Several viewers of my YouTube channel have asked me, “When is the best time to graft citrus trees?” Whether one lives in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, or the Americas, it is possible to determine the best time of year to graft citrus trees based upon the local weather. The citrus grafting season varies from place to place according to the local temperatures.
- Grafting Citrus Trees – Best Time is Based on Temperature
- The Citrus Grafting Season is Different
- The Best Time to Graft Citrus Trees
- Tips for Successful Citrus Grafting – Free ebook
- Citrus Propagation1
- Composition of a Citrus Tree
- Horticultural Terms
- Citrus Seed
- Other Propagation Methods for Citrus
- Multiple Grafted Citrus Trees: Growing A Mixed Graft Fruit Tree
- What is a Mixed Graft Citrus Tree?
- Growing a Mixed Graft Fruit Tree
- How to plant lemon, lime & orange trees
- Don Burke says some citrus trees are much better performers in gardens than others. If you want a healthy citrus tree a great start is to take Don’s expert advice and plant one of his ‘best’ varieties.
- Dwarf citrus
- Double-grafted citrus
- Caring for your citrus plant
- Where to plant?
- Container planting
- Top tips for planting citrus trees in a container
- Caring for your potted plant
- Planting in the garden
- Top tips for how to plant citrus trees in the garden
- Keeping your plant happy
- Top tips
- Citrus Tree Care
- Why We Sell Small Lemon, Lime, Kumquat, Calamondin & Orange Trees
- Micro-Budding & Grafting Takeaways:
- What Is Micro-Budded Citrus?
- Micro-Budded Citrus Provides Fast Fruit
- Dwarf Fruit Trees
Grafting Citrus Trees – Best Time is Based on Temperature
Temperature is a very important factor when grafting citrus. I believe that many people think that citrus grafting is more difficult than it really is because they graft at the wrong time and the scions dry out and die before the graft heals. The ideal time of year to graft citrus depends upon the local climate. The temperature at which citrus wounds best heal is between 70°F and 85°F (21°C to 29°C). Citrus should ideally be grafted when temperatures in this range are forecast.
The Citrus Grafting Season is Different
The below weekly temperature forecast shows temperatures that would be good for grafting deciduous fruit trees such as cherries, peaches, plums, or apples. Attempts to graft citrus during such weather are more likely to fail, however, because the temperatures are too cold.
Weekly Temperature Forecast Unfavorable for Grafting Citrus Trees
The Best Time to Graft Citrus Trees
The below weekly temperature forecast shows temperatures favorable for grafting citrus trees. This forecast has temperatures all below the top of the favorable range (85°F or 29°C). A forecast with temperatures rising above the top of the favorable range can also be good for grafting citrus as long as the temperatures are dipping into the favorable range during at least part of the day. When temperatures are higher it is especially important to shade citrus grafts because direct sunlight can dry out a graft and cause it to fail.
Weekly Temperature Forecast Favorable for Grafting Citrus Trees
Tips for Successful Citrus Grafting – Free ebook
This article includes an excerpt from my ebook, Tips for Successful Citrus Grafting. In this ebook I have addressed common issues that cause citrus grafts to fail. You can download a free copy here.
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I love showing visitors my multi-grafted citrus tree. It started out a plain old Eureka lemon… but over the years it has taken on several branches of Myer Lemon (the ‘Lots a Lemons’ selection), and Tahitian Lime. I love the novelty factor, and I also love the fact that in my small backyard, it allows me to grow a number of different tree varieties in the space of one tree… and it’s been made possible by grafting.
Grafting is one of those tasks that can frighten novice gardeners… something that only experienced gardeners can understand and carry out correctly. Rubbish! There’s really nothing to it, and you don’t need any high tech gear. Sure, a proper grafting knife and grafting tape are good to have, if you are serious, but if you just want to give it a try, a sharp knife and some cling wrap will do the trick.
There are many methods, but I’ve had great success with a technique called ‘bark grafting’. This simply entails inserting small lengths of growth (or scions) with several buds on them, into the cut end of an existing branch. Start by selecting a branch that you want to graft onto, and cut it cleanly with sharp secateurs or loppers – don’t leave any ragged bits. It’s best to take it right back towards where it joins a main leader, that way the graft becomes the new branch. The scions should be taken from the tips – young growth, that’s firm and hard enough to snap, not soft and sappy. Prepare scions around 5-7cm long and remove all the leaves to reduce moisture loss. At the base of the scion, slice a 30° angle to create a sloped cut… a chisel shape that will be pushed under the bark of the tree branch. Use your knife to make a few 3 cm long downward slits in the bark around the tip of the cut branch, then use the tip of the knife to loosen the top of the slits – this helps with the scion insertion. Push the scions in gently until the surface revealed by the angle cut is fully inserted and in contact with the branch wood, then firmly wrap it all in place with your grafting tape. I like to then seal the cut surface of the branch with some candle wax, then to keep the scions moist, I slip a little clear plastic bag over the top and secure it with a pin (if you don’t have one, fashion one to fit out of a bigger plastic bag and sticky tape) and spray a little water into it to raise the humidity. On a hot sunny day, put a paper bag over it to protect it.
Be patient… it can take many weeks for the graft to take. You know it has taken when the buds on the scions start to grow. You’ll also see callusing around the graft points.
This is a great task to take on now because the weather is warm and there’s plenty of sap flow which means the grafts will take easily. If you’re looking for more jobs to get on with right now, check out the latest issue of ABC Organic Gardener, and make sure you get your handy bonus lift out 12-month planting guide. I’ve already got mine hanging on the wall and it’s brilliant!
First published: February 2013
Ute Albrecht, Mongi Zekri, and Jeffrey Williamson2
Composition of a Citrus Tree
A commercial citrus tree usually consists of two parts: the scion and the rootstock. The scion is the above-ground portion of the tree and comprises the main trunk, limbs, leaves, and fruit. The rootstock, or stock, is the portion of the tree that consists of the lower trunk and the root system of the tree. Rootstocks are usually grown from seeds, but can also be grown from cuttings or tissue culture. The scion is joined to the rootstock via a process called grafting, or budding, which is described in detail below. By using different cultivars for rootstock and scion, more desirable characteristics can be incorporated into one single tree. A specific cultivar for the rootstock can render a citrus tree tolerant to different stresses such as unfavorable soil conditions, soilborne pests and diseases, and cold. Rootstock can also greatly influence the size, fruit quality, and yield of a citrus tree. More information on rootstock selection can be found in the Citrus Rootstock Selection Guide (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs1260). The choice of scion depends on the grower’s preference and desired economic value of the cultivar.
