House planets

Citrus limon 'Ponderosa' (American Wonder Lemon)Julie pruning the Calamondin last year - it needs it again!I think it’s safe to say that everyone who has ever set foot in the greenhouse makes an immediate beeline for the citrus plants.  The Citrus limon ‘Ponderosa’ (a.k.a. American Wonder Lemon) definitely has its own gravitational pull.  The lemons are about the size of Jupiter and hang on the plant, bowing the branches, seemingly indefinitely.  Kids (of all ages) also swarm the Calamondin orange (x Citrofortunella or Citrus mitis) because it’s almost always adorned with zillions of oranges that are as comparatively tiny as the Ponderosa lemons are enormous.  The Ponderosa lemon began as a chance seedling grown by George Bowman of Maryland in the late 1880’s and has been commercially available since the turn of the 20th century.  — I suspect that the legendary Logee’s Greenhouse specimen is at least that old.  The Calamondin is a Southeast Asian hybrid and our own tree is over 40 years old.

Large lemonsa tart Calamondin orange

What a Key Lime shouldn't look likeCitruses are not the easiest houseplants – and given the plight of California citrus trees which are being threatened by a bacteria that causes a “greening disease“, and Florida citruses which periodically succumb to drops in temperature, they might not be the easiest garden plants either.  Logee’s recommends temperatures above 60° in the winter (although many can take it as cold as 40°), to water when the soil appears dry and fertilize sparingly.  My Citrus aurantifolia ‘Key Lime’ evidently can’t tolerate temperatures below 60° throughout the winter which would explain why it looks as stressed out as it does  – even our warmest greenhouse, where it is currently recouping from pure torture at my house, is chillier than that at night.  It, like the rest of our citrus plants, is also plagued by scale (a tiny sucking insect protected by a tough brown shell) which produces a sticky honeydew poop that is a terrific host for sooty mold.  We treat the plants by washing the leaves, stems and branches by hand with insecticidal or dilute dish soap.  We must be doing something right this winter because we haven’t washed the lemon in ages and (knock wood) it’s never looked so healthy.  Occasionally the leaves on our citruses turn yellow which indicates an iron deficiency and possibly that they’ve been over watered.  Both are problems are treatable.

Do you have any citrus?  Are they a challenge for you as well?

4 thoughts on “House planets

  1. LOVED the title, Kris! And sadly, I have no citrus here as houseplants, but I would love to. WHen I win that lottery….

    Thanks, Jodi! You wouldn’t need to win the lottery to order from a place like Logee’s – you’d just need time. The plants are very wee. -kris

  2. No Kris not one citrus…although an orange tree grew to about 3 feet in a pot where I threw seeds one didn’t survive the dry winter heat. Gail

    Well, Gail I guess I’m not surprised that you don’t have any citruses right now – but sounds like you had pretty good luck with one for a while. If the orange I brought in my lunch has any seeds, I’m going to try sowing them. -kris

  3. Just started reading your blog… and found something I can comment on! I live north of Tokyo, Japan. I moved into a house 1.5 years ago that has a large yard with 3 citrus trees in it. It’s the second season to harvest fruit. I like the kumquats best – you can eat them straight off the tree. The bitter “summer” mikan are treasured for their skins, not fruit. The yuzu are popular for the scent of the skins and the juice. Since I’ve been busy revamping the whole garden, I haven’t had time to process any of the fruit. :{ I’ve noticed scale and leaf miners. And it looks like someone has taken a lighter to some leaves – they look burnt! Oh, yeah…and some leaves are rolled or chewed (slugs?). Would Neem oil help my trees? I bought some in the US in December. Couldn’t find it here.

    By the way, the trees are all 8 – 10 feet tall, until last year were protected from the cold north winds in winter, and are in a row next to each other facing the south.

    I’m new to gardening. Just got bitten by the bug in the past year. We just had a professional gardener in to cut down trees, move others, dig up weeds and shift some of the dirt around. I’ve been reading tons of gardening blogs and enjoy them all. What an education! I haven’t gotten around to having my own blog…maybe after I’ve gotten settled in the garden.

    Kim, Thanks for visiting Blithewold and I hope you do write a blog! It’s a fascinating process to start a garden and there’s no doubt that, even being “new to gardening” you’d have plenty to teach the rest of us. Your citrus trees must be gorgeous – we’ll want to see pictures on your blog. I think Neem is definitely worth a try for some pests particularly scale – people here swear by it. I have only gone through one bottle so far myself and didn’t find it to be very different from using soap – but let me know what you think. Keep in touch! -kris

  4. We have a Meyer’s Lemon and a Ruby Red Grapefruit at work. There is a small Mandarin Orange too. They are about 20 years old and have produced fruit many times. It is more sweet and juicy then any store bought fruit. The trees love being outside in the summer.

    😆 on washing your plant, been there! They can be cut back pretty harshly if it gets real bad.

    Funny you should post this since yesterday I was at Quail Botanical Gardens and was amazed at their collection of Citrus. Some many different types that I didn’t know existed.

    DF, You’re far from home right now! I didn’t know anything about Quail Botanical Gardens – it’s actually pretty similar to Blithewold in size and story. But it looks like their citruses get to live outdoors year round… And as for washing leaves – I sort of get into the Zen of it… -kris

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