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Create An Orangery - Grow Citrus Indoors

According to Wikipedia an Orangery is:

"A feature of royal and aristocratic residences from the 17th to the 19th centuries. A type of greenhouse, with citrus trees being grown in tubs and wintering under cover, it originated from the Renaissance gardens of Italy, when glass-making technology enabled sufficient expanses of clear glass to be produced.

"The Orangerie at the Palace of the Louvre, 1617, inspired imitations that were not eclipsed until the development of the modern greenhouse in the 1840s, which was quickly overshadowed by the architecture in glass of Joseph Paxton. Notable for his design of the Crystal Palace his "great conservatory" at Chatsworth House was an Orangery and glass house of monumental proportions.

"The Orangery, however, was not just a "green house" but a symbol of prestige and wealth and a feature of the garden, in the same way as a summerhouse, folly or "Grecian temple." Owners would conduct their guests there on tours of the garden to admire not only the fruits within but the architecture without. Often the Orangery would contain fountains and grottos and an area to sit and take of a light repast."

After reading THAT, do you think an Orangery is something you can have in your own home? After all, it sounds pretty expensive and difficult, if only the very wealthy could pull it off. Well, put those thoughts aside, because all an Orangery really means is to grow citrus indoors. Plus, we have something even the kings and queens didn't, and that is, we have several varieties of citrus that can fruit and flower year-round indoors.

Originally, even the aristocrats could only have citrus indoors in the winter. Eventually, they had to have the gardeners put the containers back outside during the spring and summer, in order for the plants to get enough light and heat to produce fruit. That's what made the Orangery so special, they could now have citrus indoors all year long.

We can too, because believe it or not, citrus is suitable for growing indoors. In fact, it is surprisingly easy to grow, and offers dark, green foliage, beautiful sweet-smelling flowers, and, with some species, flowers and fruit year-around.

What to buy:

It's best to choose dwarf varieties, or trees that are naturally small, like a Calamondin orange (Citrus mitis) or a Key lime (Citrus aurantiifolia), because you'll be growing these in containers. When you make your purchase, just make sure you choose a true dwarf tree: one that has been grafted onto a dwarfing rootstock.

You'll want to buy trees that are about two years old, which is usually what nurseries carry. If you want, you can start a citrus plant from the seeds of store-bought fruit. They become beautiful, long-lived foliage plants. Keep in mind however, that plants from store-bought fruit rarely ever flower or produce fruit. If you want to try, sow the seeds in small pots in a warm, bright location. Seedlings usually appear in 2-3 weeks.

Basic Care:

Dwarf citrus grow from 2- 3 feet (0.60 - 0.91 m) tall and are just about as wide. They like lots of bright, direct sunlight, just as they would outside. Plants that stay indoors year-round, need plenty of light and warm temperatures to bear sweet fruit, so they will need a sunroom or bright, south-facing window. They like 55 - 68° F (12.7 - 20° Celsius) and around 30 -60 % humidity.

I have personally grown citrus, and even banana trees indoors, and the real trick is not only having good light and warmth, but most importantly, humidity.

The average home has 15 - 20 % humidity, so you will need to make adjustments to meet the 30-60 % humidity requirement. This is easy to do. Either put your plants in a very bright, well-lit bathroom where there already is more humidity, or raise the humidity in another part of the house by grouping plants together, using a humidifier or cool-mist vaporizer, or putting out a few bowls of water that will evaporate and help raise the average humidity around the plants.

You can also try a pot-in-pot (putting the container inside a slightly larger container that is filled with damp peat moss), or you can try a pebble tray (place your container on top of a tray of pebbles filled with water, and make sure the pot sits on top of the pebbles, not in the water) to increase humidity.

When planting, use a container at least 14 inches (35.5 cm) in diameter, and 2 feet (0.60 m) tall, and be sure it has a hole in the bottom for good drainage.

Fill with very loose, well-drained soil. Water the plant in thoroughly, and then allow the soil to dry out before watering again. Citrus like evenly moist, but not soggy, soil.

Fertilize once a month from March to August, and every 2-3 months after that. Citrus need more magnesium than is usually available in commercial potting soil, so use a fertilizer formulated specifically for citrus that has magnesium, iron, and other trace elements.

