Citrus Fertilizer: What, When, And How To Use It - Epic Gardening (2023)

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Are you growing potted citrus trees or are you growing citrus fruits in your at-home garden? Are you considering starting your own citrus orchard? Well, then one of the most important tools you’ll need to have at your disposal is citrus fertilizer!

Citrus trees are persistent on their own, but they need love and care like any other fruit trees. That’s why it’s important to ensure each citrus tree has not only excellent base soil but a good fertilizer too. And there are plenty to choose from.

So, today, we’re tackling citrus fertilizer. We’ll talk about the basic nutrition for citrus trees. We’ll also discuss the types of fertilizer on the market today. We’ll finish it up with some information on how to apply the citrus fertilizer you choose. That way you can grow delicious fruits that grow from a strong, healthy, abundant citrus tree.

What Nutrients do Citrus Trees Need?

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Like all plants, citrus trees require the three basic building blocks of nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Did you know there are also three other macronutrients? These are calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S). Without all 6 nutrients, plants have a hard time completing their life cycle.Most residential soil usually contains the latter three but often fluctuates in N, P, and K depending on what else has been grown in it and other factors.

Fruit trees also benefit greatly from the addition of micronutrients. These are found in trace amounts in healthy soil. They also come in many of the high-quality organic citrus tree fertilizer brands out there. A balance between the macro-nutrients (N, P, K, Ca, S, and Mg) and micronutrients ensures a healthy tree and luscious citrus fruits too.

(Video) 14 Organic Fertilizers and How to Use Them

The micronutrients in question are manganese, zinc, iron, copper, boron, molybdenum, chlorine, and nickel. Deficiencies in any of these can cause different issues that may be hard to diagnose unless you know exactly what to look for. That’s why organic citrus fertilizer coupled with good base soil conditions are great ways to cover your nutrient bases.

A citrus tree consumes a lot of nitrogen to produce new growth leaves that assist in nutrient absorption for flower and fruit production. Citrus trees also consume high amounts of calcium and potassium. These boost the flowering and fruiting of the tree and also feedback supporting other nutrient functions. More specifically, Ca is needed to develop strong root systems, and reinforce cell walls. Potassium feeds directly into fruit production and the development of viable seeds within that fruit.

Citrus Fertilizer Formulas for Different Trees?

While you might see fertilizers specific to a type of citrus tree, the same fertilizer can likely be applied to another citrus tree with equal success. Most fertilizers on the market are more generalized and fertilize each citrus fruit tree equally. Adjustments in nutrient content don’t often occur in amounts that would matter much to lemon trees and lime trees. To lemon and lime, as long as they have the food they need to thrive, it’s all good!

So if you find a fertilizer that is generalized for citrus, know it most likely will work on your Meyer lemon tree just as well as it would on your navel orange tree. However, some formulations will work best with certain citrus, and provide basic nutrition for others.

Types of Citrus Fertilizer

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There are so many different types of fertilizer, with plenty made specifically for citrus trees. Let’s run down a list of the types of citrus plant fertilizer on the market today. While there are formulas that are designed for high performance, the best citrus fertilizer will be one suited to your needs and your schedule.

Citrus Fertilizer Spikes

Spikes are best for potted citrus trees, rather than those in the ground. Different companies sell these. Fertilizer spikes utilize the nutrients potassium and phosphorus to feed citrus trees for producing fruit and flowers. Some go the extra step and include Mycorrhizal fungi and single-celled Archaea that work together to increase the productivity of the tree’s root mass. They’re used twice per year in the soil around trees. You can find spikes in most home improvement stores.

Citrus Fertilizer Sprays

Sprays for your citrus fruit tree are meant to be applied to soil or the foliage of the tree. They include the basic macronutrients your citrus tree needs and then a few other nutrients, including zinc, iron, sulfur, manganese, and magnesium. Not only do these citrus fertilizers help you produce lush foliage, but they also provide increased plant performance in their ability to boost tree tolerance to cold, and heat, and even provide drought tolerance. These are applied during the dormant season.

Citrus Fertilizer Powders

The Organic Materials Review Institute has put its stamp of approval on certain brands of powdered organic fertilizer. The fertilizers with OMRI endorsement have no synthetic chemicals and are generally formulated to be heavy on the potassium and phosphorus side of macronutrient content. Often these powders are specially created for large-scale citrus growers or those who produce a lot of citrus in the growing season. They’re used every couple of months.

