Best Companion Plants To Grow Under Citrus Trees In Pots

white pansies planted under citrus tree in pot

Growing citrus in containers is a popular way to have your own lemons, limes, mandarins and other citrus in a small garden space, balcony or patio. For gardening in a small space, you’ll want to use as much growing room as you can. Adding some pretty companion plants around potted citrus trees is one way to find more planting space. Even if you have a larger garden, adding other plants to your citrus tree containers can add a wonderful layer of extra colour and interest to your garden. Discover whether you should grow plants around under potted citrus trees some of our favourites companion plants to try.

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potted lime, mandarin, orange and cumquat trees with text "best companion plants for potted citrus trees"

Can you grow plants under potted citrus trees?

If you have a potted citrus tree in your garden or on your balcony or patio, you’ll be happy to know that you can grow other companion plants around it. It doesn’t matter what type of citrus tree you are growing. However, whether it’s a lemon tree, Persian lime, kumquat or calamondin, there are a few key rules to keep in mind.

Most importantly, your potted citrus tree should be well established and in a big enough container for its size. You don’t want to overcrowd the container, especially with a young citrus tree that is still establishing it’s roots.

When selecting a plant to grow in the same pot as your citrus, choose plants that:

  • have shallow root systems, so they don’t crowd the citrus tree roots or take too much of the moisture from the soil;
  • are low growing, so they don’t compete with the citrus tree;
  • can tolerate some shade.

Only pant around the edge of the container or pot, not too close to the trunk of your citrus tree. This helps avoid collar rot. Citrus trees also have a lot of fine surface roots, so planting at the edge of the container helps prevent damage to these roots.

Choosing companion plants for citrus trees in containers

Practical issues aside, you’ll want to chose companion plants that look good with your citrus trees too. Choose plants with attractive foliage or flowers, or both, to make a lovely display. Or you can choose something more practical, like herbs or edible plants.

Flowering plants not only look attractive, but will also attract bees and beneficial insects to your citrus. For some ideas on what colour flowers will work well citrus fruit colours, have a look at our posts on colours that go with lemon yellow, lime green and citrus orange. If in doubt, a plant with white flowers will always looks good.

I have 6 large citrus trees in pots and have planted many different shallow rooted plants around my potted lemons, limes, oranges and mandarins over the years. These are some of my favourite companion plants to add colour and interest to potted citrus trees.

Colourful annuals that go with potted citrus

Planting annuals under potted citrus trees is a great way to add colour to your containers on a seasonal basis.

white petunia flowers

Petunia

A favourite annual for many gardeners, petunias are a lovely addition to a large potted citrus tree, Petunias come is a huge range of colours, so you can create a wonderful display under your lemon, lime or orange. I love planting white, yellow or blue shades of petunias under my potted orange tree.

purple alyssum in pot

Alyssum

Alyssum (also known as sweet alyssum) is another shallow rooted annual that looks beautiful spilling over the edge of a pot. It’s a hardy option that won’t need much care. It thrives in well drained soil and tolerates cooler temperatures. White alyssum is my favourite, but pink or purple alyssum also looks great under potted citrus trees. Or you could plant a mix!

blue lobelia flowers

Lobelia

Blues and whites are my favourites colours to mix under citrus trees, so it’s no surprise that lobelia is on my list. This pretty flowering annual comes in brilliant blue and classic white shades> I often plant it under my mandarin orange.

white pansies with blue lobelia

Pansy

Pansies are another shallow rooted annual flowering plant that is perfect for under citrus trees. I have white pansies growing underneath my Tahitian lime tree at the moment and love the contrast of white and green. I sometimes pant a mix of white pansies and blue lobelia together.

orange nasturtium flowers and green leaves

Nasturtium

I’ve been growing nasturtiums under one of my potted lime trees for the past few years. The spectacular orange flowers look so pretty with the glossy citrus leaves. Nasturtiums grow on running, trailing stems so they look great spilling over the edge of citrus tree pot. And as an added bonus, nasturtium leaves are edible. The peppery leaves are wonderful in a salad. You can even pickle the nasturtium seeds that appear after flowering too.

Pretty perennials to plant

purple violet flowers

Violets

Violets put on a beautiful display of small flowers, not just violet coloured either. I have pink and white violets growing too. These shallow rooted perennials can be a lovely addition to potted citrus containers. Just be careful to thin them regularly to make sure they don’t form too thick a mat over the soil and the roots of your citrus tree

purple, yellow and white viola flowers

Viola

Also from the violet family, smaller violas make a lovely display around citrus trees in pots. Violas are perennial, but many people let them die off in summer and replace them as an annual instead. Available in lots of colours, I love the hardy variety “Jumping Jack” or “Johnny Jump Up” with its yellow and blue shades.

grape hyacinth flowers

Grape hyacinth

I’ve had grape hyacinths growing under one of my potted mandarin orange trees for many years, These hardy perennial bulbs are so easy to grow. Their grassy green leaves emerge in winter, followed by brilliant blue flowers in late winter/early spring.

A word of warning: grape hyacinth bulbs do multiply! You’ll need to thin them out from time to time to ensure that they don’t overtake your citrus tree’s pot.

Potted citrus and herbs make a culinary match

Herbs are an obvious choice to add to your potted citrus in a small garden. By adding some essential herbs underneath a lemon tree, you’ll have a small kitchen garden in a pot.

parsley in pot

Parsley

Parsley is a perfect citrus companion, especially with lemons. Whether you chose Italian flat leaf parsley or the curly variety, parsley has suitably shallow roots for growing under potted citrus trees. And you can use the parsley with your citrus fruit when you cook!

thyme in front of white wall

Thyme

Another great culinary herb to grow with citrus trees is thyme. Chose a prostrate or creeping variety to keep the growth low,. I love to grow a variegated lemon thyme under my citrus trees. Thyme also produces pretty flowers in shades of white, blue, mauve, pink and even red, depending on the variety.

rocket (arugula) growing in a pot

Small leafy greens

In keeping with the potted kitchen garden idea, you can even grow leafy greens like rocket (arugula) or baby spinach under your citrus trees in pots. These low growing, clumping plants work well provided they are not too close to the citrus trunk. However, they will need more water than some other citrus companion plants.

Succulents and citrus

echeveria succulents growing under a lime tree in a pot

Echevaria

Succulents might seem like a surprising choice to plant under citrus trees in pots, but they are a great match. Succulents like small echeveria varieties have shallow roots and are don’t need a lot of water, making them a great option for around the edge of citrus tree pots. I have echeveria growing under one of my potted limes trees and it looks spectacular. Just be aware that they will multiply and spread. You will need to thin them out regularly, especially around the trunk of your citrus tree.

More About Growing Citrus

If you grow potted trees at home, hopefully this has inspired you to try adding some colour and interest around the outside of your pot. And if you haven’t tried growing potted citrus, find out how easy it is with our tips on how to grow a Tahitian lime tree in a pot.

You’ll find tips for caring for your potted citrus in our posts about common pests like citrus gall wasp and citrus bud mite, or our tips on how often to water potted lemons and other citrus trees.

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