seeking advice on tree planting

amijo(z9Az)December 20, 2011

Our daughter purchased a home in Phoenix. The yard has been desert for years and is hard and dry. She wants to plant

citrus trees and we'd like advice on how to prepare the soil for citrus trees. We want to plant them before the hot weather arrives again. Thanks.

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Raimeiken - z9b - Peoria, AZ

great time to plant right now since we just had rain in a past few days to loosen up the soil a bit.

I'm no expert on citrus but I think citrus trees can thrive on our native soil here. But I would add some organic material in the soil and mulch over it.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2011 at 1:48AM
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Planting standards developed by the University of Arizona will get your citrus trees off to a good start. This time of year you will need to protect them from frosts and freezing temperatures by wrapping the trunk with cloth, cardboard or burlap and covering the entire tree (all the way to the ground) with a sheet or frost cloth (never plastic).

The following steps should bring you planting success.

  1. Apply water to the area where you will be planting several days ahead of time. This will make digging much easier. The soil should be moist but not wet and should not stick to your shovel or garden fork. As raimeiken mentioned our soil may be moist enough right now due to recent rains.

2)Till or loosen soil 4-5 times the diameter and no deeper than the rootball. Roots that absorb water and nutrients will grow rapidly in this area so your tree can establish quickly.

3) Remove soil in the center to create a hole twice as wide but only as deep as the rootball. This prevents sinking which can bury the stem or trunk. The bottom of the hole should be flat.

4) Check drainage by filling the hole with water. If water can penetrate into the soil, so can plant roots. If water has not drained in 24 hours, a chimney can be added for drainage. (see details in

5) No need to add mulch to the backfill. It decomposes rapidly and can cause sinking of the soil. Do use a layer of mulch on top of the soil to help insulate and slow evaporation.

6) Create a berm (raised ring of soil) on the ground at the edge of the branches to hold water either from an irrigation system or hose.

Hold off fertilizing your new tree until you see new growth next year and then apply very small amounts. The link below will take you to several publications on caring for citrus including watering, fertilizing, pruning and frost protection.

Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: Information on citrus care

    Bookmark   December 21, 2011 at 11:12AM
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Here's some additional information from Greenfield Citrus. John is one the few commercial propagators of citrus in Arizona and works closely with the University of Arizona. In fact, the East Valley Citrus Clinic of the Cooperative Extension Service is held on his property in January.

I would try to avoid buying citrus from most nurseries here in the Valley. Most are propagated in California on rootstocks that do not do well either with clay soil or hard water -- both of which are prevalent here.

Here is a link that might be useful: Greenfield Citrus Planting Instructions

    Bookmark   December 23, 2011 at 12:26AM
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Raimeiken - z9b - Peoria, AZ

so where do you suggest buying them from?

    Bookmark   December 23, 2011 at 7:37AM
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Greenfield nursery. I would wait until late Feb or March. Why go through all the trouble of covering the tree.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2011 at 8:23AM
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grant_in_arizona(USDA Z9 Scottsdale AZ)

Congrats on your daughter's home purchase. If it were me, I'd wait until after our short frost season to plant them, just to be safe, so March is when I'd go for it, although if I felt like gambling and just couldn't wait I might do it now.

I dig a good sized hole and amend it with about 25% compost for citrus (for true desert plants I don't amend the soil). I DO build a small berm or wall quite aways out so that I can give the tree a good, solid soak when I'm watering.

I've planted quite a few citrus in both of my Scottsdale gardens and have had great luck and tons of fruit each year. I'm sure your daughters will be fine. A small citrus tree would be a fun holiday or congratulations gift with a bow on it, and she could keep it in the pot to hide it in the garage if a hard freeze is predicted.

Take care and good luck to her and her garden!

    Bookmark   December 23, 2011 at 1:14PM
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Greenfield Citrus, RSI Growers, Bakers (but only the trees labeled from Sunset Nursery in Yuma). The reason being that those three propagate their standard size trees on Sour Orange.

Flying Dragon trifolate, a common dwarf rootstock, is also an acceptable rootstock for Arizona.

What you need to avoid is anything on C35 citrange, which, unfortunately, is what most trees sold in Arizona at the Big Box stores (Home Depot, Costco, Lowes) are propagated on. Make sure to check the label on the container. The trees will not thrive.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2011 at 8:46PM
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