How Do I Grow a Dwarf Citrus Tree? A Guide for Beginners

grow dwarf citrus orange and lemon trees

If you are interested in learning to grow your own fruit but aren’t ready to commit to or don’t have the space for a full-size tree, a dwarf citrus variety is perfect for a beginner.  Generally considered low maintenance in comparison to other fruit trees, their manageable size, adaptability, and fast fruit production make these a great educational experience for growers who are just starting out.  Whether growing indoors or out, in a pot or in-ground, this guide will cover all you need to know to grow your own dwarf citrus trees.


Citrus trees grow best in full, direct sun.  Any amount of time greater than six hours is considered full sun, whether it is morning or afternoon sun.  If possible, try to ensure your dwarf citrus tree is getting at least six to eight hours of sun a day, though no more than 12 hours.  Choose a full-sun spot in your Yarden for in-ground planting or near a south facing window if indoors.  You can supplement with a UV grow light indoors, if needed.


Citrus trees will thrive in a well-draining, slightly acidic soil.  For in-ground planting, test your soil for pH levels to find the best location for planting.  You’ll also want to choose an area of your Yarden that is well draining and doesn’t hold excess water.  For container trees, use citrus-specific potting soil.  Mixing your potting soil with perlite or sand can improve drainage.  You can also use the citrus-specific potting soil for in-ground planting.  Mix it 1:1 with the soil that was dug up from your hole for planting and use that mixture to fill the hole.  Roots can be reluctant to grow in a new growing medium, so this mixture will help transition the roots.


When growing your dwarf trees in a container, make sure to choose one that has drainage holes.  A pot that is 18” to 24” in diameter is a good starting size for dwarf trees, but you’ll want to ensure it has enough room to house the root system and allow for future growth.  Choosing a durable, lightweight container will help it hold up to the elements when outdoors and make it easy to move when relocating indoors for the winter season.


Dwarf citrus trees like their soil to be consistently moist, but not waterlogged.  Generally, you should water every one to two weeks when planted in-ground, though you will likely need to increase the frequency during dry/hot periods and decrease during the dormant winter season. When planted in a pot, allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering.  An easy way to test is to stick your index finger into the soil up to your second knuckle.  If the soil feels wet, hold off on watering. If it is dry, you can go ahead and water.


Your dwarf tree will likely need some additional nutrients to help encourage growth.  Use a controlled-release fertilizer during the growing months (spring and summer) to support fruit production.  Some dwarf trees planted directly outside cannot be fertilized until they have been in the ground for a certain amount of time, so make sure to check instructions for your specific variety of tree. To make your life even easier, grab one of our citrus Tree Care Kits.  Each kit contains a controlled-release fertilizer, vitamin concentrates, and plant food concentrates. Each kit has the perfect amount of each so your tree gets the correct dosage and there is no waste or heavy storage.  There is even a calendar with instructions to take the guesswork out of when to apply!


Regular pruning of your dwarf citrus trees helps maintain the shape of your tree, encourage new growth, and prevent disease and pests.  It is best to prune in late winter or early spring, right before the growing season begins.  Always prune by cutting upwards at a 45° angle. Remove any dead or diseased branches, as well as any branches that cross each other.  You may need to prune away some upper branches or tightly clustered branches to allow sunlight and air to reach throughout the whole tree.  You’ll also want to remove any suckers. Suckers are new growth or shoots that grow in the ground near the tree or on the tree below the bud union – where the citrus tree is grafted onto the root stock.  You may be tempted to leave these thinking that you have a new tree coming up, but these growths will not produce citrus; they will be whatever variety your rootstock is and can “suck up” all the nutrients your tree needs to produce fruit.  Be sure to remove them completely where they connect to the tree, or they will continue to grow back!


Most citrus trees are sensitive to cold weather.  There are some varieties that are somewhat cold hardy, but your trees will be happiest if you keep them in temperatures between 50°-80°.  Move them indoors to protect them from frost and freezing or cover them with a tarp or blanket if planted outdoors. Citrus trees also love humidity.  If you need to increase humidity levels indoors, you can mist your trees with a spray bottle, set the pots in a pebble tray, or use a humidifier near them.

Pest & Disease Control

Inspecting your dwarf citrus trees regularly will help you spot signs of pests and diseases before they become unmanageable.  Immediately treat any pests or diseases you see accordingly.  Treatments often include neem or horticultural oil, copper fungicide, and biological controls.  Keeping the area under your tree clear of debris and fallen fruit along with regular pruning can help deter pests and diseases.


While your dwarf citrus tree is most likely self-pollinating and doesn’t require another citrus tree to produce fruit, trees that are kept indoors are not as exposed to wind and insects which help pollination, so you may need to assist.  You can gently shake the branches to release the pollen or use a small clean brush to transfer pollen between blossoms.  And while having more than one dwarf citrus tree isn’t necessary, having more than one compatible tree for pollinating can help increase fruit production and quality, so don’t limit yourself to just one!

No matter what variety you choose for your Yarden, you can feel confident knowing you have the necessary tools to help your dwarf citrus tree not just survive but thrive!