Planting Cold-Hardy

Planting Cold-Hardy Citrus in Florida

Daniel CooperCold Hardy, planting

Planting Cold-Hardy
Digging holes and planting cold-hardy citrus
Photos by Muhammad Shahid

Muhmmad Shahid and Shahid Iqbal recently provided advice on planting cold-hardy citrus in Florida. Shahid is an assistant professor of horticulture/fruit physiologist, and Iqbal is a postdoctoral scholar in horticultural sciences, both at the University of Florida North Florida Research and Education Center. Edited excerpts from their article in the Cold Hardy Citrus Connection follow:


Properly planting citrus trees is crucial for their long-term health and productivity. Prior to planting, determine the soil characteristics such as pH, fertility, nutrient level, drainage and topography.

Planting time is very important for establishing a good root system. Planting in the cold-hardy region can be done any time mid-April to early August.


Follow these guidelines when planting citrus trees:

  • Remove weeds and grass from the planting area.
  • Dig a hole about 8 to 10 inches larger than the root ball of the plant. The hole can be dug with a tractor- or excavator-operated drill.
  • Fill the hole with water.
  • Remove the plant from the pot and check for damaged roots.
  • Remove any girdling roots or J roots before planting. Without this important step, trees will experience reduced growth or even death later on.
  • Place the plant in the water-filled hole to the same level as the top of the root ball. Do not put the bud union (grafting point) below the soil.
  • Add the soil back to the hole to fill the air pocket under and around the root ball.
  • Do not add fertilizer to the hole at the time of planting. Fertilizer application should be made after the tree has settled with the soil.
  • Check the next day for any air pockets/cracks that may remain. Fill air pockets/cracks with soil and water.
  • Install tree wraps, as they provide protection to the tree trunk from applications of herbicides. Wraps also minimize light interception by trunk tissue, thereby reducing sucker growth.

After planting, proper management is needed to ensure healthy and vigorous growth. Post-planting tips include:

  • Provide regular irrigation to the plants for an initial 2 to 3 months.
  • Wait 4 to 6 weeks before applying fertilizer to allow the plant to acclimate to its new environment. Apply the proper rate of fertilizer according to the age after planting, every 3 to 4 months.
  • Mulching is an important technique to conserve soil moisture, reduce weed growth and maintain soil temperature.
  • Apply fabric mulch or straw mulch around the base of the plant to conserve soil moisture, reduce weed growth and help prevent pests and disease.
  • Pruning promotes healthy growth, improves air circulation and enhances fruit production.
  • New plants should be irrigated regularly for an initial 2 to 3 months for adequate growth.

Source: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

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