Winter Citrus Tree Care & How to Remove Scale Insect with Pots & Trowels

If your citrus plants, such as lime, orange and calamondin, have been a little neglected this year, then fear not! In a recent video, our friend Martin of Pots & Trowels is in the greenhouse to show you how to give your citrus plants some TLC before winter sets in, especially if they’ve been plagued by scale insect. You can watch the video below, or keep reading for all the advice you need to show your citrus plants some love.

What are scale insects?

If your citrus trees have been left to fend for themselves this season, especially if they’ve been left in the greenhouse instead of being moved outside during the summer, then it very well may be that scale insect has set in.

Scale insects are tiny limpet-like insects that attach themselves mostly to the underside of the leaves on your plants and along the stems, and suck the sap out of your plants. The sap that they suck out then oozes out from them and drips out onto the leaves as a sticky substance that’s called honeydew. So if you find your plants have sticky leaves, then that is usually honeydew from aphids and other sap-sucking insects such as scale insect. As a result, eventually a black mould will develop on the leaves, also known as sooty mould due to its appearance. This sooty mould is a fungus that not only looks just generally quite nasty, but it also stops light getting to the leaf which affects their development.

How to remove scale insects from citrus plants

There aren’t really any chemicals to use to control scale insect, and you certainly don’t want to spray any chemicals on things that you’re going to be eating. However, if you clean up your citrus plants now to see them through the winter, you can revisit them again next year and keep on top of maintaining them so that you don’t have the same issues.

Removing scale insects from your plants can be quite a laborious task, as it requires slowly working your way around the plant and taking each leaf, rubbing the insects off, and scraping them off by hand with your fingernails. The treatment is the same when they’re in little clusters on the stem too, just keep squashing them, rubbing them off and removing them by hand.

You can also prepare some slightly warm water with a few drops of washing up liquid in a bucket, wet a sponge with a scouring side with the solution and both sides of each leaf with it.

You most likely won’t remove every single scale insect or every bit of sooty mould, but even just vastly reducing their population and surface area on the plant will help a lot and make the plants easier to care for and manage going forward. It’s also an idea once you’ve done to get a clean bucket of water and rinse off any black residue and water on the plant.

The final thing to do is to give your citrus plant a feed. You don’t want to encourage lots of growth at this time of year, so give it a high potash feed such as tomato fertiliser, or a liquid seaweed to help the fruits swell and to induce a bit of winter hardiness to help them tick over through the winter.

Give them another feed in about a month’s time. So long as they’ve got the right temperature they will continue to grow through the colder months and will flower through the winter, ready for next year’s fruit, and will be happier and healthier plants.

On a positive note, you’ll get to enjoy the lovely scent of the citrus leaves while you’re tending to them!

Where to store your citrus plants over winter

When the colder winter weather has really set in in a few weeks’ time, it’s a good idea to move your citrus plants into a warmer place indoors, such as a conservatory or heated greenhouse, where you can keep them at an ideal temperature of around 5-10°C.

Where to buy Darlac tools

Make life a little easier for yourself by using the right garden tools for the job. You can find our Darlac products in store from your local garden centre, or you can buy selected products direct online from our website. Find your local Darlac stockist here.

If you enjoyed this blog post and the Pots & Trowels video, be sure to subscribe to Pots & Trowels on YouTube and to follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for weekly practical videos all about gardening.

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