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Top Tips for Successful Citrus

With summer on it's way fresh citrus will soon be waiting to be plucked from the branch! We have answers to your most common citrus questions to help you grow a successful crop this season. Share your top tips below in the comments section!

  • My lemon tree has lots of lemons which don't have any juice. Do you know why? Thanks, Pauline.

Dry lemons are normally caused through lack of water over the summer period as the fruit is forming. You can't get the moisture into your current seasons lemons but you can fix the problem so it doesn't happen next year, by watering more regularly. It can also be caused by lack of fertiliser. Now is the right time to apply Tui Citrus Food around the base of the plant then again at the end of fruiting, add a layer of mulch around the base of the plants after you fertilise to help the soil retain moisture. For citrus in containers, we recommend using Tui NovaTec Premium fertiliser.


  • My lemon tree has plenty of lemons on it but no leaves. What could be causing this? Thanks, Amy

Citrus are evergreen but do drop leaves, usually when they are stressed, too cold, have too much fertiliser, or not enough fertiliser, if there’s frost, or they are too wet. I would suggest regular doses of Tui Organic Seaweed Plant Tonic every seven days until the tree starts bursting into leaf. Give it regular feedings in spring and summer when temperatures warm up. Don't feed it in winter as the tree isn't actively growing. Try adding sheep pellets to nourish the soil and mulch around the tree so it doesn't dry out in summer. If it is in a pot and become pot bound it might need re-potting.


  • I've planted a small meyer lemon tree. How often should I feed the tree, all seasons except winter? Thanks, Karena

With a citrus fertiliser such as Tui Citrus Food, you should only need to apply twice a year in spring and summer (before and after fruiting) unless you are lucky enough to have a tree that produces fruit year round and have no risk of frost then you can apply more regularly. If you’d like you can also feed it more regularly with a liquid fertiliser such as Tui Organic Seaweed Plant Tonic which has no risk of over-feeding and lots of benefits for your tree.


  • I have a 10 year old kaffir lime tree in a big pot. Every winter it would shed all the leves and then regrows new shoots every spring but I find in the last couple years the leaves keep going yellow and curled up. Can you help? Thanks, Muny

Sounds like the plant is root bound, therefore there are two options: You can repot - take out of the tub, trim roots and repot in Tui Pot Power. If repotting not possible, sprinkle Debco SaturAid to help water penetrate to the dense root ball and use Tui NovaTec Premium Fertiliser twice a year - now and late summer to provide nutrients. Also put sheep pellets around in the pot for an extra boost of nitrogen and regularly use Tui Organic Seaweed Plant Tonicto keep it healthy.


  • Why is citrus food not suitable for use in containers? Thanks, Margaret

We generally don't recommend using our Food range (including Tui Citrus Food) in pots and containers because it is not a slow release fertiliser and can overfeed in a smaller space e.g. pot or container, especially if not applied in the correct amount. This will then affect the plant.  We recommend a controlled release fertiliser such as Tui Enrich Fruit, Citrus, Tree & Shrub for use in pots and containers.


  • We have recently brought a property and have a few fruit trees. The leaves are turning yellow on my mandarin tree. I have tried feeding with citrus food and worm castings, do you have any other ideas please. Thanks, Jacqualine

If magnesium is deficient then the leaves will turn yellow. Your tree will benefit from a dose of Epsom salts which is magnesium. Use Tui Epsom Salts.  Also make sure your tree is free from weeds which will compete for water and nutrients and mulch around it to help conserve soil moisture as well as keeping weeds down.


  • Just wondered if you have a nice way to get rid of the ants on my citrus trees but not disturb other insects like the bees! Thanks Maureen

Fortunately, the ants do not harm the fruit, they are there because there will be an insect exuding a honey dew such as scale, aphids, or mealy bug. By controlling these insects you should not attract ants. Check at your local garden centre for a suitable spray. 


  • We have an orange tree in our backyard but the oranges never ripen properly, they never turn orange and when cut open they are pretty well tasteless and mushy. What could be the cause of this please?

Oranges require a long warm summer and mild winter to fruit successfully. If your climate is right, the most likely reasons for the lack of fruit is the plant isn't getting enough nutrients from the soil. Fertilise in spring and summer with Tui Citrus Food. It would also be useful to prune back your orange tree to encourage some new growth and fruiting wood. The more air movement and sunlight the plant can get the more likely the fruit will ripen. Water frequently in summer as this is when the fruit is developing its flavour and size.


