How to Grow Dwarf Citrus Indoors

Grow Dwarf Citrus Featured Image

Growing houseplants comes with a variety of rewards, tangible and intangible. Beyond the satisfaction and self-improvement that comes with nurturing and tending to living things, some plants work hard to purify our air or enliven our living spaces with flowers or greenery. Among the most rewarding houseplants, dwarf citrus trees have a bounty to offer.

Citrus and lemon

Dwarf citrus is a regular-sized citrus tree that has been grafted onto smaller rootstock, which limits their size to only a few feet but also encourages them to yield fruit more quickly. There are multiple varieties to choose from, including Dwarf Meyer Lemon, Bearss seedless dwarf lime, Dancy Tangerine, Rio Red Grapefruit, Clementine, and Kumquat. Picture-perfect and practical, these plants are perfect for the indoor gardener looking to add a little homemade zing to the menu. 

Citrus trees bloom in spring, perfuming the air with a sweet, floral aroma. Many varieties are self-pollinating, but you can help ensure the tree’s yield by using a small paintbrush or Q-tip to spread the pollen-love from one flower to another. 

The fruit develops over the course of the summer and ripens throughout fall and winter. It may not be the fastest way to get a glass of lemonade, but it might be the most rewarding!


When first planting your dwarf citrus, you’ll want a good-sized pot with room to grow, but don’t overdo it. If the ratio of soil-to-roots is too lopsided, the soil may retain more moisture than necessary, increasing the chance of root rot and disease. Drainage is one of the most important factors in citrus tree success, so make sure you choose a pot with excellent drainage and be prepared to size up when the time comes!


The soil needs to be well-draining. Fruit tree and citrus blends of potting medium are available, but you can easily mix your own by adding inorganic matter such as pumice, perlite, or gravel. Try a mix of two parts organic matter to one part inorganic, or equal parts of sand, perlite, bark, and peat moss. 


Because citrus is a tropical plant, it requires lots of light, moisture, and warmth. Citrus plants grow best between 55° and 80°F, but require a temperature change of 5-10° overnight in order to flower. Keep this in mind when you’re setting your thermostat! 

If you have outdoor access, you can move your dwarf citrus outside as soon as temperatures stay consistently above 50°. 

Lemon tree


You’ll want to keep the soil moist, but not saturated. Because overwatering is a danger, heavy infrequent waterings are often recommended as opposed to lighter more frequent ones. That being said, if you’ve moved your citrus tree outside for the summer, it may need water every day. Look for yellow or curling leaves as an indicator of overwatering. Occasionally, use a wet cloth or paper towel to gently clean the leaves, as dust accumulation prevents proper photosynthesis. 


Citrus trees need a recommended six hours of light a day when kept indoors, so when placing your plant, try for a southwest-facing window. If you have outdoor access, moving your tree outside for the summer will give it access to even more light, but make sure you transition the plant slowly. Like most plants (which are pretty universally stationary, when you think about it), citrus trees can go into shock if moved too quickly from one environment to another.

Indoor Lemon Tree

Plant Food  

It takes food to make food. Citrus trees need a healthy portion of nutrients to produce fruit. Luckily, there are citrus-specific fertilizers out there that can make the job of feeding your plant easier. Feeding once before the flowering season and again after can promote a healthy fruit yield. 



Pruning your plants promotes full growth, health, and balance, but avoid pruning during flowering or fruit season, as this will re-route your plant’s energy from fruit production to developing foliage. Wait until autumn or winter to trim your tree back into shape. 


While trees grown from seed may rarely grow to be fruit-bearing, stem cuttings root easily! In the quick-growing spring or summer seasons, take a cutting from a new shoot that has just begun to harden and root in fresh soil. Keep the soil nice and moist, and once the roots have grown an inch or more, you can transfer them to a new pot!


Harvest season will vary between plant varieties and region but will be sometime in the fall or winter. When the fruit is ripe, it may fall right from the branch! Hurry to collect it, so it doesn’t get mushy or attract pests, especially outside. If you think that the fruit is ripe on the branch, you can give it a gentle pull to see how resistant it is to being picked, or go straight for the taste test. 

Growing dwarf citrus indoors is an excellent way to bring an extra burst of color, aroma, and flavor into your home. With plenty of light, drainage, and attention to temperature, you can give Life the day off and give yourself some lemons for a change!

dwarf citrus

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