best citrus for containers?

schiang68(z6 MA)July 22, 2005

What do people think are the best citrus varieties for growing in containers? The reason I ask is because I often see Meyer lemons advertised as "easy to grow in containers", and yet some very experienced people here seem to have exactly the opposite opinion (i.e., Meyers are fussy).

I did a few GW searches but turned up no threads specifically addressing this topic.

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gcmastiffs(z10 Florida)

I've only found two citrus to be difficult to grow in containers-Meyer Lemons and Key Limes. Other people grow them with ease, so it might be just me(G).

I've grown many, many other varieties with no problems. I especially like Satsumas (beautiful, weeping trees), Dancy Tangerine (very ornamental) Ponderosa Lemon (so ugly it is cute) and Persian Limes (extremely prolific).

A few others I've container grown with success: Temple Tangor, Eureka Lemon, Calamondin, Valencia Orange, Cara Cara, Glenn Navel Orange, Marsh Seedless Grapefruit, Pummelo (Hirado Buntan), Murcott Tangerine, Ponkan Tangerine, Minneola Tangelo, Red Valencia, and Red Limes (Kunquat/Key Lime cross).

Many people on this forum have much larger and more varied collections.

You can grow just about any citrus in containers. I have not found it difficult to keep them potted for the past 5 years so far-they grow more slowly in containers. I've seen photos of orange trees that have been containerized for over 30 years. Grapefruit and Pommelo get big the fastest in my experiences.

I'd say, pick the citrus fruit you most like to eat, and go for it! But, since you are in a cold climate, you will want to choose cold resistant varieties and ones that will ripen without a lot of heat.

Lisa

    Bookmark   July 22, 2005 at 7:07PM
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tedlyxx(z9 LA)

Most of my citrus is in the ground, but I have Meyer Lemon, Key Lime?, and Kaffir Lime in pots. I question the Key Lime because it seems that most of the so-called key lime plants from nurseries in this area appear to be Eustis Limequat which has fruit similar to key lime, but it has no thorns, grows very columnarly, and has taken down to 18 degrees with no leaf burn in my yard. I've had it and Meyer Lemon in pots for 14 years with no problems. Both bloom several times per year and are manageable sizes. Meyer Lemon is very good in the pots and I get great crops.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2005 at 7:27PM
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Millet(z5)

I have a large collection of citrus in containers. I agree with Lisa that you can grow almost any type citrus in a container you wish. My favorite container tree is Dancy Tangerine. Dancy's has the most pleasing, graceful appearance (in my opinion) of any citrus you can grow in a container, a really nice tree. It produces an abundance of fruit for a container tree, and I like the taste of the fruit. My least favorite tree to grow is Meyer Lemon, they require a lot of attention. Surely, more people on this forum constantly ask for help with Meyer Lemon problems than any other tree. I say it's because they are very finicky fussy trees. AAE says it is only because Meyer Lemons are the most grown tree. Take your pick. So I guess Lisa and myself pretty much see eye to eye, with the exemption..... I think Key Limes are easy trees to grow in containers. Lastly all Satsumas must also receive top consideration. - Millet

    Bookmark   July 22, 2005 at 9:46PM
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AnotherAlterEgo(8)

Truth is, the tree that I've historically had the most trouble with is the Calamondin (Citrus mitis). Number two on my "most finicky" list is the Key Lime (C. aurantifolia). I wouldn't go so far as to say that I cannot grow them (or will never grow them again), but I've definitely had my share of trouble with those two varieties. And I would venture that I've grown more varieties and quantity (of said varieties) than 99.9% of the folks here.

There is no doubt that Meyer Lemons are the number one selling container citrus tree in the US. If you don't take my word for it, call a nursery that specializes in citrus. Better yet, call 4-5 of them. You'll get the same answer. Odds are, the most popular plant is going to have the most complaints. However, I seriously doubt that the Meyer Lemon has the highest *ratio* of complaints.

There are at least a couple of you who have had trouble with Meyer Lemons. I'm a little surprised at Millet's difficulty, being that he's the resident "expert" around here. Perhaps if he can help me with my Calamondin/Key Lime difficulties, I could give him some Meyer Lemon pointers and we would both be happier.

In the mean time, the Meyer Lemon gets my vote for best container variety. The Kaffir Lime (C. hystrix) is number two for its outstanding aesthetic and culinary value. Oh, mandarins are generally good too. But I see no reason to grow a Dancy (you can buy them in the store - look for "Christmas Tangerines"). Satsumas are superior (to the Dancy) in every way.

My two cents. . . For what they are worth.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2005 at 1:38PM
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gcmastiffs(z10 Florida)

AAE, living in Florida, I can buy just about any citrus fruit at the store. I prefer homegrown. The *reason* I suggested a Dancy is that they are very pretty, stay small a long time. and so far mine have been problem free. I do really enjoy a Satsuma too, and they are also nice looking in pots.

