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Citrus Tree Care in Southern California

by | Jul 18, 2023 | Gardening | 0 comments

Citrus makes a beautiful tree with fragrant flowers that appear over a period of several months. Most citrus will grow in Southern California; however, Anawalt Garden Center recommends those varieties that show mature fruit faster, tolerate cold weather better, and adapt to most types of soil.

Meyer Lemon

  • Thick-skinned citrus fruit
  • Very juicy and less acidic than standard lemons
  • Bears fruit at an early age

Persian Lime

  • Small, tropical thorny shrub with excellent, seedless fruit
  • Fruit is small and green to yellow-green in color

Ruby Red Grapefruit

  • Sweetest, least tart of all grapefruit
  • Fruit grow to regular size
  • Red blush of skin with pinkish flesh

Sweet Kumquat

  • Bright orange fruit, oval-shaped and one inch long
  • Sweet, edible rind. Tart flesh
  • Excellent for eating fresh or for marmalade or jelly

Satsuma Orange

  • Sweet delicate flavor, few seeds, and medium to large fruit
  • Easy to peel
  • Fruit ripens early, normally by October, far ahead of cold weather
  • Grows six to eight feet tall and six to eight feet tall wide

Navel Orange

  • Sweet, seedless fruit
  • Best eating orange
  • Thick-skinned but easy to peel
  • Fruit ripens from December to May

Valencia Orange

  • Vigorously growing tree
  • Thin-skinned fruit
  • Known as the juice orange

Calamondin Orange

  • Small, tropical, evergreen citrus tree
  • Noted for its relative hardiness, ornamental form, and foliage
  • Small, juicy, acidic fruit with deep orange skin

Louisiana Sweet Orange

  • Juicy citrus with medium size, flavorful fruit
  • Medium skin


  • Medium size fruit with good flavor
  • Upright growing tree with erect branches


  • Cross between an orange and tangerine
  • Slightly larger than the tangerine
  • Very easy to peel

Root Stock

These citrus plants are budded on trifoliate orange rootstock. Trifoliate rootstock tends to go dormant during the winter, which pulls much of the sap from it, enabling the tree to withstand lower temperatures.

Watering Citrus

Citrus need moist soil, but should never be left in freestanding water. Citrus trees should be watered thoroughly, but not too often.

Soil, Mulching & Fertilizing

Citrus fruit will grow in any well-drained garden soil, from sand to clay, though these extremes are less desirable than a medium loam. In poorly drained soils, plant your citrus trees above soil level or in raised beds. Slope the soil gradually away from the trunk.

Since citrus roots can grow near the surface, mulch will help them retain moisture and keep them cool. Use 2 to 3 inches of mulch.

When planting new trees, use a root stimulator at the recommended dilution rate. We suggest that you apply a root stimulator every four to six weeks during the first year after planting.

Your first feeding will be in February with a citrus fertilizer containing zinc, then again in April or May. In September, use fertilizer with less nitrogen, such as 6-12-12. Normally, citrus extends beyond the drop line of the tree, so fertilize from the drop line out to a distance of two to three feet.

Insects & Disease

White flies often infest citrus trees. A monthly spraying of insecticide, beginning in March through September, will usually control these pests.

Dormant oil controls scale or sooty mold. Use dormant oil only by itself, as it will burn the leaves when combined with insecticides. Add a spreader sticker to any spray solution to increase its effectiveness.


Commercial trees may carry branches right to the ground. Production is heaviest on lower branches, but you can prune trees to the shape you desire. If sprouts develop from below the bud union, they should be clipped while succulent because they will heal faster than woody branches.

Special Note

All citrus trees are vulnerable to freezing and should be protected during severe cold spells.