The Best Types of Fruit and Citrus Trees to Grow at Home or in the Office
While lemons, limes, and oranges may seem like tropical fruits, you can easily grow many types of citrus trees indoors. As long as you provide lots of sunlight and the proper care, you’ll be rewarded with evergreen foliage and a harvest of delicious fruit. In this guide, we’re going to cover twelve types of fruit and citrus you can grow indoors as houseplants as well as care tips to help your trees thrive.
- About Citrus Trees
- Indoor Citrus Trees – Uses & Benefits
- 12 Popular Types of Citrus Trees to Grow at Home
- 1. Kumquat (Citrus japonica)
- 2. Meyer Lemon
- 3. Ponderosa Lemon (Citrus limon x medica)
- 4. Kaffir Lime (Citrus hystrix)
- 5. Australian Finger Lime (Microcitrus australasica)
- 6. Yuzu (Citrus junos)
- 7. Tahitian Orange (Citrus limonia ‘Otaheite’)
- 8. Calamondin Orange (Citrus mitis)
- 9. Mandarin Orange (Citrus reticulata)
- 10. Tangelo (Citrus x tangelo)
- 11. Dwarf Clementine (Citrus x clementina)
- 12. Satsuma Mandarin (Citrus unshiu)
- How to Grow Citrus Trees Indoors
- How to Care for Citrus Trees
- Common Problems, Pests, and Diseases
- Essential Tools
- Growing Indoor Citrus Trees FAQs:
- Wrapping Up
About Citrus Trees
Citrus trees are a genus of evergreen plants native to South Asia, East Asia, and Australia. While many citrus trees are now cultivated for their edible fruit, they differ greatly from original citrus.
Due to breeding efforts, many types of citrus are now relatively easy to grow in the proper environment. Grafting varieties with great-tasting fruits onto specialized rootstocks has further improved disease resistance.
Breeding efforts have also produced dwarf trees that are suitable for container growing. While these varieties are improved, you will still need to provide lots of light and continuous care, to provide your citrus trees with the best position to thrive.
Indoor Citrus Trees – Uses & Benefits
Citrus trees are primarily grown for their edible fruits, ranging from sour to sweet. Some fruits can be consumed raw, while others work well for cooking.
Citrus trees can also be used as ornamental plants due to their attractive evergreen foliage. As a bonus, citrus flowers smell lovely and floral.
12 Popular Types of Citrus Trees to Grow at Home
Here you’ll find 12 of our absolute favorite citrus trees to grow indoors at home or in the office.
1. Kumquat (Citrus japonica)
If you’re looking for a citrus plant that can handle cold temperatures, the kumquat is for you. Native to China, kumquat trees produce small fruit that you can eat whole.
While they’re now known as part of the Citrus genus, kumquats were once considered their own genus (Fortunella). Therefore, you might see both these scientific names while searching for kumquats.
These citrus trees are relatively easy to care for as long as you provide at least six hours of bright, direct light. They are well suited to containers, and some varieties can survive temperatures as low as 20ºF.
Kumquat trees produce small fruits with thin, sweet skin and sour flesh. You can expect trees to bear fruit each winter with the proper care.
2. Meyer Lemon
These popular fruits are actually not lemons but rather hybrids of lemons and oranges. While they have bright yellow lemon-like skin, their flesh is sweeter than the standard lemon.
Meyer lemons are some of the most accessible types of citrus to grow indoors. As long as you provide bright light, fertilizer, and water, your plant will thrive.
Traditionally, Meyer Lemon trees produce yellow fruit each winter. However, improved varieties can bloom and set fruit year-round.
3. Ponderosa Lemon (Citrus limon x medica)
With yellow fruits that can weigh up to five pounds, these trees make a statement. The Ponderosa lemon is a hybrid between a lemon and a citron, with extremely tart fruits.
The Ponderosa lemon is moderately challenging to grow indoors. It needs at least six hours of bright light, regular fertilizer, and moist but well-drained soil.
Plants begin to flower in the winter and then develop fruits. Fruits can ripen throughout the year, but the biggest harvest occurs during the winter.
4. Kaffir Lime (Citrus hystrix)
While these citrus trees produce a crop of small, wrinkly fruit, many people grow these plants for their leaves. The leaves have a spicy aroma that cooks often use to flavor curries and soups.
Since the word kaffir is sometimes used as an ethnic slur, people have begun referring to this plant by other names. Look for it labeled as makrut lime or Thai lime.
The plant is relatively easy to care for, especially if you’re not after the fruit. Provide lots of bright light, fertilize regularly, and watch it grow.
If plants are healthy, they’ll produce fruit each winter or early spring.
5. Australian Finger Lime (Microcitrus australasica)
Native to Australia, these citrus fruits have only recently taken the world by storm. The oblong fruits contain small, juicy spheres, earning this plant the nickname citrus caviar. The flesh has an intense lime-like flavor.
