With juicy fruits and bright greenery, citrus trees like Meyer lemons and dwarf limes are on the wish lists of many plant lovers. If you want to grow one of these trees indoors, one of the most crucial care tips is to provide them with lots of bright light. In my experience, most indoor citrus trees need between six and twelve hours of bright, direct sunlight daily. Place your tree near a south-facing window or utilize a grow light if your home does not receive enough natural light. In this guide, I’ll cover how to provide these trees with the light they need as well as signs that your tree may be receiving too much or not enough light.
Why Sunlight is Crucial for Indoor Citrus Trees
It’s common knowledge that plants need light to survive, but have you ever thought about why plants need light?
In case you don’t already know, plants make their own food through a process known as photosynthesis. During photosynthesis, plants use energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and carbohydrates.
Without light, plants would not produce the carbohydrates they need to complete essential processes.
While light is essential to plant health, not all light is the same. When trying to figure out what light is best for your plants, you may run into these terms.
- Bright, direct light: Bright, direct sunlight travels straight from the source to a plant. This light casts shadows and is often found near south-facing or west-facing windows. Grow lights also produce bright, direct light.
- Bright, indirect light: This type of light is bright, but it doesn’t cast a shadow. It is often found near east-facing or north-facing windows or in the interior of a bright room.
- Filtered light: This light filters through a material like a forest canopy or sheer curtain. Filtered light is similar to bright, indirect light.
- Low light: This type of light is found in dim hallways and corners (some types of plants will thrive with minimal sunlight).
Along with providing the correct number of hours of light, you should also provide the right type of light.
Light Conditions in Citrus Trees’ Native Habitats
First off, not all citrus trees are the same. A lemon tree is a bit different from a lime tree, which is different from an orange tree. Additionally, some types of citrus are specifically bred for indoor growth, so they don’t have a native habitat.
With that said, most citrus is native to East Asia, South Asia, or Australia.
Some types of citrus grow in open groves, while others thrive in the understory of forests. Therefore, the light conditions in a citrus tree’s native habitat range from full, bright light to partial, filtered light. It’s important to note that none of these trees grow in full shade.
Signs Your Citrus Tree is Receiving Too Much Light
Since citrus trees are light lovers, it’s uncommon for them to receive too much light. However, it is possible, especially if you’re using a grow light.
If plants don’t have a dark period, their flowering cycle may be interrupted. Plants rely on changes in day length to know when to flower. Therefore, a lack of flowers could be a sign your plant is receiving too much light.
Too much light can also stress plants, leading to stunted growth or flimsy tissue.
Signs Your Citrus Tree Isn’t Receiving Enough Light
Since citrus trees require so much light, it’s common for indoor trees to suffer from problems caused by a lack of light.
Even if your plant looks healthy, you might notice it’s not developing flowers or fruit. This could be a sign that your plant isn’t receiving enough light.
A stunted plant may be another sign that your plant needs more light. Even if you provide the proper water, soil mix, fertilizer, and temperature, your tree will not grow if it doesn’t receive enough light.
Dropping leaves may also indicate your plant needs more light. This is especially true if the fallen leaves are green rather than yellow or brown. If the temperature and soil moisture are in the proper range, it’s likely your citrus tree needs more light.
Small leaves also indicate that your plant isn’t receiving adequate light. Leaves should be large and strong rather than small and floppy. Keep an eye out for common citrus tree pests, bugs, and diseases as well, and prune your trees in winter or early spring. Also, consider repotting your indoor citrus tree every 2 to 3 years.
The Best Lighting for Indoor Citrus Trees
While many houseplants prefer indirect light, citrus trees are different. Citrus trees like Meyer lemons, dwarf limes, and kumquats prefer plenty of bright, direct light.
However, the exact light requirements vary between the different types of citrus trees.
Meyer lemons need plenty of bright light; they’ll suffer if they don’t receive at least eight hours of sunlight each day.
Other popular indoor citrus trees, such as finger limes and kumquats, can handle a bit less light. However, they should receive at least six hours of direct light each day.
If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, the best place for your citrus tree is near a south-facing or southwest-facing window. Place your tree a foot or two away from the window, and make sure the sunlight isn’t obscured by thick curtains or blinds.
Here’s where I position indoor citrus trees at home.
If your home doesn’t have a location that receives at least six hours of bright light each day, you can provide supplemental light with a grow light. Look for a full-spectrum light with a color temperature of 6500K. Make sure the light provides at least 50W.
Place the grow light one to two feet above your tree, and keep the light on for six to twelve hours each day. Hooking your grow light up to a timer makes it easy to ensure your tree receives the right amount of light.
Light needs do change a bit with the seasons. During the winter, citrus trees can handle lower amounts of light. However, you should ensure they still receive at least six to eight hours of light.
Citrus Tree Light Requirements FAQs:
Can Citrus Trees live in low light?
While citrus trees will struggle in dark environments, they can live in areas that only receive five or six hours of light each day. However, these trees will produce few fruits or none at all.
Can Citrus Trees take full sun?
Yes. Many types of citrus trees thrive in full sun.
What kind of light do Citrus Trees need?
Most types of citrus trees prefer bright, direct light. However, they can handle some filtered light.
Will a Citrus Live live happily indoors?
As long as the indoor location is warm and bright, a citrus tree can thrive indoors.
How do you know if your Citrus Tree is getting enough light?
If your tree looks healthy and is producing flowers and fruit, it is receiving enough light. If it looks stunted or unhealthy, it may not be receiving enough light.
As long as you provide six to eight hours of daily bright light, your indoor citrus trees will thrive. If you notice your plants aren’t receiving enough light, move them to a sunnier location or utilize a grow light.
For more, see our guide to the best types of indoor citrus trees to grow at home.
Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.