Citrus trees are known as heavy feeders so appreciating what fertilizers to use is crucial for a bumper crop. This largely means a decent ratio of potassium and nitrogen while keeping the phosphorus amount relatively low.
This could come in the form of concentrate to be diluted in water, a liquid, spikes, or pods. Each type of fertilizer has its own benefits of ensuring the right nutrients get to your citrus tree.
Picking the wrong citrus tree fertilizer or applying it incorrectly can have serious repercussions. You could end up over-fertilizing the tree which could result in yellowing leaves. Worse still, the fruit may turn out to be inferior should the tree suffer numerous growth spurts.
If you are unsure of which citrus tree fertilizer works best then think about what growth stage the tree is in. Consider whether it could benefit from a fertilizer that produces quick results or one you would be happy to look after in the long term.
Also, check how to apply the fertilizer as this may be one crucial aspect that needs to be factored into your decision. Choosing the right time to use fertilizer on your tree could also make a big difference.
Best For Application
Miracle-Gro Shake ‘n’ Feed All Purpose Plant Food is really easy to use. The hard work comes from the natural ingredients which effectively feed the microbes in the soil. Simply shake the bottle, ensure the seal is removed then shake it out. No need for any water as you can apply this dry and allow the microbes to create those healthy nutrients for your citrus tree.
After you have spread the mix lightly over, just rake it over lightly to ensure the fertilizer is at least an inch deep. Water it over and then simply sit back and watch your citrus tree enjoy the feeding. The results are two-fold. Not only will the water efficiency be improved but the roots will be developed and stronger as we found in our testing of this product.
- Microbes – Included to help break down a variety of natural ingredients into nutrients for root strength and increased water efficiency
- Versatility – Can be used in containers or straight into the ground
- Burning Protection – If the fertilizer is used as directed it should not burn
- Works Above And Below – Once applied, the natural ingredients will nourish going up the tree and into the roots
- Harmful To Dogs – If you do have dogs, ensure they stay well away from your citrus trees as the formula can be harmful
Best For Preventing Disease And Pests
Should you prefer a more tailored fertilizer then Jobe’s Organic Fruit & Citrus variety may be just the one. This comes with a different ratio of 3, 5, 5 NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium) but this is a specific formula for citrus trees. Primarily, the fertilizer is designed to work quickly so you should expect results soon enough. Use Jobe’s for fast growth, swift and plentiful blooms as well as quality citrus fruit.
The fertilizer also uses Biozome which promotes an improvement in the soil quality and general good health. As a fertilizer that stimulates growth, we also found that it aided the tree’s upkeep which is a noted bonus. In our experience with this product, we found fewer pests and fewer diseases on the citrus trees. All from a totally organic formula too.
- Biozome – Will improve the soil conditions and is unique to Jobe’s by helping your tree resist insects and drought
- Completely Organic – No synthetic additives are used
- Fast Acting – Will work quickly for a growing tree or one that requires rejuvenation
- Less Nitrogen – Helps to deter overfeeding by having less nitrogen in the mix
- Smell – There may be an odor from the fertilizer that can put you off
Best For Potted Citrus Trees
In our testing, we found that applying fertilizer for potted citrus trees was a messy business. Heavy bags can spill over the side of a pot really easily, which makes EarthPods’ Premium Fruit & Citrus Plant Food truly helpful.
All you need to do is insert the pod-like shape into the pot. That’s all. No need for measuring, there is no smell to deal with and your hands will not get dirty. The pods simply break down over time and gradually release the nutrients. This simple slow-release application ensures steady growth so the tree will bloom then fruit in its own time.
The fertilizer analysis is 0.2, 0.2, and 0.4 NPK which may seem really low. However, you do get over 70 additional trace elements that you would not find in other fertilizers.
- Specialized Formula – Ideal for feeding dwarf flowering smaller lemon, lime, and orange trees
- Tube Application – Does not require measuring and does not make a smell
- Break-Through Formula – Will create a composition just like the forest earth, rich in plant nutrients and microbes
- Low Formula – The numbers may put you off but there is far more than the NPK ratio
Best For Flavorful Fruit
For consistently impressive results, try Dr. Earth’s Organic and Natural Wonder Fruit Tree Fertilizer. The 5-5-2 NPK formula keeps the tree producing results yet does not go as far as providing anything unduly spectacular. With such rudimentary performance, you can expect good-tasting fruit that has not had to go through any growth spurts.