The plants are moderately challenging to care for, but they can thrive as indoor, potted plants. One of the most important parts of caring for these plants is providing enough bright light.
Finger lime fruit ripens in the late fall and winter. Once your tree is mature, you can expect to harvest fruit each year.
6. Yuzu (Citrus junos)
While yuzu trees are native to China, they’re a beloved fruit in Japan. The round fruits can be eaten raw and taste like grapefruit and orange combined. However, the flavor shines when cooked or used in beverages.
Yuzu is moderately challenging to grow indoors. They like to be kept in a cool, bright place during the winter. These plants don’t handle dry heat well, so they might suffer if you keep your house very warm.
Fruits start to ripen in the late fall and continue to ripen throughout the winter.
7. Tahitian Orange (Citrus limonia ‘Otaheite’)
Also known as the Otaheite orange, this fruit isn’t an orange at all. Despite its orange skin and sweet flavor, it’s technically a sweet lime. It originated on the island of Tahiti from lime trees that were introduced from India.
These trees are moderately difficult to grow indoors. Like most citrus, they require plenty of bright light and regular fertilizer.
Tahitian oranges will produce fruit each year. Expect the fruit to ripen throughout the winter.
8. Calamondin Orange (Citrus mitis)
While you may think oranges are all sweet, the Calamondin orange proves otherwise. These citrus plants produce sour fruits that are best used in cocktails or baked goods rather than eaten by the slice. They’re also known as calamansi and are cultivated extensively in the Philippines.
The plants are moderately easy to care for. They can survive temperatures down to 20ºF but grow best in temperatures between 65-85ºF. During the winter, place them in a bright area that experiences a decrease in temperature each night.
Calamondin oranges produce flowers and small, orange fruit throughout the year. That means you can expect an almost continuous supply of this acidic citrus.
9. Mandarin Orange (Citrus reticulata)
Mandarin oranges have supremely sweet orange flesh in a slightly squat package. Their thin, dimpled skin is easy to peel, making them one of the best citruses for fresh eating. There are many different types of Mandarin oranges, so make sure you look for a dwarf variety if you wish to grow these trees indoors.
These citrus trees are moderately difficult to grow indoors. They can be kept well in pots, but they require lots of bright light and regular fertilization.
Fruit ripens between late fall and early winter.
10. Tangelo (Citrus x tangelo)
A tangelo is a hybrid citrus that forms when a Mandarin orange or tangerine is crossed with a grapefruit or pomelo. The fruit’s flavor depends on the variety, but most tangelos have easy to peel skin and a small bump on one end.
Tangelos are moderately difficult to grow indoors, as long as you choose a dwarf variety. Provide them with plenty of sun and well-draining soil, and make sure to fertilize regularly.
Once these trees reach maturity, they’ll produce a flush of fruit each year. Expect the fruit to ripen between late fall and mid-winter.
11. Dwarf Clementine (Citrus x clementina)
Clementines are a hybrid of a specific type of Mandarin orange and a sweet orange, so they’re often considered a type of Mandarin. They have small, sweet fruits that are great for snacking.
Clementines are pretty easy to grow indoors as long as you provide the proper environment and care. However, they’re not great plants for beginners.
If these plants receive the correct amount of water, light, and fertilizer, they will produce fruit each year. The fruits ripen in the winter.
12. Satsuma Mandarin (Citrus unshiu)
This specific type of Mandarin orange originated in Japan. It’s known for its very easy to peel skin and supremely sweet taste. It’s a bit more fragile than other types of Mandarins, so you’re less likely to find it in stores. That’s even more of a reason to grow it yourself!
The plants are moderately easy to grow indoors in pots. While you can move them outdoors during warm weather, you should move them indoors once the threat of frost appears. For plants to produce fruit, you must provide at least six hours of bright light throughout the year.
Satsuma Mandarins produce fruit each year. The fruits ripen over a period of time between late fall and winter.
How to Grow Citrus Trees Indoors
What to Do Before Planting
While dwarf citrus trees won’t get as big as non-dwarf trees, they can still grow over six feet tall indoors. With that in mind, make sure you have space to contain them.
Since these plants like bright light, you also want to make sure you have room for them next to a sunny south or east-facing window. Before you bring a citrus tree home, clear out space for it.
Even if these trees grow big, you won’t need a huge pot. Most citrus trees like to be a bit rootbound, so you’ll only need a pot that is three to ten gallons.
How to Choose the Best Soil Mix
Citrus trees need well-draining soil with a slightly acidic pH. The soil should be able to hold water and nutrients without becoming overly saturated.
Most peat-based potting mixes are fine as long as they provide proper drainage. If you find your soil isn’t draining well, mix in some additional perlite or pine bark fines.
