Giving up on indoor citrus... convince me otherwise?

fabaceae_nativeFebruary 11, 2013

I've been growing citrus plants in pots as indoor/outdoor plants for close to ten years now, but I cut back to three plants this year and am now seriously considering getting rid of all of them.

The novelty of having citrus has certainly worn off:
At first I would coddle the plants, watching them constantly for the next flush of growth, flowers, and fruit. I did not mind the extra work of caring for them, and the small harvest of fruit throughout the year was a miracle.
Now I am simply fed up with the chronic problem of scale, and a few lemons or kumquats now and then does not make up for the fact that the plants look horrible at times and make a sticky mess on the sunroom floor.

I've tried pretty much all the standard treatments for scale, but all have been temporary at best.

On top of this, much of the citrus at the local Trader Joe's is fantastic (barring the lackluster kumquats or the occasional bad navel orange). I usually hate it when others pull this "why do you spend so much time and effort to grow your own when they are so good and cheap from the store?" bit, but when I'm tired of the time and effort, I agree.

Do I just sound jaded, or are others out there dealing with these same issues? How many of you have tried growing hardy citrus outdoors instead (trading work dealing with pests for work protecting from the elements)?

Thanks for listening...

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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

Im only into growing citrus about 3, 4 years now. I can say that over that time I too have often asked, Why? I have gotten maybe a handful of fruit, granted my trees are all less than 6 years old. I have never tried to grow mine in the house but have always had a greenhouse. I can say that this year has been the year that has convinced me to keep going. I built a bigger greenhouse with a better heater and cooling system and the trees couldnt be happier and healthier. I should have multiple handfuls of fruit come fall. Past years I have struggled with a small greenhouse that either got too hot or too cold and the trees suffered and spent most of the summer trying to regrow. When people ask me why I spend so much time and money trying to coax something that doesnt want to grow here to do just that, I simple say because I enjoy it.

If you dont enjoy it anymore than there is really no reason to keep trying.

I would like to try hardier varieties but here in OK we will get a couple weeks or so in the 20's and that would do pretty much anything in. I am going to build another greenhouse that I will plant some inground for year round I hope.

good luck with yours.


    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 3:35PM
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You know, I use to feel the same exact way as you and in fact, I threw all my plant into a huge snow pile one winter thinking I had had enough!

That only lasted for a day though until I had gone to retrieve them just to find them all frozen to death, Yes the bugs and yellow leaves were all dead that day.
It took two friends to comfort me and even an offer from my parents to buy me a new citrus tree. I

This time I was determined to find a different way of growing since the last one was going no where.
So I discovered this forum and made new friends learning new growing techniques not accepted my many.
And in fact, when it seems that you have the key to success and want to share it, more more people than those who don't appreciate it , while a minute few run away from i or seem to lack an appreciation for teh help offered..

Growing citrus has become second nature now, and I don't know what I would do without the reminders of spring, the tropics, and fresh growm fruit right in my own home.
For me, it's all about the fragrance more than anything about citrus and for this you can't buy in a bottle.
I would hate to think that I could only enjoy it in someone elses greenhouse or in the deep south when I don't have that luxury to do so stuck up here in the cold.

Believe me when I tell you that if you should ever decide to throw in the towel and give up, some day you will walk into a nursery and smell the beauty of a citrus tree and want one badly again.

Growing citrus CAN be so rewarding once you understand how they function and what it takes to keep them happy. It becomes part of you and I thank the container and citrus forum for all this.

Now, I can grow dozens of different kinds of citrus in any room in any place I want to without the bugs and rebellious trees. I can keep my foliage green and plants in tip top shape in which many kinds of pest will not pick on and my wood floors clean.

Once you begin to understand what kind of mix they like, how to avoid pests, and provide the environment they need to be happy, it can result in a huge reward.
Determination and the reaping the benefits of my hard work is what brings be pleasure, like raising kids, body building, breeding birds, or even just learning how to ski after an injury. I am just glad I never gave up.
It took some time and determination, but I did it and so can you!
Every thing takes work, nothing comes easy, and yet you reap ten fold if you don't quit.

I am now in a place in which my trees stay vivdly green, flower consistantly, are pest free, except for a mite or two in which can be radicated very easily,produce good fruit, and never drop anything sticky on my hard wood floors.

i must admit that the only thing I have a problem with is a dropped leaf or two, but then I just sweep them up.
I hope you find this secret place and always surround yourself with the gentle fragrance of their mejestic blooms and fresh sweet fruit right of the tree that you can say you plucked yourself.