In our experience with this product, the real surprise was what went into it. There are no synthetic ingredients, as you would likely expect, yet the TruBiotic really worked well. The formula actively benefits soil microbes and includes eight different strains of endo and ectomycorrhizae.
Not only does this promote a thorough breakdown of the organic nutrients but also helps the tree’s tolerance for drought, and its general performance.
- Drought Tolerance – Eight different strains of endo and ectomycorrhizae improve drought tolerance, crucial in summer
- TruBiotic – Ensures that the organic nutrients are broken down
- Balanced Formula – Promotes healthy soil for the benefit of the tree
- Slow Working – A few customers found that the fertilizer was slow to show any results
Best For A Healthy Citrus Fruit Tree
Should you desire a plentiful yield then get the fertilizer for the job. Espoma Citrus-Tone Natural & Organic Fertilizer is specially formulated to promote the growth of fruit, flowers, stems, and leaves so you should see results. Give it time as this fertilizer is formulated to be long-lasting and proven for slow-release feeding. The ingredients are totally natural and organic with no fillers which was a factor we liked in our testing.
With Biotone microbes you can ensure that the fertilizer contributes to a reliable supply of nutrients for your citrus trees. A 5,2,6 NPK ratio is designed for long-lasting results that will continue to impress, so long as you remember to reapply it.
- Organic – No fillers or sludges are included in the ingredients
- Long-Lasting – Over time the results will show in larger and better tasting fruit
- Biotone Microbes – Reapplying the fertilizer means ensuring a reliable supply of nutrients
- Vulnerable To Mold – Some reports suggest that the fertilizer may make the citrus tree prone to mold and even mites
Best For Nitrogen And Potassium Intake
Few fertilizers can rival the NPK ratio of 20, 10, 20. That’s what Jack’s Classic Citrus Feed promotes and it is a mix that provides results. You also get a healthy amount of micronutrients thrown in that really make a difference to your citrus trees. From the fruit, down to the roots, and across to the leaves. All in all, this is a highly effective fertilizer for citrus trees because it has been carefully formulated specifically for them. Especially with that much-needed nitrogen and potassium.
That water solubility also means you should be able to prove that the fertilizer is working well. As it is so easily absorbed you may see results within a week or so. That would be proven in the greener leaves and the more bountiful fruit yield. For smaller trees, you should see an improvement in how strong the branches are which we found in our experience.
- Water Soluble – Great for noticing fast results as it is easy to absorb
- Specially Formulated – Designed for citrus trees with a large load of nitrogen and potassium
- Quick Results – There should be a visible difference in your citrus tree
- Small Quantity – You may find yourself using up this fertilizer really quickly
Best Top Dressing Citrus Fertilizer
From the kitsch design on the box, you may think this is some classic lemonade formula. Thankfully it is useful for lemons, as well as other citrus fruits and their trees. That comes from a bountiful nutrient mix, just as your citrus fruits should be. The 6-3-3 NPK ratio goes a long way to encourage new growth as well as fragrant blossoms and a big fruit yield.
This is a great fertilizer if you need to help a citrus tree along from our experience of this product. Perhaps the conditions have not been great or the tree simply is not getting the nutrients it needs. Down To Earth Organic Citrus Fertilizer Mix is one fertilizer that you can sprinkle on and know you are doing the tree a favor.
- Nutrient Composition – Packed full of primary and secondary nutrients with several micronutrients too
- Recyclable Box – The packaging is kitsch and completely recyclable
- Rejuvenating Mix – Use it on a tree that needs a boost and watch the results
- Risk From Overfertilizing – There may be burning and yellowing of the leaves if the tree is overfertilized
Best for Liquid Plant Food
Liquid plant food is ideal for the obvious reason, its increased solubility. The EZ-Gro Citrus Tree Fertilizer is recommended simply due to how fast it can deliver nutrients to the roots. This is a concentrated liquid plant food that will require some water dilution yet this comes with clear instructions and a measuring cup.
