top of page


Sun City Festival allows residents to plant up to 2 dwarf citrus trees in their back yards. When choosing a citrus tree be sure to confirm that what you are purchasing is in fact a dwarf citrus tree.

If planted in the ground dwarf trees can be expected to reach “Semi-Dwarf” size – up to around 16 feet in height, depending upon variety. In a pot, the dwarf trees will stay much smaller, especially with judicious pruning. Standard size citrus trees, available at California nurseries, are best suited for growing in the ground and can be expected to get much taller – up to 25 feet, depending on variety.

Be sure to provide more space in the ground for standard size trees. Generally, a Dwarf tree needs an 8-10 foot diameter space, while a Standard tree should be provided with a larger growing space – up to 15 feet in diameter.

Citrus trees are best planted during the active growing season. In summer it is best to plant in the early morning hours when temperatures are cool to moderate. Try to keep the roots out of the sun as much as possible. Water thoroughly after transplanting. You may wish to pinch off fruit and blossoms for the first year or two after a new planting to encourage stronger root and branch development.

Planting a Citrus Tree

Dig a hole that is the same depth as the root ball of the citrus tree. To encourage outward root growth, score the sides of the citrus tree's root ball. After placing the citrus tree in the hole, backfill with the original soil, filtering out the rocks. Soil amendments, composts, mulches, etc. should be avoided. To prevent sunburn damage, paint the citrus tree trunk with white latex pain. Do not fertilize the first year.

Prune citrus tree only to remove suckers (growth below the graft union of the tree), and dead diseased or damaged branches. Cosmetic pruning can result in decreased yields.

As Dave Owens, also known as 'The Garden Guy' states, "Citrus trees like to be left unpruned. The more foliage and dead wood on the tree, the more sun protection the tree trunk will get." John Begeman, another gardening expert of Arizona, points out that "more leaves equates to more and better fruit," and also recommends pruning "only if you must and only using the proper techniques."

The best time of year to trim citrus trees is in the spring. If you trim them between about mid March to early May, the trees are less likely to be harmed by extremes in temperature.

Citrus fruit ripens in the late fall, from about November to February for most varieties. Minimal pruning during this harvest time is also acceptable. During the winter there is danger of frost, and during the summer there is the opposite problem.

Citrus trees are highly sensitive to sun damage, especially during the hottest months of the year and during the hottest parts of the day. If the tree is not shaded during the afternoon, any bare trunk or branches need to be wrapped or painted (whitewashed) for sun protection. The tree is most vulnerable where it receives direct sunshine in the afternoon: the Southwestern exposure. This is why it is so important not to overprune citrus trees: branches subjected to direct sun will burn, and full exposure to the trunk can kill the tree altogether

The First Year

Summer: Water the entire citrus tree root system deeply, to a depth of 3-4 feet every 3 days.

Winter: Water the entire root system deeply, to a depth of 3-4 feet every 6 days.

After the first year

Summer: Water the entire citrus tree root system deeply, to a depth of 3-4 feet every 4-7 days.

Winter: Water the entire root system deeply, to a depth of 3-4 feet every 8-12 days.

If you irrigate by a bubbler system, double irrigate citrus trees every couple of months to leach out accumulated soil salts.

Fertilizing Your Citrus Tree

Iron Deficiency of a Citrus Tree

Liquid chelated iron is recommended for citrus trees in the desert. It can be mixed per the instructions, or sprinkled under the tree’s canopy and watered in. It can also be sprayed directly on the leaves (not in the heat of summer) for several weeks, until it greens up. Ideal season for this is either spring or fall.

More Helpful Information on

  • Identifying Diseases In Citrus Trees:
bottom of page