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Markus Kobelt

Citrus plants

ZitruspflanzenWould you like to buy citrus trees? Then Lubera is the right place for you! The variety of citrus plants is fascinating. Starting from the original citrus species citron (Citrus medica), mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata), grapefruit (Citrus maxima) and lime (Citrus aurantifolia) countless new, aromatic species and varieties have been created.

Buy citrus trees – the plant species and close relatives

Sweet oranges and lemons, which we may think of first, are products of earlier hybridisations and natural crosses that probably took place in nature in the area of origin of almost all citrus plants – India, China and Burma. Both the sweet orange and the bitter orange are independently created hybrids or crosses of the mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata) and grapefruit (Citrus maxima). The lemon, which we find so naturally on supermarket shelves and in our refrigerator, and whose fragrance signals freshness and cleanliness, probably originated from citrons and Indian limes.

Take a look at our Lubera range and discover the world of citrus plants! Below you will find many helpful tips that you should bear in mind when you buy citrus trees.

   
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Tahiti Lime 'Tahiti'

Citrus latifolia - The seedless lime

From £27.90 *

The 'Rough' Lemon, Citrus jambhiri

The rough lemon with the bumpy peel

£37.40 *

Trifoliate orange

Poncirus trifoliata

£27.90 *

Variegated Orange 'Tarocco foliis variegatis'

Citrus sinensis - The orange with the variegated leaves

£55.40 *

Volkameriana Lemon

Citrus volkameriana - The healthy lemon substitute

From £37.40 *

White-fleshed Australian Finger Lime

Microcitrus australasica - White-fleshed lime caviar

From £37.40 *

Willow Leaf Sour Orange

Citrus aurantium Salicifolia

From £37.40 *

Yuzu

Citrus junos

From £37.40 *

   
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Zitruspflanzen kaufen Lubera

Other citrus species

In addition to the main types mentioned, there is an almost unmanageable number of other citrus types:

The Chinese kumquats (Fortunella) were named after the English adventurer and plant hunter Robert Fortune. Unlike citrus fruits in the strict sense, these can be eaten with the peel. Furthermore, there are many other types of lime, which are often only attributed to them because of their shape and colour (small and green), but have different origins.

The bergamot orange, with its typically smelling essential oils, which spread at lightning speed, was the basis of perfume production (cologne) and still refines British tea today (Earl Grey is perfumed with bergamot). The myrtle-leaved citrus variety Chinotto (Citrus myrtifolia) is found in almost every aperitif, and the various limes, small, mostly sour, are on the verge of replacing the lemon as an acidifier in the kitchen and especially in cocktails.

Here is the bottom line:

Citrus plants and their fruits have deeply penetrated our culture; they shape our lives today and tell countless exciting stories. And this is exactly what you can participate in when you select your citrus favourites from our comprehensive range of over 60 varieties and buy citrus trees. When growing citrus plants in the garden, on the terrace or balcony, you can see again and again how many citrus species have brought with them the great adaptability from their regions of origin: many citrus plants not only tolerate temperatures around 0°C for short periods of time, but especially at temperatures of 5-10°C they reduce their metabolism so radically that they can be overwintered well in this way and with Northern European winter light.

Citrus plants are much easier to cultivate than you might think – if you follow some basic rules!

Citrus plants are guests in our garden

How do you deal with – initially foreign – guests? You ask them about where they come from and why, about their wishes – and only then can you entertain them properly. The citrus varieties and types of citrus fruit mostly come from Asia, from China and India. But at their original location, partly at the foot of the Himalayas, they are used to colder temperatures. And they have acquired this characteristic over thousands, even tens of thousands of years, and have not lost it again.

Where our citrus trees come from

Our Swiss plant manager Robert Maierhofer buys the citrus plants personally on site in Italy. In doing so, we attach great importance not only to buying according to price and beautiful shape, but also to really show the diversity of citrus plants in all their variety with as many real varieties as possible. We buy a large number of citrus plants in northern Italy from a specialist for historical, old varieties, while we buy other citrus plants in southern Italy, where our modern varieties tend to come from. However, we have also started to cultivate some hardy citrus plants such as Poncirus trifoliata and some hybrids of them in our nurseries, so that in a few years you will also be able to buy Switrus, Swiss citrus plants.

