Gardeners' World: Monty Don discusses his citrus plants
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As the weather remains hot and dry across the UK, citrus trees like lemons and limes are taking over with increased demand from gardeners and homeowners. In fact, Google Search Trend data from the last year has revealed that searches for “citrus trees” has increased by 80 percent. Meanwhile, searches for “lemon trees” and “lime tees” has increased by 60 percent and 50 percent respectively.
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Despite their reputation, citrus trees can be fairly easy to care for, even for those who live in cooler climates.
Citrus tree owners just need to establish the best environment for the plant, which includes knowing when to bring them inside the house.
William Mitchell, the proprietor of Sutton Manor Nursery based in Kent, has shared his tips for caring for citrus trees which include watering and pruning.
The gardening expert said lemons are the “most common” citrus plant grown by gardeners while other citrus plants like limes and grapefruits need a warmer climate.
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Warmer temperatures over the last few years means the UK is “more suited” to growing citrus trees.
How to care for citrus trees:
Planting and growing
These plants like a bright, sunny position and are best grown in pots in cooler climates so they can be moved indoors.
Potted citrus trees will only grow to be around one to 1.5 metres in height.
However, plants kept in ideal conditions with good roots could grow larger.
Soil-based compost is best for citrus trees like John Innes No 2.
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The compost will need 20 percent of sand or grit added to it to improve drainage.
Specially-formulated citrus compost is available.
Plant citrus trees in spring so they have a chance to become well-established.
Citrus trees need to be watered in the “same way” as other houseplants.
However, gardeners need to ensure they don’t overwater the plants over the winter months.
It’s important the soil is allowed to completely dry out between each watering.
In the summer months, the plants need to be watered more regularly.
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Citrus trees may need to be watered once or twice a week, ideally with rainwater, if possible.
Training and pruning
Citrus trees require “minimal pruning”, according to Mr Mitchell.
The plants won’t need reshaping until around February where branches will need to be thinned out to stop overcrowding.
Plants that appear to be “leggy” can be pruned back by up to two-thirds.
The tallest branches can be cut back to encourage more bushy growth.
In the summer months, gardeners should pinch back the tips of the more vigorous growth using their thumb and forefinger.
Citrus trees will benefit from regular feeding.
Gardeners should use high nitrogen citrus summer feed from late March to October.
In winter, gardeners should switch to winter feed that is specific to citrus plants.
Mr Mitchell said citrus trees add a “pop of colour” and “luscious greenery” to a garden.
He continued: “There is a wide variety of beautiful citrus trees including lime trees, mandarin, kumquat, limequat and lemon trees and they all come in a range of sizes.
“When we think of citrus trees, we usually associate them with Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Spain because of their hotter climates.
“However, in recent years citrus trees have become increasingly popular within the UK, and have become somewhat of a staple in British gardens.
“In Britain, citrus are not hardy, but they can be grown in pots outside in the summer and brought inside in the winter.
“The most common citrus plant grown by gardeners is lemons whereas other citrus plants, such as limes and grapefruits, require a warmer climate.”
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