Plant propagation is the art and science of reproducing plants while preserving their unique characteristics from one generation to the next. Grafting is a specialized type of plant propagation where part of one plant (the scion) is inserted into another (the rootstock or stock) in such a way that they unite and grow as a single plant. Budding is a type of grafting, with the scion consisting of a single bud attached to a piece of bark and sometimes a thin sliver of wood underneath. Budding is the method of choice for propagating young citrus trees because it works well for citrus and requires less skill than other types of grafting. There are different types of budding, but those most commonly used for citrus in Florida are the inverted T bud and the chip bud (hanging bud).
To change the cultivar of an existing citrus tree, a procedure known as top-working may be used. This involves grafting a new cultivar onto the existing scion. Several grafting procedures (including T budding) can be used to top-work citrus, but some require considerable skill.
Citrus rootstock seeds are usually polyembryonic and produce nucellar embryos, which are derived from the maternal tissue (the nucellus) that surrounds the embryo sac. This phenomenon is essential for rootstock production, as seedlings derived from nucellar embryos will be genetically identical to the mother plant. In few cases, seedlings will grow from the zygotic embryo of the seed. These plants are called “off types” and must be rogued, as they are often inferior in growth and genetically different.
While seeds removed from citrus fruits will grow into trees and eventually produce fruit, fruit production usually does not occur for many years due to juvenility. Fruit produced from most citrus cultivars used as rootstocks are generally not edible and only used for the purpose of propagation.
Seeds can be purchased or extracted from mature citrus fruit. To avoid introduction of any potential disease agent, fruit should be rinsed prior to seed extraction in diluted (20%) sodium hypochlorite (bleach). In addition, seeds should be disinfected, followed by a thorough rinse with water. A short treatment in dilute potassium hydroxide or overnight incubation of the seeds with the enzyme pectinase will remove any fruit tissue adhering to the seeds after extraction. After rinsing the seeds, they should be spread out evenly on non-stick paper or aluminum foil and completely dried without direct exposure to sunlight. Seeds can be planted directly, but this is not recommended as a drying period is generally required for optimal germination. Dried seeds should be placed in polyethylene bags and stored at 40–45°F (4–10°C). For long-term storage seeds should be treated with a fungicide. Seeds should be planted at a depth of 1/4 to 1/2 inch in suitable pots or flats containing sterile potting medium. Removing the seed coats, or soaking seeds in aerated water for about eight hours just prior to planting, can reduce the time required for germination and seedling emergence. Under ideal conditions (sunlight, warm soil, and sufficient moisture), emergence will occur within 2–3 weeks after planting (Figure 1). Plants should be trained to a single stem (no branches within 6–8 inches of the soil).
Citrus rootstock seeds and seedlings.
Ute Albrecht, UF/IFAS
Budwood for budding the desired scion cultivar to the rootstock must be obtained from healthy and DPI (Department of Plant Industry)-certified, disease-free budwood source trees (Figure 2). Budding is usually done when seedling stems are 1/4 to 3/8 inch in diameter (about the diameter of a pencil). Budding can be done anytime the rootstock is in a condition of active growth and the bark is slipping (the bark separates easily from the wood underneath), which is usually from April to November, depending on location. It is important to keep the stock plants (the rootstock liners) well-watered and fertilized prior to budding. The area to be budded should be pruned clean of thorns and twigs. The preferred budding height is 6–8 inches above the base of the stem.
Mongi Zekri, UF/IFAS
Selection of Budwood
Budwood is usually collected from twigs from the next to last growth flush (the wood behind the current growth flush) or from the current growth flush after it has begun to harden or mature. Budwood should be round and not too angular (as is often the case for young wood), relatively straight, and should have well-formed buds in the leaf axils. Whenever possible, budwood should be approximately the same diameter as the rootstock stem to be budded.
After budwood is cut from the tree, the undesirable wood and/or growth flush should be discarded and the remaining budwood trimmed to 8 to 10-inch lengths (Figure 3). Leaves should be cut off, leaving a stub of the petiole about 1/8 inch long to protect the bud. Trimmed budsticks should be labelled as to cultivar, date, and budwood source. Although budwood can be stored in the refrigerator for 1–2 weeks after placement in polyethylene bags, it should be used as soon as possible.
Thang Kim, UF/IFAS
Because of the risk of introducing serious virus or virus-like diseases, the Citrus Budwood Protection Program, first established in 1957, became mandatory in 1997. Therefore, all propagations of citrus in Florida require the use of budwood from certified disease-free nursery stock in compliance with rule 5B-62, F.A.C (
The most important tool for successful budding is a razor-sharp budding knife, which can be purchased at specialty stores or at garden supply stores (Figure 4). A smooth, clean cut is necessary to allow for a smooth contact between the scion and rootstock during the healing process. In addition, a sharpening stone and honing oil are needed to prevent the blade from becoming dull with use. The purchase of a diamond sharpening stone will eliminate the need for use of oil. Polyethylene budding tape (available in clear or green) is used to wrap buds to prevent drying and promote bud union formation. Using clear tape allows for observation of the bud union during the healing process.
Budding tools. From left to right: budding tape, hand pruner, budding knives. Bottom: sharpening stone.
Thang Kim, UF/IFAS
T budding is a relatively simple procedure and is recommended over chip budding, which requires more expertise. Most Florida citrus trees are propagated by the inverted T bud procedure, but the standard (upright) T bud is also suitable. T budding can be conducted whenever the rootstock plant has attained suitable size, its bark is slipping, and budwood is available.
