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How Long Does It Take for Citrus Trees to Fruit?

A couple months ago, I bought a young Meyer lemon tree. While I know that it and our other citrus trees can take a while to fruit, I wanted to know exactly how long. So, how long does it take for citrus trees to fruit?

It takes citrus trees about two to three years to fruit after grafting it onto hardy rootstocks. If a citrus tree is grown from seed, it can take closer to seven years before it can bear fruit. Having the right soil and hardiness zone will also provide a better environment for growth.

While growing citrus trees can be fun and rewarding, you should know that it’s not a fast process. Keep reading to learn the details about how long citrus trees take to fruit, including some ways you can speed it up.

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4 Reasons Why Some Citrus Trees Fruit Sooner Than Others

Limes fruiting on a tree

Citrus trees usually take anywhere from two to five or more years before they start producing fruit. The difference comes from a few factors, including how you planted the tree and where you live. So, what are some reasons why some citrus trees fruit sooner than others?

Citrus trees can fruit sooner than others primarily based on if it’s grafted or grown from seed. Some other essential factors include having quality soil, water, and sunlight. With the proper conditions, citrus trees can start fruiting within two years.

If you’re planting multiple citrus trees and one takes longer to fruit, you shouldn’t be concerned as it will likely catch up to the others and fruit soon. At the same time, it can be helpful to consider what may have affected its growth.

Whether you’ve grown citrus trees before or not, a few things can determine how long it takes to bear fruit. Here are a few things to look at in regards to your citrus tree fruiting.

1. Grafting vs. Growing From Seed

Grafting a citrus tree onto rootstock is a technique that uses the roots of one plant to support another. When you graft a tree, you can take part of an existing tree, which will produce the same fruit in the same way. This process can take some work, and it can be difficult to do correctly. But it can save a lot of time and has other benefits such as increased resistance to disease and frost.

The best part is, when you graft a citrus tree, it can start to produce fruit within two to three years. If you do decide to graft, it should be done in the late winter or early spring, before the growing season starts. That way, the rootstock will be still dormant, and you can plant the citrus tree more easily.

Growing a new citrus tree from seed will take much longer to bear fruit. When growing from seed, you’ll need to wait for about seven years before your citrus tree bears fruit, and it may not be of the best quality.

Because of that, you should only grow citrus trees from seed if it’s your only option. If you have access to another citrus tree (ideally one that’s mature), consider harvesting budwood from it to graft and speed up the growth and time to fruit.

2. Soil Content

Citrus trees need soil that is well-draining so it can better access nutrients. If water sits too long and doesn’t drain, it can cause a fungal disease such as root rot. Ideally, use well-draining loam or sandy loam for the soil. If you’d like, you can also make your own soil.

If you use soil that doesn’t drain well, you may need to wait longer for the tree to produce fruit. Keep in mind that citrus trees can grow in most other soils, except for clay soils.

3. Hardiness Zones

Citrus trees grow best in hardiness zones 9 through 11. Hardiness zones are different climate zones based on the average lowest temperature for the year. The best hardiness zones for citrus trees hardly drop below 30℉ to 50℉ (-1.1℃ to 10℃).

The best hardiness zones in the US are in states like California, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. Other southern coastal states may also be able to support citrus trees throughout the year. If you’re in a colder climate, you can always grow potted citrus trees indoors or in a greenhouse.

Even still, you can grow citrus trees outside of hardiness zones 9 to 11, but it may take longer for the trees to bear fruit. However, if the winter gets too cold, the citrus tree will start to die.

4. Pruning

Pruning citrus trees involves getting rid of dead branches so that the healthy branches can thrive and produce more fruit. You can prune your citrus tree before or after it starts producing fruit.

The best time to prune your citrus tree is in late winter or early spring. If you prune your tree too early (in the fall or early winter), the pruned branches will try to regrow when it’s too cold. Those branches won’t be able to grow well, which spends the tree’s valuable energy and affects fruit production. Instead, wait until the end of winter to prune to allow more branches to grow as it warms up.