(Video) How to Grow Meyer Lemons in Containers Pt. 1

Citrus Fertilizer Liquids

Liquid fertilizer is typically used during the fruiting phase of a fruit tree. They’re heavier on the nitrogen side of NPK than the others we’ve mentioned so far. With an NPK of 4.5-2.0-4.2, these fertilizers assist in the production of lush growth and contain large amounts of Ca which we know helps reinforce cell walls. Therefore the citrus fruit is much healthier and more supple as a result of using liquid citrus tree fertilizer. And sometimes you’ll find highly effective formulations that are synthetic, rather than organic.

Slow-Release Citrus Fertilizer

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One benefit of using a slow-release organic citrus fertilizer is that more nutrients get packed into those little granules that dissolve over time. That means there’s enhanced nutrient availability in granular fertilizers and there are often beneficial microbes included. Many of these fertilizers work on several types of fruit trees, so if you have a tropical tree garden with orange, kumquat, and avocado, know there is probably a slow-release formulation out there that will suit all of them. Another benefit of using slow-release fertilizer granules is you don’t have to apply them more than a few times a year. You will need even applications of water during the growing season to adequately release the nutrients, though.

Miscellaneous Citrus Fertilizer

You can fertilize your trees with one of the above types, or you can apply more specific fertilizers that will break down and feed your trees over time. Annual applications of well-rotted compost provide better drainage and water retention, as well as a good profile of nutrients for each tree in your garden.

Fishbone meal with additions of sulfur, potash, and manganese provides trees with good sources of phosphorous, and nitrogen. These, sulfur, and manganese are nutrients needed for these heavy feeders. Add a little bit of kelp meal to the mix, and you’ve provided iron and other trace elements that help your trees thrive. Interestingly, producers of organic powders source from these materials, but you can apply them yourself if you choose. Chicken manure is another high nitrogen additive that can benefit your citrus trees.

Other natural ingredients you can add include feather meal and alfalfa meal. These both provide trees with large amounts of nitrogen needed for foliage production. Feather meal typically provides fertilization at a rate of 12-0-0 and is a great source of food for beneficial fungi in the soil. Alfalfa does the same at a rate of 2.5-1-1. If you use pellets of alfalfa, they will slowly deteriorate adding aeration to the soil, and they’ll provide food for fungus and beneficial microbial content.

Additional sprays can come in the form of humic and fulvic acid, which improve soil and assist other fertilizers and plant food by promoting the uptake of organic and synthetic ingredients alike. They in turn improve the quality of fruit as well.

When to Fertilize Citrus Trees

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We’ve discussed this to some extent in the last section. But let’s talk about when to apply miscellaneous fertilizer. Compost and mulches, like alfalfa, can be applied at any time of year, but are best used upon planting and in dormancy, in winter and late fall. Soil additives like kelp, fishbone, and feather meal can be added annually before spring growth, and upon planting. The same goes for chicken compost.

Fulvic and humic acid sprays or soil soaks are best applied 1 to 2 times per year along with annual fertilizer.

(Video) My Approach To Fertilizing The Garden

How to Fertilize Citrus Trees

Now let’s talk about specific applications to plug into your citrus fertilizer schedule. Once you get a good system going, you’ll have delicious fruits aplenty! Again, remember the best citrus fertilizer is always one that is specifically formulated with organic nutrients AND fits your schedule. Use these two facets to determine which is the right fertilizer for you.


If your chosen fertilizer is in spike form, put these in the ground during the dormant season, shortly before spring. Find the drip line of your tree (or the area 2 to 3 feet outside the circumference of the canopy), and water the area thoroughly. Place the protective cap on the spike, and hammer it in so it’s flush with the ground. You can use multiple spikes for one tree, and up to 4 at one time. Younger trees should have spikes closer to the 2-foot range outside the trunk diameter, and older trees should have fertilizer spikes in the 3-foot range. In containers, place one as far from the trunk as possible.