  • Hi, my lemon tree is looking lovely and lush with green leaves and new growth after giving it a dose of citrus food. It's two years old and had two blossoms when I bought it. Once planted, the fruit dropped off when they were only about 1cm long, and it hasn't blossomed since. Do you know why? Thanks, Vicky

As the plant is only two years old it is not a problem that it is not flowering as it is good for the tree to spend energy in establishing its roots first. We suggest feeding with Tui Citrus Food or Tui Enrich Fruit, Citrus, Tree & Shrub in early spring and late summer to assist with flowering.

Follow our Citrus Growing Guide here >


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Top Tips for Successful Citrus Comments

  • Hi, we bought a property with about 10 different citurs - ugli fruit, oranges, tangeloes, mandarins and lemons. the oranges all seem to be quite sour. i have sprinkled epsom salts around the foliage line of the tree and the rain came after that - is that going to be enough to help? also, how can i stop the fruit and leaves getting the black scum on them? thanks.


  • Why has my citrus got leaf curl?And how do I treat it?It has loads of new leaves,so it is dying.Any help would be great.Thank you


  • Hi. I am about to start planting citrus trees, but am having second thoughts. I was intending to plant a lemon, a mandarin, an orange or tangelo and a lime, but a friend told me that if they are planted too close together they can cross-pollinate, and seedless varieties will start growing seeds. Is this true? And if so, is it beneficial to have lots of plants close together - does this increase fertility? And if I did want seedless plants, how far apart should they be from one another?


  • I have an orange tree that is three years old, has 6 oranges this year which look beautiful but they are dry!!! why??


  • Hi Kerry, thank you for your question. Please refer to the first question in this article re your dry oranges. Dry citrus is normally caused through lack of water over the summer period as the fruit is forming. Now is the right time to apply Tui Citrus Food around the base of the plant then again at the end of fruiting, add a layer of mulch around the base of the plants after you fertilise to help the soil retain moisture. For citrus in containers, we recommend using Tui NovaTec Premium fertiliser. Thanks, Tui Team


  • Hi Leah, the black scum is sooty mould, there will be insects – aphids, scale, mealy bug on the tree. Spray with Tui Insect Control for Flowers to control the insects and the sooty mould will go away. Sweetness of oranges can be affected by a variety of factors including climate (needs some warmth to sweeten), variety (some being more sour than others), ripeness (try leaving them on the tree a bit longer). To help grow successful oranges make sure you feed them in spring and autumn with Tui Citrus Food and keep them well watered. Thanks, Tui Team


  • Hi Peggy, is it the new foliage or old foliage that is curling up? Citrus are ever green but do drop their leaves. They are also frost tender, if there have been late frosts or sudden climatic changes the leaves will curl and the plant should recover from this. I would treat the citrus with Seasol, a seaweed based plant tonic every 7 days at a rate of 70ml per 9 litres until the plant picks up then ease back to 30ml per 9 litres every 2-4 weeks. Regular feeding, watering and mulching will ensure the plant stays healthy and actively growing. Thanks, Tui Team


  • Hi Louise, yes, you will get seeds when you plant a variety of citrus together. It depends upon how much space you have as to how close together the trees are planted, pots are a good option if space is limited, as long as the trees have ample space to grow and the trees get plenty of light to ripen the fruit. If they are planted close together then they will need extra watering, feeding as there will be increased competition. Thanks, Tui Team


  • What size pot/container should be used for growing citrus trees in?


  • Hi Kas, it will depend on the size/type of the tree. Have you purchased a tree or are you looking at purchasing one? Thanks, Tui Team


  • Hi Sandra, this article was published in spring last year - November, so it was relevant to the season when published. Thanks, Tui Team


  • hi a friend has 3 citrus planted together quit old but beautiful fruit 2 orange and a lemon,suddenly the look sick,but only a couple branches on each tree,the leaf has curled and the fruit looks sad,could this be frost damage.


  • Hi Lou, it is hard to say exactly without seeing a photo of the trees. One possible cause could be lemon tree borer - look for sawdust around the branches, you can get borer treatment to put into the holes. Another possible cause is leaf curl - spray the trees with copper. Frost will burn new growth. If they are old and established then they are less likely to be affected by frost. Could it be that it has been too wet? Citrus are evergreen but do drop their leaves and with cooler temperatures this can happen. We suggest giving the trees a dose of Seasol seaweed based plant tonic which is a great overall health treatment. Keep the trees well watered, feed with Tui Citrus Food in spring and summer, and mulch around the trees in the summer. Thanks, Tui Team


  • Help, my lemon tree has been frosted will it grown or is it dead?


