5 Exotic Citrus Varieties to Grow Indoors

These unique, beautiful citrus varieties grow well indoors and will fill your home with color and fragrance all year.
Kaffir Lime

Kaffir Lime

Kaffir lime (Citrus hystrix) produces small bumpy fruit, the peel of which is used in Thai and Laotian curries. The hourglass-shaped leaves are the most widely-used part of the fruit, and impart their flavor to cuisine all over Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific.

Photo by: Shutterstock/smileimage9

Shutterstock/smileimage9

When looking for a unique indoor plant, consider citrus. Indoor citrus plants bring a progression of fragrant flowers and colorful fruit. They can be grown indoors year-round or kept outside while temperatures are above freezing, then brought inside when frost threatens.  

While Bearss limes and Meyer lemons are popular choices, try these less common and equally beautiful citrus varieties that are particularly well suited to growing indoors:

  • Buddha’s hand (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis) has very fragrant fruit with a thick peel and very little flesh. The fruit can be used completely; or the peel and pith, which is not bitter, can be used fresh, candied or as an infusion to flavor other ingredients like sugar, salt or liquor.
  • Kaffir lime (Citrus hystrix) produces small bumpy fruit, the peel of which is used in Thai and Laotian curries. The hourglass-shaped leaves are the most widely-used part of the fruit, and impart their flavor to cuisine all over Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific.
  • Oroblanco (Citrus grandis ‘Osbeck’ x Citrus paradisi ‘Macfadyen’) is a hybrid cross of pomelo and white grapefruit, grown for fresh eating. The peel is very thick. The fruit is sweet and juicy, with none of the bitterness associated with grapefruit, and has very few seeds.
  • Trovita Orange (Citrus sinensis ‘Trovita’) is a heavy producer of sweet oranges useful for juice or fresh eating. This offspring of the Washington navel orange does not require higher heat to sweeten the fruit. Trovita is well adapted to desert regions, meaning that the lower humidity of indoor conditions is a good situation.
  • Variegated pink Eureka lemon (Citrus limon ‘Eureka Variegated Pink’) is a year-round producer of good quality lemons with variegated peels and pink pulp. The new-growth foliage has a pink tint, then matures to a cream and green variegated pattern.

Tips on growing citrus trees indoors:

  • Choose a large pot, at least 18 inches or larger to start.  Container-grown citrus will need to be repotted every 3 years or so, at which point the container can be upgraded if needed.  
  • Use a good quality potting soil with a near neutral pH, around 7. Do not use a soil for acid-loving plants. 
  • Indoor citrus will perform best with a consistent supply of slow-release fertilizer.  Apply regularly according to directions on the fertilizer label.
  • The soil should be consistently moist, but should not stay wet.  
  • As with most fruiting plants, citrus trees require lots of sunlight.  A south- or west-facing window is usually the best location. 
  • Citrus trees are usually grafted; sometimes there are two graft unions. Look for a swollen area just above the soil line. For “standards”—which have a long straight trunk—there may be another graft where the canopy meets the trunk. Remove all shoots that form below the topmost graft whenever they appear. These “suckers” will not be the same as the rest of the plant above the graft, and if left to grow will draw energy away from the desirable part of the plant.
  • Prune young plants to encourage a strong, balanced branch structure. After the main harvest, remove any dead or weak branches.
  • Common pests include aphids, scale and spider mites. All of these can be controlled with horticultural oil. Inspect foliage and stems regularly and treat as needed.

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