The Citrus genus, which includes orange, lemon, grapefruit and lime trees, among many others, is highly popular with gardeners in warm climates.
The majority of Citrus varieties are self-fertilizing and begin growing fruit when they are between three and six years old.
Citrus trees flower during warm, rainy periods and look especially beautiful when they flower while growing fruit.
Citrus trees come in standard, semi-dwarf and dwarf varieties, and need to be planted different distances apart from one another depending on what variety they are.
How far apart should I plant my Citrus trees?
Most standard-sized Citrus trees grow to over 20 feet tall and should be spaced 12 to 25 feet apart. Dwarf Citrus varieties grow between 8 and 12 feet tall and should be spaced 6 to 8 feet apart. In orchards, rows of both standard and dwarf Citrus trees should be planted 10 feet apart.
The basics of spacing Citrus trees
The two most important things to consider when planting Citrus trees are whether they will receive enough sunlight and whether their shallow but extensive root systems will have enough space.
Citrus trees––of standard, semi-dwarf and dwarf varieties––need approximately six hours of direct sunlight in order to grow fruit.
When trees are planted too close together, their canopies will cast shade on one another, limiting the hours of sunlight that reach their leaves and thereby reducing their capacity to perform photosynthesis.
Trees that cannot photosynthesize properly are less likely to grow much fruit, which means that how far apart you plant your trees can have a big impact on their productivity.
Leave enough room for roots!
You need to make sure that your Citrus trees’ root systems will have enough space to grow. While Citrus trees can happily grow against fences or walls––and these structures may even help protect them from the wind and act as heat traps––they need to be planted an appropriate distance away from them (between six and eight feet), so that their roots do not become cramped.
Similarly, Citrus trees’ shallow-growing roots also need enough space to grow outwards without being cramped by the root systems of neighboring trees. If you are planting an orchard, you will therefore also need to consider the spacing of your rows.
Orchard rows should be spaced at least ten feet apart, regardless of whether your trees are standard, semi-dwarf or dwarf varieties.
Where possible, plant the rows of your orchard in a north-south direction, as this allows for maximum sun exposure and will be most advantageous for fruit production.
Planting Dwarf Citrus trees
If you do not have a lot of space available, you might consider growing dwarf varieties instead of standard ones.
Dwarf varieties can still produce full-sized fruit, but because they are smaller and can be planted closer together, you will be able to grow more trees on a smaller plot of land. Dwarf Citrus trees can be kept small through regular pruning. Just make sure you are pruning at the right time of year!
Planting a Citrus hedgerow
Another way to grow Citrus fruit in a limited amount of space is to train dwarf Citrus trees into a hedgerow. Hedgerows are a good way to keep the size of your Citrus trees in check. That said, hedgerows produce less fruit than lone-standing trees.
To grow a Citrus hedgerow, you will need plant a straight line of dwarf Citrus trees four to six feet apart. You will want to train the limbs of the trees that are growing toward each other and to prune away the branches growing out in other directions.
In order to encourage bushier, more hedge-like growth on the branches you are keeping, cut the final half-inch to two inches off of the ends of branches by making a cut at a 45-degree angle just before a leaf node.
Remember to regularly disinfect your pruning tools with a phenol-based cleaner to prevent spreading bacteria between trees.
Transplanting Citrus trees
If your Citrus trees have been planted too close together and your trees are still small enough to be moved, you will want to transplant them in order to give them the best possible chance at a long and healthy life.
Transplanting can be a tricky process, so make sure you are well-informed about how to transplant Citrus trees before you get started.
You will want to transplant them in the spring or early autumn so that they do not have to adjust to their new environment in the heat of the summer or the cool of the winter, which might lead to transplant shock.
Frequently asked questions about how far apart to plant Citrus trees
How far apart should I plant my Citrus trees if I want to grow different varieties of citrus next to each other?
If you are growing a variety of different Citrus trees beside one another, you should always use the tree that requires more space as your reference point. When planting a full orange tree beside a dwarf lemon tree, for example, you should space them between 12 to 25 feet apart, as this is what the full orange tree requires.
What will happen if I plant my Citrus trees too close together?
If you plant your Citrus trees too close together, they will produce less fruit, will not grow as tall as they otherwise would, and their soil will become depleted. Sometimes, Citrus trees that have been planted too close together will also graft onto each other naturally.
Can some Citrus trees be planted closer together than others?
Some Citrus trees can be planted closer together than others. Tangerine trees, for example, are a variety of mandarin and only need to be spaced ten feet apart, rather than the usual minimum of 12 feet for standard-sized Citrus trees. It is a good idea to check the specific spacing guidance for the variety of Citrus trees you are growing before you begin to plant them.
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Daniel has been a plant enthusiast for over 20 years. He owns hundreds of houseplants and prepares for the chili growing seasons yearly with great anticipation. His favorite plants are plant species in the Araceae family, such as Monstera, Philodendron, and Anthurium. He also loves gardening and is growing hot peppers, tomatoes, and many more vegetables.