Choosing a Citrus Fertilizer

Dooryard Citrus Fertilizer Rates

The type of citrus fertilizer your trees need depends on where you live. Applying the wrong citrus tree fertilizer can actually create a nutrient deficiency. Find the best citrus food for your plant here.

Orange and Lemon Trees in the Alcazar Gardens, Cordoba, Andalucia, Spain, Europe

Orange and Lemon Trees in the Alcazar Gardens, Cordoba, Andalucia, Spain, Europe
Michael, Newton
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The best citrus foods will contain nitrogen, phosphorus, potash, magnesium, calcium and sulfur as these are the major elements that citrus trees need.

In addition to the aforementioned, citrus requires minute amounts of several minerals: iron, zinc, manganese, molybdenum, copper and boron being the most important.

These micronutrients may be included in a citrus plant food that is meant to be applied to the root zone or they may be applied separately via a foliar spray.

Spraying the foliage is the better way to apply micronutrients to dooryard citrus. Citrus trees store food in their leaves and the stomata on the undersides of the shiny foliage is quite efficient at absorbing and utilizing the minerals in liquid fertilizers.

If your citrus tree has a mineral deficiency, the fastest way to correct it is to spray the foliage with a micronutrient spray containing the chelated form of the missing nutrient. The sulfate form will work too but chelated minerals will be more easily absorbed.

Dooryard Citrus Fertilizer Application Tip: Young, tender leaves take up foliar sprays more efficiently than older, tougher foliage.

The most effective time to spray is soon after the plants start growing in the spring.

Citrus Tree Fertilizer

The best citrus fertilizer for you is 1 that contains the elements your trees need and does not contain elements that are already present in your soil. If you use a fertilizer that contains nutrients already in the soil, you run the risk of providing the plant with too much of that nutrient and creating an imbalance.

If the trees are growing on poor sandy soil it is a near certainty that they will need a citrus food with all the micronutrients.

Money Saving Tip: If you also grow palm trees, you can use palm food to fertilize your citrus trees. Palm tree fertilzer will contain all the minor elements they need.

Citrus trees grown on clay soils will probably just need nitrogen. The other elements will most likely be present in the native soil.

Any nitrogen fertilizer may be used. You do not need to buy a special citrus food.

Nitrogen is the most important element in a citrus tree fertilizer. Without sufficient nitrogen, citrus may fail to flower or the crop may not set.

How Much to Apply

Citrus Mitis in Pot

Citrus Mitis in Pot
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The tree depicted above shows signs of nitrogen hunger. The older, lower leaves are yellowing.

Overfed citrus trees may fail to bear or may bear low quality fruit. They will also be more vulnerable to insects and diseases and will not survive the rigors of winter as well.

As a general rule, apply 1/10 of a lb. of nitrogen for each inch of trunk diameter. That is the amount to apply per year--not each time you feed.

Divide this amount up into the number of applications you plan to do.

Now, this is where it gets complicated.

For some reason, the fertilizer companies do not tell you how many pounds of nitrogen are in each bag or box of plant food.

They tell you the percentage of nitrogen.

A food labeled 15-5-8 contains 15% nitrogen. If you buy a 20 lb. bag of this formulation, you will have purchased 3 lbs. of actual nitrogen. A 10 lb. bag would yield 1.5 lbs. of actual nitrogen.

Dooryard Citrus Fertilizer Application

The feeder roots of citrus trees typically extend beyond the tree's canopy. Start spreading whatever citrus plant food you are using 6 inches from the trunk and stop a foot from the edge of the canopy.

Try to apply to food evenly to avoid burning the roots.

Fertilizing Citrus Trees in Pots

Container grown citrus will certainly need to be fed a citrus special with all the necessary micronutrients. Do not wait for deficiency symptoms to develop. Give the plant a good citrus food right from the start.

Trees in pots will also need to be fed more frequently than trees planted in the ground.

When to Fertlize Citrus Trees

Begin applying citrus tree fertilizer in early spring. Stop in late summer or early fall. The last application should take place no later than early September. Applying nitrogen later than this will compromise the tree's cold hardiness.

Feeding frequency depends on the type of soil the tree is planted in and how much it is watered. The form of citrus plant food used plays a role as well.

A granular organic citrus fertilizer will last longer than a liquid chemical food.

In rainy Florida, feed the trees every 8 weeks with a granular product or every 4 if you are using a liquid.

Citrus trees in dry California, Texas or Arizona can easily go 12 weeks between meals.

Always apply citrus fertilizer just before a rain or water it in.

If you leave the granules laying dry, atop the soil, summer's heat will burn the nitrogen up before it becomes available to your trees.

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