  • Hi Camille, we suggest giving the trees a dose of Seasol seaweed based plant tonic which is a great overall health treatment. Keep the tree well watered, feed with Tui Citrus Food in spring and hopefully it will bounce back. Thanks, Jenna - Tui Team


  • Just planted a mandarin tree and in two days the top leaves are curling.


  • Hi Mira, what a shame. Are you please able to send us in a photo of it to and tell us what month you planted it in? Thanks, Jenna - Tui Team.


  • Hi Jenna, I've got two potted lemon trees that appear to be having their upper leaves eaten (from the outside of the leaf to the centre). There are ants in the area, but I haven't seen any pests on the leaves themselves. Fortunately the trees are still producing. Any ideas as to what this could be ? Thanks


  • Hi Kieran, are you please able to send us in a photo of the leaves to It sounds like it could be coming from an insect. Thanks, Jenna - Tui Team.


  • Hi There, we recently planted a couple of lime trees in the retained part of the garden. It seems the builder has placed left over thermocol/polystyrene in the bottom of the retained area and covered them with about 18 inches of top soil. Will this affect the plant in anyway? the younger of the 2 plants has the leaf curling problem. There are no insects on it at present so am wondering if its anything to do with the colder weather. Should i be using seasol for this?


  • Hi Chris, 50cm of top soil is the minimum you would want, you will probably be okay with what you have, keep the trees well mulched with Tui Mulch & Feed. Citrus don?t like wet feet and prefer a free draining soil so keep an eye on watering in summer and keep mulching around them in early spring and in late summer/early autumn. The curling of the leaves can be caused by cold if there is no obvious sign of insect pests, check the undersides of the leaves. Use Seasol every 7-14 days, this will help the trees tolerate temperature fluctuations. Thanks, Jenna - Tui Team.


  • How do I fertilise the flowers on my lemon tree when bees are not around?

    Jean K

  • Hi Jean, you could hand pollinate them by using a small paint brush to move pollen from one flower to another or try mixing some sugar with water and spraying on your flowers, however this could also attract ants. Thanks, Tui Team.


  • I moved house and the place we are in now has a mandarin tree.The mandarins are tiny,what can I do to get them big? Thank you Joanne.

    Joanne Carline

  • Hi Joanne, thank you for getting in touch. Mandarins are wonderful fruits. For the crop this year there is nothing you can do to remedy the problem. In the spring, give the plant a side dressing of citrus food and add a layer of mulch all around the base of the plant. This will feed the plant and keep the root zone moist. Over summer keep the plant well watered, small fruit indicate poor watering over the summer when the fruit develops. A drench now with Seasol plant tonic will give the plant a boost, but avoid adding the fertiliser too early as young growth may get frosted. All the best. Thanks, Jenna - Tui Team.


  • Hi Joanne, congratulations your question has been chosen to feature in our newsletter. Please email us at with your address for delivery of your prize. Thanks! Tui Team


  • Hi we have just planted 70 Silverhill manderin trees in our feijoa orchard. The feijoas are fertilized by birds but I know manderins need beer -would you recommend getting a huge for this many trees or giving it a go naturally-we have orchards all around us and live in Hawkes Bay. Thank you

    Kate Field

  • Hi Kate, good on you for planting so many citrus! You should find that you will have plenty of bees in your area and that pollination will occur without hives. It is wise to plants flowers to encourage bees into your area to feed. All the best. Thanks, Tui Team.


  • More useful now that I have retired and spend a lot of time in the garden

    R. Eion Tought

  • Great to hear you find our information useful. Enjoy spring in the garden! - Jenna, Tui Team


  • Hi, ive recently planted a mandarin tree and all its leaves have curled and fallen off except 3, is it too late to save it?


  • Hi I have taken a picture of my dwarf lemon tree which is growing in a pot. It has recently developed leaf curl. How can i send the picture to you?


  • Hi Cathie, you can email a photo to Thanks, Tui Team.