Before making any incision to stock or budwood, the blade of the budding knife should be disinfected to avoid transmission of any disease agent. Using the budding knife, a vertical cut of about 1.0–1.5 inch in length is made completely through the bark in a smooth area of the rootstock stem. A horizontal cut is made through the bark at the bottom (inverted T) or top (regular T) of the vertical cut (Figure 5). The cut is made at a slightly upward angle, again cutting completely through the bark. The point of the knife can be used to lift the bark along the vertical cut. A bud is removed from the budstick while holding the apical end (tip) of the budstick away from you. With the knife blade almost parallel to the axis of the budwood, a cut is made about 1/2 inch above the bud, and a shield-shaped piece of bark and wood about 3/4 to 1 inch long with a flat, smooth-cut surface is removed. Only a thin sliver of wood should remain under the bark. The bud should not be scooped out because too much wood will be removed with the bud. Avoid touching the cut surface of the bud shield by holding it between the thumb and knife blade, or by carefully using the leaf petiole stub as a handle.
Inverted T cut (left), cutting a bud (right).
Ute Albrecht, Adam Hoeffner, UF/IFAS
The bud should be immediately inserted into the stock; the cut surface of the bud should not be allowed to dry. Slide the bud shield (the bud with associated bark and wood) under the bark flaps of the rootstock with the cut surface flat against the wood of the rootstock plant. The bud shield should be completely enclosed in the T incision (Figure 6).
Inserting the bud (left) and wrapping the bud (right).
Ute Albrecht, Adam Hoeffner, UF/IFAS
Buds should be wrapped immediately following their insertion into the rootstock. Wrap buds with budding tape (polyethylene strips about 1/2 inch wide by 6–10 inches long). Begin wrapping below the bud with 3–4 turns and finish with several turns above the bud covering all exposed surfaces of the bud with tape. Alternatively, wrapping can proceed from the top down. The end of the tape is secured beneath the last circular turn. The wrap should be firm without being excessively tight. Wraps should be removed after 14–21 days and should not be left on more than 30 days. If a successful union has formed between the bud and the rootstock, the bud will be green and show no signs of shriveling or drying. Callus formation should also be evident around the edge of the bud.
Chip budding requires slightly more skill than T budding and is usually done whenever the bark of the rootstock plant is not slipping or has become too thick to T bud. The chip bud is cut while holding the budstick with the apical end toward the budder. A thin slice of wood with a scion bud is removed by making a smooth upward cut about 1 inch long and just into the wood. A second cut is made at the top of the first cut, forming a notch. A chip is removed from the rootstock in a similar manner (Figure 7) and the scion bud is placed on the cut to match the cambium. Cambial tissue is a thin layer between the bark and the wood of a tree. This is an area of active cellular growth of a tree. Because only two thin lines of cambial tissue are available for healing on both the scion bud and rootstock, it is important that matching on both sides occurs whenever possible. The scion should be wrapped as described for T budding so that all cut edges are completely covered.
Ute Albrecht, Thang Kim, UF/IFAS
After the wrapping has been removed and the union between the bud and stock has occurred, the bud must be “forced” into growth. Naturally occurring plant hormones produced in the upper portion of the rootstock seedling may prevent the scion bud from growing unless the bud is forced. Buds are forced by cutting about 2/3 of the way through the stock, on the same side as the bud and about 1 to 1 1/2 inches above it. Then, the seedling top is pushed over to lie on the ground; this procedure is known as lopping. Alternatively, the seedling top is bent over to form a loop in a process called bending (Figure 8). In both cases, the rootstock top will continue to supply the roots and developing scion with food and other growth substances during the early stages of scion development (Figure 9). After the scion bud has grown several inches, the rootstock may be removed by making a cut about 1/2 inch above the scion. If lopping or bending are not practical, the rootstock top can simply be removed with a sloping cut completely through the rootstock at about 1 inch above the scion bud. Rootstock sprouts, which form along the main stem (especially in close proximity to the scion bud), should be removed as soon as they develop because they will slow the growth of the developing scion. As the scion grows, it will need to be staked and tied at regular intervals to prevent breaking of the scion. When the nursery tree reaches a height of about 18 to 20 inches, it is ready to be planted in the field (Figure 10). The top should be pinched out to stimulate lateral shoot development.
Bending of rootstock liners to force buds.
Mongi Zekri, UF/IFAS
Buds beginning to grow (left) and finished trees (right).
Ute Albrecht, Mongi Zekri, UF/IFAS
Mongi Zekri, UF/IFAS
Other Propagation Methods for Citrus
Grafting procedures other than budding involve the use of a scion with two or more buds. There are numerous types of grafts, including whip, cleft, bridge, in-arch, stump, side, inlay bark, approach, and others. Grafting is most commonly used to repair existing trees or to top-work existing trees to change varieties.
Top-working is the process of changing the top of an established tree from one cultivar to another, or to multiple cultivars, by budding or grafting. Several procedures may be used when top-working citrus trees. They include bark grafting, cleft grafting, and T budding. To top-work a citrus tree by T budding, prune the tree back to leave only a few branches of 2-5 inch diameter or smaller. Insert 1–3 buds on the upper side of the remaining scaffold limbs using the T bud method. Remove unwanted buds and sprouts to insure that only the desired scion buds grow. If limbs are so large that budding would be difficult, prune back to major scaffold limbs, removing the entire top (caution: severely pruned trees should be whitewashed to prevent sunscald). After limbs sprout back and mature a bit (6 months or so), the sprouts can be budded as initially described, using 4–6 of the stronger sprouts on each limb (Figure 11).
Mongi Zekri, UF/IFAS
Presently, nurseries are experiencing a shortage of seeds for some of the popular rootstock varieties, and vegetative propagation methods are required to produce large numbers of genetically identical plants. One method that is popular, especially with citrus rootstock breeders who usually do not have seed source trees available for their new selection, is the propagation of rootstocks through cuttings. For this method, single node cuttings, about 1 inch in length, are removed from woody sections of 2–5 month-old branches of certified disease-free citrus plants. The leaf remains attached to the node to allow photosynthates to be delivered to the developing roots, but can be reduced to a length of 20–30% of its original size. The basal end of each cutting is then dipped into a rooting powder containing a root-stimulating hormone, such as indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) or naphthalene acetic acid (NAA), and inserted into pre-moistened potting medium (Figure 12). Cuttings need to be kept under high-moisture conditions in order for the plants to survive in the absence of a root system. This can be accomplished by placing plants in an enclosed high-humidity environment and/or using an automated misting system. Under these conditions, a young plant will usually develop within several weeks after planting. Once cuttings have rooted and plants have begun to grow, care can be continued with standard procedures used for seedlings.
