How often and how much water to give a citrus tree

The amount of water and frequency to irrigate your citrus trees depends on a combination of factors such as the plant’s age, health, location, and establishment; soil type and weather conditions such as season of the year, temperature, humidity, and wind speed are all taken into account to determine the evapotranspiration rate.

Citrus trees thrive with regular, deep water growing in well-drained soil. A newly planted citrus tree should be watered at least weekly with enough water to saturate the soil around the drip zone.

Water – Irrigation system and Schedule (Frequency and Duration)

Deeply irrigate newly installed plants once to three times a week depending on the soil. Sandy soils drain quicker then clay because of their larger particle size, while clay soils hold more water because of the larger spaces between the fine clay particles.

Hose – This is the least expensive but most time consuming. High rate of operator error due to inexperience, impatience, or neglect.

Drip Systems – Very popular due to ease of installation, but often are not scheduled to run long enough to fully saturate the entire drip zone resulting in a lack of water causing wilting, dropped leaves, and lack of growth. A drip system should be run for 1-2 hours once or twice per week to provide deep irrigation

Sprinklers – Are more expensive to install but last longer and distribute a larger amount of water to the plant in less time. For a 15 gallon or larger tree a sprinkler should run for 15 – 25 minutes depending on Soil type

Bubblers – Bubblers are comparable in cost to sprinkler. They can distribute water even quicker than sprinklers but deliver it in a localized place. Addition bubbler maybe needed as a trees roots grow. Bubblers can saturate a drip zone in 5 minutes.

The Drip Zone is the area of the soil under a trees canopy, and as far down as the main root system. Create a berm around this with soil on top of the ground to create a well for water to collect for the trees roots.

Soil Moisture Content (%) – A measure of soil wetness in percent .

Saturation – The point where all the air around the soil is filled with water

Field Capacity – Immediately after a saturated soils water drains away, the amount of water the soil can hold. This varies by types of soil (sand, clay, or loam) known as water holding capacity.

Wilting Point – As soil depletes at evapotranspiration rate unless it is watered it will reach point where plant will wilt. The ET rate is based on plant health, soil, temp, humidity, and wind speed.

Permanent Wilting Point (PWP) – If the soil continue to dry with no water we reach the point where even if you water after the plant will die.

Drainage test – Dig a hole and fill with water. There is a drainage problem if the water does not drain away immediately or within an hour.

In General, deeply water newly planted young citrus trees about once or twice per week most of the year.

Water more often in sandy soils and when the weather is hot and windy. Reduce the frequency to weekly in clay soils during the winter.

Watch your plants to learn the best schedule in the microclimate in which they grow.

Create a watering well with the extra soil dug out of the ground when planting so that water is collected for the tree’s roots. Install an irrigation head for each tree.

Flood the tree well multiple times to ensure deep watering.

With a dedicated sprinkler, water for about 20 minutes depending on your soil during each irrigation session. Drip systems may require 2 hours while bubblers can run for about 5-7 minutes. You may need to increase the frequency in the Summer and reduce it in the winter.

The most common problem homeowners make is they water too frequently but do not provide enough water when they irrigate.

As mentioned earlier, how often and how much water to give to a citrus tree depends on the age of the tree, soil type, weather conditions such as temperature, humidity, and wind speed. Together, this determines the evapotranspiration rate. This is the rate at which water is evaporating from the soil and transpiring from the leaves. The hotter, dryer, and winder it is, the higher the ET rate more quickly reducing the soil moisture content (SMC). If water is not given the plant will reach a wilting point. If watered in time the plant will survive, but if not given water in time and the drys further it can reach a permanent wilting point where the plant will dry completely.

Soil type: The three types of soil are sand, silt, and clay. Loam is a mixture that can be sandy-loam or loamy-clay as a general soil description. Different soil types vary in their water holding capacity and drainage ability.

Large established trees are watered less frequently, but longer duration, about once per month in the late Fall and winter and weekly to bi-weekly in the Spring and Summer.

Drainage test – Dig a hole and fill with water. There is a drainage problem if the water does not drain away immediately or within an hour.