You'll be there someday, if you just remind yourself of all the positive sides to these lovely fruit trees and their purpose for you in the dead of winter, then in the fresh air that surrounds you when you leave them to fill your yard by summer. Winter can seem long, but before you know it, they will be back outside to toil in the nice warm weather.


    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 7:06PM
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It hasn't been 10 years for me either, that's a long struggle. But I almost gave up, and it was all because of insects. That is, after I ironed out all the other issues :-). Sick and tired of scale, I bought a new tree and kept it indoors...I said if I had to put it outside to survive, it was all over. No scale. Then I added another tree, and another. I decided any tree that couldn't survive exclusively indoors would not be replaced, even if I ended up with no trees at all. They didn't get scale, but once the heat came on indoors, they got mites.

I rotated bug killers, the mites didn't seem to care. Now I'm adding rosemary essential oil to a neem solution, it's an experiment but seems to be working. Maybe a rosemary based insecticide will work for scale, too? I'll re-post the recipe I'm using if you want.

Anyway, I broke my wrist, knee and pelvis a couple years ago, so as it turned out, carrying trees inside and outside is no longer an option. I have no more trouble with trees acclimating to the change in light, no more scale. I do have a big western window and add a T5-HO light in winter. Now that the mites are under control looks like I'll need to spray every few weeks to keep them away, and I can handle that, and I'm enjoying my trees. No sense growing them if the journey doesn't make you smile...

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 8:28PM
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RyanLo(NC 7B)

Citrus are a extremely difficult plant to grow successfully out of the classic citrus regions, no doubt about it. It seems there is a huge misconception about that. We all understand now how much time, effort, hair pulling, money, and being on the brink of throwing in the towel.(or throw it in as meyermike did:) The good thing is once you get more experience it gets easier. And after 10 years, if its not, there is a problem.

fabaceae_native, I belive you have to ask yourself if you not only enjoy the product(fruit) but the caring for the plant too. If you do not enjoy caring for the plants, that includes all the pain and suffering too :) citrus is probably the wrong hobby for you. you will spend most of your time taking care of the trees and just a fraction enjoying the fruits or fragrance. If you don't enjoy it its not right for you.

Your point about going to the store and buying better fruit than you grew can be true and discouraging. What I suggest and currently in the process of doing now is removing or simply not growing the more common varieties that are available and switching to varieties you cannot find normally or varieties that you really enjoy.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 11:06AM
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I say GIVE UP... one more buyer for the Meyer Lemon markets we are working so hard to create. LOL

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 6:43PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

I've been very successful with citrus in my greenhouse. I've even sold some this winter. The yield is great but the quality only good to very good. Had a little scale this year but oil takes care of that. Aphids and spider mites can be an issue as well but again oil has taken them out.

All that said I won't continue if it weren't for the other fruit crops that occupy 95% of my 1700 sq ft greenhouse. Eating quality of the other fruits is much better than the citrus. The citrus just gets me through the winter months until apricots start in April.

Washington navel this winter:

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 9:15PM
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I'm not a full year into Citrus but so far what a learing curve. I had never heard or seen scale before as I grow flowers and veggies so how hard could a tree be? Drainage, yeah the water comes out the bottom when I water it.....

Take it for what it is in its simplest form, You are intercepting nature. I always try to make sure I keep myself in check and remember plants are programmed to grow no matter what, and if they don't your doing something wrong. Make small adjustments and see if it makes a difference, eventually the plant will perform, but it might take time to be successful.

I have not been an active poster on this forum, but have read just about everything that has been posted in the last 9 months. First hand experience is major in becoming successful with plants in general. If you have gardening friends, ask their thoughts on problems. I always try to run questions by a friend who grows pot. These guys have so much money tied up in growing that they usually have the answer for common problems because so much money is on the line for them. Stop in your local green house and get some advise, or read and ask questions on this forum.

I am also battling some scale this winter, and the fact that I thought it would be a good idea to feed my lemon tree every week, which resulted in overwatering and some leaf yellowing. Live and learn. Another 2 months and I can get this thing out from the grow light and into the sun where I'm sure it will recover from being inside all winter.

If it was easy, everyone would do it.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 7:13PM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)


Not to get off topic but dont you grow yours in the ground inside your greenhouse? I ask because I am planning to do that. I think I have seen some photos of yours but cant remember for sure if it was you or not.


