Citrus – Planting in the ground


Citrus love sunlight and should ideally be planted out in the open in full sun. Unfortunately in suburban backyards this is sometimes difficult, study the sunlight in your backyard over a full day and choose the brightest, sunniest spot.
Citrus like water, but it must drain away. Therefore when selecting a position for your tree, always make sure the soil is well drained. If in doubt about the drainage, dig a hole in the potential spot and pour a bucket of water into the hole. If it takes more than thirty minutes to disappear, then the drainage is inadequate. Think about another position or alternatively build up a garden bed or mound to plant the citrus, improving the drainage.

Soil Preparation

Many people spend lots of money on lovely plants, only to take them home, dig a hole the same size as the pot, jam them in and then wonder why they don’t grow. Good soil preparation is the secret to any great garden. Firstly always remove any grass or weeds from the area. Then dig the soil over, breaking it up as you go. If the soil is hard and clay, add gypsum. To enrich the soil add compost or garden mix, well rotted manures, organic matter, top soil, etc. Incorporate any or a combination of these through the soil by continually digging it over to at least the depth of a spade. Water thoroughly as you turn this through the soil. You should end up with nice friable soil, like a veggie garden, ideal for your young citrus tree.

Add compost, garden mix to your soil.

Incorporate compost into the soil


To reduce stress, never plant in the heat of the day. Dig a hole, twice the size of the root ball, in your freshly prepared soil.
Remove the plastic bag that the tree was grown in. It’s easier to cut this with a knife or a pair of secateurs. Gently tease the roots by running your fingers or secateurs up and down the side of the root ball.

Dig a hole, twice the size of the root ball

Remove the bag

Gently tease the roots

Backfill the hole

Position the tree in the hole, making sure that the soil level in the pot will be the same in the ground. Always make sure the graft or bud union is well above the ground level. Backfill the hole and firm in.

Water in well

Generally the citrus will be old enough not to require staking, but if in a windy area or a young tree, stake with a hardwood stake. Most importantly, water in well. If planting in the warmer months, keep moist for the first 2 – 3 weeks.

If planting in rural areas, don’t forget to protect young trees from rabbits and or wallabies.


If you have followed the soil preparation instructions above, it is not necessary to fertilise at the time of planting. Let the young citrus settle in for a couple of weeks, then start fertilising. (See fertilising)


Add mulch to the base of your trees. This will help retain moisture and protection.



    Do you you have to trim back a dwarf mandarins tree ?

      Hi Marilyn,
      You can prune your dwarf tree, but generally you would prune for a specific reason. You can prune to maintain and improve the shape, open it up for air flow and to remove crossing branches. You can also prune to remove leaves and branches that may be damaged by pests or birds. You can also give the tree a light prune after it has fruited if you want to keep it compact or encourage it to grow a more bushy habit. If the tree is old and not doing very well, you can give it a hard prune which may encourage it to grow back more strongly. You don’t have to prune a citrus tree in order to get fruit.
      Engall’s Nursery

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