Yes, you can plant citrus in July and August!

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve seen several recent postings about some nurseries and garden centers getting fresh supplies of citrus trees. I’ve been helping to promote them at places like Enchanted Gardens and RCW Nurseries, encouraging folks to stock up.

New fruit trees shipments

New fruit trees shipments

Wait! What? You can buy citrus trees here in July and August? Frankly, we’ve never talked much about fruit tree sales and shipments this late in the year, but it’s a rare good thing we can blame on COVID-19.

When everyone started staying home in March, garden centers remained open as “essential” businesses. So, supplies of many things, including fruit trees, got wiped out. Growers had never experienced anything like that before and started getting restocking orders as early as April. So, they ramped up the growing process to fill the void. Now, we are seeing the results of the production push … the fruits of their labor! (I have to include puns whenever possible.)

After I posted about the new shipments, I got hammered with questions from new-to-Houston gardeners and new GardenLine radio listeners. Many thought I’d lost my mind and wondered how in the world one would, or could, plant trees when it’s this hot. The answer: In Houston and Southeast Texas, we can transplant CONTAINERIZED trees and shrubs at almost any time of year. Even when you think it’s too hot, the soil really isn’t. It’s like planting trees and shrubs in our wintertime … when our soil isn’t frozen.

If you buy a citrus tree now but plan on going on vacation soon, you should probably leave it in the pot until you get home, since newly planted trees need to be watered consistently. However, if you aren’t going anywhere this summer, you can plant it in the ground right now!

To successfully establish a citrus tree in your landscape, choosing the right location is key. For citrus to fruit properly, they must be planted in full sun. At a minimum, they’ll need a half day of direct sun, but more is better. And make sure the area has good drainage. Heavily compacted soil won’t help your citrus plants thrive, so amend, if necessary, with organic compost and expanded shale. I also encourage you to build a slightly raised bed for citrus and avocado drainage.

When people send me pictures or bring me samples of sickly and almost dead-looking citrus and avocados, I always try first to determine how they were planted. When I see sunken areas, or areas around the trunk that look like clay-based soil, I know they’re never going to win the drainage battle.

When you transplant a containerized tree during heat like we’re currently experiencing, be sure to water in some liquid organic fertilizer or organic soil activator. But avoid using liquid synthetic root stimulators at all costs. If even slightly overused in high temperatures, synthetics will most assuredly burn the roots. After the tree’s roots fully establish over the next three months, then you can think about a true fertilization program.

Check new plants daily to make sure they have adequate water, especially if in containers. Once citrus become established in the landscape, you’ll be able to reduce watering to once a week.

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PHOTOS: Enchanted Gardens and RCW Nurseries

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