  • Hi Lil, there isn't a lot you can do now that it is spring. It should go away. It is common in cool wet weather and then usually disappears. Also some varieties are more susceptible than others. Leaf curl overwinters in buds of infected trees. A copper based clean up spray is the most effective way of controlling leaf curl. Spray in autumn/winter using a copper fungicide and oil just after pruning until bud burst in spring at 10-14 day intervals. Collect up any infected leaves that fall and burn or dispose of, do not compost as this will spread the disease. We suggest you try to revive your tree by cutting it back by a third, feeding it with Tui Citrus Food if it?s in the ground or Tui NovaTec Premium Fertiliser if it?s potted, applying Seasol plant tonic and keeping it well watered over the summer period. This will encourage the plant to produce new foliage and flowers. Thanks, Tui Team.


  • I have 2 citrus trees I started from seeds about 3 yeas ago. One I believe is a lime tree and the other a lemon tree. Both of my container trees dropped their leaves that they look like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. I am besides myself because during the summer and fall they were bountiful with leaves and then boom they dropped...I am wondering if they will bloom leaves come spring? Please help I am desperate for my trees to perk up again....thanks a bunch in advance!


  • Hi Astra, that is a shame. It sounds like your trees are/have been stressed. Citrus are evergreen but do drop leaves, usually when they are stressed, too cold, have too much fertiliser, or not enough fertiliser, if there?s frost, or they are too wet. We would suggest regular doses of Seasol plant tonic every seven days until the tree starts bursting into leaf. Give the trees regular feedings in spring and summer at the recommended rate. We recommend Tui NovaTec Premium as your trees are planted in containers (rather than citrus fertiliser as this will feed your plants too quickly in a pot or container). Don't feed it in winter as the tree isn't actively growing. If they have become pot bound they might need re-potting. All the best, Tui Team


  • We have recently bought a property with a number of lime trees that are abundant with limes. How can we ensure that they will be juicy - ie regular watering, fertiliser. Thank you.


  • Hi Kris, the key is plenty of water over the warm summer months (particularly when the fruit is forming) and regular feeding. Now is the right time to apply Tui Citrus Food around the base of the plant then again at the end of fruiting, add a layer of mulch around the base of the plants after you fertilise to help the soil retain moisture. For citrus in containers, we recommend using Tui NovaTec Premium fertiliser. Thanks, Tui Team


  • I have 5 citrus trees (a mix of manderins and oranges) planted quite close together.(not quite touching) They get plenty of water and are all good large healthy green looking trees. One flowers and fruits abundantly but the other 4 do not flower. They were producing new long branches that I cut off as they were sharp and meant I couldn't get around them and the fence. Would this cutting back affect flower production. (It wasn't a heavy cut).


  • Hi Michele, thanks for getting in touch. By the sounds of it you have cut off the flowering wood, especially if they all look dark green and healthy. Are they too big to transplant to allow them more room? Or to put them into large barrels or tubs? Fertilise with citrus fertiliser in the spring, and applying Seasol plant tonic will also give the plants a boost. All the best, Tui Team.


  • Hi, my lemon tree which is in a container has a black sooty substance on some of the leaves. I have lots of fruit can you tell me what would be safe to spray with. Thanks


  • Hi Jenni, the sooty mould will be caused by an insect such as scale, whitefly or aphids. For large infestations apply Tui Insect Control for Fruit & Veges, a natural canola oil based product with no withholding period, so fruit and veges are safe to eat the same day you spray them. Spray when insects first appear, and again 3-5 days later. Re-spray if insects appear again, but not within 7 days of the last spray. Thanks, Tui Team


  • What's the best product to use to seal trimmed branches on my orange tree? I trimmed the branches off that had a large worm burrowing down them.


  • Hi Paul, we suggest a water based paint or pruning paste - check at your local garden centre. Thanks, Jenna - Tui Team


  • Hi there, I planted a kaffir lime tree 2 years ago, it had 3 kaffir limes last year. It is planted 5 feet from an orange tree an 12 feet from 2 lemon trees. Currently I have approx. 30 kaffir limes who are turning yellow and look like lemons. is it possible it cross-pollinated with the orange or lemon trees nearby? If so is there anything to do to reverse for next year? If not what's happening? Thank you


  • Hi Ann, great question. Your lime tree is doing what it should, once Kaffir lime fruit become fully mature and near the end of their lifespan they turn yellow. This is quite normal, suggest you harvest them, the juice and taste should be the same. Happy gardening from the Tui Team.