Ute Albrecht, UF/IFAS
Tissue Culture (Micropropagation)
Advances in methods for vegetative propagation of citrus rootstocks through tissue culture (micropropagation) have now made it possible to economically produce large numbers of genetically identical plants from rootstock selections. The starting material for establishing micropropagated plants varies depending on the preference of the nursery, and can consist of nucellar embryos or buds, both of which must be derived from disease-free foundation trees. The explants are placed in an agar-nutrient medium which may contain a small amount of growth regulators to accelerate plant regeneration. Once plants are regenerated, they are subcultured every few weeks on a fresh agar-nutrient medium to generate multiple shoot clusters (Figure 13). After an elongation phase, clusters are separated into individual shoots. Depending on the preference of the nursery, individual plants are then either rooted on agar medium before transplanting or directly rooted into potting medium. After an acclimatization period under high-humidity conditions, young plants can be managed using the same procedures applied for seedlings. Use of tissue culture allows the rapid propagation of large numbers of identical and disease-free plants, and has become routine for many fruit crop systems.
Beth Lamb, Phillip Rucks Citrus Nursery
This document is HS1309, one of a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 2017. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.
Ute Albrecht, assistant professor, Horticultural Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center; Mongi Zekri, multi-county citrus agent IV, UF/IFAS Extension Hendry County; and Jeffrey Williamson, professor, Horticultural Sciences Department; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension office.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.
Multiple Grafted Citrus Trees: Growing A Mixed Graft Fruit Tree
Fruit trees are great things to have in the landscape. There’s nothing quite like picking and eating fruit from your very own tree. But it can be hard to choose just one. And not everyone has the space for several trees, or the time to care for them. Thanks to grafting, you can have as many fruits as you want, all on the same tree. Keep reading to learn more about growing a mixed graft citrus tree.
What is a Mixed Graft Citrus Tree?
Citrus trees with more than one fruit growing on them, often called fruit salad citrus trees, are a great choice for gardeners with big ambitions but little space.
Most commercial fruit trees are actually the product of grafting or budding – while the rootstock comes from one variety of tree, the branches and fruit come from another. This allows gardeners with a range of conditions (cold, tendency toward disease, dryness, etc.) to grow roots that are adapted to their climate and fruit from a tree that might not be.
While most trees are sold with a single type of tree grafted onto the rootstock, there’s no reason to stop there. Some nurseries sell multiple grafted citrus trees. If you feel comfortable experimenting with grafting and budding, you can also try to make your own fruit salad tree.
Growing a Mixed Graft Fruit Tree
As a rule, only fruits within the same botanical family can be grafted onto the same rootstock. This means that while any citrus can be grafted together, the sort of rootstock that supports citrus will not support stone fruits. So while you can have lemons, limes or grapefruits on the same tree, you won’t be able to have peaches.
When growing a mixed graft fruit tree, it’s important to keep track of the size and health of the branches and possibly to prune more than usual. If one branch of fruit gets too big, it can draw too many nutrients away from the other branches, causing them to languish. Try to keep your different varieties pruned to roughly the same size in order to divide resources equally.
It’s easy to get yourself totally confused and muddled when immersed in the heady world of horticulture – hybrids, cultivars, cross pollination…the list of terms goes on and on. But, there is one horticultural concept that we are hearing a lot more of – grafting, and it’s one that home gardeners need to get their heads around.
Rather than an act of political deception, grafting in plant terms means physically combining the desirable properties of two (or more) plants to form one “super” plant. Confused? Think about it like this – take the legs of your favourite supermodel or actor, and attach to these the torso and head of someone else (think my head on Angelina Jolie’s legs!) It’s all about the fusion between the lower half (called the rootstock) and the upper, aerial parts (called the scion).
Grafted plants are becoming far more common in garden centres and nurseries, and there are a number of reasons for this. These include:
Dwarfing – A number of plants sold at the nursery are grafted onto dwarf rootstock (our Flying Dragon citrus and fruit trees being a prime example). This means that the rootstock actually limits the size of the tree, which is great for gardeners wanting to maximise productivity and plant diversity in limited spaces or pots. The scion is still productive, with the trees (generally) producing full-size fruit.
Toughness, hardiness and disease resistance – Next time you’re in the nursery, have a look out for some of the grafted Eremophila nivea we have on the benches. This beautiful grey foliaged plant is actually grafted onto rootstock that makes it tougher, and more tolerant of our clayey Melbourne soils. This is a fairly common reason for grafting, and a lot of Western Australian plants that we love in the eastern states are now grafted onto more tolerant rootstock.
Vigour – Some plants that can traditionally be a bit sluggish to get going are grafted onto vigorous, fast growing rootstock, meaning we don’t have to wait so long for our tree/shrub/vine. A classic example of this is the Nellie Kelly passionfruit range, grafted onto the rootstock of the vigorous Blue Passionfruit (Passiflora caerulea) to give it more vigour.
Great Grafts – How to love your grafted plant
This first key to raising a successful grafted tree should happen in the nursery as selecting a healthy, well-grafted plant is the key. In most circumstances, you should be able to see the graft union – the point where the rootstock joins the scion. In most cases (Nellie Kelly passionfruit excepted) this graft is low on the stem of the plant, just above the soil level. This graft should look healthy, show no signs of desiccation (like sap, scab or sawdust) and feel tough and stable. The top growth should be healthy, and look for signs of new growth – this indicates the graft has worked and the sap is flowing!
Once you get the plant home, plant it out to the same depth as it was in the pot, taking care NOT to cover the graft with soil or mulch, as this can lead to graft infection and eventually, failure. While you care for and love your grafted plant, remember to look at the area BELOW the graft, and monitor regularly. If you spot any new growth, leaves, shoots etc. forming below the graft union, remove these at once with sharp secateurs or a knife. Do NOT “yank” or “pull” these shoots off, this only encourages more growth! You may need to repeat this process several times over the first few years of you plants life, but it is vitally important, as any vegetation growing from below the graft union is taking valuable resources away from the top part f the plant, and has the potential to take over.