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Apply fertilizer sprays in dormancy as well. One thing to note about these is they tend to stain surfaces, so prevent contact with your hands, clothes, containers, and nearby surfaces. Dilute the solution in a spray bottle or hose spray mechanism at a rate of 1 tablespoon per gallon of water. Then spray the entire tree, lightly misting it with fertilizer. Do this 1 to 2 times between December and February. You can also use this fertilizer to correct any nutrient deficiencies during the growing season too. In this case, use 2 tablespoons per gallon of water, applied at 2-week intervals. Mature trees will need a gallon of solution, while younger trees will need less.


Most citrus growers fertilize with powdered organic fertilizer. Here, feed your orange, lime, or lemon tree in dormancy. Thoroughly water the area, then evenly spread the powder. For established plants and shrubs, apply the powder at the drip line at 1 cup per 1.5 feet of spread, or 2 cups per 3 feet of spread. For a fully-grown tree, use 3 cups per inch for trunks that are 3 inches in diameter or less. Use 9 cups for a larger tree. Two brands that use natural sources for their powders are Espoma and Bumper Crop.

If you’re using a shake and apply fruit fertilizer, shake the jug, and apply the powder at the drip line. How much you’ll need depends on the trunk diameter and the tree’s age. It’s important to remember to avoid contact between the trunk and the fertilizer. This powdered fertilizer is useful in container-grown citrus as well as outdoor plants.


Since citrus trees are heavy feeders, you may benefit from plant food that can be applied throughout the season. Enter liquid fertilzers! To help your tree produce more fruit, and promote active growth, use these every 3 to 4 weeks. Simply water the drip line, and then apply the fertilizer from the bottle attached to a hose. Try not to wet other areas of the garden, and focus the fertilizer on your orange or grapefruit tree. Because these are formulated to feed differently, consult the label to determine how much to use.


A slow-release fertilizer for orange tree growers is an excellent way to reduce the number of times you have to fertilize. This lessens the workload and simplifies your citrus fertilization schedule. So if you’re wondering when to fertilize lemon trees with slow-release plant food or granular fertilizer, know it will only have to be a few times per year. The best citrus tree fertilizer of this kind is adaptable to an indoor or outdoor tree. In the case of slow-release organic fertilizer for indoor trees, you can fertilize all year round for active growth. An outdoor tree should receive fertilizer in dormancy. Just sprinkle the granules around the area to be fertilized at a rate of 3 tablespoons for every 2 by 2-foot area. Then work them lightly into the soil, and water them in.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: What is the best fertilizer for citrus trees?

(Video) How to Use Neem Oil to Control Pests & Diseases

A: It depends on how you’re growing the fruit tree and how often you have time to feed it. See above!

Q: When should you fertilize citrus trees?

A: In an outdoor garden, fruit tree fertilizers should be applied in dormancy, while an indoor tree can be fertilized year-round. It also depends on how you garden citrus fruit. Read through to see how different types have different timings.

Q: What is a natural fertilizer for citrus trees?

A: Many citrus fertilizers are also organic fertilizers. The best citrus fertilizers are those that source from natural ingredients like kelp, bone, and alfalfa. Bumper Crop and Espoma are two brands that use natural sources in their formulations.

Q: Can you over-fertilize citrus trees?

A: You can. Too much fertilizer can weaken the tree overall. Plan out a schedule to apply fertilizer and stick to it.

Q: Can you fertilize citrus when flowering?

(Video) How to Plant Citrus Trees From Start to Finish (COMPLETE GUIDE) 🍊

A: Yes! Specifically granular and powder fertilizers can be applied during the growing season.


Citrus Fertilizer: What, When, And How To Use It - Epic Gardening? ›

Fertilize your citrus tree every 2 months during its first growing season. After that, you'll want a citrus tree fertilizer with a 2-1-1 ratio and we recommend that you fertilize 3 times a year—preferably in February, May and October.

When should you fertilize citrus? ›

Fertilize your citrus tree every 2 months during its first growing season. After that, you'll want a citrus tree fertilizer with a 2-1-1 ratio and we recommend that you fertilize 3 times a year—preferably in February, May and October.

How do you use citrus fertilizer? ›

Most mature citrus require regular fertilization with nitrogen. Typically, most other nutrients are available in sufficient amounts in the soil. Nitrogen should be applied in January or February just prior to bloom. The second application then can be applied in May and perhaps a third in June.