The 20, 3, 19 formula is specially formulated for citrus trees. Few liquid mixtures are this well balanced and this productive for citrus trees which we found in our experience of this product. There is even a micronutrient package to top it all up including chelated zinc, iron, and manganese for optimal growth.
- Specially Formulated – The formula is designed for a large variety of citrus trees
- Concentrated Mix – Nutrients go straight to the root for a concentrated dose
- Micronutrient Package – For optimal results, the micronutrient package is designed for citrus trees
- Advanced Formula – Ideal amounts of phosphate, nitrogen, and soluble potash
- Flimsy Measuring Cup – The cup can easily get damaged and occasionally suffers in transit
Best For Value
For promising results with an inexpensive fertilizer then Lilly Miller’s Citrus & Avocado Food is a great choice. For the price, it really does show up for quality and the nutrient value in our experience. The NPK ratio is 10, 6, 4 which is promising for the price, then you realize that the mix is fortified with essential minerals.
For new and mature plants, this is a worthwhile fertilizer simply due to how available the nutrients are. Our testing of this product showed that you can even expect some improvement in the leaves; from yellow and sad-looking to bright and green after a few feeds. The application is straightforward too with only a sprinkle required near the drip line.
- Budget-Friendly – One of the more cost-effective citrus tree fertilizers
- Fortified – Contains all the essential minerals for a plant
- Easy Sprinkling Application – Simply sprinkle the fertilizer onto the soil near the drip line then cover with water
- Slow Results – It may take a few weeks to see results
Best For Concentrate
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Some horticulturalists prefer that element of control. Knowing just how much of a dose to apply shows an understanding of how best to grow their plants, flowers, or citrus trees. Westland Citrus Tree Feed Concentrate comes with a dozer to ensure the correct application of fertilizer, whatever you deem that to be.
Having that control means finding the right amount yet the formula is balanced enough. There’s a really good mix of essential nutrients with trace elements so you can rest assured that the citrus tree is getting what it needs. In our experience with this product, we thought that this was an ideal fertilizer for providing a boost to a citrus tree. That could be for a growth spurt or ensuring the fruit develops as it should.
- Easy Measuring – A dozer is included to ensure the right amount of concentrate
- Balanced Formula – Just the right amount of essential trace elements and necessary nutrients
- Fruit Boost – Designed for promoting growth and boosting fruit development
- Tricky To Use Applicator – Some users found that the lid and dosing chamber had to be removed to apply the concentrate
The NPK Ratio
For the science buffs, the NPK ratio stands for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The K is the chemical symbol for Potassium otherwise the ratio could get wholly confusing. Primarily, the NPK ratio concerns the soil and will be shown on the fertilizer label. If you happen to use a self-serve bin make sure you write down the NPK ratio on the bag.
One of the main reasons for applying fertilizer is to supplement the soil with the nutrients that your citrus tree needs. If you were just to use regular soil there is a good chance that you will not get the fruit yield you desire. The fertilizer gives the soil a nutritional boost.
There are six nutrients that plants and citrus trees require to grow and develop. Three are from the air, which are carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. The other three come from the soil and, you’ve guessed it, these are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
That is why every fertilizer should come with an NPK ratio as it will give you a good idea of what goes into the blend and how it can benefit your citrus tree.
The NPK ratio is given in numbers so you can expect 13, 7, 13 or 5, 10, 10. Do not worry if it fails to highlight which number is for which nutrient as it is standardized as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
You can usually break down the fertilizer too. If you have a 100-pound bag and a ratio of 10, 10, 10 the maths is relatively simple. There will be 10 pounds of each nutrient with 70 pounds being filler.
If any of these components are missing then the ratio will show a zero. Let’s say you have a fertilizer that has ten pounds of nitrogen but no phosphorus or potassium. The NPK ratio would read 10, 0, 0 and this would be classed as an incomplete fertilizer.
A fertilizer with all three components would be called a… complete fertilizer. A general fertilizer has equal amounts of each key nutrient or just a bit more nitrogen than the other two. If you wanted a fertilizer to do a decent job over the growing season then look out for one with a ratio of 10,10,10 or 12, 8, 6.
Different NPK ratios can be used at different growth stages of your citrus tree. To encourage fruit production and root growth, consider a fertilizer that has more phosphorous and potassium than nitrogen. An NPK ratio of 3, 18, 18 would do well.