  • Hi Team, I have a 5 year old Meyer lemon tree which I grew from seed, and it has never blossomed nor any fruit! It otherwise looks healthy, no soot, no insects. Plants in a big 1/2 wine barrel sized pot. Thanks


  • Hi Jess, thanks for getting in touch. Unfortunately sometimes fruit trees may fail to produce a crop. Often the problem is due to a lack of pollination caused by bad weather during flowering (wet, cold and/ or windy), or lack of bee activity, not growing healthily due to pests, disease, poor nutrition, lack of watering, or growing with too much vegetative growth from excessive nitrogen. Check out our article here for some tips: Your fruit tree will benefit from a regular feeding regime to provide the right nutrients for maximum tree health and top crops. Tui NovaTec Premium fertiliser is suitable for your citrus tree planted in a wine barrel. Feed in spring and summer to provide your fruit tree a balanced and even spread of all essential nutrients for maximum fruiting and flowering. Apply Tui Organic Seaweed Plant Tonic regularly to help reduce the shock and give tree an overall boost. All the best ^Tui Team


  • Hi, a couple of questions regarding grapefruit trees that I was hoping you could help with please. 1. My 2 yo tree was heavily stressed following a very dry Wellington summer (yep!) and lost its leaves. They're starting to recover but will this affect the fruiting of the tree in a few years and is there anything I should use to help it? 2) I'm thinking about planting a second grapefruit tree 5 m away - is cross pollination a risk to the quality of the fruit? Thanks


    • Hi Kieran, it sounds like your tree is recovering which is great. Feed with Tui Citrus Food now to give it a boost. To prevent this happening again, ensure the plant gets water over the hottest months of the year. Add a layer of mulch around the base of the plant to keep the soil cooler as well. Applications of Tui Organic Seaweed Plant Tonic will also help give your tree a boost and cope with the changes in temperature. 

      Cross pollination isn’t something you will need to worry about. Just make sure it gets plenty of water over summer and a side dressing of citrus food in spring and summer.

      Tui Team

  • I have huge, lovely, juicy, lemons and this year I only have a half of a lemon each morning as they are so big. My tip for you is to get your husband to pee under the tree every night before going to bed.


  • Hi, I have a very old orange tree that I think has extensive citrus borer. The leaves are all dropping off now and no fruit. There are however new branches with leaves forming. Can I Trim all the diseased branches and leave the new growth to flourish.


    • Hi Anthea, it is a good idea to cut back the branches to below the infected area and paint any wounds bigger than the little finger with pruning paste or a water based paint. Treat with a borer treatment spray from your garden centre - make sure the spray you choose states it will control borer as not all insect sprays do. If the damage is too extensive and has taken hold of the tree it can be irreversible. All the best for treating your tree ^Tui Team

      Tui Team

  • What is the cause for a lemon tree to produce very thorny branches. The tree would be about twenty years old.

    Rodney Russell

    • Hi Rodney, the thorny branches are the rootstock and should be cut right back to the stem. This is more vigorous than the lemon variety and so takes over. Rootstock is used for its disease resistance and vigour and the lemon variety is grafted on to it. Remove any thorny growth and hopefully the lemon will take off again. 

      Tui Team

  • Hi please help our Yen Ben lemon tree is loosing all its leaves after we replanted it into the garden. It was in a pot about two months ago. Thank you. 


    • Hi Christine, it is likely suffering from transplant shock, and may have dried out at some stage. It could also be too wet meaning the drainage needs to improve. Trees will defoliate when they become stressed, but you can help the tree with applications of Tui Organic Seaweed Plant Tonic. Mix 100ml in a 9L watering can and apply weekly until you see the tree start to pick up with new growth. Citrus are evergreen trees but do lose their leaves in winter and regenerate in spring and summer. Once the tree recovers feed with a balanced fertiliser such as Tui Citrus food or Tui NovaTec Premium fertiliser in spring and in late summer.

      Tui Team

  • Hi thank you for that, however the yen Ben is covered in hundreds of big thorns is this normal? Thank you.

    Christine Holt

    • Thorns can be normal, however it could also be the rootstock that has taken over. Take a branch into your garden centre and they should be able to identify whether it is rootstock or lime. 

      Tui Team

  • Hi, we have Calamondin growing well in large containers, they have lots of fruit on them. They are at present covered to protect from frost. When should we pick the fruit or can we just leave it for ornamental effect?


    • Hi Anita, they are generally grown as an ornamental tree. Pick the fruit that is not bright orange, they tend to be bitter. The sweeter fruit is the fruit that has a tinge of yellow/green turning orange.

      Tui Team

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