Yes, you can have citrus trees in your potted desert gardens. Not only will they provide you with fruit, but they will add to your ambience if planted in the correct size pot and one that complements your décor.
Use smaller sized trees (i.e., trees with smaller fruit) and trees that do not grow as fast.
Suggested citrus includes oranges, clementines, tangerines, Mexican limes and kumquats.
Not recommended: Grapefruit (with their huge fruit and leaves, grapefruit trees don’t work well in the restrictive size of a pot, and will look out of proportion) and lemon (these grow very fast, and you will have a root-bound tree quickly).
Pots for citrus: In order to be able to keep your citrus tree in the same pot for several years, you need to start big. I recommend a pot with a 28-to-32-inch interior diameter for all citrus except kumquats.
Kumquats are slower growers and tend to stay small, so these can go into 20-to-24-inch pots.
Planting citrus trees: Since temperatures are warming up in the CoachellaValley now, it should be safe to plant citrus trees at the end of the month. You will want to watch for an errant freeze in March and plan to cover them with sheets or frost cloths, but the risk is low.
Choose a spot that gets full morning sun and afternoon shade (by 1 or 2 p.m.)
Use a good-quality potting soil (evident by a rich smell and color, and a lack of woody parts) and plant the tree to the same depth as it is in the nursery can.
Add time-release fertilizer as per the directions on the label. I do not recommend fertilizer spikes.
Once planted, water thoroughly and then water every three to four days.
Next week: Caring for potted citrus trees and making them a larger part of your desert potted garden.
Marylee is the Desert’s Potted Garden Expert. Email her with comments and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.