Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Supper for Citrus

When I am out doing lectures on Citrus, one of the most asked questions is "What do you feed your Citrus"?
This gives me some hope because at least I know they are going to feed them. Some of the stories I have heard about people NOT feeding their trees. Wow! There was a woman that came to me one time when I was doing a Home and Garden show. She was all worried about her Meyer Lemon that was completely yellow. Here was her story. I have a Meyer Lemon that I have had for three years now. It is in a container. It had fruit on it the first year that I had it, nothing ever since. I asked her the normal preliminary questions, watering, sunlight, feeding schedule. Feeding? she asked. I am supposed to feed it?! Like I asked her, How would you feel after not eating for 3 years?
Citrus are heavy Nitrogen feeders. Everything you have ever heard about too much Nitrogen causing more growth, than flowers.....out the window when it comes to Citrus.
ESPECIALLY when grown in containers. Nitrogen leaches out the fastest of all the nutrients.
So, with that being said...my feeding regiment? I will warn you now, Mine is WAY out there and most definitely not in the mainstream.
I use Citrus-Tone made by Espoma, which you can find on AMAZON Espoma CT4 4-Pound Citrus-tone 5-2-6 Plant Food. The directions on the package read, For potted plants, use one teaspoon per 4" of pot diameter.
Double for pots over 12".
Feed every 60 days late winter to fall.
I will be the first to admit, I use a wee bit more than that. I probably use about half as much again as the recommended usage, about every 6-8 weeks.

I discovered this stuff about 3 years ago and swear by it now.
Let's say you can't find Citrus-Tone where you live.
The very next best thing is Holly-Tone, also put out by Espoma. If you can't find that, Miracle-Gro for Acid Loving Plants. Formally called Miracid for you long-time gardeners. Again, I use it every 4 weeks on my container grown Citrus Trees.
For those of you that do get to grow them in the ground. You can also use all of the above products about every 6-8 weeks or so. It depends a lot on your soil type. Sandy soil will need more fertilizing than clay. The leaching effect in action again.
Now, I told you my feeding schedule is not mainstream. You read the above and said to yourself, "That's not too far out there"........ I ain't done yet.
On top of the Citrus-Tone, Holly-Tone and/or Miracid every 6-8 weeks, I usually have some slow release on there. I am not sure it helps a lot, but I figure it doesn't hurt. I usually put the slow release on in Springtime, right after they come out of the greenhouse. Still not far enough out there for you?
I give them a nice shower of Fish Emulsion about once a month. Stinky, but effective.
This whole thing must work. I had the USDA from Florida and the Department of Plant Industries out to inspect my plants this past year after Citrus Greening was discovered in Charleston County. The gentleman from the USDA said that he sees LOTS of Citrus trees on a daily basis, but mine looked exceptionally good for being so far North and in containers. I took this as about as good an honor as I can get.
Here is a picture of one of my trees, you be the judge.

Moral: Feed the Citrus trees and they will feed you!
Happy Growing!


  1. Darren,

    I'm a little slow is that CT and Miracid on alternating weeks or at the same time. I have use your application and it has tremendously improved my citrus and other trees showing yellow leaves. My adaptation is 80% Miracid dose and 50% Fish Fretilizer dose at the same time every 2 weeks. Compost Tea leaf spray on the opposing weeks. I'm looking to kicking it up just another notch. I think I'll try some slow grow or CT on the Tea weeks.

  2. Hello Craig, I am glad my feeding schedule has helped your trees.
    I might have been a little unclear.....The Ct OR the Miracid every two weeks. That is if you can't find the Citrus Tone...THEN use the Miracid instead.
    I use the Fish Emulsion on the alternating two weeks.
    I have recently discovered a new product that I am incorporating into the feeding schedule...it is called Key-Plex. It is used a lot down in Florida on their Citrus trees. It is also a key player in the Greening Disease heavy feeding regiment that is being tested. If you can find it, try using it every 4 weeks or so. It is suppose to be full of the micro nutrients.
    Again, glad you found me and that I have been of some assistance.

    1. Hi Darren, So you are then fertilizing every week? Citrus Tone, every 2 weeks, and on the alternate weeks you use Fish Emulsion? Phil.

    2. Hello Phillip,
      Actually, I really need to do an update on this one.
      I have gone to every 4-6 weeks for the Citrus Tone and only once in between that with fish emulsion, sometimes even skipping the fish.
      A couple of reasons:
      1) it was getting expensive
      2) it was pushing the plants, which is what I wanted, but it was producing so much new growth, it was a huge neon sign to pests. They attacked in droves.

