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It’s cold. Think warm, think tropical, think citrus. If you can’t pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and just go south, you could bring some lemon yellow and sunny orange into January’s boring gray. If you have a sunroom or an enclosed porch that gets direct sunlight most of the day, it is possible for you to be successful with a couple of small citrus trees.
First of all, the plants must have full sun most of the day. Anything less, and the bloom, if it occurs at all, will be meager and short-lived. Second, the plants require a lot of humidity, at least 40 to 50 percent, and should be kept on gravel trays full of water, or near a humidifier, during the driest winter months. Citrus prefer to be kept around 60 degrees at night, with a rise into the 70s during the day; a heated sunporch or solarium is ideal. Finally, some varieties of citrus can grow to be quite large. So if space is a consideration, select dwarf or slow-growing forms. To limit the growth of even the larger varieties, delay the “potting up” procedure; that is, the annual shifting of plants into a larger pot. As long as you remember to water and fertilize the plants regularly, pot-bound citrus seem to shift the energy they’d otherwise devote to vertical growth to enhanced flower and fruit production. If possible, plan for your citrus plants to spend the summer outdoors and be rewarded with glossy new leaves and increased numbers of flowers and fruit. So, choose a lime, lemon, orange or kumquat tree and get ready for some scented tropical blossoms and a supply of fresh fruit all year long.
By the way, I called around to find a source for citrus plants in the area and, unfortunately, struck out. February will be the month though to buy them and there’s always next winter to look forward to.
I hate to bring it up, but there are some pruning jobs that should be done this time of year. Take advantage of the not quite so chilly days to get it all done. Dormant, deciduous and evergreen shade trees should be pruned in January. Both light and heavy pruning are okay, but do not prune trees when the sap is frozen. Also, never remove the central shoot or leader of a shade tree; you will ruin its natural shape.
Prune spring-flowering trees like Bradford pear, flowering cherry, flowering peach and flowering pear but do so sparingly and selectively. Remove any crossed branches, damaged or diseased wood and bad growth. Remember that buds for spring blossoms are already present on the branches and twigs grown last summer. Pruning them will reduce the number of flowers on the tree.
Summer-flowering trees like crape myrtle and chaste tree may be pruned severely to force new spring shoots on which the summer’s blooms will develop. Prune selectively, however, to shape the tree and force new shoots in the direction you want them to grow.