A Little Bit of History
A have always had a little bit of a green thumb. Not a huge one, but enough that certain projects really interested me. More specifically, projects that are challenging such as successfully growing something that is not intended to survive in your climate. Enter, growing citrus trees in the climate of Michigan. Now, when I talk about challenging, I mean very challenging.
First, these trees are rather picky and want things a certain way. Something the climate in my house is dead set against providing. The very critical component of sunlight is a necessity for these plants. Considering the sun is always towards the south, I should put these plants in a southern facing window. Problem number one, I don’t have a southern facing window as that is the side that my attached garage is on. Problem two, the house gets very dry in the winter. Problem three, the basement where I need to grow these gets very cold in the winter. I can go on and on, but the point is, I must do everything artificially.
Up until recently, I could never get it quite right. I lost plants due to bug problems. I would have success during the summer while the plants were outside but lose it all during the indoor season. While indoors, most leaves would drop, I would have areas die off, leaves grew incorrectly, and it was impossible to get new growth or flowers.
Well, I have finally put all the pieces together and over this winter each plant has made huge gains. The leaves are incredible healthy, I always have new growth, they are flowing, and nothing has been dying!
Enough of my story and on to the products!
Everything I Use!
I pump some serious light at these trees and they love it. The combination of the lights listed below works wonderfully. Now, you might not want to buy three different sets of lights and I fully understand that. The first I would get is the fluorescent lights. I linked the grow light fixture below, but not the actual lights. I did not like the price from Amazon, and it is best to go to Lowes or another local store and grab a couple. The only thing to do is make sure you get the grow light version. These seem to provide a good base for the trees and keep them generally happy. Honestly, with these lights I am most able to maintain the health of the tree while indoors. Next up is the TaoTronics LED grow light. I would not recommend using this light by itself. I switched to these when I first got them and a week later the trees had lost almost all of their leaves. But…when used to supplement other full spectrum grow lights, this light makes a huge difference. What I noticed when using this light is that I get much more new growth and flowering from the trees. Last is the Hydroponic Full Spectrum CFL Grow Light. I like this light because it is extremely powerful without costing a small fortune to operate. It just seems to amp things up that much more. Now, for those wondering what to do when starting, I would recommend the fluorescent and TaoTronics lighting. They complement each other well and keep the tree growing during those dull winter months. If you then decide you want extra, it cannot hurt to add the CFL option.
Fertilizers & Food
These trees are hungry! Without the proper nutrition, these plants will likely struggle in one category or another. That is why I use Dyno-Grow fertilizer. It has the right balance for citrus to support tree growth, flowering, and fruit development. Purchase, follow instructions, and have great results! Easy stuff! I also use Epsom salt. This is not a salt at all and actually magnesium sulfate. Citrus plants love the stuff. Periodically sprinkle some near the base of the tree and water. It will move down into the soil over time. Very beneficial and your citrus will appreciate it. Last for now, is vinegar. I have read that this is very helpful for the plants because it makes the soil more acidic. Honestly, I am deciding if this is important or not. Every once and a while I add a tablespoon or so to my watering can. It may be helping, but it does not seem to be hurting. This may be more of a troubleshooting step if you think your trees are not where they should be.
I try to mimic the natural environment of these plants as much as possible. They like warm, humid, breezy places. For this reason, I heat the location they are in (which heats a room I want to heat anyways), use a fan to move air, and a humidifier to keep as much moisture in the air as possible. Each of these items has helped in its own way. Of the three, I noticed the biggest difference when I added the heater. My basement gets rather cool in the winter and these trees want the exact opposite of that. Heating up a little is not going to cut it if you really want the trees to strive. I added an energy efficient oil filled radiator heater that does not seem to dry out the air and the plants did amazing after this change. I can’t emphasize how important this was. Before I added a nearby heat source, the soil stayed wet too long, the plants did not grow at all, the top layer of the soil would get moldy, and everything went poorly. So, either find a location where they are going to get decent heat, figure out a way to heat their location, or find different plants to work with. These trees just need the warmth.
Being new to this, I learned the hard lesson a while back that not all soil is created equal. Citrus trees like well-draining soil. So, any soil that does not drain well, gets compacted, has wetting agents, or holds moisture too well is going to cause major problems. This may present itself in poor growth, falling leaves, or yellowing leaves. I wanted to put the exact products I used to create the soil my trees are in now, but… I honestly can’t remember. I know I used a mixture of bark, perlite, peat, and citrus soil. I have linked products below that will get you very close to what I am using.
I hope this helps! What I wish for is that you are very close and this list helps you realize the one item you are missing. You get that and wowzah, your trees are taking off! If you are just getting started and thinking about growing a citrus, make sure you are ready for the commitment, and investment. Now, not everyone may have it as bad as me. Maybe you have good natural light (lucky you), a warm room, or just plain don’t live as far north as me. Any of those items will instantly make it easier for you to be successful. In my case, everything I listed ended up being a requirement, but everyone’s situation is different. Best of luck and hope you are picking fruit in no time!