    3. Hi Darren, I'm from Michigan and live in an apartment so the citrus that I am growing, is just for fun and a hobby. I belong to the growing citrus web-site on facebook where I get a lot of help from others. I am using a product called Foliage Pro from Dyna-go which seems to be a good liquid fertilizer. I would like to know if you are familiar with this as well. I want my plants to perform to the utmost considering that I live in a cool climate state. My soil is home made which they call 511 soil. 70% aged pine bark, 15% perlite, 15% organic soil, dolemite lime, and osmocote for a kick starter. This recipe is for a 5 gallon pot. Although it seems to work, I want to eliminate the soil for coco coir the next time I repot because it is said that it reduces the amount of knats. I am not a professional at this but want to learn so much more and I am hoping that I am getting the right information from others on the website. Your comments would be very appreciated. Thank You, Phillip LaColla from Michigan

    4. Hello Phillip,
      I am familiar with the Dyno-Gro products. They are good, but I prefer the Citrus Tone. Being from Michigan, you will probably not find it in the stores up there. You will have to go online to get it.
      I know a few guys that use the coco coir, they seem to like it, I have never tried it myself. That soil recipe sounds good to me, very similar to what I usually use. I am surprised you have a gnat problem. you don't have peat in the mix. The organic soil is certainly the problem. You can even use the same recipe, except drop the soil and use some sand.
      Let me give you two websites:
      The first one is an online Citrus forum with folks from all over the world, I learned a bunch of what I know from folks on here. http://citrus.forumup.org/
      The other is my website for the book I wrote on growing citrus in containers. http://thecitrusguy.wix.com/hortbooks
      I hope either of these site are useful. Please feel free to ask if any other questions come up!
      Happy Growing!

    5. Thank you so much for answering my question. As for Espoma citrus tone, we have it in many of our stores here in Michigan. Actually, I started off with the Espoma and then went to the Dyna gro. I'm going to give it a try again and alternate with liquid fish emulsion. Thanks. Phil from Michigan.

    6. Hi Darren, Can you clarify something please, Do you spray them with Fish emulsion every 2 weeks or do you water the soil with the fish emulsion. Thank's Phil from Michigan.

    7. Hey Phil,
      No problem, you are welcome.
      As for the Fish Emulsion, you can do either. I usually just spray the leaves.

  3. Thanks Darren, Before I tried your method my potted citrus were always sick. My landscpe guy was always trying to adjust the water..too much..too little. While this guy is the pro and I am truly a novice, I always surprise him with my internet research. Now he asks me how I do things.

    Anyway, I have a drip system, so I have not found a good way to apply dry fertilizer. Any suggestions or any good liquid natural fertilizers?

  4. Obviously I use Fish Fertilizer...any others?

  5. Yes. You can use a water soluable for acid loving plants. Used to be called Miracid or any of the others like that. There is also a product that you can probably get fairly easily in California.....it is called Keyplex. I have just started using it myself and the preliminary observations are good. I also use this on my Camellias. Superthrive is something else you can use, I have heard good things about it. All of these are liquids. Glad to hear you are showing the way to a landscaper, some of them need to learn more than what is taught in the books! LOL

  6. Hi Darren,
    I'm in CT and the weather change has brought me to bring in my Meyer Lemon tree. It's about 5' tall and it has one blossom on it and I've done the manual pollination. I, too, use Espoma Citrus Tone but my question is this. Do I still continue to fertilize in the fall and winter? Some packagings state that you only fertilize in spring and summer. However, I'm curious if I fertilize in the fall, I would have more blossoms.

    Thank You,

    1. Hello Cee,
      Being that you bring your Meyer Lemon in for the Winter, it is fine to continue fertilizing. The packaging is more aimed towards people that are growing them in the ground or will not be protecting their tree for the Winter. I feed mine all Winter, about every 6 weeks or so.
      You probably won't get more blossoms per se this Winter. However, once Spring comes and you get it back outside, the extra food will encourage a better flush and flower.

  7. Hi Darren,
    Thank you so much for responding so quickly to my post! As I mentioned, I use the Espoma Citrus Tone and according to the instructions on the packaging, have a tough time deciding how much and when to fertilize. Mine is planted in a large container...about 12"-15" in diameter..I hope I measured that correctly. :) Anyway...I added about 6tsps of Citrus Tone around the pot and watered in. Do you think that is enough or I add more?