When and what to feed citrus? ›

Citrus should be fed four times a year through the growing season. Generally speaking, this is late August through to late May. Use an organic based fertiliser at a rate of one handful per square metre. In addition, once a year apply trace elements either in liquid form or as rock dust.

Should I fertilize citrus when fruiting? ›

Most fruiting trees should be fertilized in early spring before the trees are in bloom. If you miss your early feeding, don't fertilize until the fruit is about the size of a pea, usually around mid-May.

Should you fertilize citrus when blooming? ›

Citrus trees are most nutrient-hungry from the time they bloom until they have firmly set fruit, so make sure you apply citrus fertilizer when the tree is in bloom regardless of health so that it has enough nutrients to properly produce fruit.

Is it OK to fertilize citrus in the summer? ›

Because citrus need to be fertilized 3 times a year – the timing of when you apply fertilizer is important. The first application is in the winter, the second in late spring and the last in late summer.

What happens when you over fertilize citrus trees? ›

Over- fertilization can lead to sudden plant growth with an insufficient root system to supply adequate water and nutrients to the plant. Poor root structure reduces the number of flowers and fruit production, and can result in plant growth spurts that won't be supported or sustained.

What is the best ratio fertilizer for citrus trees? ›

Because citrus likes a lot of nitrogen, you want to purchase a fertilizer with at least a 2-1-1 ratio, or twice as much nitrogen as phosphorus and potassium. Citrus also requires trace minerals, which may be present in the fertilizer you purchase.

What is a balanced fertilizer for citrus trees? ›

Citrus trees require a balanced mix of essential nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. A balanced, slow-release fertilizer that provides these nutrients, such as a 10-10-10 or 8-8-8 fertilizer, is ideal for citrus trees.

How often should citrus be watered? ›

In General, deeply water newly planted young citrus trees about once or twice per week for most of the year. Water more often in sandy soils and when the weather is hot and windy. Reduce the frequency to weekly in clay soils during the winter.

Can you over feed citrus? ›

What's the problem? Answer: A sudden drop in citrus tree leaves is often caused by overfeeding. Make sure you have applied fertilizer at the proper rate and have provided adequate moisture. If the soil is kept moist but not overly wet, the tree should recover and resume growth by spring.

Are coffee grounds good for citrus trees? ›

Coffee grounds make a great add-on to the citrus tree care routine. They are loaded with nutrients that the citrus trees need to thrive, including nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, boron, copper, iron, and zinc. The most important nutrient is nitrogen, which is only two percent of the weightage.

When should you not fertilize fruit trees? ›

Early spring is the best time to fertilize fruit trees. Avoid fertilizing in late spring or summer as this may stimulate late summer growth that is more susceptible to winter injury. Too much fertilizer produces excessive vegetative growth and inhibits fruiting.

How do you increase citrus yield? ›

Applying the nitrogen in late winter (prior to bloom) and early spring will help the trees produce flowers and quality fruit. Apply the fertilizer in the root zone beneath the canopy. Avoid fertilizing during summer and fall as it may delay fruit coloring and affect fruit quality.

Is Miracle Grow good for citrus trees? ›

Miracle-Gro Citrus Tree Fertilizer

Since it contains essential nutrients, you can use it on citrus, mango, and avocado trees. You won't have to spend your money frequently since this fertilizer can last up to three months.

How many times a year do citrus trees bloom? ›

Citrus are polycarpic and evergreen species that flower once in spring or several times a year depending on the genotype and the climatic conditions.

How do you promote citrus flowering? ›

Temperatures must drop low enough for a long enough period to initiate flowering, though there is no single threshold of hours associated with flowering. Rather, increasing exposure to cool temperatures induces more intense flowering.

How often do you water citrus trees in the summer? ›

If you have older, established citrus trees, you need to give them more water at a time (up to 10 gallons), but do it less frequently. During summer, once every one to two weeks depending on your soil because some soils drain faster than others. The rest of the year, once or twice per month, depending on weather.

How hot is too hot for citrus trees? ›

Citrus leaves can curl up as a reaction to heat and less water content. The red arrows indicate curled leaves in an HLB-affected Valencia tree on a hot sunny day in June. What temperature is stressful for citrus? If leaf temperature frequently hits 98 degrees, trees could start feeling mild heat stress.

