Gardening inside in the winter! Yes, there are ways to garden inside in the cold winter months in Kansas. This idea is not so far-fetched if you consider growing selected citrus plants indoors. Most varieties of oranges and other citrus grown commercially in warm climates are too large to be grown indoors. There are several species that make good houseplants when cared for properly, however.
Lemon and lime are probably the best citrus to use for starting plants. Obviously, you will need fruit with seeds you can harvest from them. There are many varieties that are seedless so it may be an experiment for you to find seeds. You can try to experiment with tangerine. I have had some luck with grapefruit as well. The culture of citrus plants is not particularly difficult if the following requirements can be met.
Use a fertilizer formulated specially for acid-loving plants, mixed so it’s half the recommended strength. Fertilize the plant only when it is actively growing, usually April through August or September.
For at least part of the day some direct sun is desirable. During the summer, citrus plants may be placed outside to take advantage of better growing conditions and extra light. Let the plants acclimate to sunny conditions by placing them in the shade of a tree or north side of the house for the first several days. Make sure they have plenty direct light eventually. Re-acclimate them to lower light at the end of the summer by keeping them in a shady place for a week or so before bringing them back indoors.
A soil containing a fair amount of organic matter (leafmold, peatmoss or compost) is desirable. Since citrus plants prefer acid conditions, use peat in the potting mix to help keep the pH down. Use about one-third sterile potting soil, one-third perlite or vermiculite, and one-third peat or other organic matter in the potting mix.
Temperature is important! Citrus plants grow best indoors with 65° days dropping five to ten degrees at night.
Seeds will grow quite easily, though they will usually not yield plants exactly like the parent from which they came. Plants grown from seed seldom attain a large enough size to flower and fruit. Growing citrus from seeds can also be a good children’s project, place seeds about one-fourth inch below the surface of the mix. Again, keep the potting soil moist.
Growing citrus plants is not all that difficult. Getting the plants to bear luscious tropical fruits is another story. Perhaps it’s better to simply consider your citrus a nice houseplant that may, given the chance, produce fruit as a bonus.