    1. Hey Cee,
      I am kind of guessing when I get actual measurements, I am used to nursery trade sizes....I think your pot is about a 7 gallon.
      When I sprinkle the Espoma on, I use one of the measuring spoons from a miracle gro package. For a pot that size, I would sprinkle about 2 of those around and water in. Your tsps might be about right, the nice thing is, unless you use the WHOLE package at once, you can't really go wrong. As long as the tree stays looking green and healthy, your amount is fine....if it starts to look pale or sickly, bump it up a little.

  8. Hi Darren,
    Thanks again for your suggestions and comments. I've been watching it and it is looking a little pale...still green but a lighter green. I'm also noticing that some of the leaves seem to be "sticky"...not sure what's happening there. I do spray the leaves every other day since it's inside but that was just with water. Do you know what's happening?


  9. Hey Cee,
    Being that it is a little pale, I would definitely bump the feeding up a little.
    As for the "sticky leaves", that is interesting.
    Send me an e-mail, it will be easier for me to respond, TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com
    If you can describe the stickiness a little more. Is it the top of the leaves, the bottom?
    Is there any kind of color? A noticeable film?
    Any info you might have about it, no matter how insignificant it may seem to you, please let me know.

  10. Darren,

    So I'm clear sir. I have two sick in ground citrus trees, one meyer the other a variant of orange. What do you prescribe? Thanks so much!

    1. Jeff,
      I have a bunch of questions that need to be asked in order for me to answer you.
      Can you send me an e-mail directly so I can ask them?

  11. We keep all our potted Asian plants (Kafir Lime, Lemon Grass, Curry Leaf Tree, Neem Tree, etc.) in a greenhouse (~55-57 degrees) during the winter.
    This is excellent information.
    We have several potted Kafir Lime trees that badly need some help, so I want to start out feeding them properly.
    Would this information also apply to "lemon grass"? I realize that is not a citrus, but they also look like they need a little help.

  12. John, I am not up on the feeding of Lemon Grass, so this might be somewhat of a guess. Like most grasses, I would assume, they like Nitrogen. So ANY fertilizer with high Nitrogen would be good. Just read the package and start from there.

  13. Good to discover your citrus blog, Darren. I have three Meyer Lemon trees in 4 gallon containers. I live in NYC, and I keep them out on a sunny porch but bring them in when the temp goes below 40. I have had them for three years. Right now, all three are in full bloom--a real sight to see and smell, and it seems a lot of the fruit is beginning to set. Last year I did not have even one blossom. I have been feeding every two weeks with MirAcid, and adding three tablespoons (53 CC) of Jobe Citrus every 5-6 weeks into the soil. Last March, before I began this regamine, the trees had lost all their leaves and were very sickly. Now they are beautifully healthy. But here is the problem. One of the Meyer lemons is starting to show yellow leafing, despite all the blossoms. The other two are a healthy lush green. Concerned that the cause might be iron deficiency, I have gone to nurseries searching for chealate iron, to no avail at this time of year. Since the diet/feeding has been the same for all three, could it be that only one plant suffers from the iron difficency? I was told at the nursery that the MirAcid already has enough of the chealate iron for the plants. I have about a dozen other Meyer lemon plants in smaller containers that I have raised from seed, all but two of which are a lush green and thriving. The other two are about 18 inches tall with leaves more yellow than green. No mites, no scales, no aphids, and otherwise healthy but no new growth. What do you recommend to cure this yellow leafing, and are my Meyer lemons out of sync by blooming so heavily and beautifully in late November/December? Thank you. Johnny Del

  14. I also have been adding 1 tablespoon of Epsom salts per gallon of water every 10 days or so. Should I continue this in the winter? Johnny Del.

  15. Hey Johnny,
    That you are growing Meyer Lemons in NY is a great task itself.
    I am going to assume that all three are in the same kind of soil and of course they each get the exact same amount of attention? Silly to ask/assume, but you would be surprised at some of the things I hear and see.
    The one that is yellowing, has it grown at the same rate as the other two?
    Have you pulled it out of the pot to see if it might be rootbound?
    Occasionally I have seen one plant grow much faster than others of the same genus/species.
    It is possible that this one is more rootbound and is not getting as much water/feeding as the others.
    I am sure it is impossible to find chealated iron right now up there. You might want to see if you can find some online and try that.
    If there are no signs of insects, there is also the slight possibility of flower/fruit induced nitrogen deficiency. I have seen this happen before too.
    Lastly, and this may sound like a cop out, but I promise, it's not. It might just be a weak plant that does not want to survive. I have had plants that for NO APPARENT reason, just up and die. Right next to ones that were getting everything the same and they just croaked.
    As for out of sync, they are, but, being that you will keep them inside it is okay. What has happened is...you left them outside and it got cool...40 is okay, they can handle a little more than that. Then you brought them into your warm house...cool=Winter/Spring...Warm=Spring/Summer. They will be fine. As long as you pollinate the flowers, you should get fruit. Hope that helps!? Let me know if you have any other questions.
    Happy Growing!

