolve the space problem, the easier it will be for the tree to bounce back, even if that means sacrificing a few blooms that season.

The Best Soil Mix When Repotting

A person gathers a handful of soil from the pot a citrus tree

When growing citrus indoors, garden soil and even standard potting soil has the potential to cause problems with growth due to the presence of pests and diseases and the lack of drainage.

Like other houseplants, the citrus tree potting soil needs to be suited to indoor growth with additional drainage materials to prevent root rot. Citrus trees also prefer slightly acidic soil that is packed with nutrients to fuel growth and fruiting.

There are a few citrus tree potting mixes on the market that are ideal for any indoor citrus trees. However, you can also make your own by combining equal parts potting soil, perlite, and coconut coir (or peat moss). This mixture holds on to enough moisture to keep the roots happy while draining well enough to prevent root rot.

Before you start, take a look at the soil your citrus tree has grown happily in for several years. The best way to prevent shock and maintain strong growth is to replicate this mixture as best you can. Analyze the mix and reproduce the same texture and consistency in your soil to make sure there won’t be any soil-related growth issues in the future.

Essential Repotting Tools

Repotting citrus doesn’t require any specialized tools. All you need is a larger pot (around ¼ larger than the existing pot) or some pruning shears if you’re planning on keeping the tree the same size. Newspaper is also helpful if your tree is large to capture the excess soil and make clean-up far easier.

How to Repot Your Indoor Citrus Trees

A person repotting a mature indoor citrus tree into a black plant pot
  • Lay some newspaper on the ground to protect the floor and gather any soil that falls from the roots.
  • Squeeze the sides of the pot to loosen the soil and gently lift the tree out of the pot, placing it on its side.
  • Inspect the roots for any signs of damage or disease. Trim away any underperforming roots with sharp shears, cutting as little as possible to prevent shock.
  • If you want to keep your tree the same size and replant in the existing pot, trim all the roots back a few inches now. Don’t cut back too much, or you may risk killing the entire plant.
  • If you’re planting into a larger pot, loosen the roots at the base until they are untangled and free to expand.
  • Fill the bottom layer of your new pot with your chosen soil mix until the base of the plant matches up with the height of the pot.
  • Holding the tree secure, gently lower it into the pot, spreading the roots outwards to expand into the new soil. Fill around the gaps with more soil mix until it is filled to just below the rim.
  • Water immediately after repotting and move the tree back to its original spot to recover.

Post Repotting Care

A vibrant indoor citrus tree with deep green leaves and ripe fruits

Your tree may show some signs of struggle soon after repotting. Wilting leaves and lack of new growth are common while it recovers from shock. Keep the soil moist during this period and don’t fertilize or drastically change your care routine until growth improves. 

Remember to locate indoor citrus trees where they’ll receive plenty of sunlight and ambient temperatures.

How to Repot Indoor Citrus Trees FAQs:

Should I soak my Indoor Citrus Tree before repotting?

While your tree should be well-hydrated to remain healthy, soaking the soil right before repotting is not necessary. Drier soil is easier to remove from the root ball than wet soil. Unless you have forgotten to water recently, the roots should not be too brittle before repotting.

Should you water an Indoor Citrus Tree immediately after repotting?

Watering right after repotting is essential. This rehydrates the roots after being exposed to the air, even if it was for a short period. It allows the plant to settle into the new soil and encourages root growth toward the edges of the pot, speeding up recovery time. Watering also removes any large air pockets in the soil and anchors the plant while the roots are still loose and vulnerable.

Do Indoor Citrus Trees like big pots?

The size of your chosen pot will change depending on your chosen citrus species. Dwarf plants can live in relatively small pots, while larger trees require large pots to avoid stunting growth. When repotting, a pot around 25% larger should be suitable for the next few years.

Why is my Indoor Citrus Tree limp after repotting?

Repotting is a stressful experience for plants, and this can cause the leaves to go limp while the plant recovers. As long as you are keeping up with watering, there is no need to change any part of your care. Simply leave the plant to recover from the stress, and it should return to normal.

Should I mist my Indoor Citrus Tree after repotting?

Avoid misting your citrus tree after repotting. While they enjoy high humidity, they are very vulnerable after repotting and are more susceptible to common indoor citrus tree pest and disease problems. Misting at this time will leave water on the leaves which encourages pests and diseases. Rather place them in a high humidity room that already has enough moisture in the air to keep them happy.

Should I fertilize my Indoor Citrus Tree after repotting?

A soil refresh should provide enough additional nutrients to keep the plant satisfied while it recovers. Avoid fertilizing until growth returns to normal, as fertilizing while the plant is trying to expand into the new pot can quickly result in burnt roots and leaves.

For more, see our in-depth guide to fertilizing indoor citrus trees

Wrap Up

Repotting indoor citrus trees is not one of the most exciting care tasks, but it is a necessity if you want to keep your plants alive and happy in the long term. With the right tools and some additional care, your citrus will be back to normal in no time.

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