But still most of the plants come from the south and are selected and reserved in autumn and then sold here in our Garden Shop starting in April. So it is worth ordering early if you want to buy citrus trees: only then you can be sure that you will receive your desired citrus plant! Because we can only sell as long as the supply lasts. And then we have to tell you to please wait for next year!

Citrus trees in the winter...

What does the citrus guest do in our winter? Although they (except Poncirus trifoliata and some other hardy hybrids) can't survive sub-zero temperatures in the long run (and only very few at -1 to -3°C for a short time), they slow down their metabolism at temperatures of 5-10°C, breathe less and simply take a winter break, even with ripening fruits, some of which – like lemons – even continue to ripen slowly.

...and in the summer

What citrus plants need in the summer is this: sun, air, light and heat. Finally, despite their peculiar cold memory, most citrus plants are tropical or mostly subtropical plants. But they want to enjoy the light and the sun outside, in the (hopefully not too) fresh air. They don't feel well in the house, it is too dry here, but also not bright enough. Apart from Calamondin, we do not recommend keeping any citrus plants inside in the summer; and in the winter the advice is even more valid. Overwintering in warm apartments does not work. The plant thinks it is in the growing season, but the lack of light and the dust-dry air confuses it and causes leaves to fall.

Buy citrus trees – find the right location in the garden and on the terrace

It's actually quite simple: when you buy citrus trees and plant them in a container, lemons, oranges, limes & co. want to have an environment in your garden that is as similar as possible to their original climate. These are the most important criteria:

  • As warm and sunny as possible, southern or south-western exposure
  • A protective and heat-storing backwall is ideal, but it should not be at the expense of light
  • All-day sun is best; if you have to decide, morning sun is better than afternoon sun
  • A close canopy is voluntary but not obligatory; in case of continuous rain, the citrus pot plants can be put away; they do not like being constantly wet; where and when should they have gotten used to something like this in the south?

The right pot for citrus plants

In our climate, citrus plants are potted plants. But what kind of pot is right for citrus plants? Here we list some important points for you to consider when buying a pot:

  • Freshly bought young plants are re-potted in the first or second spring after purchase into a 3-4 L larger pot. Repotting immediately after buying the citrus plant only makes sense if you bought a plant early in the spring, before the main growing season. Otherwise, just wait for the beginning of the next spring.
  • Young plants in pots with a volume less than 5 L should be repotted into a 5-8 L pot as soon as possible, so that the watering rhythm can be maintained and you don't suddenly have to water them several times a day. Pots that are too small are simply impractical.
  • We recommend plastic pots, as they are simply easier to transport. But of course it is always nice to put citrus plants in a terracotta pot (note: even then, don't forget to water them).
  • Citrus pots should always drain very well, have sufficiently large drainage holes and a drainage layer of stones, gravel, polystyrene chunks or similar at the bottom of the pot.

Repotting citrus plants

Just think again about your guest: at some point he/she has heard and seen enough of you – and now wants to make excursions into the surrounding area. Of course we can't let the citrus plant go so quickly or plant it outdoors, but at some point it too has rooted through the pot and “used up” the soil – the roots then need a little more room to grow. If you buy citrus trees and observe the following rules when repotting, nothing can really go wrong:

  • Repotting in a larger pot: for smaller plants every 2-3 years, for larger plants every 5 years. When repotting, choose a pot that is about 4-5 cm larger in diameter than the existing pot.
  • Make sure that the new pot has good water drainage, enlarge the drainage holes if necessary.
  • Fill in a 5 cm high drainage layer at the bottom.
  • Then lift the root ball out of the old pot, roughen the outside vigorously (even if some of the old soil falls off) and then repot into the new pot so that the grafting point remains clearly outside the soil.
  • Be sure to use potting soil, preferably Lubera's Fruitful Soil No. 1.
  • Especially when repotting, a slow release fertiliser can be applied for the first year, 30 g per 5 L pot volume, in such a case the weekly liquid fertilisation can be reduced by 50% this year (see below).
  • When repotting in the same pot (e.g. sometimes necessary for space reasons or because the pot is already too big) about 4-5 cm of soil and roots are scraped off and cut off at the root ball outside and then repotted in the same pot with new substrate.
  • At the same time as repotting, a pruning can also be carried out; when repotting into a larger pot, this is rather weak (round cutting); when repotting in the same pot, the plant should be cut back by 20-30%.

How must citrus plants be watered?