I would appreciate tips on growing healthy Meyer Lemons! I put mine in the ground after getting tired of dealing with them. They are doing okay now, one has been in the ground over a year and has a nice crop on it. The other dropped all leaves after being transplanted to the orchard, and is slowly coming back.

Lisa

    Bookmark   July 23, 2005 at 4:12PM
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AnotherAlterEgo(8)

Lisa - The answer to your Meyer Lemon troubles may lay in the fact that you planted them in the ground, and left it up to Mother Nature. If you have any specific questions, feel free to drop me an email.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2005 at 9:18PM
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Millet(z5)

I see Lisa's point and would add.... Many of the trees in my collection produce fruit that one could easily purchase at most any store. Washington Navel, Moro Blood, Nagami, Honey Mandarin, Dancy, Key Lime, Temple, and on and on. The reason I grow them is because I want them as a variety in my citrus COLLECTION and for the experience that each affords. Whether one can purchase the fruit or not has little to do with building a variety collection. - Millet

    Bookmark   July 24, 2005 at 2:09PM
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tedlyxx(z9 LA)

A lot of Meyer Lemon problems have to do with rootstock. Just about all internet nurseries that sell it appear to sell rooted cuttings, which may be fine for most pot situations but not always so for in the ground planting, because of soils, nematode problems, root fungi, etc. All nurseries in my area sell plants grafted onto Trifoliate, which may not be the best for Florida. Most of my citrus is in the ground, but ML on trifoliate has been in a pot for 14 years with no problems whatsoever. I have no experience with it on its own roots, but could that be the cause of some of the problems?

    Bookmark   July 24, 2005 at 4:33PM
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Laaz(z8b SC)

I have a plant on its own roots here in the ground & have never had a problem with it. Also have one in a pot grafted to Volk rootstock & never had a problem with it.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2005 at 5:03PM
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AnotherAlterEgo(8)

Meyer Lemons usually do fine on their own roots, like most citrus. I have already asked Lisa (via email) about the rootstock on her Meyer Lemons. I'm hoping to get to the bottom of her Meyer Lemon difficulties and welcome her into the fold.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2005 at 6:02PM
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gcmastiffs(z10 Florida)

AAE, I honestly do not remember exactly where I purchased my older Meyer, but it was a local nursery, not a home improvement store. I don't know the rootstock. My newer one is from Brite Leaf, and it was a beauty when I got it.

My original 3' tall tree (grafted) simply failed to thrive under the same conditions that other citrus did fine in. I did use regular potting soil at that time. It was possibly overwatered, I have been guilty of that. All my citrus are outside, most in full sun.

I've had the first tree for years. I planted it in the ground over a year ago. It acted shocked, dropped leaves at every change, including watering, fertilizing, moving from one place to another (in a pot) and also when planted in the ground. It has taken this long, after two hurricanes, for it to look decent. It also caught citrus scab, which I treated.

The newer one dropped leaves/fruit/flowers after I potted it up. It did poorly for 6 months or so, until I planted it in the orchard, where it shed all leaves again. Please understand that at the same time I had the Meyer plants, I also had many other citrus, thriving, treated the same way. My orchard has lots of citrus trees, planted the same time as the Meyer, and they all did fine, and are three times the size of the Meyer now. All were the same size when planted.

I planted a tiny Eureka Lemon bush 3 months after I put in the Meyer and others, and it too has outgrown the Meyer. I understand this as far as height, since I assumed the Meyer is on dwarfing(?) rootstock, but it has not leafed out well and drops all flowers and fruit as they form.

My opinion is that Meyer Lemon trees are finicky, that they do not tolerate any mistakes or like change. I find
most other varieties to be forgiving and much tougher. Or, Meyer Lemon trees don't like me???? My other Lemon trees do(G).

At this time, I have no Meyer trees in containers. If you can give pointers in keeping one healthy and happy in a pot, I'd be willing to try again. I have not tried one in CHCs yet.

Thanks!

Lisa

    Bookmark   July 24, 2005 at 7:05PM
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jxbrown

I have a Meyer lemon in a container and it is doing well. It's potted in cactus mix and sits in full sun. I think the popularity of Meyers is due to their repeat blooming. That's certainly why I chose it. I can buy lemons at the grocery store and Meyer lemons at the farmer's market (or just steal them ;) off of other folks' trees....)

    Bookmark   July 24, 2005 at 7:38PM
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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA

With my very limited experience, I have enjoyed my Persian Lime and my Satsuma the best. I never had trouble using up the limes! And the Satsumas are so easy to peel and eat.

I'm also growing Ponderosa Lemon, Wash. Naval Orange, and Ruby Red Grapefruit. So far I'm having trouble getting the orange and the grapefruit to hold on to their fruits, but the plants are fairly small, so maybe that's it. Ponderosa is relatively easy in pots, but it does get quite large and has long thorns.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 8:11AM
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