My citrus trees are 6 yrs old & not producing any fruit/flowers

shan_469June 9, 2006


I will first tell you what we have done. We,in a 10 gallon bucket just started putting seeds in right off the cutting board. (orange, lemon, lime, and grape fruit). Over the first 3 years we watched as they grew to over 4 foot high all in the same pot. On the 3rd year one of them produced a small white flower. It had a beautiful fragrance the filled our entire house. (oh yes, each year we took them out side in the summer and inside from late fall thru early spring. We have separated and transplanted them every other year. As many green houses have suggested. We tried fertilizer stakes for citrus, miracle grow, and time release capsules. Our trees are now between 4-7ft tall, but are yet to pruduce any fruit or flowers?

As we have come to realize that each fall when we spray for afids and spidermites, the inceticide only lasts until about march April and when we are ready to take them outside in the spring, they spend most of the spring regrowing back all thier leaves.

Outside of spraying pesticide in the fall and then again about feb march before the old batch wears off; so that our trees do not have to replenish themselves, how do I get them to bloom and bare fruit? ... Or at least flower so we can enjoy the fragrance...perferably fruit.

We have invested a lot of money and time into our 6 trees and we are about at our witz end... but we do not want to throw in the towell. Thanks you

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

6 years old is still very juvenile in terms of tree life spans. Some species of Crataegus (hawthorn) take >30 years on a good site to flower/fruit.

Look, we tend to think of the age of plants in the same manner we think of age in humans or animals, chronologically. We, like plants, go through several life stages. Embryonic, juvenile, adolescent (intermediate in plants), and mature, are human stages roughly mirrored in plants. Where we vary greatly is in the way our cells age. In animals, body cells all mature at approximately the same speed. Plants grow by consecutive divisions of cells at the growing points (meristems), so their various parts are different ages (the top of the plant, or the ends of branches and stems are younger than the basal (lowest part, just above roots) portions, chronologically, but there is another way of aging plants.
The ontogenetic age of plants is related to how many times a cell has to divide to make that particular portion of tissue. Basically, the closer the tissue is to the roots the younger it is ontogenetically, even though chronologically, it is the oldest.
I got off track a little, but let's look at why this is important & how does it applies to your tree. In trees from seed, the entire organism is juvenile dynamic mass. Plant's tissues need to attain a certain ontogenetic age before they are physiologically capable of producing reproductive parts (flowers/fruit), so you must wait for the tissues to reach that age. Cuttings, on the other hand, retain their ontogenetic age and so flower/fruit much sooner (chronologically), but you must remember that the tissues are already much older ontogenetically.

You would think that cuttings taken from the same plant would roughly flower/fruit at the same time? Not so. Tip cuttings from the higher parts of the tree will flower/fruit sooner than cuttings taken from the basal (close to the roots) part of the tree. There is a trade off here though. The basal cuttings will be more juvenile and have retained more genetic vigor and will root more readily than the older wood.

Hope this wasn't too confusing?


    Bookmark   June 9, 2006 at 7:16PM
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rickjames(9 Cali)

If you really want fruit and flowers, your best bet is to purchase a properly grafted tree--the scion portion will be mature enough to produce for you rather quickly and rather regardless of size, as it has reached that necessary maturity discussed above. The buzz word is "node count"--your trees need to attain a certain undefined and nebulous node count in order to flower/fruit. There should be lots of posts regarding this if you try a search in this forum. Moral of the story is that citrus is notorious for being slow to fruit from seed, and that isn't anything to do with proper fertilizer or horticultural approaches--it's mostly an issue of maturity.

That being said, you can still enjoy the trees you do have, and yet encourage them to possibly flower/fruit by letting them get as large a possible (size=more nodes)--hard to do when they are shedding their foliage from whatever you may be applying or whatever else is going on, and having to regrow it if I read your post correctly.

Also, along the lines of the maturity discussion, you can also try to take tip cuttings ( more mature), root them and let them grow as large as possible too--perhaps you can reach that maturity necessary for flowers/fruit. I suppose you can do this successively through many generations, but I'd imagine that would be an exercise in patience :)

Last thing is you can try to grow a few cultivars from seed that supposedly don't take long to reach maturity, like Key limes.

Citrus are very nice plants even if you don't get flowers and fruit :)


    Bookmark   June 9, 2006 at 8:00PM
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bencelest(z9 CA)

Very well said. Thank you.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2006 at 9:26PM
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Some where I have read they have to make so many flushes of growth before fruiting. If I remember right it is 7 or 8 flushes before they start bearing. The seedling you have can be grafted from bearing trees and they will normally bear the second or third year after grafting. The university of Arizona has excellent instructions on t-budding citrus.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2006 at 10:33PM
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bencelest(z9 CA)

"If I remember right it is 7 or 8 flushes before they start bearing. The seedling you have can be grafted from bearing trees and they will normally bear the second or third year after grafting."
Oh, I learned something again today.
Thank you so much Mr. Childers.


    Bookmark   June 10, 2006 at 9:16AM
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