Leaves and fruit of the Calamondin citrus tree in the conservatory at Reveley Lodge.
  • Common name: Orange, lemon, lime trees
  • Type: Conservatory plant
  • Flowering: All year
  • Height and spread: Up to 6 m
  • Soil: Nutrient rich compost
  • Aspect: Conservatory
  • Hardiness: Frost tender
  • Care: Easy

Citrus trees make excellent container shrubs for the conservatory. The flowers appear all year round, are highly scented, and the resultant fruit can be a talking point.  

Want to find a Citrus plant at Reveley?  Look on the terrace by the conservatory where our orange tree is having its summer holiday. 

Citrus fruit trees are evergreen plants, which grow naturally in subtropical or tropical regions reaching heights of up to 8 m, but some specimens have been known to double that.  They do not tolerate temperatures below 7°C which is why we grow them as a conservatory plant, although a short holiday in a sunny spot in the garden at the height of summer shouldn’t be a problem. 

Provided you can over-winter plants in a conservatory or orangery a small citrus tree should be fairly straightforward to grow.  During winter the plants prefer cool but not cold conditions the lowest temperature to be tolerated varies between species from as low as 7°C to as high as 13°C at night.  Citrus are not good houseplants, as they will not be happy in low light levels and a centrally heated room. 

Citrus require regular feeding with a specialist citrus feed, and are best watered with rain water as they prefer pH levels of 5.5 to 6.5.  Citrus plants are gross feeders, use a nutrient rich compost with the addition of grit or sharp sand to help with drainage, alternatively you can use a proprietary growing medium.  Re-pot in spring gradually increasing the pot size until the plant is in its final pot, then simply remove the top couple of inches of old compost and replenish with fresh each spring.  

Air humidity needs to be kept up all year round, stand plants on saucers filled with gravel and keep the water level just below the surface of the gravel.  During the summer mist the leaves in the early morning.  Overwatering can lead to yellowing of the leaves.  In winter, allow the surface of the soil to partially dry out before watering thoroughly with rainwater, but do not leave the plant standing in water.  Plants need need good air circulation to keep them healthy. 

Leggy plants can be cut back by almost two thirds in February.  

Common pests are the scale bug, red spider mite, and mealy bug.

Propagation is easy from pips, sow pips about 1 cm deep in a good quality seed compost, keep in a propagator until the seedlings emerge, pot on as necessary.

Although it is not known exactly when citrus trees were introduced into Europe, it is believed that the original plants came via north Africa and the Mediterranean region from the Far East, Southeast Asia and Indonesia. Nell Gywnn and her older sister Rose worked as ‘Orange-girls’ at what is now the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in the mid 1600s.  They sold the small, sweet fruit to audience members for sixpence each.  And the rest, as we know, is history.  

British sailors were given a daily dose of limes during the 19th Century to fight off scurvy, which is where the nickname “Limeys” originates from.