When to Fertilize Citrus Trees – Know the Timing!

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The smell of citrus is quite lovely in the air and you want to do everything you can to enhance it. Proper care of your citrus trees involves fertilizing them and here is when and how to do it.

When to fertilize citrus trees: Lemmon, lime, and orange trees can grow beautiful fruit but for this to happen, fertilizer is an important step. Aim to fertilize your citrus trees three times a year. This should happen in late winter, late spring, and late summer. Use a special citrus tree fertilizer that has the right ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Always use plenty of water to dilute the fertilizer and allow it to penetrate deep into the soil. If your fertilizer your citrus trees, the root structure will be stronger, the branches healthier, and the fruit larger.

Benefits of Fertilizing Citrus Trees

Increases growth of branches

As your citrus tree grows, it will produce more fruit. With the right fertilizer, you can ensure that the branches grow larger and stronger, and thus can hold more fruit.

strengthen root structure

While often forgotten, the root structure of a citrus tree is of the utmost importance. This is where the nutrients are absorbed and if you have a weak root system, your tree is more prone to damage from pests and the weather.

The nutrients in fertilizer target the roots and make the whole system stronger so your tree will live longer.

Larger fruit

If a tree doesn’t have enough nutrients in it, then it can’t direct energy into the fruit itself. A weak tree will have small, tasteless fruit while a strong tree with the right fertilizer will have large, juicy fruit.

What type of fertilizer to use?

When you want to purchase fertilizer for your fruit tree, you need a special formula. A 12-6-5 ratio is the best option.

Always purchase a product that is specifically designed for citrus trees as it will also include micronutrients such as zinc, iron, magnesium, copper, and sulfur.

How do you fertilize citrus trees?

As we’ll discuss in the next session, you should fertilize your citrus trees three times a year. This is number is very important because you actually need to do a bit of math with it.

When you know how much fertilizer your citrus tree needs, this is the total amount. Therefore, when it comes to each application of fertilization, this should be a third of the total yearly amount. If you over-fertilize your citrus tree, you can severely damage it.

The next important piece of information is that you should wait until your citrus tree is one year old. In the first year of its life, a citrus tree does not need any extra nutrients, and, again, adding some during this time can cause damage or even kill your tree.

When you purchase fertilizer for your citrus tree, it will most likely be in powder form. You want this powder to be absorbed deep into the soil and for this to happen, you need to add water.

First, water the area around your citrus tree, making sure the soil is nice and wet. Sprinkle the fertilizer evenly on the ground and then water again to make sure it soaks through.

If you are worried about adequate saturation, you can also rake the powder into the top inch of the soil. Make sure the area covers the entire root system, which should be any part of the ground that is below the foliage of your citrus tree.

How often should you fertilize citrus trees?

When it comes to citrus, there is actually an exact timing you should follow. While you may be able to bend the timing a little bit, know that you might not get the results you want.

It can seem hard at first to remember to follow such a rigid fertilization schedule. However, if you do this every year and plan a little bit for it, then it quickly becomes a habit.

Phase 1 – Winter

When your citrus tree is still dormant in the winter, you will want to prepare it for the upcoming growing season. However, this may be a bit different if you have trees that are ready mid-season.

Generally, you can use the week around Valentine’s Day as a good marker of your first fertilizing.

Phase 2 – Late spring

Once spring hits, your citrus tree will start to come alive. It will have a large amount of foliage and there will be blossoms that will quickly yield fruit. This is the time you want to apply the second stage of fertilizer.

For a point of reference, aim to do this around Memorial. Day.

Phase 3 – Summer

The final time for fertilizer is late summer. Most citrus trees bear fruit in the fall and you want to give your trees enough nutrients for that final push so the fruit is as large and juicy as possible.

You can apply the last third of fertilizer around Labor Day.

Signs of over-fertilizing citrus trees

Sign 1 – crust on ground

If there is too much fertilizer, it can leave a crust on the ground where you spread it. To avoid this, always give your citrus tree plenty of water while fertilizing it.

Sign 2 – yellow and brown leaves

Fertilizer is made out of chemicals and if there is too much in the soil, it can actually take water away from the tree. When this happens, the leaves of your citrus trees can turn yellow or brown.

When is it too late to fertilize citrus trees?

Most citrus trees do not produce fruit in the winter and thus there are very few benefits to fertilizing during this time. Your powder fertilizer probably won’t be absorbed by the tree roots and therefore will be a waste of your time and money.


If you are lucky enough to live in an area that can support the growth of citrus trees, then you will want to know how to care for them. Aim to fertilize your lemon, lime, or orange trees in late winter, late spring, and late summer.

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