  16. Hi Darren,
    I just bought a Meyer lemon tree last year, and it's just starting to bloom now. I live in Goose Creek and just called Abide-A-While to see if they had Citrus Tone, and they do, but where can I find the KeyPlex you mention? Is it only available online or in retail stores in Florida? Also, they have so many products; do I buy their Keyplex Citrus product? What fish emulsion do you recommend? I'm a novice at taking care of this lemon tree, so I really appreciate your help!

    1. Hey Edie, Yes they have it. I talk to Steve out there all the time.
      As for the Keyplex, Possums has that. The closest one to you is on Cross County Road. They also carry the Citrus Tone. Any fish emulsion is fine, you can get that at Possums or at Lowe's.
      If you want to order the Keyplex online, get their Citrus one. I just use the one I can get at Possums. If you have any other question, drop me an e-mail... TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com

  17. My avocado tree is 3 to 3.5 feet tall and I was reading directions except that I didn't read the potted plants direction and I added CT like it first stated is that to much since it's potted? ????

    1. No, you should be fine. The Citrus Tone is not like the synthetic fertilizers, it will not burn the roots.

  18. Who can tell me what exactly I need for proper lighting for my potted indoor 5 foot meyer lemon tree? Te merchants around here in Iowa seem to be clueless and it is time to bring the tree in. HELP? PLEASE! IM.TUSCANYBOUND@HOTMAIL.COM OR 319-895-7088 Rich

    1. Hey Richard,
      The best place that I have found lighting is:
      Any of these will work, you just need to go with what you can afford.

  19. Hi there. I'm new to the citrus growing community. I just received my first plant which is a three year old feminello lemon tree. I live in Canada where it get's to sub freezing temps in the winter but the tree seems to be happy indoors in a sunny location. The only thing that I'm concerned about is the soil's PH which seems to be just under 7. What product would you recommend to lower the PH and what should the PH be at?

  20. Hello Frank,
    How far below 7 is it? If you are in the 6.5-6.8 range, you are fine.
    Using a fertilizer for acidic plants will also help a little.
    What kind of potting mix are you using? I would imagine you have access to peat moss, that is slightly acidic.

  21. This is Lisa, I just purchased a Meyer Lemon tree. I was reading all the posts you wrote, and I am wondering, How do you pollinate the flowers? I live in Central Florida so hopefully will just have to bring in for a short while indoors on cold nights. I am growing it in a pot obviously. Thank you!

    1. Hello Lisa,
      Actually, a couple of questions for you.
      If you are in central Florida, why are you growing it in a pot? Florida is prime citrus country.
      You should also have plenty of citrus trees around you, which would mean you have bees around.
      If not, for whatever reason, use a small paint brush and just go from flower to flower. Like a bee. That will transfer the pollen around.
      Unless the temperature is forecast to be below freezing, you should not need to bring it inside.
      Hope that helps?!

    2. Love the info you share!

    3. Love the info you share!

  22. Citrus Leaf Yellowing and Scale
    Key Lime in container (First Year It Has Fruited)
    Meyer Lemon in container (First Year It Has Fruited)
    Both are outside now, but in shade in Oklahoma, zone 7
    Both are fertilized every 10 weeks with Citrus Gain 8-3-9 with Magnesium, Manganese, Iron, Zinc, Copper, and Sulfur (slow release). I have occasionally top dressed with worm castings also. Both are watered with distilled water not on a schedule but only when the soil feels dry. I always flush after fertilization.
    The Key Lime started getting sticky leaves and I realized it had a fairly bad scale infestation in early spring, the Meyer Lemon had a few on it. I hand picked as many as I could and put both on a every 7 day spraying of neem oil. The Lime foliage is almost back to normal but the bark still looks slightly damaged. The Lemon tree is fine, but the leaves are sparse and slightly yellowing.
    Both fruited for the first time this year. The Lime wasn't able to hold its fruit, but I allowed the Lemon's fruit to get marble size then I pulled it since the foliage is yellowing and hasn't had much flush of new growth like the Lime. Even though the Lime took the brunt of the scale damage. After I pulled the fruit from the Lemon it started flowering again. I don't want either to fruit while they are still showing signs of sickness, am I babying them too much?
    I bought fish emulsion thinking I would spray the leaves, can I do this even though they are being sprayed with neem? When you spray the emulsion do you use it full strength or do you dilute with water? I also bought Jobe's Blood Meal thinking the leaf yellowing was a nitrogen issue, I'm very afraid of doing too much then not knowing what is helping or hurting!