You should also avoid pruning citrus trees within the first year of growth. The tree needs time to grow and initially needs to focus on root, branch, and foliage growth for structural support. After the first year, when a lot of the growing is done, you can make pruning part of your annual gardening routine to help your citrus tree switch its focus to fruit production.

How Often Does a Citrus Tree Produce Fruit?

Healthy citrus trees produce fruit once per year, but different varieties can have different harvesting times. Orange varieties produce fruit throughout the year, so you can grow oranges for any season. Lemon and lime trees are ready to harvest in the fall and you can harvest grapefruit trees in the winter.

If you want to have citrus fruit ready each season, orange trees are your best bet. Valencia oranges are ready for harvest in the summer, and Cara Cara oranges are ripe in the fall and winter. Meanwhile, blood oranges are ready to eat in the spring.

Do You Need 2 Citrus Trees to Produce Fruit?

Most times, you don’t need to have a second citrus tree for the first one to produce fruit. The majority of citrus trees are self-pollinating, so having only one will work just fine. If these self-pollinating trees are also cross-pollinated, they’ll have an even higher percentage of fruit production.

You can help your citrus tree cross-pollinate by planting flowers that attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Additionally, you can manually pollinate the blossoms with a clean toothbrush.

3 Quick Tips to Help Your Citrus Tree Fruit Faster

You don’t always have control over when your citrus tree will fruit. But you can do a few things to make the tree fruit faster. Here are a few tips to speed up the growth and fruit-bearing process.

1. Make Sure the Soil Is Well-Draining

Choose soil that drains well. You can test the drainage by digging a hole that’s one foot deep and filling it up with water. If the water is gone by the next day, the soil is well-draining.

It also helps to plant your tree in an area with naturally good drainage, like the top of a hill. If you don’t have a spot with good drainage, you can plant your citrus tree in a raised planting bed. The bed will help encourage draining and can promote growth and quicker fruiting.

2. Use a Quality Fertilizer

Adding fertilizer to your citrus tree’s soil each month during the spring and summer will make sure the tree has a consistent supply of nutrients to grow fruit. In the beginning, it’s best to use a high-nitrogen fertilizer to promote foliage growth, but after the first year, switch to a fertilizer with higher phosphorus and magnesium if possible. This will help the citrus tree switch focuses to fruit production.

After the first year, continue using fertilizer in the warmer seasons, but use it every other month.

You can also help the tree grow by removing any grass or other vegetative competition around the roots. It’s best to check for grass before you add fertilizer.

Removing nearby competition promotes a good environment for the fertilizer and the citrus tree. If you’re not a fan of synthetic fertilizers, you can also make your own homemade citrus fertilizer.

3. Water Deeply

Deep watering your citrus tree can make all the difference in how much fruit it produces. After all, other than sugar, much of the fruit is made of water.

The general rule is to only water when the leaves start to curl. At that point, provide 1-2 inches of water in well-draining soil. The soil should also be rich enough to hold more moisture.

Always keep an eye on the weather so you can monitor how much water your plant needs, and water the plant more when you have drier periods. That way, it can have enough water stored to grow and bear fruit.

Providing a layer of compost or mulch on top of the soil will also improve water retention and the number of nutrients in the soil. If you do mulch, make sure it’s not touching the tree directly.

Keep in mind that citrus trees prefer periods of cooler weather for the fruit to grow. Colder temperatures can help the trees bloom and produce more fruit.

Final Thoughts

If your citrus tree grew from a graft and has healthy amounts of nutrients, water, and sunlight, it should bear fruit within about 2-3 years. If these conditions aren’t met, it’s okay, you’ll still likely have fruit, but it can take up to seven years for some citrus trees.

If you provide for your citrus tree well and give it the best possible growing conditions, its fruit production will be sped up and be that much sweeter. Remember to graft your citrus trees for faster and “true” fruiting.