    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 9:47AM
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Steve, Micro (6B ground, 5B roof)

I started growing kumquat almost a year ago. Citrus (fortunella in my case) Is extremely hard to grow and very expensive as a fruit producing house/container plant. I lost about 200 seed grown Meiwa kumquat seedling to trunk rot. I now water from underneath so that the soil surface never get wet. I think the tree looks very nice but it is my only survivor. click on picture to open my Photobucket display.

Insects have been no problem for me. I use trap plants that I poison to rid my pests and has proved very successful in killing the 10% that hand killing has missed.

Good luck in your final decision. I am sorry to here that I am not the only one that has had problems with citrus.


    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 12:04PM
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I think Fabac has left the scene listening to all the Debbie downers, and is probably done with growing citrus!


This post was edited by meyermike_1micha on Sat, Feb 16, 13 at 7:44

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 9:05AM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

youre funny Mike. Lol

You know I use fruit wood, apple, cherry, pear, etc for when i smoke meats. Maybe this year Ill throw in a bit of lemon and orange, hahaha.


    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 9:08AM
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Steve, Micro (6B ground, 5B roof)

I also want to point out that if you want fruit production to amount to something you will have to augment your tree with a lot of light and keep the plant warm. However if you are fine with the beautiful foliage and sweet flowers you can use harsher insecticides for insects and pick the spent flower so the tree puts out more flowers. My friend does this with her two plants. I am also planing to use 55 gallon drums for the roots. If my kumquats don't produce I will keep them as house plants and enjoy the flowers & foliage. don't kill you trees. Some one will want them. The device below is what I use to grow my kumquat tree though the 6 cold months of zone 6
good luck

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 12:10AM
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Nope, I haven't left or thrown out my last remaining citrus, yet. I thought I posted a response a while back but apparently it did not go through.

Anyway, for what it's worth I want you all to know how nice it is reading your replies. It also makes me see how complex this issue is, because the challenges really are so different for each person. I've never actually lost a plant poncirusguy! Never had a single disease either, just struggled with scale and occasional mites, and thrown whichever plants I got tired of into the compost heap!

There is no question in my mind about the cause of my (and certain others') problems growing citrus this way... that the growing conditions are just too unnatural. Obviously this does not apply to people like fruitnut, who have the plants in the ground, and maintains a wonderfully controlled environment in his greenhouse. Still he admits that his fruit is not the best quality (mine has actually been better than market quality overall, but poor yields).

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 4:48PM
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I'm new to this very informative forum. I have a 40 year old orange tree grown from a supermarket orange. It rarely loses a leaf, is deep green, and has to be pruned when it comes in from the deck. We have no expectations of fruit, given its origins, but now and again it will have a very fragrant flower or two....we keep our house very cold, so perhaps that's why we have no bugs when it comes inside. I'd quit too if a plant was too high maintenance without any reward for your trouble!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 6:07PM
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This is the part of Winter where it gets most discouraging. Plants drop leaves over and over and the pests keep attacking.

Just keep em alive. Spring will solve all problems. As the others said, Citrus is a comittment.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 8:18PM
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Old_Eagle(7b - North Texas)

I noticed a lot of encouragement in this thread but failed to find a solution to your problem, (scale). I don't know if this works on scale but a soap solution sprayed on many plants prevents a myriad of problems.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 4:47PM
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Steve, Micro (6B ground, 5B roof)

Hi fabaceae

Don't give up yet. I feel that it is important to find out what to do about scale as I am getting in to citrus for fruit production in zone 6a in a lean-to greenhouse. One thing I have learned about growing plants in winter is there are no predatory insects and I will get scale. It a mater of when, not if. I now kill almost all of my isect pest by hand, smearing or crushing or just dislodging them. many insect can not climb back up and just die. afids are one such insect.

Good luck

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 10:29PM
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Steve, Micro (6B ground, 5B roof)

an articale called Let's Tip the Scale by the thecitrusguy Has a lot of info on scale controll. I think this link might work

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 9:48PM
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If you still have your plants give this a try. When you take them out this summer, spray them with fish emulsion and water constantly. I sprayed mine a couple of years ago and the are still scale free ( they had soft flat scale). There's alot of info on this site about it. Also, you can try Meyermike's new method with rosemary oil. I will give my other plants a try with those also.
Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 2:11AM
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