How to Plant
Planting a citrus tree is straightforward. Simply place a bit of potting soil in the container and then add the root ball. You want the crown of the tree to be right above the soil surface.
Fill in the empty space with additional potting soil, then water well.
One of the most challenging aspects of caring for indoor citrus trees is providing enough light. All types of citrus trees require six to then hours of bright, direct light. If you place these plants in a dark corner or room with indirect light, they’ll begin to decline.
A south-facing or west-facing window will typically provide an adequate amount of light, as long as outdoor objects or curtains don’t obstruct your window. A sunroom is also an excellent place for an indoor citrus tree.
If your home isn’t bright enough, you can use grow lights to provide additional brightness. Keep the lights on for about ten hours each day.
Temperature and Humidity Preferences
In general, citrus trees are native to tropical or subtropical regions. Therefore, they prefer warm temperatures and moderate to high humidity.
Most types of citrus trees grow best when temperatures are between 60-85ºF. With that said, these trees will benefit from temperatures that dip a bit during the winter.
While most citrus can survive temperatures near freezing, they won’t thrive in these environments.
As far as humidity goes, citrus trees prefer moderate to high humidity. If the air in your home is very dry, mist your plant with a spray bottle or utilize a humidifier.
How to Care for Citrus Trees
Citrus trees like to go through a bit of a wet and dry cycle rather than deal with constant moisture. Therefore, it’s better to water well once each week rather than a little bit each day.
A good guiding rule is to water your citrus plant when the top three to four inches of soil is dry.
As with all plants, you’ll need to water more often when it’s hot, sunny, and dry.
Feeding and Fertilizing
Citrus trees require regular fertilization to stay healthy and produce fruit. A fertilizer designed explicitly for citrus plants is the best product to use.
Fertilize your plant once in the late winter, once in the late spring, and again in the early fall.
While citrus trees don’t require pruning, removing crowded branches will help the plant thrive. The late winter/early spring is the best time to prune indoor citrus trees.
While you can propagate citrus trees at home, they’re not the easiest plants to propagate. Since many citrus trees contain one variety of plant grafted onto a rootstock of another variety, stem cuttings will produce plants with different roots than the parents.
Professionals typically propagate citrus trees via a process known as budding. This process can be completed at home, but it has a bit of a learning curve.
Since citrus trees like to be a bit rootbound, you don’t need to repot them very often. If you see the roots growing out of the bottom of the planter, it’s time to repot your citrus tree.
Common Problems, Pests, and Diseases
While outdoor citrus trees are susceptible to quite a few pests and diseases, indoor trees are a bit more protected. With that said, you should still lookout for the following problems.
Sap-sucking pests like aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites. As these pests feed on your plant they weaken it and possibly spread disease.
If you see only a few of these pests, you can wipe them off with a soapy rag. If you spot a larger infestation, you can spray the pests with insecticidal soap or neem oil.
For more, see our in-depth guide to common citrus tree pests, bugs, and diseases.
Yellow leaves can be a sign of numerous environmental issues. Both overwatering and underwatering can cause leaves to turn yellow. Check to see that you are using well-draining soil and watering when the top three to four inches of soil is dry.
Improper fertilization and a lack of light can also cause yellow leaves.
Citrus trees’ dropping leaves is often caused by sudden changes in environmental conditions. For example, it’s not uncommon for your plant to drop its leaves when you bring them inside for the winter.
Falling leaves can also be caused by a lack of light or cold temperatures.
A pair of pruning shears is helpful to remove dead branches and thorns, and a sturdy pot will hold your tree as it grows.
Growing Indoor Citrus Trees FAQs:
Can I grow citrus trees in pots?
Yes, you can grow most citrus trees in pots. Many types of citrus like to be a bit rootbound, so you won’t have to repot them very often.
Are coffee grounds good for citrus trees?
While coffee grounds can be used to make the soil more acidic and provide nutrients, they can also harm your citrus tree. Therefore, it’s best to avoid applying coffee grounds on your trees.
How often do indoor citrus trees produce fruit?
Most citrus trees produce one cycle of fruit each year. Trees begin forming fruit in the late winter or spring, but the fruit doesn’t ripen until the late fall or winter. With that said, trees won’t produce fruit until they’re mature.
How fast do citrus trees grow indoors?
Citrus trees are relatively slow-growing indoors. However, small trees can still produce a substantial amount of fruit.
Should you fertilize indoor citrus trees regularly?
Yes, indoor citrus trees require regular fertilization to stay healthy and produce fruit. Fertilize with a citrus fertilizer in the late winter, late spring, and early fall.
With so many types of citrus trees to grow indoors, pick an orange or yuzu and get growing! Since many of these trees have similar care requirements, once you master caring for one tree, it’s easy to add another.
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.