Citrus trees- what size to plant?

sunnyscarlet(9)October 5, 2009

We have been living in a rental home for the past year in Northeast Phoenix, and have really enjoyed the citrus trees in the backyard. We are now going to be moving into a home that we've purchased and plan on staying in for around 5 years. We want to plant citrus trees and have at least a few years to be able to enjoy the fruit from them, but I'm having a hard time finding information on what age/size we should purchase.

I've been looking through the forum, and haven't yet found an answer to my question, so I apologize if I'm repeating a question that has already been answered.

So, specifically, I am trying to understand if there is a difference in purchasing 5 gallon, 10 gallon, 15 gallon or 24 gallon trees at a nursery. Will they all produce fruit in the same time frame? I was told from one nursery, that we should purchase 24 gallon, but I've read elsewhere that 15 gallon should be the size to purchase. The nursery, of course, benefits when we purchase 24 gallon trees, as they are significantly more expensive than 15 gallon (or less) trees. So I wasn't sure if this information was correct.

Do any of you have experience in purchasing different ages/sizes and having better results with a certain age/size?

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Normally, citrus will start blooming and bearing 3-5 years after planting, no matter what size you start with. A 15 gallon or 24" box may be blooming and bearing when you buy it, but it will then spend the next 3 years growing roots and leaves before it blooms again.
The main difference between the sizes lies in the long term health and vigor of the tree. Smaller sizes adapt to the local conditions better than older trees, grow faster, and wind up bearing more fruit. A 5 gallon planted next to a 24" box will be larger, healthier, and more fruitful after 5 years or so.
The downside of planting smaller sizes is that they don't have the instant visual gratification that some homeowners (or their HOA's) crave. Also, 5 gallon or smaller trees have a slightly higher mortality rate the first summer, if they are field grown--grown to size in an orchard, then dug up and potted for sale. To tell if it's field grown, check the soil. Pot grown trees will be in potting soil, field grown will be in "mud", that is, the soil from the field. Field grown trees do have the advantage of rarely being "pot-bound", where the roots circle the root ball, and eventually strangle the tree.
Otherwise, don't sweat the small stuff, and happy hunting! : ])

    Bookmark   October 6, 2009 at 1:12PM
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tugbrethil, thank you for your response. The information you shared with me was very helpful. It gives me something to think and ponder on, before I make a decision.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2009 at 12:17AM
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softmentor(z9/sunset13 CA desert)

mmmm doesn't take that long. larger sizes, 15 gal and up, will be best if you strip all the fruit off the year you plant it. Only let 3 or 4 pieces stay on the second year, so it puts more into growing the tree. You should have a pretty good crop the third season. It is true that old mature trees have better tasting fruit, so look down the road a few years to a bumper crop of top quality fruit.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2009 at 3:19AM
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The larger trees are rootbound, and never quite recover. I had two 24" boxe trees put in at the same time as I planted 2 5-gallons of the same species. Within 2 years there was no difference, and in 4 years the 5-gallon trees were more vigorous.

Also, it's a lot easier to dig a proper hole for smaller trees.

I hate to plant anything larger than a 15-gallon tree because

    Bookmark   October 15, 2009 at 4:29PM
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softmentor(z9/sunset13 CA desert)

I tend to agree with lazygardens. Although you get a big tree right away, the small, less than 5 gal. size are the prime size from the nursery growers. Any size larger has spent a lot of time in a pot and will be root bound. All of my 100+ trees have been started from 5 gal size or burlap wrap straight from the nursery. And I agree, they only need a couple of years to equal their big potted brothers.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2009 at 3:47PM
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I have tried different sizes, and have found that the 5 gallon sizes tend to sit around a year without doing much after transplanting. That's very frustrating.

The 15 gallon trees ALWAYS seem to not mind getting planted, probably because they are so well established, there isn't much shock, and within a year, they are HUGE, whereas, I'm looking over my 5 gallon trees, and I'm thinking of replacing them.

A $50 or $75 tree that's a year or two older than a $25 tree in a 5 gallon pot is a much better deal in my opinion.

I have about 60 trees.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 2:07AM
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