Growing Your אתרוג ††Etrog Citron (Citrus medica L.) Tree

 

This is some basic information about growing and caring for your tree. Please be aware that agricultural Halachot must be considered when you transplant or repot the tree.

 

The following tips relate to the maintenance of an Etrog Tree as a potted plant or tree. Like other citrus varieties, Etrog trees are VERY susceptible to cold while young and should only be planted in the ground in suitable climates.

 

Location

In South Florida, during the winter, if low temperatures in the 40ís occur, either keep the plant indoors in a warm place that has light or protect it from the cold on the outside through a cover or some other protective shielding. Natural sunlight is best, but you can use artificial light.

In spring, move your tree outside, gradually from a shaded to a more sunny location. The trees should not be in a position where they will be in the sun all day long as too much direct sunlight will burn them up while they are young. Always protect your younger trees from strong winds and storms.

 

Container

Given light and nutrients your Etrog tree will grow to the size of the container in which it is placed. Once your tree has grown about six inches tall it may be transferred to a 8-10" diameter planter. Make sure it has holes in the bottom for drainage. The largest pot for indoors I would use is 24" diameter. After several years they may grow up to 10 feet like this. You can also prune them. Note the Laws of Orlah regarding replanting.

 

Potting Soil and Fertilizer

Use regular good quality potting soil and commercial fertilizer (Miracle-Grow or citrus soil).

 

Watering

Do not over water your Etrog tree. If you will keep the tree indoors, water the tree once or twice a week. If the tree will be outdoors, especially during the hot summer, three or more times a week may be required. In winter two to three times a week should suffice.

 

Insects and Pests

As with any fruit bearing tree, spider mites, scales, caterpillars and other insects are common.

Spraying dish washing detergent (about a teaspoonful in a spray bottle - 2 tablespoonful in a gallon of water) should keep the insects away.

 

Pollination and Flower Buds

Citrus trees are self-fruitful, meaning they will produce fruit without having another tree nearby.

Citrus trees require a period of cold weather in order to induce flower budding. For most citrus trees, it takes about 4 to 6 weeks in the 50-68F range to get reasonable flowering (North of Miami this should not be an issue). Be very careful if temperatures drop below 40F for an extended amount of time(more than 2 weeks).


 

What Happens if my Trees Start to Fruit?

Etrog trees should bear fruit within 4-7 years(in theory, my tree took 7). If you want to use your Etrogim for Succot then you must be sure that there are no defects in your fruit(that did not come from the tree itself). You should have your Etrog checked by a competent rabbinical authority on these matters. Also please note the special laws regarding Orlah and Neta Revai.

 

Safety

Citrus trees produce VERY sharp thorns. Please be careful when handling the tree, pruning it or if young children are present.

 

Further reading is available from the work: The Etrog by Zaide Reuven aka David Wiseman