Does it rain every day in the southern home of citrus fruits? Does it rain every other day? Does it really never happen in the south that the soil is quite dry? The answer is this: three times no! And how does it rain in the south, if it ever rains? In buckets! From this, the watering rules for when you buy citrus trees are quite logical:

1. If you water them, do it intensively, slowly and patiently, but also persistently. The pot should get really wet.

2. Placing the pot on feet ensures that the excess water runs off easily.

3. The frequency of watering depends…in our climate, watering is done almost daily at 30°C in high summer and every two weeks at 15°C in autumn. Nevertheless, it is certainly not bad if the surface of the pot has dried up a little when watering again. Can I water too much? Yes, if the drainage of the citrus pots does not work perfectly; no, if the excess water drains well. However, this is only true in midsummer; in spring and autumn, and even more so in the winter, you really need to be cautious. The plants are at rest during the winter, and the roots can start rotting all too quickly if they are too wet.

Fertilising citrus plants

When you buy citrus trees, they can not only live on air, light and your love, they need regular nutrients, which they can get in nature, in the south, in a much wider root space.

  • When to fertilise? When the plant needs it. During overwintering, we are happy if the plant stays calm and the temperature stays below 10°C. No need to fertilise. But above 10°C the vegetation period starts and at the latest in April (with the possibility to protect the plants during frost) you have to fertilise.
  • What to fertilise and how often? Basically we recommend liquid fertilisation with Frutilizer® Instant Citrus, which provides all the macro- and micro-nutrients important for citrus (especially the important iron) and also the right acidity. Fertilise every week while watering.
  • How much fertilisation? One measuring spoon (20 g) per 10 L of water when used weekly during the main vegetation period from April to August; halve dosage in September and allow to phase out in October.
  • When repotting and also when pruning for health reasons (loss of leaves in the winter), add 30 g Frutilizer® Seasonal Fertiliser Plus per 5 L pot volume.

Pruning citrus trees

Of course, you can regularly apply a bob cut to citrus plants. And this is really nice; already the Moors did it this way in Al-Andalus with their large bitter oranges. But at least here in the north – because of the insufficient light – it does not lead to too many fruits. And also the ripeness of possible fruits is rather suboptimal, as the assimilation potential of the leaves is not sufficiently used; they simply shade each other too much in the narrow, pruned crown. So, no regular bob-style pruning, that would be too easy.

How and when then? Four steps to the right cut:

1. When pruning, always in early spring, end of February, beginning of March, i.e. still in the winter quarters, shortly before the start of growth

2. Some aesthetics are allowed, especially when repotting: a light, rounding and correcting topiary, which brings back exuberantly loose-growing shoots and establishes balance. But in total, no more than 10% of the volume should be trimmed in this way.

3. When repotting in a container of the same size, the above-ground volume is also reduced by 20-30% in order to produce healthy and strong growth.

4. In case of leaf loss in the winter quarters, the last leaves are removed by hand before spring, then the plant is also pruned by at least 30% and fertilised well when it is put outdoors. Here it is advisable to fertilise in the first year with Frutilizer® Seasonal Fertiliser Plus – 30 g per 5 L pot volume and additionally with half a dose of Frutilizer® Instant Citrus.

The pruning strategy is ultimately controlled from three directions:

1. Aesthetics: citrus is a potted plant very close to us; it should above all be beautiful. So we prune...

2. Common sense and space: dried out, puny, extremely hanging shoots are also cut back and removed on occasion. Often it is also the lack of space that forces us to cut back larger citrus plants more radically every 5 years. This also ensures that the plant does not grow bare in the inner and lower area. By the way, in Tuscany there are up to 300 year old citrus potted plants that have been regularly vitalised by such pruning and have been led to an almost eternal life.

3. Light: when you buy citrus trees, one of the most important things is to allow light to enter the crown, shoots and leaves. For me, a hollow crown is the best form for this, as it helps to improve the assimilation capacity of the leaves. This also means that if two shoots are too narrow and shadowing each other, one should be chosen sooner rather than later – usually the one that has already been closer to the sun.

Overwintering citrus plants

Actually, it is quite simple: cool, 5-10°C, dry and bright.

