Growing Citrus Trees Indoors

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Ripening Meyer lemon fruit
Ripening Meyer Lemons (November 2022)

We purchase so many limes every month for cooking Mexican and Thai food and for making our ice waters that much crisper when it's hot outside. I use lemons all of the time for salads, fish, pestos, anchovy pasta, dressings, and sauces. While growing our own lemons and limes will not completely integrate our plate they will support some of our citrus habits and the blossoms in the winter are indisputably some of the best I've smelled.

In August of 2021, I ordered one Meyer lemon and one key lime tree from the internet. I potted them in an organic potting mix with added sand for drainage as I read these plants do not like wet feet. I planted these in the same 11.5 by 20-inch recycled plastic planters so they'd be manageable to move outdoors in the summer. Below are my diary entries for these two citrus trees over time as I have learned to care for them.

Growing Meyer Lemons Indoors

October 28, 2021

Blistered Meyer lemon leaves as a result of using isopropyl alcohol as a spider mite deterrent.
Blistered Meyer lemon leaves as a result of using isopropyl alcohol as a spider mite deterrent.

So far, I have learned that citrus trees are more prone to spider mites than avocado or fig trees. Both the Meyer lemon and key lime trees have had varying levels of infestation throughout the winter. The first mistake I made was using isopropyl alcohol on the lemon tree as I had it on hand and had read this will kill the spider mites in another blog post. It also can kill a lemon tree apparently as spraying the leaves resulted in their yellowing and dropping. Since the infestation pictured above, I have been using diluted neem oil and it seems to be doing the trick.

February 10, 2022

First blossoms on our Meyer Lemon tree
First blossoms on our Meyer Lemon tree

I have won the battle against the spider mites on the citrus trees with the continuous treatments of neem oil. Now we are enjoying the first blooms on the Meyer Lemon tree and let me tell you, there is no better smell! There are two blossom sets on the trees and with each blossom being a potential fruit, this could be a magnificent harvest.

February 18 - 25, 2022

Meyer Lemon in full bloom
Meyer Lemon in full bloom

The Meyer lemon blossoms have opened up and I cannot get enough of sitting near the tree and just breathing. To get fruit, I have been hand-pollinating the blossoms with a paintbrush and it seems to be working as the anterior portion of the bloom is swelling with what could be potential lemons/

Hand-pollinating Mayer Lemon blossoms with a paintbrush     

Hand-pollinating Mayer Lemon blossoms with a paintbrush

 August 19, 2022

Meyer Lemon fruit unripened but hanging on the tree
Meyer Lemon fruit unripened but hanging on the tree

After hand-pollinating the blooms of the Meyer Lemon tree, I managed to bring forth two fruits. Most of the other blossoms dried up and fell off the tree. I think that these two fruits are the most this small tree can currently support. I chose not to move the lemon tree outdoors this summer because the fruit seemed kind of precarious and I wanted it to fully ripen on the tree. Now I just have to keep the girls' impromptu gymnastics from causing their demise.

October 10, 2022

Meyer Lemon fruit still ripening on the tree
The fruit continues to ripen on the Meyer Lemon tree. From blossom to this point we are now at 10 months.

 November 5, 2022

Meyer Lemons continuing to ripen
The Meyer lemons are nearly ripe!

I think we are nearly ready for harvest! I have been wondering what to do with these very special lemons. I mean I cannot bring myself to simply use the juice in a single dressing after 9 months of watching these babies grow! In the mornings I have taken to reading different recipes for limoncello while I drink my tea. Many recipes call for the peeling of the lemon and just using the peels to infuse with vodka. Some recipes say to use the whole lemon and infuse them with Everclear. I really am drawn to the whole lemon recipe, but with vodka since my adult self will not go back to those high school Everclear days.

November 17, 2022

This Meyer lemon still has a bit more ripening to do.     This Meyer lemon still has a bit more ripening to do.
Both of these Meyer lemons still have a bit more ripening to do.

I am anxious to harvest now that these are so yellow, but I will curb my enthusiasm until they are both fully ripe! I am hoping I can get them into the vodka by December 1st so that I can then strain them, mix them with simple syrup, and enjoy this as a digestif after Christmas dinner with my mom and stepdad.

Growing Key Limes Indoors

October 28, 2022

Spider mite webs on the key lime tree.

I have been giving the key lime tree a spray of diluted neem oil (1 part neem oil, 4 parts water) two times per week and it seems to be doing the trick against the spider mites. This plant is spiked and doesn't like me getting in close with the spray bottle, but I persevere. lol. 

Winter 2021 - 2022

Healthy Key Lime Leaves
Healthy Key Lime Leaves

The spider mites on the Key Lime tree have been taken care of, but there were no signs of any blossoms over the winter, however, the leaves look quite healthy.

November 15, 2022

Key lime tree looking healthy despite my best efforts to kill it
Key lime tree looking healthy despite my best efforts to kill it

I was not good to this key lime over the summer! I sunburned it; I un under-watered it; I neglected it. Yet despite my best efforts here it sits looking like a pretty healthy tree overall. It still has some sunburned leaves that I need to cut back and I think it could use some light pruning, but otherwise, it seems happy in its new home where it gets both morning and afternoon direct sunlight. This tree has made me realize that I am better at taking care of plants that produce fruit than not; however, I vow to do my best to get key limes going this winter.

Dear reader, if you have tips and tricks for growing citrus indoors, please add them to the comments below.

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