Remember how we said that rootstock was selected for its vigour? If the rootstock gets away from you, it can take hold, and you may be left with a bit of a nightmare on your hands. The Nellie Kelly passionfruit is a great example of this. Left alone and unmonitored, this rootstock WILL take off, and will eventually take over your entire garden. Blue passionfruit (P. caerulea), the Nellie Kelly rootstock, is a highly vigorous plant that will sucker and generally wreak havoc in your patch…so you must monitor and keep an eye out for any unwanted growth and remove as soon as you see it.
Multigrafts – What they are and how to look after them
Multigrafts are just that – multiple scions (aerial parts) grafted onto a single rootstock. This is most common in fruiting and productive trees, and is done to increase yield and variety from a small area, as well as increasing pollination (and thus fruiting). Let’s look at some of the multigrafted apple trees as an example – all apple trees require cross pollination with another in order to fruit, however many of us don’t have the space to plant multiple apple trees. This is where multi grafting comes in. Onto the one rootstock, two or three different but compatible varieties of apple can be grafted, meaning the rate of pollination increases, and you get more apples.
While fantastic in theory, multigrafts can be a bit of a handful for the untrained gardener. What tends to happen on multigrafted trees is that one of the grafts is ALWAYS stronger and more dominant than the rest, meaning it will grow away at a far greater speed and rate than the others. Essentially, we need to regulate this, and keep the tree under control with pruning. Prune that dominant graft back so that it is a comparable size to the other scions on the tree. You may find you are pruning this dominant graft twice as often as the other scions, and that is perfectly okay. Summer pruning the dominant graft is a good way to reduce it’s size. If this is not done, the dominant graft will end up taking over, and the other scions will eventually lose the will to live!
That aside, with some prudent pruning and rootstock monitoring grafted and multigrafted trees are super spacesavers, productive cross pollinators, and allow us to grow plants would otherwise really struggle in Melbourne. Have a look for these popular grafted varieties next time you’re at BAAG:
Citrus “Splitzer” – Multigrafted citrus trees, perfect for smaller gardens or pots. Try the lemon/orange combo, the lime/lemon combo or, my favourite, the Tahitian Lime/Makrut Lime tree. As they say, two heads are better than one!
Flying Dwarf Citrus – Good things come in small packages, and this range gives you all your fave citrus varieties in miniature! Just like a Shetland pony, but edible!
Corymbia ficifolia grafted cultivars – Everybodies favourite flowering gum, this range of grafted C. ficifolia are great for the suburban garden. With catchy names like “Wildfire”, “Calypso” and “Sunset”, what’s not to love about these gorgeous trees? Now available in a range of designer flower colours. NB: Monitor the rootstock carefully for shoots.
How to plant lemon, lime & orange trees
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Oranges ripe on the tree.
Don Burke says some citrus trees are much better performers in gardens than others. If you want a healthy citrus tree a great start is to take Don’s expert advice and plant one of his ‘best’ varieties.
No fruit has affected civilisation as much as citrus. We drink orange juice, whisky sours (with lemon), lime cordial, lemonade, Fanta and Cointreau. We eat lemon meringue pie, duck a l’orange, marmalade, lemon butter, orange cake, laksa, Thai red or green curry and Arnott’s Orange Slice biscuits. We season fish with lemon juice, we freshen wardrobes with pomanders, roll Jaffas down the aisle at the movies and eat oranges at half time at the footy. We burn citronella candles to keep mozzies at bay.
Citrus is in everything from disinfectants to dishwashing liquids and potpourris. Citrus oil (eg, bergamot) is a staple in many perfumes and cosmetics. And women have bleached their hair with lemon juice for centuries. The Etrog (a variety of citrus) is used by the Jews in the Feast of the Tabernacles, and the cumquat is used as the principal plant for celebrating the Chinese New Year. By now I’m sure you get it – citrus rule the world.
Citrus are the plants most taken for granted in Australia. They produce many gloriously perfumed white flowers, sport glossy, green leaves and brightly coloured fruit – yellow, orange, green and almost red. Best of all, the fruit hold on the tree in good condition for many months after ripening. So citrus trees provide long-term self-storage of fruit. Citrus fruit are rich in vitamin C and are great for winter health including resistance to colds and ’flu. They protect the family from disease but most of us hardly give them a second thought.
A bit of history
Citrus originally come from South-East Asia – the Malay archipelago and tropical Asia. The majority of the basic varieties appear to have been developed in China over the last 4000 years.
The Arabs introduced bitter oranges and lemons to Spain and Portugal during their reign there, and Vasco de Gama introduced the first sweet oranges to Portugal in 1498. Hence the plethora of Spanish and Portuguese names for citrus varieties: Lisbon lemon, and Valencia and Seville oranges.
Mind you, the Washington Navel orange comes from Brazil, the Meyer lemon comes from China, and the Emperor mandarin (full name, Emperor of Canton) comes from Australia – so names aren’t always a sure guide to a plant’s origin.
Best climate for citrus
Citrus love long, sunny days, don’t love frost and demand excellent soil fertility. They grow in Melbourne but would rather be in Sydney, Brisbane or areas north. They don’t like mountains and don’t even like holidaying in Tassie.
The seedless ‘Valencia’ orange is the best orange variety for most areas of Australia. It has few or no seeds. It is a fast-growing, hardy tree. The fruit ripen early (mid-September), but hold well on the tree for many months, making it a sweeter fruit than most other oranges in cooler areas. The fruit juice does not go off and turn sour in the refrigerator like ‘Navel’ juice does. This is why almost all of the world’s orange juice production is from ‘Valencia’ oranges. Ordinary ‘Valencia’ oranges are excellent to eat as well. All Valencias grow about 4m tall. Navels grow 3-4m tall.
The ‘Washington Navel’ orange produces its superbly sweet fruit in early winter. To eat the fruit off the tree, this is the best orange of all. But:
• It is a hard variety to grow well, catching every disease around
• The fruit juice deteriorates rapidly
• It usually produces less fruit than ‘Valencia’ trees.
The cumquat is probably the most overlooked of all citrus varieties. Cumquats produce small fruits with intense flavour that should be used widely in cooking, but they are not. Forget finger limes and Tahitian limes, cumquats are a better choice. You can use the peel, zest or the entire fruit in making everything from cheesecakes to liqueurs.
