The Benefits of Growing Dwarf Citrus Trees

Dwarf citrus trees are grafted onto a rootstock which causes them to grow slowly and prevents them from getting too tall. The Meyer Lemon tree is a natural dwarf that will stay small even when grown on its own roots.

There are a few other varieties of citrus that will stay small when grown in containers so you don’t necessarily have to purchase a plant labeled as a dwarf in order to grow a citrus tree as a houseplant.

Natural Dwarf Citrus Trees vs
Grafted Dwarfs

Dwarf citrus trees planted in a lawn.

A natural dwarf, like the Meyer lemon, can be grown it on its own roots and it will never become as large as most other lemons, nor will it grow as quickly.

A Meyer lemon, planted in the ground, will grow to a height of 6-8 feet. It can easily be kept smaller just by planting it in a pot. You can buy citrus trees that have been grafted onto dwarfing rootstock through the links at the bottom of this page.

But, I’ll let you in on a secret.

It is easy to keep any grafted citrus tree small by simply growing it in a pot.

Hong Kong kumquat growing in a pot.

Hong Kong Kumquat Tree Photo

Grafted citrus trees (nearly any citrus tree for sale online will be grafted) adapt well to pot culture.

Decide how big a container you want to move and plant your tree in that size pot. It will grow as large as it can in that amount of soil and stop.

I know how this sounds, but they really do this.

I have a Meyer lemon in my side yard. For 7 years I kept it in a 15 inch, self-watering pot. I would move it into any gap in the border during the growing season. When it flowered, I’d bring it inside the screen porch so I could enjoy the fragrant blossoms up close.

It grew to a height of about 4 feet, not including the pot, and would bless me with about 30 lemons each time it fruited.

It was a delight!

Two or 3 years ago I decided I wanted more lemons. So I transplanted it into the ground. It has put on another foot in height since then.

Remember Meyer lemon trees are natural dwarfs. Any other citrus variety would have shot up several feet more by now.

After taking a year to acclimate to its new digs, it began flowering and fruiting again.

Orange, Dwarf

Buy a Dwarf Calamondin Orange Here

I also have a calamondin and two tangerines which I grew from seed. All are in pots. They grow to a certain size and that’s it until you put them into a larger container or the ground.

Some varieties take this kind of treatment better than others.

Calamondin orange trees are one of the best. A tree grown from a cutting (taken from flowering wood) can flower and fruit in a pot as small as six inches across. A seedling calamondin will need a pot twice this size.

Grafted Key lime dwarf citrus trees are easy to keep small as well, but they want a 12-14 inch pot. I’ve never grown a Key lime from seed so I don’t know how a seedling tree would behave.

You may have to remove the trees from the pots and root prune them every 2-4 years to keep them in the same size pots.

How often depends on the variety.

I only root pruned my Meyer lemon once in the whole seven years it was potted. Dwarf citrus trees won’t need much top pruning because they grow so slowly.

The biggest benefit of growing grafted dwarf citrus trees is that they will stay small when planted in the open ground.

The fruit will form at a comfortable picking height.

In addition to this, grafted trees are much less thorny than citrus trees grown on their own roots. This may be important to you if you plan to raise the trees around children or pets.

Citrus thorns are like little daggers.Grafted trees will also begin to flower and fruit much sooner than seedling or cutting-grown trees. Seedling trees take several years to begin bearing.

Buy Dwarf Citrus Trees

As a general rule, a semi-dwarf tree will mature to 50-80% of the size it would have grown to on its own roots. A dwarf tree will reach less than 50% of this size.  The trees below can be expected to mature to a height of 7-10 feet.

VariegatedPink LemonLemon – MeyerLime – Bearss
Orange – Washington NavelCalamondinCalamondin – Variegated
Trovita, the Only Indoor Orange!Orange – Sanguinelli BloodOrange – Valencia
Orange – Midknight ValenciaMandarin – TangoMandarin – W. Murcott
Mandarin Orange – ClementineBouquet de Fleurs

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