Because you are growing indoors, when your plants flower, you'll need to help them pollinate to ensure you get fruit. Don't worry, this is super easy and takes about 5 minutes to do. So just go for it. Simply dust a small, soft paintbrush over the stamens of each flower, and fruit will begin developing in a few weeks.

Citrus grown indoors hardly ever need pruning, but if they become leggy, you can tip the branches back in the spring. Just remember, citrus flower and fruit on old wood, so any heavy pruning may reduce the amount of fruit you'll get the next season.

If you give each plant an ideal growing environment and plenty of good air circulation, you won't have any pest problems, but possible pests are aphid, mealybug, scale, spider mite, and whitefly. If these pop up, use some neem oil.

A List of Dwarf Citrus Trees that do really well indoors:

Calamondin Orange (Citrus mitis)

This is a hybrid between kumquats and sour mandarin oranges. It produces lots of miniature fruit that are too tart to eat out of hand fresh, but make great marmalades.

3 feet (0.91 m) tall by 2 feet wide (0.60 m)
Slow grower
Likes moist soil, but not soggy soil

If this plant gets more than a half-day of bright, direct light, it will flower twice a year, and almost continuously produce attractive and aromatic oranges. Calamondin performs best around 55-68° F (12.7 - 20° Celsius) with an average humidity of 30-60 %. It can tolerate warmer temperatures, but it may not fruit.

It has a shallow root system, so a wide pot is better than a deep one.

To keep it looking good, and producing fruit well, thin the plant to 3 main stems. This plant may not produce fruit unless you help it with pollination.

Wash the foliage down once in while to help reduce any potential pest problems.

Kumquat (Fortunella margarita)

Out of all the indoor citrus trees, these produce the largest amount of fruit. The sweetest fruit is Meiwa, which has small, pale orange fruit.

Meyer Lemon (Citrus limon 'Meyer')

Meyer Lemon is the most popular. It is easy to grow, very fruitful and does not need a lot of heat to ripen the fruit. Meyer lemon flowers and produces fruit year round, and is slightly sweeter than the classic commercial varieties (Eureka and Lisbon). Lemons and limes can live up to 60 years.

3 feet (0.91 m) high x 2 feet (0.60m) wide
Slow grower
Bright light
Moist soil

The lemon is an ideal plant to put in a bright, sunny location. With its attractive foliage and fruit, it acts as a wonderful accent and specimen plant.

When lemons get at least a half-day of bright, direct sun, they flower twice a year and produce fruit continuously.

Likes 55-68° F (12.7 - 20° Celsius) and an average of 30-60 %.

To keep it looking good, and producing fruit well, thin the plant to 3 main stems. This plant may not produce fruit unless you help it with pollination.

Wash the foliage down once in while to help reduce any potential pest problems

Ponderosa Lemon (Citrus limon 'Ponderosa)

This lemon produces only a few fruit at a time, but they are very large, often as big as an orange. Ponderosa lemons have a thick rind and a kind of woody texture for eating, but they produce large quantities of delicious juice. Another benefit to offset the lower fruit production is that its thick rind gives it a longer storage time in your refrigerator.

Tahiti or Persian Lime (Citrus aurantiifolia 'Tahiti')

This lime flowers and produces fruit year round

Key Lime (Citrus aurantiifolia)

Has much smaller leaves and fairly small, but aromatic fruit.

Sweet Oranges (Citrus sinensis)

Trovita or Dancy

Dancy produces small but dark orange fruit.
It takes the same growing conditions as listed above for Meyer lemons.


In warmer climates you can purchase citrus at your local nursery year-round. But if you live in a colder climate, and your nursery doesn't carry citrus until the spring, try these suppliers. I have never used them personally, so listing them here is not a recommendation for quality or anything else, it is simply for your information:


One of the reasons the aristocrats had Orangeries, was because of the "Wow" or "It" factor, because it was so sensational at the time to see something that extravagant and out of the ordinary. Fruit, almost a tropical one at that, available in January. Fantastic!

Believe it or not, growing citrus indoors still has the same effect on people. So if you want to liven up your house in winter, plant some citrus in containers and show off your Orangery to your friends and family. I assure you, it still has just as much of a "Wow" factor as it did in the 17th Century.

The writer has over 20 years professional gardening experience. She has a very real interest in making gardening fun, doable, and successfull for everyone, and is a professional public speaker and educator in the horticulture industry.

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