Nagami: the ‘Nagami’ cumquat is the best one for eating straight off the bush, as it is the sweetest. Eat them skin and all. The fruit are oval in shape and about the size of a large olive. It’s an excellent pot plant. The tree grows 3-4m tall.
Calamondin: previously sold as ‘Marumi’ cumquat, the fruit are flattened, like mini mandarins. This is the best of all cumquats and is the nearest to the variety used for Chinese New Year celebrations. Calamondins fruit several times a year, with the main crop in winter. The bushes are dense, the best looking of all citrus in containers. This is an awesome pot plant. A beautiful variety with variegated leaves also is available. Calamondins are not quite as pretty in the ground, where they reach 3-4 m.
Eureka: the best citrus for most areas of Australia is the ‘Eureka’ lemon. ‘Eureka’ does OK in all but the coldest areas of Melbourne. However, it does hate vicious cold snaps. It produces fruit almost every day of the year. Whenever you need a lemon, it’s there for you – and lemons are certainly the most used of all backyard-grown fruit. ‘Eureka’ lemons have relatively few seeds and the trees are more or less free of thorns. This is a biggish citrus tree, growing to around 4m tall in gardens.
Lisbon & Meyer lemons: for cooler climate zones of Australia either the ‘Meyer’ or ‘Lisbon’ lemons are the preferred varieties. ‘Lisbon’ used to be the ‘Eureka’ alternative for Melbourne but these days ‘Eureka’ is preferred. ‘Lisbon’ is thorny, it does have more seeds and it fruits for many months less than ‘Eureka’. The sub-variety ‘Prior Lisbon’, an earlier-fruiting variety, is the better choice. It grows around 3-4m tall. The ‘Meyer’ lemon is a small tree around 2m tall. Its yellow fruit is gloriously smooth and relatively sweet to eat. The grated skin (zest) is of inferior quality to other lemons. Its fruit are produced for most of the year and this is an excellent variety for pot culture. ‘Meyer’ is the most cold-tolerant of all lemons.
Once you have eaten a red grapefruit you will never return to the old-fashioned ‘Wheeny’ or ‘Marsh Seedless’ varieties. Many of the red grapefruit varieties are seedless natural mutations (called bud sports) from the ‘Marsh Seed-less’ variety. All red varieties are much sweeter than the non-red varieties. Grapefruit trees are larger citrus, growing 4-6m tall and about the same in width. All red varieties seem good – eg, ‘Star Ruby’ and ‘Rio Red’.
Interest in limes has exploded in recent years, leading to a lot of new varieties, including the native finger lime and the ‘Kaffir’ lime.
Tahitian: the most popular lime is the variety called ‘Tahiti’. The fruit is a bit bigger than a golf ball, has a mild lime taste (a bit more like a lemon), no seeds and has green flesh at first. Its worst failing is that the fruiting season is very short in winter (about a month). Fruit are best used while still green to get the real lime taste. This is one of the most cold-tolerant of the limes. Due to the short fruiting season, we recommend juicing everything on the tree and freezing it in an ice-cube tray to use throughout the year. ‘Tahiti’ grows 3-4m tall.
West Indian: the ‘West Indian’ lime is the best flavoured of all, but is really only suited to the subtropics and the tropics (although it will grow as far south as Sydney). The fruit are tiny, not much bigger than a 10-cent coin, and the bush is thorny.
Kaffir: also called the Makrut lime, this is probably the best of all limes. The wasp-waisted leaves are used in Thai cooking, although you’d normally not eat them. The fruit is rough and green. The grated skin (or zest) is an excellent flavouring. The fruit itself and the juice are useless. This is an excellent pot plant. In the garden the tree grows to around 3-4 m.
There are now dwarf citrus trees available which are ideal for pot culture or small gardens. These are exactly the same as the big ones, only they grow to about half the size. They are identical because they are the big ones grafted onto a special dwarfing understock called ‘Flying Dragon’. This ‘Flying Dragon’ understock has its best effect on oranges, but all citrus are good on it. The varieties recommended and available are:
• Oranges: ‘Valencia’ and ‘Navel’
• Lemons: ‘Eureka’ and ‘Meyer’
• Mandarin: ‘Emperor’
• Lime: ‘Tahiti’
From November this year onwards, new double-grafted citrus called ‘Splitzers’ will be on sale in Melbourne and Sydney. These will be very high quality citrus matched in pairs for vigour. So, in the one plant you will get:
• ‘Washington Navel’ orange and ‘Meyer’ lemon
• ‘Washington Navel’ orange and ‘Tahiti’ lime
• ‘Meyer’ lemon and ‘Tahiti’ lime
These double-grafted citrus, and the dwarfs, are excellent space-savers in small gardens.
Perhaps the most familiar sight in the average Australian garden is the humble lemon tree. But why stop there?
These days kumquats, Tahitian limes, grapefruit, blood oranges, native finger limes, oranges and myriad mandarin varieties offer exciting new flavour experiences. Better yet, their blossoms add wonderful colour and fragrance to your garden.
The great thing is, citrus trees are not difficult to grow.
Kumquats, grapefruit, blood oranges, finger limes – citrus trees are not difficult to grow.
With a little care they thrive in containers and home gardens. They’ll bear you fruit in winter and their glossy green leaves ensure your garden looks gorgeous all year round.
Discover top tips on how to plant a fruit tree.
Caring for your citrus plant
Here’s how to care for your citrus plant when you bring it home from the nursery.
Where to plant?
Confused about how to plant a lemon tree? Not sure how to plant a lime tree? Here’s what you need to know: Citrus plants love sunshine. They do best in a warm position, protected from frost, and in well-drained soil.
If your patio or balcony gets the most sun, try growing your tree in a pot.
Read next: Your step by step guide to growing a bonsai tree
With so many options to choose from, including dwarf limes and ‘citrus splitzers’ (a grafted tree combining two fruiting varieties on the one plant), you’ll be sure to find a plant that tickles your fancy.
Your young tree will need good drainage, so make sure you select a pot with large holes in the bottom. Elevate it slightly off the ground by setting it on pot-feet or bricks. Wine barrels cut in half are perfect, or go for a large plastic or terracotta pot.
