Food Gardening Network

Growing Good Food at Home

Planting and Pruning Kumquats

Kumquat tree in the garden

Kumquat tree in the garden

Planting Your Kumquats

Spring is the time to plant your kumquat tree if it’s going in the ground or into a raised bed; you want the plant to be well-established before winter. You have a little more flexibility if you’re going to grow your kumquat tree in a container. But it’s still a good idea to repot in the spring.

If you’re planting outside, dig a hole at least three to five times the width of the root ball; kumquats do not like to have their roots crowded (this is a concern for container-grown kumquats, so plan ahead!). After you’ve dug the hole, center your tree in the hole and fill it in loosely with soil. Make sure the soil level is even with the soil level of the sapling, and gently tamp down the soil (don’t pack it down).

If planting a container tree, make sure you get a big container to give the kumquat’s root system room to grow. You can also get one of those big fabric grow bags. They’ll help with soil aeration—but you’ll need to make sure you put the bag on a waterproof surface or into a large plate or tray, so any extra water doesn’t wind up draining all over the place.

With all trees, you can put down a layer of organic mulch to help with moisture retention. Be sure to keep the mulch at least 10 inches from the trunk; that’s one of your defenses against pests and also a way for you to see the moisture level of the soil.

Pruning Your Kumquats

Potted kumquat tree that is well maintained

Potted kumquat tree that is well maintained

Pruning your kumquat trees is partly a matter of taste, but also a matter of safeguarding the tree’s health. Because kumquat trees are grafted onto rootstock, you want to make sure the rootstock stays rooted. If you see any shoots coming up from below the graft point on your tree, cut them off right away; otherwise, those “suckers” can overwhelm your tree and kill it.

Prune your kumquat tree to remove dead or damaged branches. If you decide you want to shape the tree (some people favor topiary styles), be sure to do that after harvesting the last of the fruit and before the tree flowers in the spring.

You can also prune your kumquat tree to give it more room to breathe and grow. If you open up the canopy of the tree to increase airflow and let in more light, that will help the tree when it next flowers—and good airflow and lots of light help reduce the risk of disease.

Please tell us about your kumquat planting and pruning techniques in the comment section below. Have you faced any challenges with planting or pruning your kumquats? How have you handled it? Please share your experiences.


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