Each nutrient is included for certain benefits it can bring to your citrus tree. Nitrogen is required for foliage growth and is the nutrient responsible for the green appearance. The middle value is for phosphorus and the nutrient is necessary for developing the roots and generally strengthening the citrus tree.
Used wisely, it can help aid fruit yield and blooming. Finally, potassium, which is also known as potash. This is the nutrient that keeps your citrus tree in good, healthy condition.
Largely by fighting against potentially disruptive diseases and helping your tree cope with extreme temperatures. Without the potassium, the leaves on your tree may suffer and there may be a vulnerability to drought.
The Ideal Fertilizer For Citrus Trees
Certain soil conditions should be met to ensure your citrus tree becomes well developed and has a great fruit yield. In general for a mature tree, you should be looking for a balanced fertilizer that provides equal amounts of each key nutrient so an NPK of 6, 6, 6 would be good.
For even better results, try to find a fertilizer that also includes several micronutrients such as zinc, boron, manganese, copper, and iron.
The growth stage of your citrus tree will also help determine what type of fertilizer you go for. If your citrus tree is fairly young and growing in a container you should go for more nitrogen-based fertilizer.
Citrus trees that have been planted in the open are generally fine with a more balanced fertilizer, such as a complete fertilizer of 10,10,10, or one which prefers more nitrogen in the mix like 12, 7, 5.
Citrus trees do prefer soil that has a slightly acidic pH level so a good idea is to perform a soil test first before planting. Once you know the current pH level of your soil, you can match up the fertilizer to achieve that slightly acidic level. Purely opting for a fertilizer that is designed for citrus trees should also take out some guesswork.
While the NPK ratio is undoubtedly the most important nutritional breakdown to look out for, you should check the contents for even more nutrients. Some fertilizers can include as many as 70 trace elements, which can be really beneficial to the health of your citrus tree.
Ones to look out for include zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. They may be tiny but each has a job to do to ensure great fruit on your well-developed citrus tree. For instance, ecto and endo mycorrhizae can help with drought tolerance which is really important for a hot summer.
How To Use A Citrus Tree Fertilizer
Citrus tree fertilizer can come in a variety of forms and each has its own way of being applied. From pods to spikes, concentrate to liquid, every type of fertilizer will help your citrus tree in its own way and each has a specific way of being used.
As you would expect, concentrated fertilizer comes in smaller packages. Simply measure the dose using a cup or spoon (this is usually provided) and mix it in with water. Once diluted, pour the mixture over the roots of your citrus tree for the nutrients to work their way into the tree itself.
Concentrate fertilizer is usually better used on citrus trees that are still being grown indoors in containers, such as a conservatory or greenhouse. If you live in a colder climate and are growing your trees in containers indoors then consider a concentrated fertilizer.
For a simple application without the need for dilution, consider granular fertilizer. Again, check the dosage but after that, you can easily sprinkle the fertilizer over the soil.
You may prefer to use a scoop and then bury the granules in the soil using a rake for a better way of getting closer to the citrus tree itself. Make sure that you water the area thoroughly to ensure that the granules work their way into your citrus tree.
These are great for easy use with little fuss. Once the pods are planted in the soil they will gradually break down to slowly release the nutrients to promote steady growth. This is great for flavorful fruit as it will not suffer from any spurts.
If you thought that pods were a straightforward, no-nonsense fertilizer then think again. Spikes are an even faster and more effective way of ensuring that your tree gets the nutrients it needs.
This type of fertilizer can be applied directly into the root area which is an innovative technique. Spread them out evenly around the trunk but not too close. You will also want to push the spikes in gently, they only need a couple of inches of soil coverage. Use a hammer if the ground is particularly tough.
Due to their fast-acting nature and their pre-measured nutrients, spikes are usually best for growing trees in a container. If your tree is in a container, the spikes should be applied close to the edge. How many spikes you use will largely depend on how big the citrus tree is.
That is why a lot of fertilizer spikes come with handy growth charts to check. There is a convenience that comes with fertilizer spikes as you can simply push them in and leave them. Calculating the dosage is also relatively straightforward too. Another positive feature is that they are usually safe around children and pets.
