Citrus trees are a favorite among gardeners because of their dark green foliage and bright, delicious fruit. There are many varieties of citrus, with the fruit of all different colors and sizes.
Citrus trees love direct sunlight and warmth and do not take well to cold temperatures or too much shade.
When it comes to water, however, citrus trees are quite sensitive, especially when they are still young.
Make sure you know your way around watering your citrus tree so that you can give it the best chance at a long healthy life!
How often to water a citrus tree?
Citrus trees need their soil to be kept gently moist at all times. Soak the ground completely when watering and don’t water again until the soil’s top is dry. Citrus trees require soil with excellent drainage and do not like to be left sitting in water.
Watering Citrus Trees in Pots
If you are growing citrus trees in pots, you should water them as soon as the top 1–3 centimeters of soil are dry, depending on the size of the pot and the tree.
A small tree in a smaller pot may only need the first centimeter of soil to be dry before being re-watered, while a larger one will be happiest if allowed to dry down to three centimeters. The majority of the soil should be gently moist at all times.
How much water your tree needs will depend on the size of the pot, the size of the tree, the time of year, and whether the pot is being kept indoors or outdoors.
A good general rule is to make sure that the soil has been soaked through and has subsequently been allowed to drain until the top 1–3 centimeters of soil are dry to the touch.
During the summer, while the tree is being kept outside, it will require more water than usual. Check it twice per week and water it when necessary.
During the winter, while the tree is being kept indoors, it will require less water. Checking it once per week is enough during this dormant season.
If you live in a cooler climate and have moved your citrus tree indoors for the winter months, you will need to make sure that your plant is not being dried out by the indoor heating.
If you notice that the leaves of your citrus tree are becoming crisp or are browning, try making a homemade humidity tray by filling a drip tray with gravel or clay pebbles and covering them with water.
Then place the potted tree (with the usual drip tray) on top of the humidity tray.
Make sure that the water’s not absorbed into the soil of the plant. When the water evaporates it will add humidity around the tree.
If your tree is in a pot with no drainage hole, its roots will sit in water for too long and this will likely be fatal for it.
Watering Citrus Trees in the Ground
When watering a citrus tree in the ground you need to water it deeply. Make sure you are watering it for long enough and that you are thoroughly drenching the soil.
Citrus trees in the ground require slightly less regular watering than citrus trees in pots for the simple reason that there is more soil for them to draw water from.
A general rule is to water your citrus tree once every ten days during the summer, and slightly more often during particularly sunny weeks. Allow the topsoil to dry completely before re-watering the tree again thoroughly.
If there has been a lot of rain recently, you do not need to water your citrus tree that week.
Make sure that you plant your citrus tree in a well-draining area. Try to plant it on sloping ground or a hillside. Alternatively, you could plant it in a raised bed.
You can test the drainage of your planting spot by digging a hole of approximately 30 cubic centimeters and filling it with water. Allow it to drain before refilling it.
If an hour passes and it doesn’t drain for the second time, the drainage is poor. In order to improve the drainage, you will need to remove a good amount of the natural soil and replace it with fast-draining compost.
Alternatively, find a new location to plant your tree.
If you have just transplanted your tree from a pot to the ground, you will need to water it more frequently than usual––approximately twice a week–– until it begins to show new growth.
After that, you can revert to a standard watering schedule.
Frequently Asked Questions about Watering Citrus Trees
The leaves on my citrus tree fall off after I water it. Why is this?
If the leaves of your citrus tree are falling off after you water it, this is often because you have allowed the tree to dry out for too long before watering it. Confusingly, citrus trees that are too dry retain their leaves until they are watered again and only lose them after being watered.
What will happen once I overwater my citrus tree?
If your citrus tree receives too much water, its leaves will become yellow and fall off, and the skin of its fruits may split. If left sitting in water for too long over a long period of time, citrus tree roots will suffocate, and the tree may die.
What will happen if I underwater my citrus tree?
If your citrus tree receives too little water, its leaves will curl upwards, become dry and crisp, and fall off. If the citrus tree goes too long without water, it will die.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.