    Darren, I know this is a lot of info, but I want to be thorough. Any help is very much appreciated! Thanks, Gina in OKC

    1. Hey Gina,
      WOW! Usually it is like pulling teeth to get information, never too much!
      You may need to clarify a few things that I see that could be WAY wrong.
      Why are they in the shade? Citrus need at minimum 7 hours of sun, if not more.
      I am not familiar with Citrus Gain, the numbers seem okay.
      The distilled water is not bad, but not great either. Distilled water, for all intents and purposes is dead water. There is nothing in it. City water is fine, rain water is even better. It actually has some stuff in it.
      This is a BIGGIE for clarification....what do you mean by "I always flush after fertilization"
      If you are doing what I think you are doing, stop! Nitrogen, the first number, moves through the soil very easily. Every time you water, you actually wash a little N away. Citrus are heavy nitrogen feeder.
      When you flush or water, the nitrogen goes bye bye, hence yellow leaves.
      You can leave the fruit on, the tree knows what it can and can't handle. It will abort what it can't sustain.
      Using that much Neem, I really can't imagine being good for the plant. I would back off on it.
      Yes, you dilute the fish emulsion, check the label for the concentration. The yellowing is a nitrogen issue. Go ahead and use the fish as both a foliar spray and as a mix in your watering. You can use a little of the blood meal and also go ahead and feed them every 6-8 weeks.
      Try that for three or four months and see what happens. I think you will be shocked at the growth.

  23. Darren thanks for the help, I pulled the plants back to the shade bc the scale severely damaged the bark of the key lime and it had lost almost all of its leaves, I was worried that too much sun on the bark would burn it since citrus is a closed canopy tree? What do you use for scale? Every time I pull back from a 7 day to a 14 day treatment with the neem, the scale returns on the key lime then that brings on an ant infestation also!

    I never thought about losing the minerals from drinking versus distilled water, I will correct that immediately. I was using rain water but we have been short on rain here in Oklahoma. The key lime is fine with tap water but the lemon hates it, so I just got in the habit of bottled water. I wonder if I just used filtered water if that could help the lemon tolerate tap water? Also, you are correct, I was flushing quite a bit after fertilizing, I guess in my mind I thought slow release fertilizer (small pellets) needed to be flushed well. Obviously I was wrong! Side note; this morning on a local show, Oklahoma Gardening, they discussed how nitrogen flushed easily while phosphorus and potassium tend to build up over time...

    The fish bottle said to dilute when using but using it as spray is not even listed in the directions but I had read that people use it as a foliage spray. I will slowly move them back to full sun and allow the new blooms to fruit again! Thank you so much for the help, our local nursery folks just don't know much about citrus and there is a lot of conflicting advice on the Internet. I prefer advice from people like you who grow citrus themselves.

    1. I usually just use a strong spray of water for the scale. It blows them right off.
      The ants are actually herding the scale. It is a symbiotic relationship. The ants take the scale to places in return for the sugary secretion that the scale produces. Ant traps are effective, also you can try some tanglefoot. It is a gel like substance that you can place around the bark of a tree and the ants can not cross it.
      As for the sun, yes, slowly get them back out into it. The bark should be fine, even with the damage.
      Trust me, I know there is a lot of conflicting information on the internet! I will usually go to 4 or 5 sights when I am researching something new. If 3 or 4 say the same thing, I will go with that. If they are all over the board, I will go with what seems like the most sense.
      That is also another reason why I started writing this blog, magazines drive me crazy with what little info they seem to put out there. I always ended up with more questions than when I started reading them.
      I always encourage folks to share my blog with their friends, especially if you find it useful.
      Keep me posted!

