Citrus trees produce the most fruit when fed properly.
Many people in warm climates grow fruit trees either in the landscape or in containers, but are often uncertain of how to care for them. Citrus trees are heavy feeders, and in order to have flowers and fruit, they need to be fertilized regularly. The amount of fertilizer you will use depends on the size and age of your trees.
The most common mistakes home gardeners make are not fertilizing their citrus trees enough, not fertilizing regularly, or not using proper amounts of fertilizer. Most fruiting trees should be fertilized in early spring before the trees are in bloom. If you miss your early feeding, don’t fertilize until the fruit is about the size of a pea, usually around mid-May.
Young Citrus Trees:
In Florida and humid climates, begin fertilizing new trees at the beginning of the growing season in February, just as the buds begin to swell.
Year one, apply about 1/2 pound of citrus-specific fertilizer, or a 10-10-10 fertilizer per tree, and reapply every 6 weeks through October.
In the second year, begin feeding at the start of the growing season 1 pound of fertilizer per tree, every 7 weeks through October.
In the third year, begin feeding at the start of the growing season 2 pounds of fertilizer per tree, every 9 weeks through October.
After they have been in the ground for three years, fertilize only 3 times a year in February, May and October. Feed at a rate of 1 pound of fertilizer for each year of the tree’s age. For instance, a citrus tree that is 7 years old would get 7 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer in 3 separate applications for a total of 21 pounds per year.
How to Apply Fertilizer to the Landscape:
- Spread fertilizer evenly over the ground in a band along the edge of the tree’s leaf canopy. Don’t spread it near the trunk.
- Water trees thoroughly after each application of fertilizer. This is especially critical in dry climates.
Feeding Citrus Trees in Containers:
Begin fertilizing potted citrus trees in early spring and stop in midsummer to allow your tree to prepare for winter. You can either use a slow-release fertilizer once a year in early spring or a liquid fertilizer every other week.
Look for a fertilizer labeled specifically for citrus, but if it isn’t available, use a fertilizer with twice as much nitrogen as phosphorous, such as 12-6-6.