Many people move to Arizona from cold climates and want to grow citrus: lemons, oranges, limes and grapefruit are prime examples. After all citrus, is one of the five C’s that made Arizona famous.
At Rosie on the House, we get dozens and dozens of calls each year from homeowners interested in citrus trees. So here are six tips on success with citrus from Jay Harper, our nursery expert and owner of Harper’s Nursery in Scottsdale.
1. Pick the right citrus tree for your yard and for you.
Although they can grow abundantly in many areas of the desert, some areas won’t work for citrus. They flourish in Phoenix, for example, but at higher elevations with more frost – such as many places in Tucson – they’re not going to succeed.
Check out your neighbors’ yards to see what citrus trees are succeeding.
2. Water, water, water.
Citrus trees can grow proficiently here. But water frequently based on the size of the tree. Keep the soil moist and don’t let trees dry out.
Newly-planted trees need frequent watering until they are established. A mature citrus tree with a 16-foot to 20-foot canopy can require up to 150 to 200 gallons of water every week during the heat of summer.
Get a copy of “Landscaping by the Numbers” from the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association so you know what your tree will need and how to do it.
3. Citrus needs a balanced fertilizer.
Your fertilizer should be one containing nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus as well as trace elements of iron, zinc and manganese. Make a vow to fertilize those trees on Labor Day, Valentine’s Day and Memorial Day.
4. There won’t be a lot of pests, but there are some.
You’re not going to have a lot of pests attacking your trees, but aphids, thrips and red mites are possible.
You want to eat the fruit, so avoid insecticides. You can keep a lot of pests away by spraying foliage with water, but not when the temperature is above 90 degrees or below 40 degrees.
5. If you do all the right stuff, your citrus might be too successful.
If you have tons of grapefruit and you don’t like grapefruit, you will eventually have a problem getting rid of grapefruit. In some parts of Phoenix, abundant citrus has led to invasions of roof rats who will love that grapefruit and other citrus.
Pick your fruit promptly or you might end up needing an exterminator to keep rats out of your yard and home.
6. Watch for frost warnings in winter.
Especially in December and January. But frost can come along even into March. Older, established trees can handle frost better. But younger, smaller trees need to be covered with frost cloth.
And in case you’re wondering, the other famous C’s of Arizona are copper, cattle, cotton and climate.
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