Sunday, December 10, 2017

5 Citrus Myths-Debunked

     I have stated before that there is a lot of misinformation on the Internet. I hear many of the same questions asked over and over again because the folks asking them saw something on a website and it freaked them out. So I figured, it was time to set some of the bad info straight on growing Citrus.
     This is in no particular order.

#1- "A Citrus tree HAS to be grafted in order to produce fruit"-FALSE!
While a citrus tree that has been grafted will produce fruit faster than from seed, as long as the Scion came from a tree that is already producing fruit, it does NOT HAVE to be grafted. There are many trees that are on their own roots, which in some ways is better. You can easily root cuttings from a Citrus tree. The main reason being on its own roots is better, if the tree happens to get killed back by severe cold, it will come back as the same thing. If it has been grafted and gets killed to below the graft, the rootstock will come back and that could be a number of different things, most of which is rather untasty. Even Kumquats will grow on their own roots, some say not as well, I tend to disagree here, I have seen no real problems.
As a bonus tidbit of information here, the rootstock of a grafted tree will in no way affect the seeds of the fruit that it produces. The rootstock only effects the size of the tree, cold hardiness, and what kind of issues the roots might have to contend with, i.e Nematodes or Salt Intrusion.

As you can see in this picture, the leaves in the upper part of the plant are large, normal looking leaves. The leaves that have three lobes towards the bottom is rootstock, some kind of Poncirus spp. starting to grow. Those should be cut off.

     #2- "Citrus will not produce fruit if grown in a container"- FALSE!
If the tree is a rooted cutting or a grafted scion, and it came from a tree that is already bearing, it could be very small and produce fruit. The trees I have are ALL in containers, normally a minimum of a trade seven-gallon container, usually a trade 15 or 30 gallon. I have seen trees in a 3-gallon pot with one piece of fruit on it. Besides, don't ever say that to my Kumquat tree, it may get its feelings hurt.

#3- "Citrus trees will die if the temperature gets below 40 degrees"-FALSE!
Citrus can handle down to 28 degrees for a short period of time, as long as they are allowed to go into a state of semi-dormancy. If the temperature has been very warm, say 50's and 60's and it drops suddenly to 32 degrees, it will get hurt much more than if the temps have been upper 30's and 40's than suddenly drops to 28 (or lower). It also has a lot to do with the duration of the cold, how healthy it was going into the cold event, and how well watered it was. A dry plant will suffer much more than a well-hydrated one. Want proof?

     This is a Republic of Texas Orange, grown in a container, that was subjected to a low of 18 degrees. I watered it thoroughly the day of the cold event.

By most accounts, it would be considered dead, correct?

This is that same tree the following Summer.

It did not produce fruit because it was putting all of the energy into leaf production. It is fine to this day.

#4- "Citrus trees will never produce fruit from seed"-FALSE!
Granted, it may feel like forever, but it will eventually produce fruit. Just some of the generalized timetables are:
Key Limes are your earliest producer from seed, averaging 2-3 years.
Your oranges, lemons, Persian limes, tangerines will be in the 5-7 year ballpark.
The grapefruit and pomelo will be the longest, taking anywhere from 8-12 years.
This will, of course, depend on how good your horticultural practices are. If you feed it, water it, and give it plenty of sunshine, you may be able to shave a few years off of these times. I was once given some seeds from a Lemonquat, a lemon kumquat hybrid, I actually saw one piece of fruit within 18 months. Granted it was probably just a fluke, but it is possible.

#5- "You need more than one Citrus tree to produce fruit"-FALSE!
As long as you have a tree that is flowering, it will produce fruit. Bees are your best pollinators, but, if you are growing Citrus inside, or there just does not seem to be many bees around, you will have to step in. Take a small artist paintbrush or Q-tip and dab from flower to flower. Basically, you are transferring pollen and fertilizing the flower. Just remember to buzz like a bee so you don't scare your tree. (The preceding statement was and is the only thing in this article that you should ignore)

     And there you have it, 5 of the most common myths about growing citrus. Next time somebody mentions one of these, or you see it in print somewhere, call Buffalo Chips on them and send them to me! I will be glad to set them straight!
     If you have any questions about this, any of my other articles, or maybe you have some kind of garden myth you would like debunked, drop me a line to
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Happy Growing!


  1. Thanks for sharing. I'm trying to save a Eureka Lemon from the cold this year. Last year it was killed to the roots and grew a lot with no blooms this year. I don't believe it was grafted to a rootstock.

  2. Hey Cody,
    You should see blooms this year, as long as it isn't grafted.
    The leaves that came back, do they look the same as before it got whacked back?

    1. Yeah I'm thinking the leaves are the same. It grew back like crazy. A lot fuller than a sour orange and satsuma that weren't impacted by the cold.

    2. That is typical.
      You may want to try and thin a few of the branches out come spring, so that there some air flow through it.

    3. Thanks, I did thin it out some before covering it last week when temperatures dropped down around 30.