During the last decade, the interest in window gardening has risen to such a point that many indoor gardeners have become specialists in various house plants.
The fruiting plants make ideal subjects for specialization. They have excellent foliage, and many have aromatic flowers and an attractive fruit crop.
About 5 years ago, a friend gave me a sickly specimen of ponderosa lemon. She said she had tried growing it, but all it did was shed leaves and look unattractive.
The plant was indeed a sorry object. It was about 8” inches tall and had only the remnants of a few leaves perched atop a barren structure.
When I inquired about the soil used in potting the plant, I learned that my friend had put it in some “dirt” from the garden and was not careful about watering it.
She probably would have been more interested in it if it had blossomed.
Reviving The Plant With Acid Soil
Determined to revive this pathetic-looking plant, I made some inquiries and learned that it required acid soil.
To obtain this condition in the soil, I was advised to water my plant occasionally with ferrous sulfate solution, which I found could be purchased in a powder form at our local pharmacy.
The recommended solution consisted of a 3/4 tablespoon of powder to one gallon of water.
I mixed rich soil for the plant and gave it a good drink of water. The leaves soon perked up and took on a sheen.
In a few days, I could see new ones sprouting along the barren stern. A new leaf on a citrus shrub is a delightful creation.
It is about the loveliest green imaginable, soft and a bit crinkled. As my plant expanded, it became a beauty; at Christmas, I was rewarded with 2 heavily-scented blossoms.
However, I was slightly disappointed when they fell off without producing lemons. When it blossomed again in February, I was determined to find out why no fruit had set.
Hand Pollination Is Necessary
Further investigation revealed that hand pollination was essential if I could be assured of decorative lemons to adorn my small tree.
The operation is very simple. The female blossom is easily distinguished by the long stigma protruding from inside the flower.
It is a simple trick to place some pollen from another blossom on this stigma. In a few days, you can discern the small lemon forming.
The lemons on this species grow so large that you may wonder how the tiny shrub can support them.
They are produced to some extent during this time of year, but I find the heaviest fruiting comes in the early fall after the plant has summered in the garden.
Often, there will be flowers and green and ripe fruit on the same plant. The blooms emit an exotic aroma.
Growing The Lemon Plant
I keep my lemon plant growing in a small pot and fertilize it every two weeks. If the tips of the branches are clipped, the plant will grow more symmetrically.
I keep the ferrous sulfate solution bottled and administer it in the form of regular watering once a month. This keeps the leaves from turning yellow and dropping.
If I want the plant to look its very best, I sometimes add a tablespoonful of milk to a 1/2 cup of warm water and apply this to the foliage with a soft cloth to remove the dust and give a gloss to the leaves.
Other Citrus Plants
Otaheite oranges may be grown in the same manner as the ponderosa lemon. Their shilling orange fruits are not edible, but they make masses of color against the dark green, waxy leaves.
I recently added a dwarf lime to my collection of fruiting plants; they grow well under the same cultivation program used for the lemons. Eventually, they produce a thin-skinned, round, green fruit.
My plant is too young to start flowering this winter, but I look forward to seeing pretty blossoms and fruit on it next Summer.
Growing From Seeds
Citrus plants can be easily grown from seeds, but they are unlikely ever to flower or set fruit.
A grafting scion must be imported from a citrus-producing state to make a plant produce fruit. In fact, it is better to buy established potted plants from a nursery.
Dwarf Fig Growth
The dwarf fig makes an excellent house plant, too. It is always neat and does not attain a great size. The leaves resemble the maples, and the fruit is borne in the leaf tails.
If you have never observed the growth of a fig, you will be amazed to find the actual fruit setting before flowers appear.
If you were to split one of the figs, you would find that it contained many minute flowers. A tiny opening at the end of the fig permits an insect to enter and pollinate the flowers found inside the round husk.
I have found that a good rich garden loam, supplemented by monthly feedings, will grow good specimens.
Dwarf Pomegranate Is Different
The dwarf pomegranate also makes an unusual subject for a window garden. Unlike the citrus shrubs or the fig, the pomegranate is heavily clothed in leaves.
These are thin, shining green, and edged with rust coloring. The blossom is light red and resembles those found on abutilon or flowering maple.
The pomegranate requires a heavier loam than the fig, and the leaves need occasional water spraying to keep them from falling.
If you want to increase your supply of pomegranates or start one for your friends, you can use two methods of propagation.
Great Basal Shoots
A great many basal shoots appear at all times of the year. These may be gently pried out of the pot and potted individually.
As they grow, nip the top of the cutting to give the plant a more rounded contour.
When the wood is soft during the summer months, cuttings can be taken and rooted in a pot of damp sand.
The dwarf doubles have a flower that is a bit more frilled and doubled, but they do not produce fruit.
44659 by Kathryn M. Schulz