  24. Hi Darren,

    I'm honored to have found your site. I'm blessed with a loving grandma that had planted several Asian fruit trees (some from seedlings) in our backyard. Now that she's very old, I'm trying to take care of these trees on my own. What to feed them PLEASE? I have been advised to use Miracle Grow Shake n Feed for Citrus (Mango/Avocado), and that I only need to use 1-2 scoops per month. That expedient advice really meets my needs since we take care of 2 toddlers & a dog; but the question is, is that the best advice and if not, what is your best advice in consideration that I don't have as much to spend on gardening as I'd like? Here are the facts & fruit tree types:
    Location: Southern California (Orange County), Zone 9 I believe?
    Soil: Clay
    Fruit Trees from seedlings: Cherimoya aka soursop (6-7 yrs old), Asian (Guava) Graperfruit
    Fruit Trees from grafting (purchased): Baby Mango (they don't get larger than 50% regular Kent mangos), Chocolate Persimmon (soft kind), Kumquat (oval shaped & Asian round), guava (small, round, Mexican?), jujube, avocado.

    I would GREATLY APPRECIATE your advice. Humbly yours, Mickey from OC

  25. P.S. from Mickey of OC: Espoma Organic Citrus Tone is 5-2-6, but Miracle Gro Citrus is 8-2-10. MG Citrus has the extra nitrogen & phosphate you'd mentioned that citrus trees need, but is that too much? The Miracid you'd suggested as 2nd choice has a far different composition of 30-10-10. That seems really high so I'd be grateful for some clarification.

    Lastly, is Miracle Gro All-Purpose (24-8-16) an acceptable alternative for exotic citrus fruit trees? I'm asking this last question because Costco sells it for a much more affordable rate compared to the other MG versions or Citrus Tone. THANK YOU for your time & advice.

    1. Hello Mickey.
      The dirty little secret is, as long as you are getting the big three, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium, almost any fertilizer will work.
      The problem comes in when you feed something with a heavy Nitrogen content late in the season which could spur a growth flush and it not be hardened off by the first frost.
      If you use a little less of the All purpose that you mentioned, maybe a quarter of it, you are then in the 6-2-4 range.
      So that would be fine. I would feed them about every 6-8 weeks at that point.
      Hopefully that fits into your, what sounds like, crazy, hectic life?!

      As a side note, the baby mangos and Chocolate Persimmon, are you getting lots of fruit off of them?
      If so, I would LOVE to buy some seeds from you!
      E-mail me at TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com and we can get into it more, if you don't mind?

    2. Hi Darren,

      THANKS for your help & clarification. No need to buy. For your kind advice & time on this blog, I will be happy to mail you the Baby Mango seeds once they're in season (about Jul-Sep). I'll send a message to your email at around July to get your shipping address. Btw, the Baby Mango probably has an official name that I'm not aware of :D LOL We bought it at Home Depot but my grandma wasn't aware that it was a baby mango variety. We had just moved in and were buying a variety of fruit trees at that time, so we didn't look at each plant as carefully as we should have. As for the Chocolate Persimmon (the super sweet heart shaped variety, not the tart crunchy variety), we love it when there are some but I don't think cultivating this is worth your time. We may just be doing it wrong but if we get better yields from it in future years, I'll be willing to share seeds with you :) So far, it's been yielding only every other year, and only about 10 fruits per year :( That said, I haven't been helping feed at all, the poor thing. Hopefully, fertilizer will help. All the newly planted/transplanted trees had more attention the first 3 years, before the kids came along. We even used fish fertilizer & chopped up eggshells & shrimp shells, all good stuff, but quickly found out that unless we remembered to place heavy bricks on top of the areas where we'd poured/buried the stuff, cats & opossums would dig it all up and make a huge mess.

  26. I have a container lime tree that is approx 4 years old. I'm still a novice I couldn't find any citrus fertilizer at the stores near me however, did find some superthrive. I have never used it before, and it does contain more nitrogen then the standards. Any thoughts? My blooms thank you.

    1. Hello, Erica.
      Superthrive is okay, I would not use it all of the time.
      You did not mention where you live?
      You are probably not in prime citrus growing territory! LOL
      The next best thing would be to get some Holly-Tone.It makes a very good substitute for the Citrus-Tone and is usually available everywhere that hollies or azaleas are grown.

  27. I'm located in the Philadelphia area. Not super prime citrus area! Lol. Well I will try the superthrive on my watering today and go back to the store tomorrow for something more appropriate. I'm anxious as this is probably my 8th flowering on this plant and some limes are thriving and not just falling off lol.

