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Barbara Hughes
Seminole County Extension Services Manager
250 West County Home Road
Sanford, FL  32773
(407) 665-5560

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Extension Services

taking care of your citrus tree

Al Ferrer
Seminole County Residential Horticulturist

Citrus trees adapt easily to a wide variety of cultural practices, soils and landscape uses. The trees can be pruned into any desired shape and thus can play many roles in the landscape. There are a few basic items to remember when growing citrus. It is best if the tree is planted in a well-drained area as the citrus roots die if kept under water for an extended period of time. Sunlight is also important for good growth and fruit production.

Fertilization: Citrus tress need to be fertilized. They are heavy feeders and need adequate levels of fertilization in order to obtain adequate growth and production. The amount of fertilizer applied to a citrus tree depends on the size of the tree and how much fruit it produces. It is best to fertilize all citrus trees with a special citrus fertilizer that contains minor elements like magnesium, manganese and baron. However, if such a fertilizer is not available, use a common 6-6-6 general fertilizer. As long as the mature leaves are healthy, showing a good deep green color and full size, continue with your program. Occasionally, the leaves will show yellow patterns. When this occurs, use a complete nutritional spray that can be found at most garden supply stores. It will generally contain zinc, manganese and boron. Some will also contain copper.

Fertilizer Program for young trees: The following recommendations are based on an 8-0-8-2-0.5-0.1 citrus mix fertilizer. Do not fertilize trees recently planted until new growth starts. Fertilize with ? lb per tree when the new growth appears; then, each six weeks thereafter, until October. Do not fertilize young trees after October. During the first year, at each application, increase the fertilizer rate gradually so that by October it will be 1 ? lbs per application. The second year fertilize again in early march with 1 ? lbs per tree. Continue to increase the fertilizer rate at each successive six weeks application so that by September you should apply 2 ? lbs per tree. The third year, fertilize 2 ? lbs per tree increasing the rate at each application to four lbs per tree by September. For mature trees use the same type of fertilizer mix.

Application rates for fruit bearing trees: Be consistent and fertilize about the same time each year, make four applications as follows: First in March; second in May; third in August and fourth in October. The amount of fertilizer to use at each application can be determined by a simple method. Measure the tree trunk circumference in inches at its greatest point near the soil level and divide that number by the number of applications per year (four applications suggested). For example, a tree measuring 20 inches in circumference needs 20 lbs of fertilizer per year. If four applications are used per year, then 20 divided by four will make 5 lbs of fertilizer per application.

Fertilizer distribution: Spread the fertilizer uniformly over the area from about one foot from the trunk to three feet past the ?drip line? of the tree. If this area is also sodded with lawn grass, be sure to come back and fertilize the lawn or add about 25-50 percent more fertilizer for the lawn. It probably would be best to fertilize the lawn and the citrus as if the other was not present to assure proper amount for both lawn and citrus.

Weed control: Citrus trees should be kept free of weeds and never mulched. Keep the weeds away from young trees in the three-foot area around the trunk. For older trees, keep weeds out of the area under the canopy of the tree. Be very careful with any herbicide used around the tree, and use only those herbicides that have no soil activity to be on the safe side.

Irrigation: During the spring, summer and early fall, two applications of ? to one inch of water per week should be adequate. At other times, irrigate only if the tree shows signs of wilt.

Pruning: The best time for pruning citrus trees is after the danger of freezing temperatures is over and just before the spring growth flush. Normally, pruning is done during the months of March through June.

All Seminole County Extension Services are Open to all Regardless of Race, Color, Sex Handicap or National Origin.