Citrus trees love to be potted and popped in full sun. Picture: Getty
Top tips for planting citrus trees in a container
- Use a good quality potting mix, and buy enough to fill the pot within 4cm of the rim;
- Slide the tree carefully from its nursery pot;
- Set the tree in the hole you’ve prepared;
- Make sure the root ball rests at least 5cm above the surrounding soil and fill with potting mix, patting down lightly;
- Be sure you add enough potting mix to allow for slumping after you water it a few times.
Caring for your potted plant
Potted citrus need to be watered two to three times a week, more if they are flowering or fruiting. Make sure your plant gets all the nutrients it needs by fertilising with citrus food about once a month.
Not sure how to plant a lemon tree? Why not in a pot? Picture: Erinna Giblin
Read more: 6 expert tips to prepare a perfect garden bed for vegetables
Planting in the garden
When planting citrus in the garden you’ll want to plant it high. This creates surface water run-off and will be a great help to the tree in wet weather.
Top tips for how to plant citrus trees in the garden
- Choose a sunny, spacious spot, with enough room for your plant to grow its branches;
- Use a deep, sandy loam-type soil if possible – although a loamy soil that is well-drained will also do the trick;
- Dig a hole that’s wide and deep enough to accommodate the entire root system of your tree.
Your best bet now is to build a raised garden bed and fill it with good garden soil, then plant the tree straight into the raised bed. Fresh soil will help the plant to grow, and avoid wet feet.
Place the plant in the hole, making sure the bud union (the slightly swollen area on the lower stem where the citrus is grafted onto the rootstock) sits at the same level that it did in the pot.
Place the tree in the hole, making sure the bud union is above soil level.
Cover the root system with soil, ensuring the tree is upright and straight as you backfill. Firm the soil in around the roots to get rid of any air pockets and water it with a seaweed solution to help it settle.
Keeping your plant happy
Just prune when necessary. A light trim across the canopy in early spring will see a surge of new growth. Older trees will need a renovation prune every five years or so.
Your citrus will need plenty of water during its main growing period of spring and summer.
It’s important to keep the soil moist during the hotter months with a deep soaking. A light watering will only result in the fine surface feeder roots dying out when the soil dries. That said, only water as needed – too much may result in rot.
Mulching will help to prevent drying. It also helps to suppress weeds and improve soil structure.
Orange trees can be potted too. Picture: Getty
Pest & disease control
Regularly spray new growth with a horticultural spray oil to control citrus leaf miner and aphids, along with sap suckers like spined citrus bugs.
You’ll need fairly large quantities of citrus food to keep your plant happy.
Be careful not to apply too much nitrogen (such as sulphate of ammonia), as it will cause the tree to produce thick-skinned fruit and lush leaf growth at the expense of fruiting. Your citrus can do with a feed at least four times a year.
Feed your citrus at least four times a year.
- Water the soil well, and aerate with a hollow-tined fork before applying fertiliser;
- Potash is great for citrus as it assists both fruit formation and sweetness;
- Apply plant food around the ‘drip line’ of the tree – where the furthest branches are at their widest – because this is where the roots are most active;
- Trees around six years and older should receive approximately 3kg of citrus food each year.
Be aware: This does not include encouraging your pet to use your tree as a watering post. Despite common folklore, the salts in dog urine can actually burn the plant, making it an unpredictable fertiliser. Cat pee isn’t much better.
Try spreading used coffee grounds instead. Neither should replace a good quality citrus fertiliser.
Autumn is the perfect time to plant.
This is because citrus grow big and robust after a good summer growing season. In the southern states, it’s best to plant in spring after the frosts have passed. In sub-tropical regions, citrus trees can be planted most times of the year, except during the wet.
Whatever you do, never plant a citrus in your lawn – they don’t play nicely with others.
If you pick a fruit from the tree and it tastes good, the rest should be ripe enough to harvest. Ready for cocktail, smoothie, salad or seasoning.
Read more: Outdoor living – 3 key ways to add real value
Citrus Tree Care
When planning on buying citrus trees for sale you need to consider a few things before making the actual purchase. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the following seasonal information, planting location, watering, fertilization, and pest control information to ensure you that your plant will get the care it needs to start bearing a heavy crop.
Seasonal Information: The Cocktail tree, which is a combination of Mexican Key Lime Tree, and Meyer Lemon Tree, is somewhat cold hardy and can be grown outdoors in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 to 11. This dwarf lime tree can tolerate some shade but will flourish in full sunlight. If winter in your area is consistently below 32º it is highly recommended that you plant your standard-sized and dwarf key lime trees in containers so you can easily take them indoors when there is a possible danger of frost damage during cold months.
Planting Location: Choose a location where your Mexican key Lime trees and Meyer Lemon Trees can get full sunlight 6 to 8 hours a day. Plant your Cocktail Tree in well-draining soil since citrus trees do not like wet feet. They may also contract different diseases when planted in soil with standing water. You may also want to consider planting your growing citrus trees next to your house or under an eave for them to get additional frost protection.
Potted Planting Instructions: for regions where winter temperature drops below 32º it is recommended that you plant your lemon lime trees in a container with a lot of holes at the bottom to ensure proper water drainage, and with built in casters for easy plant movement during cold and warm weathers.
- Using a container that is one size bigger than the original pot the Mexican key lime tree arrived in, fill it halfway with well-draining, slightly acidic potting soil.
- Gently place the tree in the soil and fill it with the remaining potting soil. Slightly pack down the soil to prevent air pockets from forming and to ensure that the grafted part of the tree is not covered. Leave an inch of space from the top of the soil to the rim of the pot for easy watering.
- Deeply water the citrus tree until water runs from the holes at the bottom.
- Place the tree near a south-facing window where it can get as much sunlight as possible. Provide humidity to your citrus tree by misting the foliage everyday or by placing a tray filled with pebbles and water under the pot.
Pruning: Generally citrus trees do not need pruning, however if you wish to keep your trees at a specific height or shape you can prune leggy branches or those that are too long. To keep your growing citrus trees in a healthy growth cycle, clip off damaged, diseased or dead branches to the base of the trunk to ensure that they do not compete for nutrients with the other healthy limbs of the tree.