  28. Hi Darren,

    I am so happy I stumbled across this post. I live in Southern Ontario (zone 6 I believe) and just bought a meijer lemon and and a mandarin orange tree. I have almost driven myself crazy trying to figure out what size pots to plant them in and what type of potting mix to use. I've managed to do that and now I need to fertilize, I actually have a bag of miracle gro for acid loving plants and a bottle of fish emulsion so I am really glad this doesn't mean another trip to the garden center! Anyway I think these are probably year old plants, they are about 2ft tall, and they came in pots that were about 4in wide but pretty tall, my question is should I go ahead and follow your fertilizing recommendations as listed in this post, or as a young plants do they need more or less? If so what would you recommend? Also any thought on when and how to prune?

    Thank-You so much for any help you can give, there is so much conflicting advice on different Internet articles Im desperate for someone to just give me a clear idea of what to do!!

    Thanks again,

    1. Hello Lacey,
      With the Miracle Gro, I would feed them about every 4-6 weeks. In between you can give them a shot of fish emulsion.
      As for the pruning, it is all going to depend on how you want it to grow.
      If you want a shrubby tree, leave it be, unless you get a huge tall central leader. Then trim it back to get it to bush out.
      If you want more of a standard tree, keep pruning off the lower limbs as it grows taller.
      Hope that helps some, let me know if you have any other questions.

  29. Hello Darren,
    I am so glad I found this! I have been fumbling around with out citrus trees (Meyer lemon, Lime, Mandarine, Orange trees) without really knowing what I am doing. Sigh. Somehow we have fruits so I guess not all of what I did was bad. But now I know what I need to add.

    We live in Southern CA so we have no real winter issue. The only problem I am constantly fighting are leaveminers. So far I tried all kinds of stuff - mostly organic - but I never was able to 100% rid them. If you have any tips I would greatly appreciate it!


  30. Hello Darren, I think you might be able to answer a couple of questions for me that I feel kind of silly asking ...but here it goes:
    When I apply the Miracle Gro should I do at as spray or drench?
    And, when I fertilize and "wash in" the granules , how much "washing in" are we talking about?

    I have had 2 orange trees in the ground (central Florida) ,this will be 3rd season. They have been light green with some yellowing here and there and I cant seem to get them back to the dark green they were when I planted them.
    One is growing pretty good but the other is growing much slower.
    These trees are about 5ft tall and 5ft dia roughly and produce crazy amounts of fruit ,but not sweet.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I grew up with family citrus trees but I did not see the value when I was young to learn how to take care of them and now my family are passed on.

    Ocala Fl

    1. Good Morning, Neil.
      Not silly questions,no such thing!
      Let me ask you a few questions first.
      When you are talking about washing in the granules, do you mean the Miracle Gro?
      Are you using the water soluble stuff?
      There should not be any granules to wash in.
      Second, are you only using Miracle Gro?
      How often?

      My advice would be to only use the Miracle Gro as a kind of treat for the trees.
      Get some Espoma Citrus Tone and spread that around every 6-8 weeks. You can mix some Fish Emulsion with the Miracle Gro and do a foliar spray every 5-6 weeks for some extra Nitrogen, which should green them up.
      You also might want to check with an extension agent down there and make sure you don't have Citrus Greening disease.
      I hope that helps?!

    2. Thank you for your response, and let me clarify .By washing in I am talking about the granular Citrus Gain Fertilizer mentioned below

      I started this regiment started last year:

      Every month I apply about 1.5-2 cups of Citrus Gain fertilizer
      Every mid month I do a root drench with MG
      Twice a year I do micro-nutrient spray
      I have occasionally done a fish oil drench but never a spray.
      And the occasional blood meal application.
      I am not certain I use enough of any of these products because I am afraid to use too much.

      I follow directions (like on Citrus Gain) and apply 1.5 cups however it just does not seem to be very much fertilizer once its on the ground. I seem to remember my grandparents throwing quite a bit more product under the trees??

      I have not tested my PH his year yet but at various locations it does average out to be between 6.5 and 7 . Not really at 7 but getting close.
      I have a PH meter (real one not the ones you stick in the ground) , I have used Rapid Test kits, and litmus paper. The PH was originally my concern because it seems high, but I am not sure what to do about it .

      Citrus greening was a concern too but the Master Gardner here told me last year (when I had the same concerns) that it seems the trees were to young to be displaying greening??? They were treated with systemic pesticide (had a tag when we bought them) and I have continued to do that once a year. This is still my biggest fear but I am a worry wort.