Is it OK to prune citrus trees in summer? ›

Citrus trees are best pruned just before bloom in early spring or just after fruit set in late spring. I would avoid pruning in late summer or early fall. Late pruning can encourage tender growth to appear, and this new growth is susceptible to frost damage since it has not hardened off.

What does overwatered citrus look like? ›

A tree with yellow or cupped leaves, or leaves that don't look perky AFTER watering can indicate excessive watering and soggy roots. Give your tree water less often. Citrus prefer infrequent, deep watering to frequent, shallow sprinklings.

Should I water trees after fertilizing? ›

Since most of a tree's roots can be found in the top foot of soil, broadcast the fertilizer evenly with a rotary or drop-type spreader over the root zone area to fertilize the tree. Water after application to make the nutrients available to the roots.

How much Epsom salts for citrus trees? ›

There are a number of reasons why your lemon tree leaves could be turning yellow. The most common cause it a lack of magnesium in the soil. Epsom Salts helps correct magnesium deficiency, mix 30g of Epsom Salts per litre of water (approximately 2 tablespoons), per tree.

How many gallons of water does a citrus tree need? ›

Estimating Tree Water Use

Research from the University of Ari- zona has found that mature citrus trees use about 60 inches of water per year. Depending on the size of the tree, this can correspond to as much as 17 gallons of water per day in the winter and 135 gallons of water per day in the summer.

Can you use all-purpose fertilizer on citrus trees? ›

Many people use an all-purpose fertilizer to feed their citrus, which is absolutely fine. You can also purchase fertilizers that are formulated for the specific needs of citrus or fruiting trees. Whichever you use, pay attention to the amount of nitrogen you're applying.

What is the best fertilizer for Meyer lemon trees? ›

Fertilizer. During the growing season (early spring through fall), feed your Meyer lemon tree with either a high-nitrogen fertilizer or a slow-release all-purpose fertilizer. Typically three applications evenly-spaced throughout the growing season should be enough to keep your plant happy, growing, and producing.

What do you add to citrus trees soil? ›

The best type of soil for container grown citrus is a potting mix with a combination of compost, coconut coir or peat moss, and vermiculite or perlite.

What is 12 6 6 fertilizer used for? ›

Grower's Special 12-6-6

A time-release fertilizer that provides a complete feeding. Can be used to feed all plants, trees, shrubs and ornamentals, even container grown, without burning.

What is the best mulch for citrus trees? ›

Hardwood or Pinebark Mulch from Richgro, will work best for citrus trees and help you reduce the household's water consumption. Note that mulch shouldn't touch the trunk of the tree. Citrus plants are very adaptable and can thrive even in 'poor' soil.

When not to prune citrus? ›

'Citrus trees like lemon or orange are best pruned in warmer regions between February and April; just avoid doing so when it's particularly hot! Meanwhile, they can be left alone completely until March in cooler climates,' says FLOWERBX's Whitney Bromberg Hawkings.

What is the proper way to water citrus trees? ›

Citrus will require about 4 to 6 inches of water per month. However, depending upon your soil type, this amount may be divided up into several applications. Ideally, in hot summer climate zones, you may want to irrigate about every 7 to 10 days during the middle of the summer.

Do citrus trees need misting? ›

Keeping humidity high for your citrus is especially important indoors in the winter. Misting your plants once or twice a day during the cold months will keep the foliage lush and help to ward off insects. You will want to keep your citrus moderately moist but not soggy.

What is the best watering system for citrus trees? ›

Netafim inline drip irrigation is the best way to water citrus and other trees. Inline drip has emitters embedded in the line.

What are the signs of too much citrus? ›

“If an adult starts to consume oranges in large portions, say 4-5 oranges a day, the excess fibre in the body could trigger stomach upset, cramping, diarrhea, bloating, and nausea. Similarly, the excessive intake of vitamin C can cause heartburn, headache, vomiting, and even insomnia,” says Kaul.

What temperature damages citrus? ›

Among the citrus types that are most easily killed by freezing are citrons, lemons and limes. Temperatures in the high 20s will kill or severely damage these plants. Sweet oranges and grapefruit are somewhat more cold-hardy and usually require temperatures in the mid-20s before incurring major damage to large branches.