Fertilization: Both standard-sized and dwarf lime trees are heavy feeders and should be given a balanced fertilizer for citrus trees (NPK ratio should be 2-1-1 or 3-1-1) to replenish the nutrients in the soil and at the same time ensure that your tree gets all the nutrients it needs to grow healthy. Make sure that the citrus fertilizer contains minerals like Iron, Manganese and Zinc. One cup of citrus fertilizer portioned into four equal parts must be given to the citrus trees from February up to August. Follow the package instruction for optimal usage.
Why We Sell Small Lemon, Lime, Kumquat, Calamondin & Orange Trees
Micro-Budding & Grafting Takeaways:
- Micro-budding is an all-natural, non-GMO process of grafting by hand which produce lemon trees, lime trees, orange trees, mandarin trees, kumquat trees and grapefruit trees that bear fruit earlier and grow faster with routine care
- A smaller micro-budded tree has incredible root growth when planted in a large container, resulting in a quicker output of fruit and growth.
- US Citrus is the proprietary producer of micro-budded citrus trees, all of our 12 varieties of flowering citrus trees are available online in our citrus tree store.
- This makes it possible to give citrus trees as a wonderful gift tree, to have beautiful, ornamental flowering trees in your patio. The smell of citrus flowers is incredible, (pink flowering trees available with the pink variegated lemon tree).
- Wikipedia micro-budding: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microbudding
- A video is worth plenty of words: https://youtu.be/htmGUup7Gg8
What Is Micro-Budded Citrus?
Micro-Budded Citrus Provides Fast Fruit
Grafting is an ancient process, combining the strong and vigorous qualities of a rootstock with the desired qualities of the bud that is being grafted onto that rootstock. Micro-budding is a relatively new process of about 20 years, while grafting is an ancient process.
A rootstock is a part of a plant which has very hardy qualities. Example rootstock qualities include withstanding disease, resisting heat and drought or frost. Grafting is used across multiple types of fruit trees, and it is the standard process for citrus.
Without grafting, there are very inconsistent results on whether a tree would bear good fruit. This is similar to humans having children, the offspring can be quite different from the parents. In this manner, the genetics of the seed from a fruit tree may not be exactly that of the fruit tree.
So you may have a Mandarin orange tree – take a seed from an orange borne of that tree, and if you plant that seed, its fruit may have different characteristics (not as sweet or juicy, different color). Instead, with grafting, an actual piece of the mother tree is used, so that an actual clone of that tree is produced.
These two parts will become one tree, growing together while having and taking the best qualities of both the rootstock and the grafted bud. This process is so ancient, that it is even described in the New Testament. And because the graft is an actual physical portion of the old tree instead of its seed, it is like getting a clone of that tree. So if you find a great mother tree which produces perfect lemons of great sour characteristic, nice color, and plenty of juice, you want all those characteristics to remain consistent.
This is the standard in the citrus industry. Now conventional citrus trees will bear fruit after being grafted in about 4-5 years. This is because the actual grafting process is quite a dramatic shock to the rootstock tree and the new bud, and it takes quite a bit of time and very pristine conditions for the graft and the rootstock to grow together. After about 4-5 years you will have consistent large harvests of fruit which can last for decades.
Micro-budding involves the same principles of grafting; however, is done at a much younger age, when the trees are weeks old, instead of typically 18 months. This process is done entirely by hand and involves a very specialized care regimen, which is done solely at US Citrus Nurseries. This process is proprietary to US Citrus as it was discovered by our founder, Dr. Mani Skaria.
Because of the physiology of the micro-budded citrus tree, with the cuts being done in small areas and resulting apical dominance of the hormonal system and the fact that this is not a very young age, the trees respond prolifically. They bear fruit much faster and grow much quicker than conventionally grafted citrus trees, with much stronger root systems it seems once implanted into their final container or into the ground.
A similar analogy would be comparing a fracture in adult human to that of a small child. The human physiology allows a fractured bone to be healed within six weeks if it is in the right conditions (casted). However, in children, the bones can heal much quicker and they can overcome much larger deformities in the fracture with almost no future complications. This is because of the vigorous hormonal systems intrinsic in children.
This hormonal system of children is similar to the vigorous growth seen in our small, micro-budded plants. This is the reason we like and recommend customers to buy young smaller trees, and plant them directly into their final destination pot (15-25 gallon containers).
Learn more about which pot or container to grow your citrus tree in here.
After the nursery phase, micro-budding requires no special care. In fact, because of vigorous regrowth, there’s no need to repot plants implanted in containers. You can enjoy fruit and flowers from your lemon, lime or orange tree earlier and not have to wait five years or purchase a very expensive five-year-old tree, with enormous shipping costs, if purchased online.
Buying local from a nursery is great, the varieties that you want and that the quantity you desire is difficult especially for larger trees. US Citrus trees are grown in a USDA certified facility, so you always have the peace of mind that our citrus trees are certified disease-free. You also have the convenience of purchasing on getting free shipping to your home.
We know there can be a bit of hesitation in buying a citrus tree, as many people are insecure in their gardening skills and say they don’t have a “green thumb”, and it is an investment in time and money. That is why we strive to make this process as simple and convenient to the customer as possible.
We will send you citrus tree care instructions, videos and email reminders on how to grow your citrus tree. It makes a great ornamental gift, keep it in a decorative pot and watch the fragrant flowers turn into tiny fruit buds! You and your family will enjoy tasty citrus fruit for decades to come!
Dwarf Fruit Trees
To grow dwarf trees in containers, follow these simple tips for success. Depending on the maturity of the plant and growing conditions, it may take several years for plants to bear fruit.
Pick the best pot. Always choose a container with good drainage. Use a pot with an 8- to 10-inch diameter for a one-year-old tree; use a 12- to 14-inch diameter pot for two- and three-year-old trees. (Dwarf citrus flower better when their roots are slightly constricted.)
Use the right soil. Begin with a basic potting mix (without fertilizers or wetting agents). Don’t put gravel or small rocks in the bottom of the pot.
Water wisely. Give trees a thorough watering at first, then add 1/4 to 1/2 gallon of water every five to seven days. Apply plant food as directed on the plant tag.
Find a good location. Place your tree in a spot that gets at least eight hours of direct sunlight each day. (Citrus grows best when temperatures are between 55 and 85 degrees.) If your home gets dry during winter months, place the pot on a saucer filled with pebbles, and add water to the saucer. During warm weather, acclimate your pot in a sunny, wind-free spot outside.