      There are many groves around us ,but not too close. Probably none with in a 10 mile radius but they are thriving groves. Both older tress and some we have been watching growing from very young trees for the last few years. All doing very well. Dont know if that helps any but it make me more hopeful its not greening...my logic is sometimes illusive...lol!

      BTW, my wife thinks I DO too much to them. She always points out all the trees we see just growing in the middle of no where and they look great...ugh , I just wish I had some one to SHOW me how much product to use because I think I do not comprehend the amounts the directions are telling me... or something ...lol

      Once again thank you for your time.

    3. Hey, Neil.
      I am a Master Gardener myself and they drive me crazy!
      They can show greening at any age. Sigh.
      If you can find an extension agent or somebody that is a citrus professional to check them.

      Even if you only use half of the recommended strengths, your routine should not be a problem. As for the Citrus Gain, I had never heard of it and looked it up. The whole watering the trees day before and such, I am sure it is probably okay to use, just not familiar with it. If you get yourself some Espoma Citrus Tone, it won't burn the roots or anything else and you can use as much as you want, within reason of course. I know it works. There are a few other "Citrus fertilizers developed by citrus growers" that I have used that suck! Just saying.

  31. Thank you and I can order the CT so I will do that.

    Thanks for your time and I am sure I will figure this out (with a lot of help)

    Thank you again

  32. You are welcome!
    Any questions feel free to ask!

  33. Hi Darren I purchased a caracara tree 2 years ago after dropping all of its leaves I have nursed it back to health where it looks nice. This year it started to produce fruit and than dropped all of it. The same thing occurred with mu clementine tree. It must of had 100"s of little ones and than dropped all of them. Disappointing to say the least. I started to feed them with Espoma Citrus fert once a month. The growth has been explosive so much my caracara tree is almost top heavy with growth. One side light, I had a new growth on the caracara, not a sucker grow so quickly that it over took a center branch so much that branch died off. The tree looks great but wondering about the drop. The weather here in New Bern has been hot since may with high humility. Thank you in advance for your advice. Michael

  34. Hi Darren! What is causing my green leaves to curl inward on my potted lemon tree?

  35. Hi Darren thank you for your advice regarding my citrus. I came across another fert. for citrus among other plants and trees. It is Jack's. Any thoughts? Seem to have more NPK in it along with mag.

  36. Hello Darren, this is my first time caring for citrus trees and to say that I am a newbie is an understatement! I live in Northern NH and am supplementing our terrible lack of sunlight with grow lights set for 10-12 hours a day (I was told 2 hours of grow light for every missed hour of natural direct light). I have read so much conflicting information that if you’d set me straight I’d appreciate it. I have three trees, 1.5’ key lime, 1.5’ Meyer lemon and 3’ lemon. The two smaller trees are in 8” pots and the larger is about a 14” pot. I see you recommend espoma, but for such small trees and in small pots what would your recommendation for quantity of fertilizer and rate of application be? I also see you recommend fish emulsion, is that something I should dilute and add when watering and when should that be applied in conjunction with the espoma? Also, after looking at the ingredient list for the fertilizer would you have a idea how to make my own fertilizer as I have chickens and the majority of the ingredients are chicken based? What are sign I should be on the lookout for in regards to under/over fertalization and watering? Thank you!

  37. Hi, Darren!
    Great info - thanks for sharing your love and expertise about citrus. Hoping you can help me with this. I have an 8' tall Kaffir Lime in a 46 gal nirsery container. If I fertilize per your formulas is it OK to keep it in the container. I would prefer to not plant it into the ground. Thanks so much, Kim

    1. Hello, Kim.
      Yes, I keep all of mine in containers.
      Just be prepared for either the roots to grow out the bottom, you can cut them off.
      Or it to eventually get rootbound. Then a Root pruning will be needed.

  38. Hey Darren
    Thank you so much for having this blogspot for citrus owners. It's always been my dream to have my own keylime tree. I live in Washington state where our springs are wet and super windy and our winter's are long and cold. My citrus tree (Pablo) was having yellow leaves but after fertilizing him it's doing better thanks to your advice. I use the down to earth citrus mix it's a 6-3-3. I still notice that a lot of his leaves are falling off what's your advice for this? Or am I just being paranoid and it's okay for him to drop some leaves. He doesn't get as much light as he should so I'll need to buy a grow light this fall. I want to keep him outside this spring but it's very windy do you have any recommendations to protect him against the wind? Also our nights during the spring range from 44f-52f. Is this to cold to keep the citrus tree outside? I take him outside for a few hours during the day and I bring it back inside for the night.