What citrus fruits are not allowed? ›

— U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations want importers and the traveling public to know that mandarin or “Christmas” oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and pomelo are banned from non-commercial import into the United States.

Are eggshells good for citrus trees? ›

Yes! They're packed with calcium, which both plants and worms love. You can add them as they are, but it's best to crush them first for the best results. You can also use them to create a slow-release calcium mixture - great for citrus.

How often should I add coffee grounds to my lemon tree? ›

How Often Should I Put Coffee Grounds on My Lemon Tree? Apply used coffee grounds to the lemon tree in the spring. Mix it well with compost and water immediately. If you're using composted coffee grounds, you can apply them like any other fertilizer throughout the year.

Should I put mulch around my citrus trees? ›

Outside of the area near the trunk and major roots, citrus trees benefit from a year-round layer of mulch to retain moisture, inhibit weeds, feed the soil, moderate soil temperature, and protect shallow feeder roots.

Can I fertilize my fruit trees in the fall? ›

Fertilizer is most often applied in the spring, but prescriptive fall applications can be beneficial to fix nutrient deficiencies as long as they do not contain nitrogen.

What is 20 20 20 fertilizer used for? ›

Description. Our 20-20-20 Garden Fertilizer is a multi-purpose, premium fertilizer that can be used in all stages of plant growth in vegetable or flower gardens. It contains equal amounts of nitrogen (20%), phosphorous (20%) and potassium (20%) to provide a balanced formula for your garden plants.

How many times a year should I fertilize my fruit trees? ›

Fruit trees should be fertilized at least twice a year – spring and fall. A mature fruit tree should receive one to two pounds of actual nitrogen per year plus equivalent amounts of phosphorus and potassium.

How many times a year do you fertilize citrus trees? ›

The best citrus tree fertilizer to use is a slow release, low nitrogen fertilizer. Fertilize your citrus tree every 2 months during its first growing season. After that, you'll want a citrus tree fertilizer with a 2-1-1 ratio and we recommend that you fertilize 3 times a year—preferably in February, May and October.

How many times a year do citrus trees produce fruit? ›

Meyer Lemon Trees are the easiest citrus plants to grow indoors and they offer sweet scented blooms and fruit up to 4 times per year. Meyer lemon plants require no chill hours to fruit so they can be grown indoors all year-round.

What fertilizer makes citrus bloom? ›

You can either use a slow-release fertilizer once a year in early spring or a liquid fertilizer every other week. Look for a fertilizer labeled specifically for citrus, but if it isn't available, use a fertilizer with twice as much nitrogen as phosphorous, such as 12-6-6.

What holidays do you fertilize citrus trees? ›

You need to fertilize your citrus trees 3 times a year. A good way to remember when to fertilize is to go by the following holidays: Valentine's Day (February), Memorial Day (May) and Labor Day (September).

What is the best time to fertilize fruit trees? ›

Early spring is the best time to fertilize fruit trees. Avoid fertilizing in late spring or summer as this may stimulate late summer growth that is more susceptible to winter injury. Too much fertilizer produces excessive vegetative growth and inhibits fruiting.

How do you fertilize established citrus trees? ›

Most citrus growers fertilize with powdered organic fertilizer. Here, feed your orange, lime, or lemon tree in dormancy. Thoroughly water the area, then evenly spread the powder. For established plants and shrubs, apply the powder at the drip line at 1 cup per 1.5 feet of spread, or 2 cups per 3 feet of spread.

What month should I fertilize my lemon tree? ›

The best time to fertilize lemon trees is once in January or February, another application in April or May, and the last application to be done in August or September. Make sure to follow the label directions to maximize the usage of the citrus fertilizer you will apply.

What month is citrus season? ›

The prime harvest time for many citrus fruits is between the months of November to March. Enjoy a “burst of sunshine” during these cold, chilly months, and include some citrus fruits into your day! Citrus fruits are the perfect combination of sweet and tangy flavors!

Is it best to water fruit trees in the morning or evening? ›

Morning watering is actually preferable to evening watering as the plant has time to dry before the sun goes down. At night, water tends to rest in the soil, around the roots, and on the foliage, which encourages rot, fungal growth, and insects.


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