  • Cool means controlled cool: if there is a risk of frost in an outbuilding or shelter, an electronic frost monitor with additional heating must be added. Warm is even worse: then the plant starts to grow without enough light, overtaxes itself and leaves often fall. The premature hope for spring is deceptive.
  • The green leaves need light. So a dark place does not work. But it doesn't have to be as light as in the summer; the plants are in hibernation... in many cases. outbuildings or garages with 1 or 2 windows already work very well. If necessary, a plant lamp can be added.
  • And where exactly do should the plants be overwintered? As already mentioned, in a garage, in front of a window; in an (unheated!) staircase, in an outbuilding with frost guard, in a small, inflatable wintering igloo or tunnel. Attention: here the greenhouse effect is often a problem; during winter days with temperatures above 0°C intensive ventilation is necessary.

Are citrus plants really that simple?

Try them and learn from the reaction of the plants. They will tell you much more than you can learn in this cultivation manual. Buy citrus trees, listen, look, think. And suddenly you will discover that your citrus plant has feelings, even in the winter, that it is doing well or even worse...And then such a plant is not immediately irretrievably lost, it can already withstand something; and you always have time to react. Even pruning, fertilising and repotting in the spring after a leaf loss is actually no problem. Again and again we are surprised how quickly and beautifully the citrus plants recover, as if there was no winter, as if there was only spring and summer...

Buy citrus trees – species and close relatives

The variety of citrus species and varieties is fascinating. Starting from the original citrus species citron (Citrus medica), the mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata), grapefruit (Citrus maxima) and lime (Citrus aurantifolia), countless of new species and varieties have emerged. Sweet oranges and lemons, for example, which may be the first thing we think of when we mention citrus plants, are in turn products of earlier hybridisations and natural crosses that probably took place in nature in the area of origin of almost all citrus plants, in the Far East, India, China and Burma. Both the sweet orange and the bitter orange are independently created hybrids or crosses of the mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata) and the grapefruit (Citrus maxima). The lemon, which we find so naturally on supermarket shelves and in our refrigerator and whose scent is thrown almost ubiquitously and signals freshness and cleanliness, probably originated from cedrat lemons and Indian limes. But apart from these main types there is an almost unmanageable number of other citrus types: the Chinese kumquats (Fortunella), for example, will not be classified as citrus, but are named after the English adventurer and plant hunter Robert Fortune and are eaten with the peel in a fundamentally different way to citrus in the narrower sense. Then there are a multitude of other types of lime, which are often only attributed to limes because of their shape and colour (small and green), but which come from completely different and sometimes geographically distant regions of origin. Bergamot, with its typically smelling essential oils, which spread at lightning speed, was the basis of perfume production (cologne) and still refines British tea today (Early Grey is perfumed with bergamot). The myrtle-leaved citrus variety Chinotto (Citrus myrtifolia) can be found in almost every aperitif, the various limes, small, mostly sour, but also available in sweet varieties, are on the verge of replacing the lemon as an acid donor in the kitchen and especially in cocktails.

The history of citrus plants – the short version

Most citrus species come from the Far East, China, Burma and India. At different times and through different routes they have reached the Middle East. The Medes, in today's Iran, seem to have taken on an important mediating role. In the Middle and Far East they were also discovered and appropriated by the Greeks, but more theoretically than practically, more in texts, scientific compendia and narratives than in practical cultivation. Even the Romans probably only knew the citron, the original lemon. The citrus plants made their way more widely into the Mediterranean region via the Arab conquests in Spain, Sicily and southern Italy, and the Jewish Diaspora also took the lemons with them on their journeys far from home, so to speak. The spread in the Mediterranean region was followed in the Renaissance by a citrus madness in which all the princely courts of Europe wanted to emulate the Medici and, following the example of the northern Italians, started citrus collections north of the Alps. It is precisely these experiences since the Renaissance, and also the adaptation of citrus plants to the climate in northern Italy, that ultimately form the basis of today's cultivation of citrus plants in northern gardens. The citrus plant has become a potted plant, and its natural adaptability, which it has already demonstrated on its thousands of years of travel to the west and north, now also makes garden cultivation possible.

We almost forgot this: aia the European seafaring nations, via the English and the Spanish and Portuguese, the citrus plants then found their way overseas, to the two Americas, from where they began their latest triumphant advance in the early 20th century: when they finally conquered our drink lists and menu plans, and also began to fill the fragrance room down to the last cleaning agent. Is there a day when we do not eat or smell at least one citrus fruit? Indeed, there are probably no fruits and plants that influence and shape our lives more than the citrus plants. So look no futher than the Lubera Garden Shop when you want to buy citrus trees!

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