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Posted:  04 Mar 2016 17:45  
I have a client with a large, unobstructed south-facing window who wants an ornamental citrus in the 5-foot range. Although I have decades of interior experience, I have never cared for a large Citrus.

I am seeking some experienced, professional advice on care requirements, including potential problems such as pests, and fruit drop. How long does the fruit typically last and what are the chances of getting fruit in the future. I only want to go into this venture fully informed so I can price it out accordingly.

I am seeking direct professional interiorscape experience with these, not care requirements gleaned second-hand from online sources or nursery growers.

Thnaks in advance for sharing your experience and wisdom.
Posted:  05 Mar 2016 17:34  
Will, we grow a lot of citrus in our greenhouses in New Jersey, and we have maintained a few in clients' interior spaces, both residential and commercial.  Getting the plants through the winter is the trick, because they prefer cool, dry Mediterranean conditions during their "off-season", and that's very difficult to achieve in an office building or home with the heat running and humidity low.  Pests will be an issue for that reason...mites love sunny, dry conditions, which is what you're generally stuck with in winter up north.  There are any number of citrus mealybugs and scales that prey on the plants, making a sticky mess of things although not usually damaging the plants much, other than aesthetically.

They are heavy feeders in summertime, even indoors, and will bloom in late winter through the summer on and off.  If successfully pollinated, they will set fruit and you'll get color on your fruit within about six months indoors.  It can take a year or so to mature whatever fruit the plants can hold onto indoors.

I'd view it as a color changeout program and plan to replace the plants every year or two.  If you get lucky, you might get one that will find its "happy place" and live a longer life, but don't count on it.
Posted:  05 Mar 2016 19:55  
Thanks, Clem. This is exactly what I needed to know. My client has his heart set on a Citrus. I will share this information with him and let him know that he will have to assume the risk of fruit drop, pest problems and the unlikeliness of future fruit. I will do routine maintenance, but not get involved in serious pest infestation treatments or replacement guarantees.
Posted:  07 Mar 2016 02:22  
That's the wise course of action, Will.  I've found that the citrus with fewer, larger leaves are a bit easier to maintain.  Lemon, grapefruit and lime trees seem to be less prone to constant leaf drop than Calamondin oranges and kumquats, which have a zillion small leaves and show stress from watering inconsistency more dramatically.  You may lose a couple of leaves on the former group now and then, but it's not a panic-inducing blizzard of shed foliage like the latter.
Posted:  07 Mar 2016 16:13  
It has been many years, but I remember that they were difficult to keep full of foliage.  They had a habit of "shelling out", so it required a diligent tech to know when to prune a branch here or there to keep it in good shape.  They did regularly set fruit,though (was a Ponderosa lemon).  Stopped using them because of that and of the issue of availability when replacement was needed.

It sticks in my mind that kumquats were more forgiving, but the memory is vague.

We love doing different types of plants.  Was an interesting novelty.  Was in the waiting area of a doctor's office.  Since we had to treat it for insects (scale was more of an issue at the time), we had to be careful that a patient did not help himself to the fruit.  Unsafe to eat, due to the residual pesticides.
Posted:  07 Mar 2016 16:16  
Forgot to mention care.  As Clem said, they don't like going dry.  The ones that we had were in a well-drained mix, but it had a fairly amount of organic material in it for nutrition, so we used to give it a good soak, then let it dry down fairly well before the next time we watered.  As mentioned, they resent going dry.

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