Growing plants in pots is fashionable and makes enormous sense as the trend in Australian cities is for smaller gardens and spaces. Even productive plants such as citrus can be grown in containers.
How to pot a citrus
What you will need:
A large tub or pot. Your container can be terracotta, concrete or a plastic. We used a CottaPot, which looks like terracotta, but is actually plastic. Plastic pots are functional as they are light and do not dry out as quickly as terracotta pots.
Use a potting mix which meets the Australian Standard (marked Regular or Premium) and carrying the Australian Standard’s mark of four ticks.
An advanced citrus. As an example of how to pot a citrus Don selected an ‘Emperor’ mandarin (Citrus reticulata).
Step by step
Step 1. Drill extra holes in the base of the tub to provide adequate drainage. Use a hole saw drill attachment.
Step 2. Position the tub. When dealing with large objects such as pots and tubs, always put the tub in its final position before it is filled with potting mix. This reduces the need to move around very heavy objects later on. Tip: If you do have to move a heavy pot, use a trolley, or get help from two or three strong people.
Step 3. Once the tub is in position and before the potting mix goes in, use some chocks made from pieces of fibrous cement (such as Hardiflex) or commercially available pot feet to raise the pot slightly off the ground. This is done to improve drainage. You need just enough pieces to get the pot off the ground so that the water can drain away from beneath it.
Step 4. Partially fill the tub with potting mix (we used a Shrub and Tub mix). Leave room to position the plant and have extra potting mix available to top up around the plant.
Step 5. Gently remove the plant from its existing pot. As the plant you are putting in will be fairly large, make allowance for its weight. If it is too heavy to manipulate get someone to help you rather than risk damage to the plant or its roots. Take care to support the root ball when you remove the plant from its existing pot.
Step 6. The next stage is critical. Take time to get the plant centred in the pot. If your eye is not good, use a ruler to check that the trunk is in the middle of the pot. Also look at the plant from all angles. If the plant is going to be seen mainly from one point, select the best angle for this view. Stand back, check how the plant looks and adjust if necessary.
Step 7. Top up around the plant with extra potting mix. It is not necessary to tramp the soil in around the plant, but make sure you have used enough soil to fill in and have not left air spaces. Do not build the mix up around the trunk of the plant and do not plant the stem any deeper in the new pot than it was in the old. Remember the potting mix will drop a little in the weeks immediately after potting as everything settles down.
Step 8. Water the plant in well. To avoid disturbing the soil, we used a waterbreaker attachment on the hose. These deliver a gentle stream of water. Waterbreakers such as the Dramm Waterbreaker are available at nurseries or hardware stores for around $20. If the potting mix, particularly around the root ball, sheds water rather than absorbing it, add Debco Saturaid to the soil surface or water over with Wettasoil. These will help the potting mix take in water. These products are available at nurseries. Tip: If you use terracotta or concrete pots you will notice that they soak up an incredible amount of water. When you first put a plant in them you really do need to water the pot as well as the potting mix.
Step 9. Fertilising. Finally, add some fertiliser to the surface of the pot as citrus like regular fertilising. Use Osmocote and Dynamic Lifter or Dynamic Lifter Lawn Food which is a bit more powerful than the ordinary Dynamic Lifter. Water well after fertilising so as not to burn the roots. The key to success with potted citrus is to feed a small amount frequently.
CottaPots come in a variety of styles, sizes and colours and are designed for outdoor and indoor use. They carry a 10 year warranty. CottaPots are available from specialist nurseries:
NSW – The Container Connection. Phone: (02) 9831 4114.
QLD – The Container Connection. Phone: (07) 3865 5911.
SA – The Container Connection. Phone: (08) 8362 7059.
TAS – Bellevue Distributors. Phone: (03) 6228 7040.
VIC – The Container Connection. Phone: (03) 9764 1080.
WA – Plantercraft. Phone: (08) 9309 2442.
Emperor mandarins are available from nurseries throughout Australia for about $24.95 for a 15 litre bag.
Shrub and Tub potting mix is available from nurseries and garden centres, a 30 litre bag is around $11.25.
Osmocote, 500g is $7.95 or 1kg is $11.55. Dynamic Lifter Lawn Food, 15kg is $25.70. Available from nurseries and garden centres throughout Australia.