Liquid fertilizer can be in one of two forms; already ready to use or concentrated and requiring dilution. If it is the latter form then there will be instruction on the dosage. When you are ready to pour, you should aim for the base of the tree for easy access to the roots.
The vast majority of liquid fertilizers are used due to the rapid speed at which they realize their nutrients. With that in mind, you may want to apply the fertilizer more often during the year. One drawback with liquid-based fertilizer is that it can be washed away so try to apply the fertilizer as close to the tree as possible.
If you are struggling to get your hands on a fertilizer then there is a simple alternative; coffee grounds. Instead of throwing the grounds away, you could use them as a makeshift fertilizer. Organic coffee grounds are especially good for nitrogen content, they also tend to have a slightly acidic pH that works really well for citrus fruits. You could plant the ground straight into the citrus tree pot for a slow release.
You should also look to include more nitrogen when you are starting out as this is vital for a growing tree. If you are wondering how much nitrogen you would need in your fertilizer then measure the citrus tree’s diameter. With that measurement, multiply it by 0.1 pounds, and that is the amount of nitrogen you need.
Using the NPK ratio, find out the amount of nitrogen per pound of fertilizer then apply it to the total amount of fertilizer. A good amount for a young citrus tree is half a pound. As the tree reaches maturity, add another pound of fertilizer for each year.
Checking the pH level of the soil before you decide on the fertilizer is a great way of ensuring that you buy the right one. You may think that buying a complete fertilizer with all three key nutrients is the best way to nourish your citrus tree.
However, if the soil already contains enough nitrogen and phosphorus then buying an incomplete fertilizer that only contains potassium will do the job. Overloading your soil with nutrients by using a complete fertilizer could even harm your citrus tree.
Excess phosphorus, for example, can be harmful to plants and even trees. Before you buy your fertilizer, look into buying a soil test kit first to give you a good idea of what is already in your soil. With that information, you can make a considered choice on which fertilizer to get.
Once you have applied your fertilizer you may want to check the pH level to ensure that the levels are correct. A soil pH of between 5.5 and 6.5 should be ideal for healthy growth.
When To Use A Citrus Tree Fertilizer
Citrus tree fertilizer should be used more in spring and summer during the tree’s active growth period. Ideally, start feeding your growing citrus tree in February which is when the buds should start to swell. During this period, try to fertilize your citrus tree once every month or, at a push, every two months.
The tree will become more dormant during the fall and winter when you can fertilize it once every two to three months. The rate you fertilize your citrus tree will change as the tree matures.
The first year is essential as the tree is still young and needs some extra care. An older citrus tree will only need fertilizing for active growth every two to three months so treat it as dormant.
You can tell the time frame for fertilizing your citrus tree simply by looking at it. Inspect the citrus tree’s growth and appearance, if it looks lush and features a lot of dark green with plenty of fruit then that’s a good sign. A citrus tree that looks healthy and bountiful likely does not need to be fertilized often.
Hold back on the fertilizer as too much when the tree looks good can actually translate to poor, inferior fruit. Instead, concentrate on the fertilizer for when the citrus tree most needs it.
This will be during the period when they are ‘nutrient-hungry’, from when they bloom until the fruit is firmly set. Essentially, fertilize it during the early stages when the tree needs all the nutrients it can get.
Once you have established your fertilizer schedule, ensure that you stick to it as long as the tree looks healthy. Should the fertilizer help the citrus tree get the nutrients it needs then you should tell by tasting the yield. The quality of the fruit should naturally follow and if it has good results then stick to the fertilizer and application method too.
If you are growing your citrus tree in pots then you can avoid applying fertilizer during a cold winter. This should avoid any weak growth. After around three years, your citrus tree should be more mature and you may only need to feed it with fertilizer three times a year.
Considering that you should start applying fertilizer to your citrus tree in February then the next two feeds should come in May then October. There is logic to that schedule, the first feed is for flowering, the second to help the fruit to set, then the final application to give the citrus tree what it needs in dormancy.
The time of day for feeding is also important. Aim for cool conditions, either in the early morning or evening. Try to take a glance at the weather forecast too as you really do not want a downpour to wash away all your carefully applied fertilizer.
Hopefully, your citrus tree will be producing a bountiful yield with delicious fruits. The tree should look good too, lush, green foliage is a good indicator that your fertilizer is doing the desired job.