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House Plants/Planting trees that grow healthy


QUESTION: Hi there, our house, we just waiting for lawns to grow, but we have a big section to plant some greenery at the back. So my wife and I were thinking 2 lemon tress and 2 mandorin trees. But we don't want weed so we want to bark it off? Would that be a problem?

My real questions are?

How do we ensure we plant well, e.g is it best to plant far apart from each other? and,

Is it advisable to use Fertlizier when planting?

How often do we need to water the trees and how do we ensure good consistent healthy green growth so it gives us good fruits.


I am a houseplant and bonsai expert and I live in Indiana so the only citrus trees I have grown are in bonsai pots. However I grow apple and my in=laws used to grow citrus in Florida and I have been there many times. I do grow semi dwarf apple trees and they are about the same size as mature citrus trees so I would say you need to keep them about 20-25 feet apart. Following is a very thorough article I found online that I think will answer your other questions.

Through the years, they've refined the planting and care of new citrus to, if not a science, a set of good rules.

1# Choose a spot in full sun that is out of the wind but not in a lawn or a frequently watered garden bed.

2# Make sure the soil drains quickly. To find out if it does, dig the planting hole 10% shorter than the height of the root ball several days before planting.

Fill it with 12 inches of water, let it drain away, then fill it again. This second 12 inches of water should drain away in less than six hours. If it doesn't, you're going to have troubles growing citrus.

Either have French drains installed #not a job for a homeowner#, dig gravel-filled drainage holes to either side of the planting hole #less successful# or try another spot.

3# If the location is OK, cut away the can #with tin snips or a knife# and gently place the root ball in the hole. Use a board laid across the surface of the soil to make sure the top of the root ball is about an inch higher than the surrounding soil.

4) Begin filling the hole with native, unamended soil until you are about 12 inches from the top. Add slow-release fertilizer pellets to this native soil if you wish.

Fill the upper 12 inches with amended soil, to which you have added about one-third organic matter, the kind sold at nurseries in bags as "planting mixes" #don't use manure). Premix the soil and the amendment in a pile or wheelbarrow.

5) Use the remaining soil mix to build a several-inch-high, circular irrigation berm around the root ball. Make this watering berm or basin no larger than the root ball, or irrigations may wet the soil around the plant but not the root ball.

6) To reduce transplant shock, remove most of the fruit from trees.

7) It's very important for the first 12 to 18 months to keep new citrus watered. Don't drown them, but water as often as necessary to keep the root ball moist. This may mean watering every three or four days at first.

To make sure that the root ball is moist, probe the soil with a screwdriver or soil probe.

Lengthen the time between irrigations after about nine months to every seven to 14 days. After 18 months, deeply water trees every 10 to 12 days, or as seldom as once or twice a month.

Of course, how often you water will depend on the weather, how hot or dry your area is, and your soil type. When the tree is young, be especially careful to keep trees watered during Santa Ana winds.

8) Begin fertilizing right away #nursery plants have been on a constant-feed program#. If you did not add slow-release fertilizers to the planting hole, dig them into the top few inches of soil, or fertilize lightly every month for the first year or two, then switch to every other month when it is 2 years old and finally, when the tree is about 6 feet tall, to twice a year #in February and June#.

9) In hot areas, if the trunk's bark is exposed to the sun, paint it with flat-white, non-enamel, water-based interior wall paint. Thin it by half with water. The hot sun can kill the cambium layer beneath the bark on unprotected young trees.

If you have more questions feel free to write again and I will find the answers to your questions. Good luck!!


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Darlene,

Thanks for your detailed Response, I have a follow up question:

After I plant the trees, will my trees still grow nicely if I lay stones on the rest of the soil (I was thinking of Bark but don't like that idea so much now).

Please let me know if laying stones (instead of Bark) would be an issue in allowing the tree's to grow well or not?


As long as the trees are planted deep and there roots go deep stones will not be a problem. If the roots are not deep the stones can hold heat in the ground that could burn the roots.  Make sure you do not plant your trees any deeper than it was in the nursery pot. Planting too deep will damage the roots. Bark is a more insulating material in a hot climate. Stones will hold the heat in a cold climate. If you have more questions feel free to write again. Good luck!


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I will planet them (our summer coming soon) so I guess bark for the season would be the way to go. We are cold during the winter months but not reaching into the minuses. So I think based on what you are saying, bark would be the preferred option to go with. Would that be right?


Yes, bark would be preferable to stones because it is more insulating for the roots. Do not apply anything more that 4 inches deep or you will smother the roots and they will not be able to breathe and that will cause death to the trees. Good luck!  

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Darlene K. Kittle


I have been an Advanced Master Gardener for 24 years and I raise around 300 houseplants and bonsai trees a year including tropicals, succulents, and cacti. I have also been a professional plant care person for businesses in the Fort Wayne, IN area and currently professionally care for bonsai trees for my customers.


I am also studying the Japanese art of bonsai with tropical plants and is President of the Fort Wayne, IN Bonsai Club.

Fort Wayne, iN Master Gardeners. President of the Fort Wayne Bonsai Club. Allen County Master Gardeners

I am not a hortculturist. I am a Purdue University Advanced Master Gardener for 24 years. I have studied plants on a personal level by growing hundreds of plants annually for the last 35 years. I have also studied under several nationally known American Bonsai experts.

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